Wednesday, September 17, 2014

We'll Get There


 Weather’s been nice and fall-like the past couple weeks. I love it. My favorite time of the year. Nights get chilly, the woodstove gets cleaned out, I transition from iced coffees to hot. Big changes. I got to drive to Prospect Harbor today to deliver some chairs. What a great driving day it was. 

I also got a chance to make up the lid for my tool chest. I now have it all glued up and have started to get the last skirt details knocked out. I hope to be able to bang that out tomorrow. We’ll see how things go. I still gotta keep my client’s furniture moving out the door but Leonard’s Mills is coming up soon. I wanna make sure the chest is finished before then. We’ll get there.

Friday, September 12, 2014

New Business Cards

I got some new business cards the other day. I’ve been ordering through Print Place the last few times and have been happy with the results. They get printed in Texas and get here pretty darn quick. I use GIMP to design them according to the specs on the site and I get to see a digital proof of both front and back before it goes to press. I definitely prefer no coating on the card. I tried the gloss coating once and hated it. I thought it looked tacky. Uncoated is classy. They don’t offer super thick paper or letterpress printing (both of which I want someday) but the card looks decent as is. Besides, 250 double sided cards shipped to your door for $25.00 is hard to beat. If you’re looking for decent budget business cards, download GIMP and then order through Print Place. I think you’ll like it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Tension Between the Familiar and the Strange

“[There is] a tension that underlies every encounter with the past: the tension between the familiar and the strange, between feelings of proximity and feelings of distance in relation to the people we seek to understand. Neither of these extremes does justice to history’s complexity, and veering to one side or the other dulls history’s jagged edges and leaves us with cliché and caricature…

The pole of familiarity pulls us most strongly… Because we more or less know what we are looking for before we enter this past, our encounter is unlikely to change us or cause us to rethink who we are. The past becomes clay in our hands. We are not called upon to stretch our understanding to learn from the past. Instead, we contort the past to fit the predetermined meanings we have already assigned it.

The other pole in this tension, the strangeness of the past, offers the possibility of surprise and amazement, of encountering people, places, and times that spur us to reconsider how we conceptualize ourselves as human beings. An encounter with this past can be mind-expanding in the best sense of the term. Yet, taken to extremes, this approach carries its own problems. The past “on its own terms”, detached from the circumstances, concerns, and needs of the present, too often results in a kind of esoteric exoticism…

There is no easy way around the tension between the familiar past, which seems so relevant to our present needs, and the strange and inaccessible past, whose applicability is not immediately manifest. The tension exists because both aspects are essential and irreducible. On the one hand, we need to feel kinship with the people we study, for this is exactly what engages out interest and makes us feel connected… But this is only half the story… we need to encounter the distant past – a past less distant from us in time than in its modes of thought and social organization. It is this past, one that leaves us befuddled or, worse, just plain bored, that we need most if we are to achieve the understanding that each of us is more than the handful of labels ascribed to us at birth. The sustained encounter with this less-familiar past teaches us the limitations of our brief sojourn in the planet and allows us to take membership in the entire human race. Paradoxically, the relevance of the past may lie precisely in what strikes us as its initial irrelevance.”

-Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Reflective Times Like These...

I had a sick day today. Sitting in bed blowing my nose and resting. It’s especially in reflective times like these I remember how blessed I am to be able to work on such amazing pieces of furniture. Whether it’s an elaborately ornamented high style piece or even a well-built vernacular specimen, I am grateful. Northern New England has such a wonderful abundance of great opportunities for furniture conservators. Even in rural, tucked away Blue Hill, Maine I get these kinds of pieces in the studio. Feeling blessed. Can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Damning Winds of Fashion

Washstand     H:36.25" W: 20.25" D:16"

After an appointment at a client’s house today I made a point to stop in at Mid-coast Fine Antiques in Holden, ME. I hadn’t seen Benjie and Francine in years and so it was great to drop by and catch up. Since I was there, I thought I’d snoop around a bit and see what was out in the showroom, specifically looking for Maine made pieces. They had several items to look at but one in particular caught my eye. This little wash stand is a great example of early Maine fancy painting. This is nicer than the plain stenciling done on so many of these “Hitchcock” pieces (as many are wont to call them).

What I like about this example is that this was made at the end of the artisan era. It was made completely with hand tools right before the industrial revolution took over. And it’s even more rare to have a signature. This one has a pencil inscription which reads, “Nathaniel Brown Esq., painter. Portland, May 21, 1829.” It’s pretty exciting to me to see these things with original surfaces. They are around still but so many of them were subjected to the lye tanks in the 60s and 70s. Now they sit in people’s cottages naked and shamefaced, exposing the paint grade pine and maple that was used to construct them. It’s a shame in my book. The ironic thing is that in its day the whole appeal (and dare I say ‘soul’) of these things was the decorative painting. O the damning blows of the winds of fashion!

I know some people roll their eyes at this stuff when they see it. But you know what? This piece is almost 200 years old. I’d say that’s pretty impressive… and worth respecting.

Dovetailed rail joint


The inscription

Solid construction

Dovetails? Yep.

"Yellow Wash-stand" by Steven Spurrier, c.1939    Courtesy: Tate

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It's Worth Putting Time Into

Fall is on its way now and that means I will soon be digging deeper into my Fisher research.  (Anxious to get back to it.) I plan to further examine the artifacts at the Fisher House, reproduce some of them (workbench and tenon saw?), and begin working out a manuscript for the book. I have been encouraged to pursue this story by a number of people whose judgment I trust. I’m not crazy: this thing is worth putting time into. I’ve begun working out a punch list for the next six months of research. We’ll see how the winter goes but I hope to make good progress. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Day's End

I look forward to night chores. Putting the animals in at night is a wonderful time to slow down and reflect on the day. The layers get their corn, the goats get their grain, and the meat birds get shooed back into their house for the night.

After collecting the layer’s eggs, I snapped a few pictures of our meat birds. They are four weeks old. About half way to processing. I really like watching them explore the grass and play. They seem to enjoy being out during the day.

P.S. We had a doctor’s visit today and got this picture of our newest little guy.

That’s a Klein face if I ever saw one.