Change is gonna come

I was standing in the studio kitchen this morning, anchoring the cherry pitting machine to the counter, and figuring out how to position the bowls to catch the pits and cherries, when the phone rang. It was Herself telling me to get over to the log cabin…they just overturned DOMA. I had been monitoring the radio closely and, hearing no reports so far, and since so many got last year’s healthcare ruling wrong in the beginning, I was skeptical. So I went to the computer and when the word “unconstitutional” flashed on the screen the tears just poured out of me. I stumbled along the path to the cabin sobbing and into the arms of my babe. The rainbow flags filled the tv screen behind her and everyone in those crowds seemed to be crying as well.

It’s mid-afternoon now. The pie just came out of the oven. Herself has headed up to the lake for a swim. Most of the tissues have been carried to the trash bin. Our facebook family has overwhelmed the cyberworld with cheers of support. I’ve listened to my trusted commentators and read the ruling from the supremes. And I’m sitting here quietly now taking in the surprising depth of the morning’s  first emotional response.

My belief has never wavered, but the torch was getting heavy and along the way it became easier to just settle for the life we had made with each other and hope for some broader equality to come for our grandchildren, both the straight and the gay ones. It’s still a very real fear to be openly gay in our neck of the woods and the scars of bigotry and hatred have not faded from my heart. So, over the last 23 years, we have kept a modest profile and done our best to be good neighbors and help where we can and kept the curtains drawn.

I think that surprising burst of emotion came in part from seeing the recent swelling of  national support for gay rights and equality, and the fact that so many more somebodies stood up and said no more, this is wrong, we have made a mistake, we have caused injustice. I was expecting change, but not certain it would be in my lifetime. And then to read in the SCOTUS Ruling that they recognized how this has been so hurtful to families and stigmatized children. NOT the homosexuality mind you…but the differentiation of CIVIL rights…

writing for the majority opinion, Kennedy notes,

“…The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the constitution protects…And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.  Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways. “

What he said.

There’s more pavement to travel on this road to equality.
Pennsylvania was one of those states which couldn’t run fast enough to the capitol to pass a version of DOMA. And it’s not yet clear how the details will play out for those of us still living under such regimes. But we have the law on our side now, and a magnificent candidate now running for governor, Tom Wolf.

And we have the momentum.
As our dear friend Maureen reminded us in a note of support today,

In the words of Martin Luther King “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

As she left for the lake,
on her way out the studio kitchen door,
Pat paused and looked back
and asked, “will you marry me?”

Now, at last, I can say yes.

arent we aging well


Simply the Best

It was one of the top five best days of my life when I first walked into the Granary Gallery…and after 12 years of partnering in art… the depth of my gratitude for the fine work that the entire staff knows no equal.

Congrats to you Chris and Sheila on being chosen, once again, as the Best Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard…and beyond !




The spaces in between…

When I settle in to work on a big painting my focus narrows, the creative energy tightens, and all the weeks of slogging through pondering compositional elements and deciding what to keep in and what to leave out, of sketching and panel prepping, and of reworking those sketches and printing out piles of detail reference photos…it all reaches a crescendo and, like the stretching of a rubber band, it suddenly snaps ! …and the first brushes hit the canvas. So it was, all that creative momentum strung taut, when I began the large painting, Severe Clear, for this summer’s Granary Gallery show.

But now, some 300 easel hours later, I am looking back and see, on my camera’s photo stream, that there were some wonderful moments in the spaces between all those long days of lifting brushes. When I paid homage to my most favorite springtime rituals. When I literally stopped to smell the roses, and to enjoy the first of the fiddleheads, and the first grilled pizza of the season, the annual pilgrimage to the Sheep and Wool Festival, to sit of an afternoon in the studio garden with loving family, and to enjoy this wonderful life we have together.

I’ll be telling you about the rest of the project, of which this painting is a keystone work, in little bit,  a series of paintings which feature a Marine Hospital on Martha’s Vineyard that is about to open a new chapter in its historic life, but in the meantime…here’s a sneak peak at the big one, Severe Clear, and some of the studio highlights experienced along the way…

And now, I give you… Severe Clear

Severe Clear

Good Company

I knocked off work early last night and sat with Herself in the studio yard where we sipped martinis and watched the stormy sunset then headed home for a movie night.

We watched an old favorite, Strangers in Good Company.




Neither of us could remember how long ago we saw it for the first time, it was released in 1990, but both of us agree that we can now identify much more intimately with the women who form the cast of characters.

It is a magically artistic look womankind.

You can read about the movie and how it was made by clicking on the Wikileaks link (click on the image above) but there’s not much more than the brief outline…eight women on a bus in canada…bus breaks down in the woods…they seek shelter and tell their stories. Simple. Quiet. Honest conversations.

I want everyone of the grandchildren, nieces, nephews, godchildren and godmoose children to watch it. In fact I insist. With cell phones removed from the building.

They won’t get it…yet…but it needs to be on their radars now. And revisited every ten years until their first grey hairs begin to appear and then every two years after that.

So… Amanda, Ben, Isaac, Anna, Melissa, Neill, Johnny, Abby, Emily, Danny, Sarah, All the Decker girls, and yes, even you Zoe…put it on your netflix queues now.

Gran and I will look forward to sitting in the studio yard, watching the sun set, and listening to your movie reviews.

arent we aging well

A Success Story

I thought you would appreciate an update on the Wille Sundqvist Movie project. They received an amazing response for their Kickstarter campaign to help raise money to fund their production of the movie to capture Wille’s woodworking genius.

Peter wrote a bit more about his connection to Wille and his road to being the pre-eminant 17th Century Joiner in the modern world. It includes a photo taken at the beginning of that journey … what a bunch of manly men…reminds me from where my hippie roots were so happily planted.

I’ve still got to resist the urge to pick up an axe rather than these tiny brushes as the Granary Show deadline lurches ever closer…but soon…very soon…I’ll get a spoon carving break and my blood pressure will slow accordingly.

From Peter…

I got a note back from Jogge Sundqvist the other day, when I wrote to congratulate him on the immediate success of the kickstarter fundraising. Here’s part of what he wrote:


This is just overwhelming!

I haven´t in my deepest imagination ever thought that we should reach the goal so quickly. Within 24 hrs…

This is so helpful, not just the money, it also strengthens everyone involved in self-confidence and trust in the movie to be something really good.

And everyone involved in the film is full of humility and wonder at the response we’ve had to make the film about Wille.

We have a little way to go before our actual budget… I hope you still want to continue to spread the word about the film, every little contribution is incredibly valuable to make a film of high artistic quality and with a clear content.

Hi 5. he, he”

So if you are inclined, there’s still plenty of time to donate to this project. Here’s the kickstarter link,   or if you prefer, you can send a check to Drew.

Make it out to:

Country Workshops – Sundqvist video project

990 Black Pine Ridge Road

Marshall, NC 28753


BUT – you might ask:  What’s all the fuss about Wille Sundqvist and some wooden spoons? Ha! You’d be amazed.

Wille Sundqvist spoon

Wille Sundqvist spoon

As the years keep ticking by, I often think about connections and chronologies. May times people will think about events in their lives, and how one simple happening might turn your life this direction or that…and I think that without Wille, I might not be a joiner/woodworker today. Certainly not a spoon carver. And yet we barely know each other…

I first heard of Wille of course from Drew Langsner, whom I met in 1980. That was the start of my woodworking career, although you wouldn’t have seen it coming then! I have often told the story of how I got to Drew’s Country Workshops to learn traditional woodworking. I was a mainstay there in the 2nd half of the 1980s and early 1990s (til I got a job…).

But how did Country Workshops begin? Drew has told me and many others the story many times, and a while back wrote it down in one of the Country Workshops e-newsletters. (scroll down to “CW History” – and if you haven’t yet, you can sign up for their free newsletter. It always has good stuff in it, besides update on classes and tools, etc.)

The gist of it is that Bill Coperthwaite brought Wille Sundqvist to meet Drew & Louise in 1976 or 77. Drew had a couple days’ worth of lessons from Wille, and was wanting more. Thus the idea of inviting him to come teach a workshop, which led to the Langsners hosting woodworking classes ever since.

Drew included Wille in his first woodworking how-to book, Country Woodcraft, in 1978. That’s where I first saw/heard of Wille.

Wille Sundqvist 1978

Wille Sundqvist 1978

Then as I became a regular student at Country Workshops, I often heard stories of Wille’s craft and his  teaching, and also saw examples of his work. As it turned out, I met his son Jogge first, in 1988. Then a few years later I was able to attend one of Wille’s classes.

willie's class PF JA etc

Here is a quote from Wille’s book, Swedish Carving Techniques (Taunton Press, 1990):

“Carving something with a knife or an ax is a very tangible way to get a sense of design. Because the object being made doesn’t have to be secured in any way, it’s easy to move it to different positions and see its lines and shape grow out of the blank. A three-dimensional object isn’t just a picture. It’s an infinite number of pictures, and all of the pictures must find harmony within the object. The lines of the object must compose one unit, congruent from whatever direction it is seen. Carving teaches design.”

And that is really a big part of it. Wille’s spoons are very deceptive. Unlike any furniture work I do, these are subtractive woodworking – you’re cutting wood away & leaving just the right bits. You hope. Each cut means something. There’s so many layers to what Wille teaches – the postures, the tools, the design. You learn about wood and how it grows; and its strengths and weaknesses. Also about the tools, the edge and how it slices. If you have ever seen me use a hatchet, that work comes to me from Wille, some of it directly and much of it through Drew & Jogge.

To me, the spoon carving is a revolutionary act. It helps cut through the mass-produced cheap culture that we have absorbed like zombies. Such a simple household implement, taken to extraordinary heights. Why shouldn’t our most basic kitchen stuff be beautiful? Out with plastic! Think about Coperthwaite and his quote “I want to live in a world where people are intoxicated with the joy of making things.” 

The kickstarter campaign runs for 4o more days and at this writing is over $7,000. That’s not counting whatever got donated directly to Drew or Jogge. Thanks to everyone from here who helped. If you’re inclined, please spread the word. 

More links to some related material: