I did not have serious time off on my recent trip to China, but I did have an afternoon to visit the markets in Beijing and sample some of the local street food – also not sample some… I picked up a few little somethings in the market stalls for everyone and spent a whopping $50 in doing so. It was one of those experiences that you have to be immersed in as the sights, smells, the crush of people, sounds, Etc…. can’t be accurately described.
Archive for category Art
I hate this guy… That hate is mostly born of jealousy. I wish I had his tools, his shop, his free-time and his skill at making complex wood joints. I still hate him though.
I am an admitted cyber-hoarder. I have gigs and gigs of image files across 5-6 hard drives: Images of furniture, vacations, design details, machines, demotivational posters, LOL cats, etc… that I will someday get around to looking at again or using for some future unnamed and unknown project. The few times I have gone looking for something, it has taken forever to find the wanted file.
I was introduced to Pinterest and I thought that this was the solution to my hoarding problem: a cleared up hard drive, organized files, I would be able to add comments to pictures, etc… Nope. Wrong. Stupid Pinterest solved nothing. Now I save files to my hard drives AND link to Pinterest. I have said many times that I don’t use Facebook because it is the black hole of time management. Now I will “glance” at my Pinterest account and BAM!! it is 2:30 am, I have 2% battery left on my iPad, and I have been repinning pictures for seven hours. This is really cutting into the time I have allocated to plotting my scheme for world domination… Dammit!
It has been a sweet summer in our small garden. Stamps-With-Foot has really stepped up and has been planting, weeding, watering, picking fruit, staking dahlias and has even once turned the compost and added chicken manure. I have been both shocked and impressed. She even talked me into having some corn planted in the raised boxes this year. She bought the starts, planted them, made sure they were well hydrated and is now about to harvest 15+ ears of yellow sweet corn. Her squash has been prolific and we will have more soybeans this fall than we will know what to do with. Happily surprised at my bride’s greening thumb…
So far this season, we have harvested 25 heads of garlic, 10 sweet yellow onions, 30+ yellow and green squash, a few Roma tomatoes (still very early in the season), 4+pints of raspberries (late summer crop just starting), 3 pints of wonderfully sweet blackberries, figs, apricots, 1 apple (more to come), a gallon+ of cherries, spinach, 5 beets, more Swiss and rainbow chard than I care to remember, 2 pints of small strawberries, a pint-ish of blueberries, and we have supplied three households with rosemary, sage, pineapple sage, thyme, basil, Thai basil, Moroccan mint, and spearmint. We have been trading produce with some other members of our family for eggs and with two sets of neighbors for veggies and flowers. Stamps-With-Foot mentioned the other day that she felt like Marie Antoinette with her little Austrian Hobby farm in the shadow of Versailles.
The amazing amount of flowers (except for the lavender and roses) have all been cared for by my sweet wife and a neighbor from across the street. Both front and back yards have been perfumed since early spring.
It has been roughly eight months since my shop was robbed. It is just now that I have found the will and desire to start building furniture again. I have let projects and repairs pile up and let my garage shop digress into a sawdust filled junk-room. There have been parts for Adirondack lawn chairs in my basement and shop since December. I finally got around to gluing them up and screwing the pieces together when my son was here this summer. That little project led me to start cleaning the shop and find all the stuff that has been waiting on me. I dabbled with a couple of boxes, then started making pieces and organizing tools and supplies to tackle the larger stuff. Below is a list of current projects that are in work:
- Painting the Adirondack chairs
- Re-build of my father’s 1971 bookshelves
- Kitchen cabinet doors
- Misc. Lathe tasks
- Kitchen cabinet pullouts
- Camp Kitchen box build and paint
- Campaign furniture for luxury car camping
- Hall mirror
- Copy of a 12th Century Abby oak door
- Fireplace surround and mantle
- New Kitchen cabinet pulls and knobs
- Garden tool shed
- Christmas gifts
- Garden table
The above are started and in-work. I have plans to also build the below items soon:
- Small basement work bench (reloading and winter projects)
- Rebuild bookcase in master bedroom
- Murphy bed for my home office
- Box ceiling for master bedroom
- Home office bookshelves
- Chicken coop
- Ornamental planter box
- Cookbook shelf in kitchen
- Rebuild my standing desk
- Basement stairs rebuild
I “discovered” Monocle Magazine while living in Hamburg. As I was perusing my favorite bookstore there after work one day, I happened upon a new glossy – interesting title, bike wheel on the cover, quality paper, hmmm… I have a mistress and she has two wheels, so anything that is smartly bike related catches my attention. I sat down, read a little and fell in love. There were articles about bikes interspaced with design, global politics, a Japanese comic, well-designed fonts (I grow nerdier every day…), lifestyle, city profiles, travel, branding, craft and men’s accoutrements.
The premiere issue of Monocle was launched in February 2007 and the bike issue happened to be the third issue of the magazine. Monocle is headed by Tyler Brûlé, a Canadian-born journalist who also writes/wrote a good weekly editorial for the International Herald Tribune and has some serious chops as a journalist and writer: BBC, The Guardian, Stern, The Sunday Times, Vanity Fair, runs a design firm, and was shot by a sniper while covering the war in Afghanistan…
One of my guilty pleasures in life is buying Monocle Magazine at a specific magazine stand near “C” concourse at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. Which sounds snobby, but I am SOOO unsnobby (except for coffee and beer…). It is just happenstance that for the last couple of years, I travel through Amsterdam every couple of months and it has coincided (give or take a week or two) with the release of each new issue. On one of my recent trips to England I got to spend an off-day in London. I made it a point to detour into the Marylebone neighborhood and into the first Monocle retail store (there are now five along with podcasts, a radio show and a TV spot on Bloomburg) to buy the most current issue. The shopping experience was great: small, but well stocked store, attentive staff, my purchased was wrapped like I was in a Tokyo stationary shop, and I had missed a visit by Tyler Brûlé by 20 minutes. The Monocle HQ is close by and he apparently stops in from time to time.
The sound of a violin playing causes an almost visceral reaction in anyone within listening distance. It can take you back to a perfect evening with someone remarkable, move you to tears thinking of the long dead, put a smile on your face, start your feet tapping, remind you of a street corner in a small European city, or fill your eyes with the smoke of a long forgotten tiny bar in the Texas Hill Country.
I have an amazing leather-bound book that was my grandfathers. It is a mostly English (a little German) treatise on building a violin and was published in 1889. There are maybe 20 full-sized patterns in it that have been removed, traced, and returned. I have no idea if my grandfather was the tracer or if he ever attempted or built the violin outlined in the book. It could have been a Bucket-List project for him, but I know he touched it and at the very least thumbed through it and looked at it sitting on the shelf that I found it on in his workshop when I was 8. Now it is on my Bucket-List.
This is starting to get out of hand. We have six desks in our home and I need more. It may have now turned from fetish into a sickness. We are using them for all sorts of stuff: a work table, a liquor cabinet, a sewing/project center, paper repository, and for their intended purpose of writing and surfing the interwebs. Whenever I travel I have a wandering eye for bicycles and desk-like furniture – imagine Ron Jeremy leering at the contestants in a beauty pageant and you will have a good idea of what happens to me when I see a brazed bike frame or a Georgian secretary… I have seen a couple of pieces lately that I NEEDED! I needed them WAY down deep inside – like the Pope needs Jesus.
The one and only thing that keeps me from being more of a desk hoarder is my epic lack of proper funding. It makes me sad to leave them in the store all alone, where no one caresses their tops, opens the drawers slowly, tells them that they are pretty, and where they will end up with someone who will not treat them as nice as I would have.
Below is a selection from of desk-p0rn from the Sherlock Holmes Museum, the Charleston Antique district, Harrods in London, Restoration Hardware, misc. furniture shops, and my favorite Seattle antique store.
Watching this video took away every excuse I have ever had on why my projects don’t tun our like I want them: “My Lathe is old,” “My Chisels aren’t right,” “I need a new jig,” I don’t have quality oak/maple/mahogany/black palm/koa to work with,” “The tool rest I use is crap”… Nope, I now know that every one of those phrases was complete and utter ego-protecting crap. Watch what this Moroccan craftsman does with a medieval bow lathe, a skew chisel, cast off wood, and his toes(!!). I am humbled.
I have decided to add a weekly (or semi-monthly/quarterly/yearly…) post to my site showcasing both the hands and tools that bring functional art to life. I have a whole horde of videos and podcasts that make me want to put my tools away and take up needle point that I will share. Here you will find weavers, shoe makers, knife smiths, cabinet makers, tool builders, farmers, bike builders, glass blowers, tradesman, luthiers, book binders, leather craftsman, instrument makers, timber frame builders, carvers, shipwrights, potters, blacksmiths, cigar rollers, and others practicing old-world, hands-on, crafts. There will be videos of them at work, shop tours, profiles, interviews, and various bits of my own commentary. It is my hope that videos will increase awareness for the artistry of traditionally crafted tools, art, objects, machines, and transportation.
The inaugural post is from the Made by Hand website and is a profile of a knife smith that makes custom kitchen knives for the chefs of New York City.
My father-in-law, The Chatty Buddha, spent almost a week with us during the holidays and he likes to get me up REALLY early to run at the beach. Before each of these runs, he must say any number of chants and incantations to make the weather as crappy as possible – really, really. Anyway, just before we go and run through blizzards and gale-force winds, we will sit at the breakfast table and I will try to get a half a cup of coffee down while my father-in-law hums and vibrates with nervous energy. He tries so hard to be Zen, he really does, and I can only imagine how hard it is for him to sit and meditate while vibrating like the quarts crystal in a calculator watch.
On the first morning of this years annual Christmas-to-Jotunheim run, he just couldn’t contain all the penned up joy of expectation. He was asking questions, quoting Hafiz, stretching, standing up every 3 seconds…. I was shocked that he could focus his gaze on a single object and that he hadn’t yet vibed his way into a parallel dimension. His son was sitting with us and in about the same state of no coffee/walking dead as me. We needed a few minutes of calm before charging once more into the frigid breach, so I looked at The Chatty Buddha and told him to touch the earth – at the moment of enlightenment Buddha is said to have touched the ground with his right hand. It is depicted in about a billion statues. There was a brief moment of silence as he stared at me with his piercing blue eyes. A giggling smile broke out across his face and we all three had a big laugh. For the rest of their visit this year, he would start to spin like a dervish and remind him to touch the earth. He would look at me sideways, squint his eyes, and slip back into our dimension. In the spirit of the above, while we were in the UK and Ireland recently, I took some pictures for just for him – see below.
Charleston, SC is one one the places that makes Marta Stewart go all weak in the knees: it is antiques heaven. I had just finished reading a post on the Lost Art Press Blog about a shop there that deals mainly in campaign furniture (a type of furniture made specifically for travel and/or military campaigning and something that makes my inner Martha breathe heavy), when I got the serendipitous news that my J-O-B was sending me there for a few days. Well then… I had one afternoon off and I drug a couple of coworkers to the antiques district downtown and hunted for the shop. My, my, my…. The proprietor had original pieces from the British Raj that he let me fondle and covet. I really wanted some personal alone time with a specific teak and wicker lounger. Me, the chair, some port, candle light, and sweet, sweet love….
I am in the process of building my own campaign-style camp kitchen, chairs, table, and wet bar to take with us on the Lukowski-Gahagan-Talley Glamping trips planed for this spring and summer, where roughing it means the mushrooms are crimini instead of chantarails. I snagged a few ideas from the shop and some additional research that I am incorporating. I will post when somewhat complete, but in the meantime, take a look at some of the pictures I snapped and have included below.
There is craft and there is art and sometimes the two disiplines make sweet love and this is their offspring:
The lines for this one are almost Art Deco. It looks like it would mold into a palm and become and extension of your hand.
Wood and steel and brass and beautiful. In my mind’s eye I can see the curled shavings littering the shop while I work with this beauty:
There is something wrong with you if this mechanical marvel doesn’t make you wonder what you could build that would REQUIRE you to purchase this plane.
Stamps-With-Foot and I went to the 3rd annual Steamcon this past weekend with our hearts open and expecting to be impressed. Last year we had a ball at their western/adventurer themed event: Great costumes, a cool retail section with memorable window shopping, and lots and lots of people having a great time. This year, the theme was a “20000 Leagues Under the Sea” affair. We had HUGE hopes for some very cool costumes/props and had been looking forward to going all year.
“Expectation is often better than realization…” I am not sure what it was, but this year’s show just didn’t have the same spark. Some of the costumes were terrific, but there seemed to be fewer original ones. Don’t get me wrong, we saw some classy dresses, finely tailored suits, mechanical hands, harpoons, gvns, hats, Leather roller derby gear, big wrenches, a pet shoulder dragon, and a goldfish tank on a leash. Some serious thought and skill went into these outfits. There were just fewer kinds of them this year than there were last year. It also seemed like the event goers this year were more subdued.
The convention was held at a larger and more spacious venue, which would normally be great, but it took away from some of the intimacy of the gathering as compared to last year. We were somewhat disappointed with the retail space/offerings. It seemed to be a rehash of last year, with each vendors efforts doubled at another booth. While I appreciate the entrepreneurial sprit, some of the items for sale were not made to withstand the test of time: if one uses hot-glue on an artistic/functional creation, shit will fall off and it will be neither the latter nor the former any longer. I will say that the art displays were terrific and we picked up a couple of small things for Le Maison du Talley.
I am holding out hope for Steamcon IV. I know some people that are discussing an awesome vendor booth and Victorian Monsters is the theme – rich material for the creative set. The Steampunk crowd has a high relative population of former Goths, so I am figuring that black capes & cloaks with high collars will be coming out of hope chests everywhere. Wooden crosses and silver bullets for the initiated. More lace, bite marks, wolf references, mad scientists, mummy’s, parasols, and meerschaum pipes will be seen. Vampire hunter kits will be produced, there should be some terrific League of Extraordinary Gentleman inspired regalia and maybe the show will find a home that is equal parts convenient for participants, has the perfect ambiance, and room for running amuck.
This past Saturday Stamps-With-Foot and I met downtown at the Seattle Center for the 14th annual Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair. It has been marked on my calendar for a couple of months because I am a giant bookworm. Handling old books makes me feel all funny in a certain place in my lower abdominal region… so not attending wasn’t in the cards. The first booth we visited was one that sold sheets of illuminated volumes on vellum. There were thousands of sheets ranging in size from 3″X4″ to full folio size (~15″X17″). The hand drawn figures, uncial script, and the shinning gold accents from the 14th century made me a little dizzy and it was REALLY hard for me to not grab two armfulls and run screaming “I am John Galt!!” from the hall. Really, it crossed my mind, and only the realization of what it would mean for me when my cellmates in jail asked “What you in here for?” kept me from acting on that totally logical bibliophile impulse.
I looked over at my little wife and she had a huge smile on her face and was carefully holding a sheet from a French Book of Days bound in 1480-ish, looking at it like it held the answer to world peace. She glanced over and mouthed, “I want to have sex with it.” And THAT, ladies and gents, is why we are married.
After the first booth, the rest of the show was a little bit of a let down, but there were some truly rare and beautiful volumes – I think that I have turned Stamps-With-Foot into a collector of miniature books. We bought a couple of moderns, and looked longingly at the vellum as we left the show after a couple hours of browsing, talking to vendors, and groping hand bound book spines.
Are you old enough to remember standing in front of a wooden box in your school/neighborhood library, flipping through yellowed note cards, looking for the tittle/author of just the right book? As I sat in Mrs. Peterson’s 3rd grade classroom, learning the intricacies of the Dewey Decimal System, I would have never imagined that I would one day look back on it all with smiling nostalgia. Going to the library and thumbing through the old oak card catalog drawers – pulled out and sitting on a table – and finding titles like The Roghfort Gang, My Side of the Mountain, How to Eat Fried Worms – happy memories.
The days to the DDS and the card catalog are almost completely gone. Almost all libraries – large, small, rural, urban – have digitized their catalogs/holdings and have sold off or just thrown out their cabinets (insert look of horror). I had looked for my own case for the last 3-4 years before finding one at a decent price that fit in our home. A fine old card catalog should be de rigueur for a bookworm’s home office/living room. When I found that perfect one early this year, I may have caressed and spoke to it in soft loving tones for the first few days. I moved it right into my office, re-arranged the drawers, and mounted my book press on the top. Something was still missing though. I realized that I needed labels installed in the brass pull/placard to complete the piece. I set up a template in Visio and set the lettering to an interesting script-like font that I found at dafont. Then I had a little fun with naming the drawers from A to Z.
I have always felt that you don’t truly possess a house until either miscellaneous charities start sending you mounds of address labels in the hopes of a donation or until you have personal stationary with your home address. My sweet little wife has never had custom stationary and I figured that it was about time and it would give me the opportunity to spoil her a little.
Having a print shop or a high-end paper store design and print say 100 letter sheets, envelopes and thank you cards will run you about $500. Buying a hand letterpress, a couple sets of tin/lead font, paper, ink, new rollers, etc. will set you back $1000, easy. I am way too cheap and too handy to fork out that kind of dough for something I can do myself.
Stamps-With-Foot loves her puppy like the Pope loves Jesus. I thought that his handsome mug would make the perfect personal seal for her. I took a picture of him and through the voodoo of Photoshop, I made a black silhouette image – all big ears and narrow butt. I dropped that image into AutoCAD and did some arranging and formatting. I added to that her contact information in a semi-french script font that I designed a few years ago for my own letters and cards.
Quality stationary means quality paper. Instead of the white recycled paper that we use for most printing, I bought a pack of 30gram 100% cotton ivory/ecru paper and matching 100% cotton envelops. Wood pulp paper yellows and crumbles after only a few years, but cotton paper with last roughly a year per percent of cotton before showing any signs of age: 25% cotton = 25 years, 50% = 50 years and so forth. After some diligent searching, I found some indelible archival printer ink on the inter-webs for our HP and I loaded each sheet and envelope into the printer by hand. A note from my bride should be as crisp and clean for our great grand children to read as it was the day she sat down to write it with her glass dip pen and brown bulletproof ink.
She swooned a little bit when I gave it all to her
As previously noted, I have a certain almost unnatural attraction to desks. While in Dubai a few weeks ago, I happened into a swanky furniture store. It is the type of store that rich folk with vast oil deposits peruse. I walked in and marveled at the pieces and the prices for about 30 seconds, when a sales person was ON me. She was nice and said I could stay, but followed me around the store for ten minutes. She was fine with me taking pictures, I just wasn’t allowed to touch any of the gorgeous desks or sit in any chairs. Fair enough…
There was no particle wood to be found. all solid wood with a smattering of exotic veneers. The jewel in their crown of desks was a huge cabinet desk that had a price tag of 71477.000 Dirham – that would equal $19455.13! I was astounded, but I will admit that my heart was full of lust for that finely crafted writing destination.
“Steampunk is for Goths that have discovered brown.” - I love that quote and it makes me giggle every time I think about it. While I can really get into the Victorian Zeitgeist, making your own cool stuff, recycling old gears into art, bargain hunting at flea markets, and retro-fying 21st century gadgets – I think that it is the roll playing sub-set that has kept me away from embracing the movement. Well, that and I already have WAY too much crap going on and not enough time/money to do any of it that well. I can’t add another hobby, but like I said, I can appreciate some of the aspects of the movement/genre/fashion/cult/trend/??/….
Anyway, when I saw that the largest Steampunk show in the US was going to be held in Seattle this year, my interest was piqued. When I later read that Gail Carriger was going to be signing her books and meeting fans, well that sealed the deal. Don’t judge me! I picked up her first book, Soulless, at an airport bookstore on a trip and that tiny little woman’s writing is so God damn good that she hooked me (qwerky, well built characters and she uses English as an offensive weapon…). I will drink some beer later, burp and scratch while watching some football or hockey as my man-penitence.
Stamps-With-Foot and I got up early on Saturday, I proptly forgot the camera, and we headed off to the wilds of the SeaTac Airport Marriott for our chance to say hello and gush at Ms. Carriger. We did just that and found her to be very approachable, genuine, funny, and sincere – all that you could ever want an author that you meet to be. Buy her books! We then decided to take a walk and look at what and who there was to see. HOLY CRAP! we stepped into a mess of nerdy, techy, historically inaccurate stew! All ages, races and genders were present and I was shocked to see that the male/female ratio was 50/50ish. It may be profiling, but… at most tech, comic, or game conventions there are significantly more males of the species and the few ladies in attendance have their pick of which Spiderman loving, +2343 hit-point having, IT professional they will be going so be spending time with. Steamcon seemed to appeal to both sexes equally and there were some truly beautiful people walking around in costume, shopping, flirting, and having a great time. The costumes were interesting and for the most part very well done: Victorian fantasy accessories, sexy boots, tiny hats, spats, ray gvns, a steampunk Geisha jet packs, a saddle(?!), parasols, wings, accoutrements that looked like they took months to build, some really good art, pith helmets aplenty, monocles galore, and some characters of questionable lucidity. The people watching was A++. I would wager that more nerd-nooky was had this weekend at that hotel than the combined amount in all of the western US up to this point in 2010. I took a few pictures with the iPhone and below are the best of them. Sorry for the pixilization.
My friend, Dr. G, is a true renaissance man – a polymath, if you will. I shall count just a few of the ways: He has a BS & MS in Electrical Enginerding, is an MD specializing in Emergency Medicine, is a eloquent wordsmith, has MAD rock-climbing skills, is a fine builder and designer, and is an artist par excellence. He has done a number of paintings over the years that I have really liked: the Red Nude hanging behind his couch, the naked running man in his Little Rock living room, a tiny sketch of a falling leaf “doodled” in a guide book margin, etc… On a climbing trip last summer we stopped in at his place to recuperate, reorganize our gear, stock up on food, and drink beer. While getting a tour of his Arts & Crafts bungalow (with a similar floor plan to our, though much larger) , I spotted a 3’X4’ canvas peeking out from behind a t-shirt in an upstairs bedroom and I was drawn to it. The painting is a climbing self portrait, of sorts. It is viewed from inside a wide crack, high up the side of some unknown wall. He is trying to wedge a #4 BD Camalot into the crack in what would appear , by the sweat running down his face and by the intensity in which his brow is lifted , a last ditch effort to protect and anchor his progress after a long scary run-out. We have all been there whispering, “please hold, please hold, PLEASE hold…” while standing on a manky knob of choss, 50’ above the last placed piece of gear, and thinking about how bad it is going to hurt when you pop off and take a slide down the wall, stopping abruptly on a ledge or the not so cushy ground. I stared at it for an unseemly amount of time and took a number of digital pictures of it before it was once again covered and leaned against the wall. I thought about it that night as I lay in my sleeping bag and have thought about it often since then, having a digital copy running through the “my pictures” slide-show whenever my home or work computer goes to sleep.
I was recently at his wedding, which was a lesson on how nuptials should be done – full of laughter, good food, fine booze, and class to spare. The morning after the big “do,” I caught Dr. G in a moment of weakness – right after he had signed a huge check paying for the event hall rental and while his head was still foggy with the glee of his wedding night. I mentioned the painting and how much I liked it, how great it would look at my house, and how his new bride didn’t really feel that it fit with her choice of decor ( a complete lie on my part). Before I could say another word he looked at me and said “it is yours.” Uhhhh… OK… He was serious and even tried to make sure I really wanted it. Fvck yes I wanted it! I went 2 hours out of the planned route to pick it up at his house. When I got the painting down stairs I teared up and cried. I felt like a big ol’ titty-baby. I sniffled as I loaded it up and called him again to say ‘thank you.’
I have looked at it for a while since I have been home and it makes me happy. I smile remembering his face contorting while miming eating a stack of Oreo Cookies in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming when we were starving for something other than dehydrated packaged food, how he sings a Jimi Hendrix song while crack climbing, and I fondly remember the time Dr. G caught me on the biggest climbing lead-fall I have ever taken. More than anything though, I look at this canvas and think about the investment of time it was for a man with so many interests and responsibilities, the hours he spent crafting the pallet and studying his own face and hands. I feel humbled by his friendship, talent, and generosity.