Two messages on the same day.
The first was from my Goddaughter Emily and her Wife Ashley who sent some snaps from Canada of their handsome son Oliver. We love getting to see photos of Ollie who is just the happiest little boy with a clever impish smile…can’t get enough of them. But this one was extra special.
First I have to take you back…way back…over 30 years ago…
I was living with Peter Follansbee in the general store in Muddy Creek Forks, where we were studying our respective crafts. He was the more serious woodworker and I the wannabe painter but we overlapped in the chair and basket department.
Along comes a visit from Emily, a very young version of Herself, and as I had begun making children’s ladderbacks…this one had her name on it…
I just love the confidence and pride in here expression there. Such a love.
So now we fast forward to this …
And now I’m melting into a thousand puddles.
You go Ollie…I hope to show you how to make one of those chairs some day. But that bucket of crayons is also right up my alley and down my street…I can’t wait to see what you do with those !
So I’m all warm and nostalgic thinking of the journey that chair and the chairmaker has made and then I get some pics from Follansbee himself.
Here’s a sketch of my basement woodworking shop in our log cabin which I made for Peter back in ’97
Can you find the pipe ?
The one on the door not on the top of the cabinet.
Yeah so he and I have differing memories, his story will appear later, but I cherished that as being one given to me by Peter and his mother Mary from his dad Mo’s collection. Peter says no, and I usually defer to his stellar skills in the memory department but I’ve held my ground long enough that he has capitulated…almost.
Long after I had made the move to fulfilling the dream of being a full time artist, our log cabin was caught in a massive flood. As we live 15 feet from the edge of a creek, it meant the entire basement was filled with water. Very little survived from that workshop but I took apart the tool chest and saved this door and carved a Mark Twain quote which was eminently applicable to Master Follansbee…
True to both our natures He took it one step further and then some…
He posted a blog that fleshes out the back story so I’ll copy it here and link it back to his website for those who want to read on.
But before I do it feels important to take stock of both of these milestones.
Reminders of that time in my life when my younger stronger body followed the whims of my woodnypmh muses are few and far between now. I made over 500 chairs. From Shaker style rockers, large and small, to dozens of children’s ladderbacks to full dining room sets of chairs complete with child sized highchairs.
It was always meant to be a way of making money so I could follow my true bliss and be an artist. Looking back, it certainly was a magical bridge. And now, I spend my days at the easel…making money so I can justify taking some time off to make spoons.
I’m content with all of it…
because I learned well
from the quote which was most often requested
to be carved in the slats of those chairs…
“The End is Nothing, the Road is All.” Willa Cather
Now here’s Peter’s side of things…(stolen directly from his blog…)
A week or two ago I got to a project that has lingered here for ages. The small panel in this door was made by my friend Heather Neill, way back when. The Mark Twain quote she incorporated in this panel is from the Autobiography, “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.” When Heather & I met in 1982, I had just given up the notion of being a painter, and was concentrating on learning woodworking. She took up chairmaking after I showed her some of the steps involved. She probably made more chairs than me before she gave up chairmaking to concentrate on painting! https://heatherneill.com/
Hanging in my shop is a drawing Heather made for me in 1997; showing her chairmaking space when it was active. In this detail, note the cupboard door with the pipe door handle. (my camera was tilted, Heather’s chair is not squished…)
So for a long time, I’ve been thinking of how to incorporate her Twain-quote-panel in a new door. I have two cupboards near the back of the shop – one for axes, and the other for turning tools. I made the axe one first, and it got doors.
When I made the next one across the shop, I had run out of “extra” pine boards. So left it door-less til now. But now that I was going to all the trouble of making the door – I couldn’t leave it plain. In for a penny…
I made it with flush-fitting panels – because the Twain quote had no margin to speak of. Then decorated it.
I haven’t carved pine since I carved the timber frame of the shop. I decided to use something simple & quick. This braid is featured in the book I did with Lost Art Press – this time there’s no V-tool involved, just incised marks with different-sized gouges. The layout is done w two compasses.
In this example, the large circle is 2 1/2? wide, the smaller one 3/4? – I used a 1? wide #5 Swiss-made gouge, and a 3/8? wide #7 Stubai gouge. Then a nearly-flat tool to remove some chips.
This is the dramatic view down the line.
This sort of design is common all over the place. My photos from Sweden a few years ago include a few different versions of it. Notice on this arch the way the effect changes according to the relationship between the large & small circles.
One more – again in an arch, but this time with its columns also.
But in the end, I decided to hollow the circles – the scribed design was as prominent as the carved one – and I didn’t like it. I took a large gouge and worked along each band of the circles. This gives the whole thing more shadow.
The whole interlaced panel (& 2 rails) design is loosely based on one I’ve never seen, except in a photo. This photo below was one of a batch sent to me 10 years ago by Maurice Pommier, author of Grandpa’s Workshop – who is another whole story https://blog.lostartpress.com/2019/10/18/meet-the-author-and-illustrator-maurice-pommier/
My version is simpler, too much blank space between the elements. But it will do, although I can’t wait to try it again.
Oh, I forgot about the pipe – why is that there? Heather swears it was one of my father’s, that my mother & I gave to her, no doubt as painting & drawing props. I swear I don’t recognize it. But my father had lots of pipes…so I might as well believe it.
This morning her smile was every bit as bright as the day we met.
She loved us so deep
and for eleven and a half wonderful years
this sweet girl filled every minute of those days with that love.
Herself said we would never ever ever be ready for this.
But this week Finnegan let us know that she was.
I’m going to keep this picture
of her last smile
and thank Finn every day for being here.
Our valiant carrot whisperer is 10 years old today !!!
This painting was done when she was 8.
So much has changed in the world since then…
But Zoe’s imagination is growing brighter every day.
Sending you love and eagle hugs from the studio kiddo.
“…I believe that everyone has imagination, that no matter how mature and adult and
sophisticated a person might seem, that person is still essentially an ex-baby. And as
children, we all lived in an imaginal world…you know, when you’d be told, “Don’t cross
that wall, because there’s monsters over there,” my God, the world you would create on
the other side of the wall. And when you’d ask questions like “Why is the sky blue?”
or “Where does God live?” or all this kind of stuff…like one of the first times I was coming to America,
I said to my little niece, who was seven, I said, “What will I bring you from America?”
She said, “Uh…” and her father said, “No, ask him, or you won’t get anything.”
And Katy turned to me and said, “What’s in it?” – (laughs) – which I thought was a great
question about America.”
An excerpt from the On Being conversation between Krista Tippet and the Irish Poet John O’Donohue
Our little carrot whisperer would have asked that same question at 7.
Now she is 8 and when we see her soon
I will ask her
but mostly I like to listen.
Zoe is one of the most richly vibrant souls
it has been my pleasure to share the planet with.
Her curiosity is fueled by a Tigger-like enthusiasm.
Stealthy observation informs her empathy.
And story telling is her super power.
So, last summer,
when I asked her seven year old self
to pose with the freshly picked carrot
and she examined it for a long while
deciding it made her think of
the snowman Olaf’s nose…
Then she thought the long green
fronds looked like hair
and she curled them in an arc over her head…
and I waited
And she started a story about how that
made her feel like a queen
and she was going to take the carrot
to visit her castle…
and I waited
until the queen decided she was in a carriage
and the carrot would, therein, accompany her
and she rested it regally on her shoulder
closed her eyes
and beckoned the footman to ride on.
An artist can’t choose her Muses.
We can only sharpen our brushes everyday
in the hopes that when they are ready to appear
we can catch them on …
In this corner of the planet Fridays are trash pickup days.
The trucks roll before dawn so Thursday is officially Trash Day.
In this state of lockdown, with time whipping by like the wicked witch in Dorothy’s Kansas tornado, when Herself starts the day by saying, “It’s trash day” I feel like there are two thursdays in each week.
Today is trash day…again.
That’s all I have to say about that, except it explains why I thought it had been only a week since I last posted. Calendar says 10 days. I’ll just leave that there.
I spent my lunch hour on this Thursday watching my pal David Wallis on my phone.
He’s a fellow artist who not only shares wall space with my work at the Granary Gallery, he also manages it and he’s pretty darn good at both.
Oar Luck – Oil on Panel available at the Granary Gallery
So the Granary is getting into the online gig with something they are calling
Notice the Thursday theme running along here.
As pART of our artist series, we present David Wallis leading a demonstration in watercolors. Today, he will take us through the basics of color and how to compose a fantastic watercolor of your own. All levels are encouraged to join!1:30 pm DemoThis is a prerecorded demo (the internet connection in David's studio is poor). 2:10 pm Join David LIVE for a Q&A on ZOOM ZOOMhttps://zoom.us/j/3120891796?pwd=dDdXckQvWWN6cllJNGFMSXdFTDNRZz09Meeting ID: 312 089 1796Password: 542847See more of David's work at:https://granarygallery.com/search-works.php?keyword=david+wallis
Posted by Granary Gallery on Thursday, May 21, 2020
If I did that right you should see a link to their FB page above…where you can also have lunch with David while he performs his Intro to Color Theory ala Watercolors Demo.
It was fun to watch from my studio kitchen and this old dog even learned a new trick.
Another new thing I am learning to do is to comb wool.
I mentioned in an earlier post that my pillow cases are restocked with new fleece and with that I set out to upgrade my fiber prep.
Behold…the Viking combs.
I think the rake on the right is jealous of the craftsmanship as she photobombed the new gals in town.
Basically you load the wool onto the stationary comb and bring thecomb in your free hand through the locks in series of perpendicular passes until the fiber is loaded up on that comb. Two or three passes is all it takes. What you see pictured below is the second pass where already the fibers are beautifully lined up and open.
Then you load it onto the larger blending hackle…
and THEN you pull it off into this light and fulffy nest like length of roving…
It’s traditionally a concave disc, I’ve seen them made from whale bone, wood and plastic…but when you are also a spoon carver and you have a bag of unfinished spoons..well you pick out one that feels right and drill a hole in it and add some decoration and Bob’s your uncle you have a Diz.
I’ve never seen one with a handle…here’s one for sale at The Woolery store…
but for me the handle is a bonus and makes it easy for my right hand to grasp while pulling the fiber through the tiny hole with the left hand. I needed one more hand to hold the camera in order to show you that but Herself was busy so maybe later.
This new skill and method is fabulous and fun to learn. Soooo much easier on my hands than other carders and the resulting roving is an absolute dream to spin. Not sure why it took 40 years for me to try this, possible the terrifying sharpness of all those tines… but there’s no looking back.
I’m experimenting with yarn thickness hoping to produce some thinner yarn than I usually make and so far I have five skeins…
the one on the far left was the first one out of the fleece and done before I started using the viking combs. Much less uniform. The combs do a much better job of aligning the fibers which results in a “Woolen” rather than “Worsted” spun yarn. There’s your fun fact for today…
which is a Thursday.
Now I’m off to take the trash out before getting around to my actual day job.
I suppose you can look for me to be doing one of those pARTicipate at home gigs in the future. It’ll be hard to beat Dave’s smooth delivery.
Stay tuned and stay frosty out there…
Here’s a couple sheep…just outstanding in their field…
And we have arrived at the end…
only to start at the beginning.
I owe everything Vineyard to my friend Lynn.
She brought me here for the first time.
We would throw a box of spaghetti and some brownie mix
into her car and drive from our shared apartment in Somerville
out to the ferry and over to her beloved island.
It was ten years or more before I even knew there were towns
other than Chilmark.
We drove straight from boat to bluff
and left only briefly for the annual lobster from Larsen’s
…and regular visits to Chilmark Chocolate.
Lynn had the biggest heart I’ve ever known
and its core and depths were chiseled out of those cliffs.
Her honest and joyful humor was wedged in between
every one of the giant stones she tended along her wall.
Her kindness and overflowing generosity
live on in the daffodils that now soak up her spring sunshine.
Her friendship and her family have given me
the closest thing to a home that I have ever known.
The monarch is for her.
Actually it may BE her.
they always will be.
On the day I captured this light
there was a very short window
of this calm after the storm
just enough time
for the sheep to make their way
across the field to where I stood
and as the sun began to set
she flew behind me
and landed on this bend of grass
and stayed until I turned around.
Her smile was exactly as I remembered it
with that laughter and love
come to share the moment
which I had been searching for
all those years
as we had made a ritual of stopping
at this turnout each time we left her camp
to see if the sheep were there
and the muses might be too.
After four decades …
and with a wink and a nod
from one happy dancing angel
Thank you dear sweet soul.
I’ve been feeling low the last couple days.
Maybe you have too.
It’s easier to leave these breadcrumbs
when the light gets in.
And just now…
thanks to Zoe…
Stay frosty out there everyone…
we’ve got your back.
Dreamcatcher – 2018
Not sure if it’s the finch or her perch
but this tender glancing gesture
reminds me of a little poem
by Micheal Longley…
after the irish
she is the touch of pink
on crab apple blossoms
and hawthorn and she melts
frost flowers with her finger
Hello in there…
Bless you John Prine and Bette Midler for piercing my 20 year old heart with that song.
It pulled me by the teeth to the other side of a gripping depression and became a touchstone along the way for the next 40 years. I have always worn my fried egg on the outside…proudly because of you.
Me at 20 -1978
Etching from college portfolio – 1978
So I just got off the phone with my pal Peter Follansbee. I’m throwing a link to his website here …click… so that you can spend some of that extra screen time that we all have these days to visit with him and his woodworking. He, like most of us creative types, is able to continue plying his craft and is producing some fabulous new work.
Both Peter and his wife Maureen are historians who worked at Plymoth Plantation so they have a unique perspective on the 17th century. Peter’s focus was primarily on all things wood while Maureen was the textile expert. So it was that today, when we were comparing quarantine notes in our social distancing phone chat, and I brought up my own next woodworking project… Peter said Maureen wrote an article about that. He’s gonna dig it up for me… and I’m all ears…because…
As I sat in the studio kitchen one morning last week…looking out at the same view I’ve been greeted with for over a decade…the Muses lit a match.
Spark…at the end of the walkway…the centerpiece of the Morag Gamble bed…were the washtubs that Susan gave me years ago for a planter. Deb’s begonias and a few annuals bloom there every summer and brighten that corner. And the extra light that now shines there in the wake of the giant ash tree removal last year…was apparently just what the Muses needed.
Because…wait for it…they are WASH tubs.
This was the beginning of what turned out to be Olde Timey Sunday.
Well the true beginning was actually the two hours it took me to repair the hose faucet and run a line out to the tubs. But after that …well after I had to whittle a couple stoppers out of our stash of wine corks. But THEN we got it going.
The washing part was made so much easier with those tubs. But the next stage…wringing…eh not so much. My hands aren’t strong enough any more to do that. So I did some research. Of course there is a youtube video on that…and with that help I’ve figured out a way to build a wringer. Hopefully Maureen’s article about doing laundry in the 1600’s will give me a few other pointers. I’ll keep you posted on the making of the wringer…for now you can ponder on the parts list…a rolling pin and bungy cords were ordered from Amazon and the garage will need to be cleared out enough to get to the wood stack and the tools.
It always gives me an energy boost to have a new problem to solve and a project to build, and while the clothes were drying in the sunny breeze, Herself began clearing out the greenhouse…so we could get to the spinning wheel.
Because I scored two brand new fleece to spin !!!
Beautiful fleece I found on Etsy from Aspendale Farm .
A small farm in Idaho where Romney Sheep are raised and where they are kind enough to send an extra gift bag for safe storage…
One of the best days of our year is the trip in May to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, and one of the first dominoes to fall in our corner of this pandemic was the early cancellation of that festival. Having had to miss the last two years I was doubly sad. But social media came to the rescue and, after putting a query out to our resourceful peeps, I had several leads on where I might procure some spinning fleece.
One of the best parts of that side trip was reconnecting with Tom Knisely. A wonderful weaver friend of old who lives just over the hill from the studio and we have only now discovered that he has a new weaving/spinning retreat and workshop with his daughter Sara Bixler…oh the excitement as I get to anticipate the day when the vaccine arrives and we can go back out into the world …the very first place I will go is…
So now I’m all set.
The old wheel got some new grease.
When the weather gets just a bit warmer I’ll be out there in my most peaceful place with soft silky fiber steadily spinning onto the bobbin.
The pioneering theme closed out the day with a simple quiet rise…
And there is no better way to illustrate the way that all this hand work soothes the soul …
The Long Draw – 2018
Stay frosty out there.
Heavy hard frost this morning.
It didn’t catch me by surprise.
Covered tenders and put away tools.
The fleece jacket was a mistake.
Should have gone with full winter coat.
Got this far in the morning walk…
and chose the heated kitchen…
I have given over to the Muses…
completely and utterly.
The days are not mine.
They breath for me.
They lift… or do not lift the brush.
So it was surely they
who stopped me here
in the frosty hollow
perhaps to remember…
View from my easel – 2010
It is such a pleasure to look out on this farm when I’m working.
And this winter, for the first time since we turned the bungalow next door into my studio, we had a real winter.
This was the morning after the first storm.
Finnegan and I were the only ones out in the neighborhood…
just as the birds were waking up.
I spend most of my days, in this corner of Pennsylvania,
painting corners of Martha’s Vineyard.
I’ve waited for three years now to find a way into painting
what is right outside my very own window.
It was the warm golden light that glowed from within the stand of drying cornshalks in that morning’s sunrise that did it for me.
I started with the treeline on the horizon
and then the barn, that magnificent old dame
and then the cornfield
layering color after color in the foreground
in preparation for toning it all down to create that field of white.
Good thing as it turned out.
Halfway through the painting I looked out
and all of that lovely corn had been harvested.
A moment’s beauty…fleeting but recorded now
to remind me how to see.
The Night Cre
Three years ago I sketched something similar to this after waking from a dream…
Each spring I came across it and half heartedly thought about looking
on the supermarket shelves for those egg dying kits I remembered….
but got distracted… and another year passed.
Then I found this basket in Jane Slater’s shop in Menemsha…
and brought it home to the studio and set another of Aunt Imy’s teacups on top…
and Susan came up with the exact McCormick’s egg dying kit
from the 60’s I was looking for…
and Pat drove in to town to rendezvous for the drop off…
and I rooted around in the white cabinet in the log cabin to find
every single rabbit related item we own…
and boiled up the eggs and filled four cups with hot water …
and caved in and added the vinegar after all …
which I thought was superfluous but which, it turns out, is the only way the dye will take…
and then I set it all up on the studio workbench and started sketching.
And THAT’s when the muses stepped in…
all of a sudden the setting sun shot through the front window and that magical shadow appeared.
Had I started five minutes later I would have missed it.
I love it when that happens.