Thursday, September 30, 2010

RIP, Doc

This post is being written with a heavy heart; I've lost a very good friend in a tragic accident. This post is as much about talking through my grieving as it is sharing his wonderful story. I hope it's cathartic for me, as well as you. It's one of those - "if you haven't reached out and connected with an old friend lately, you'll never know when it's going to be too late" kind of stories.

So - let me tell you a little bit about my friend.

People talk about the invasion of privacy that can occur on Facebook, but that is how I first heard about Jim's death. See, I'm "friends" with both Jim and his ex-wife, so when I sat down at the end of a long day and started "catching up" with people on Facebook, I noticed some very odd (and disturbing) posts, in which people were sending their condolences.

What are they saying? I thought to myself. Who has died?

Imagine the sorrow you might feel to learn of a good friend's death while sitting at your computer. But then again - imagine not hearing about it. It occurs to me that Facebook is a modern day Pony Express, where information is shared in seconds, not weeks. Say what you want about it - but admit that it was beneficial in this instance.

When I think of Jim, one of the first things that comes to mind is what a good and decent man he was. We met as kids, really, eighteen-year-olds in college, and our love for playing guitar is how we met. Many a day was spent sitting on the lawns of Ohio University, singing and drinking beer.

And talking about life.

See, Jim didn't have a clue what he wanted to do in life. He was a little lost, in fact. As the years passed, everyone else was graduating and moving on with life; Jim was still deciding. I remember his stints as a bartender, a house painter, a construction worker - you name it, he did it. He wasn't afraid to work. He just didn't know what he wanted yet.

Here we are as "kids" at my graduation ceremony - when I completed my Carpenters Apprenticeship program. Jim's fat tie and my bangs make me cringe, but it was sweet that he drove 200 miles to be there with me that night.

When Jim told me he had decided on medicine, it didn't surprise me. He was the kind of guy who cared about people. Deeply. I knew he'd be a great doctor.

Fast forward many years - a wife and five kids later - Jim found himself back in the town he grew up in, practicing medicine. He was the quintessential small town doctor, where everyone knew him, where he gave generously of his time and talents, and was loved. Seriously loved.

Just two weeks ago, I heard from him, proudly announcing that his son was graduating from boot camp, and had become a Marine. I love that he posted a picture of them smoking cigars. To hell with the evils of smoking - they were celebrating, dammit!

If I close my eyes, and listen, I can hear him talking about the depth of his pride for Parker. Well, actually - about all of his children. The relationship he had with his kids wasn't like any other father-son or father-daughter one, for he was truly their friend, their mentor, their leader, their example. I grieve for the sadness they're experiencing.
Kelsey, Parker, Molly, Brianna, and Cooper - know that your father was loved by many, many people. He made a difference in this world.

His funeral is taking place as I type this, and I can't help but imagine the stories that people are sharing with each other about him. I have a great one to share about us.

Jim was an amazing athlete - a kick boxer who was feared and respected. When we were in college, Jim gave me a couple of tickets to watch him fight, and a friend and I showed up for the match. As you might imagine, beer and excitement freely flowed, and I cheered like a maniac for my friend.

"Kick his f#%@ing ass, Jim!"

When the match ended, Jim came over to greet us, and said - "Oh, I see you met my mom." Seems we were sitting next to his mom the whole time, and she heard us wildly (OK, drunkenly) cheering him on. She simply said "well, I could tell you were fans of his..."

How embarrassing, what a first impression I made with her!

When people die, everyone tries to say comforting thing, like - he will be dearly remembered, or his legacy will live on forever.

In Jim's case, these words are all true. Rest in peace, my friend.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Autumn pots

Shoes that look like this can only mean one thing.

Stella was pretty happy chase her ball around the clay studio.

And even though the clay was ever so slightly too hard to throw, only one pot ended back in the slop bucket.

Needed some soy pitchers for all the sushi sets that I've been making.

Love this new stamp.

It was so warm in the shop, I had to cover the pots to slow down their drying.

Here is the kiln goddess, protecting the studio and keeping an eye on the kiln.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Late night at the shop

Stella and I worked late into the night Saturday evening. She was filthy, climbing in the dust under the workbenches to chase her ball. But she couldn't be happier.

This might be the skankiest tennis ball on the planet. She would sleep with it, if I let her.

The good news is - she actually loves taking showers. When we got back home, she walked into the shower before I even turned it on. Honestly, she's an angel.

I needed to glue up some panels, so that the glue would be dry today, when I head back to the shop. That's one thing that's important about working with wood - pre-planning your work, so that waiting for glue or finish to dry doesn't hold you up too much.

We've been working with compound miters in a class I'm teaching on Thursday evenings. There are so many cool things you can build with this joint, and I'm inspired by the pieces that everyone is building.

There was a piece of mahogany plywood left over from a previous job, so I built this clock last night. I still have to build a small pedestal for the base of this clock, but I couldn't wait to see it all together, so I oiled the part that was done, and installed the clock movement.

That is the best part of being a woodworker - you can build everything in your home to create a very customized (and cool!) environment. My latest passion has been making lamps.

This lamp (below) will eventually be tiled on all sides. It's going to be amazing.

Here is what we watched before falling asleep last night - a wonderful close to a lovely day in the shop.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumn leaves

It dawned on me that the reason I ramp up my ceramic work at the end of the summer is because it's much nicer to unload a kiln when it's actually cool outside. I've been firing the small kiln every few days - it isn't big, but it's perfect for smaller items, and it achieves ∆04 in about six hours.

When I use the larger kiln to bisque fire my work, it literally takes me weeks to fill it. And once it's fired, there are so many pieces that need glazing, it makes my head spin. So having a small and a large kiln seems to make a lot of sense for me.

I have a leaf obsession going on right now.

That's not surprising, coming from someone who has a tree tattoo, is it?

These are very small, about the size of a quarter, a nickle, and a dime.

My weekend is going to be filled with glazing leaves - I have about 2000 that I'll be working on. I've got a fantastic piece I'm designing, and I need a few thousand leaves for it.

But the big news that I mentioned a couple of posts ago is... starting in early 2011, I'll be partnering with UNLV to teach courses for them at my shop. This link will take you to their website, where you can view their course catalog.

I still don't get their logo; I guess I'll have to ask someone what it's about.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Take this job and...

Who hates their job?

As I was driving home tonight, after a long week and weekend without a day off, I thought about how much I enjoy what I do. And I thought about how many people I know who don't feel that way about their jobs.

I don't get that - if you're unhappy with what you're doing - why do it? Fortunately, most of my friends have jobs they love, too. That makes for happy people.
I just spent an amazing creative weekend with a student who came to town for her second round of private woodworking lessons. We covered so much ground, my head is still spinning. (I imagine hers is, too!)

Her enthusiasm for working with wood is invigorating. Everything is new, and even sanding isn't boring.
Honestly - does working get any better than this? Thanks for a great weekend, Kelly!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The big tease...

It's hard to believe the summer is almost over. It never seemed to get a full head of steam like it has most years here in the desert. The garden started off like a wild beast, but really died out much earlier than any other year I can remember. In previous years, I've managed to fill a freezer with frozen peppers.

This year? Nada.

That said, there have been a ton of new things going on - life changes, steady (and quite interesting) commission work, and new additions - one of which is this beast.

To see what it can do, click here.

It's really not something I could afford right now, but on the other hand, I couldn't afford not to buy it.

Another bit of news is that I'm this close to offering tilemaking classes. It's something I've been considering for a while, and it just seems to make sense to me. So check back with me if you're interested. These are just a few of the things you could make.

Finally, the even bigger news is ... well, it's getting late and I have another full day of private lessons tomorrow, so I better close for now.

Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Taking a step back and reconnecting

It's not often that I work with my Stanley low angle block plane. But when I do, I am reminded how effective it is, and how enjoyable it can be to connect with wood on that level.

No fine sawdust in the air, just the shavings on the bench and floor. Nice.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Another shop visit

Everyone seems to enjoy shop visits, so I thought I'd try to capture a few images that might be interesting.

No that's not my shirt hanging there, it's actually a wooden sculpture.

Complete with all the details, like this stitching

and the folds. I don't know who carved this, it was purchased at a gallery in North Carolina.

Prayer flags from Nepal keep everyone safe from accidents.

No, that's not a "time out" chair, it's the prototype for a set of dining room chairs. Better to make it out of a less expensive wood and iron out all the details, than figure things out along the way.

When I was working alone this morning, I couldn't find a tool rest to support this long board I was cutting. So this is my poor man's (oops - poor woman's) tool support - the table from the drill press.

Don't laugh. It works.

Danny was playing with my tools again.

Ann's been working on this mosaic table for months.

She swears it's going to be finished by autumn.

Jessica was making some Halloween decorations. I'm trying to talk her into teaching a class for kids this Spring.

What is it with the hands?

Just finished this box with finger joints. I taught a class on cutting those last week, and kept the box I'd cut as a demo. You can never have too many boxes!

Here is a piece my father made many years ago. He attended a jewelers trade school, and learned everything from watch repair to setting stones to metal engraving. And much more. This fish, punched and engraved on a piece of aluminum, is probably sixty years old.

Here are a few tumblers of mine, thrown on the wheel. Pencils have a way of disappearing in the shop, so I keep this stash in my office.

This cabinet was just started yesterday - and it will be be finished by tomorrow. I'm heading back to the shop to stain it in a few hours.

Like pencils in the shop - you can never have enough sharp blades.

Doesn't everyone have a 30mm shell casing on their desk?

Who used the saw last and forgot to blow it clean?

That's it for today. I'm putting the "kids" in the van and we're all heading over to the shop for a few hours.

They'll both need a bath when we get home, but it sure is fun to have them with me while I work.

(A little later in the evening...) Here's what happens when you're staining wood and your glove pops a leak.

Ruthie thoroughly enjoyed her visit to the woodshop.