Bulb updates

I haven’t posted anything new from the Albany Bulb in a long time. Its been a welcome escape from my teaching, traveling and studio work over the winter months. Nico and I head down there whenever we need to blow out the cobwebs. It’s always a treat. Always changing. Its one of the best art experiences to be had in Bayarea!

The winter light is stunning as the sun sets behind Mt. Tamalpais!

Nico enjoys the grasses and I love the Australian wattle flowers - very nostalgic!

The painted ladies are all dolled up for Easter.

Everyone gathers for the sunset,

Even the wise dude seems content!

Though there is always a dissenting voice!

The sunset turns everything electric,

And really sets off the westernmost wall,

Which changes with every visit.

There are some good new characters out there,



And some familiar faces


Some sweet juxtapositions,

And some incipient invasions.

Nico and I had a close look at this totem for the first time today.

Dolphin and dog!

'Nuff said!

FOR-SITE Foundation

I’m working at the FOR-SITE Foundation up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada just outside of Nevada City with a group of graduate students from CCA this weekend as part of a studio entitled NorCal Musings which has its own blog. I’ve been coming up here on my own, with Sandra and with students for 5 years now and every time I come here I find fresh inspiration.

Its raining here today, in a sweet soft NorCal way.

The view over the South Fork of the Yuba River to the Coastal Range beyond.

And so I’m in the ‘barn’ working through images I took yesterday down at the Yuba River. I’m making a set of digital prints of water and another set of stereoscopic images of the local environment as my contribution to the NorCal studio – and of course doing a bit of whittling by the fire when I can.

Here’s a taste the textures of the Yuba.

Polished granite boulders stacked

Stacks of 'natural whittling'

One of the water images I've been working on.

Focussing on a detail and then fiddling with illustrator.

I’ll post more of these images when I have them better resolved.

Walking back up from the river through the the manzanitas.

Reminds me that its time to get off the computer and do some whittling.

Astronauts’ Eyeballs Are Deformed by Long Missions in Space – NYTimes.com

Astronauts’ Eyeballs Are Deformed by Long Missions in Space – NYTimes.com.

Its very rare for me to post something like this. But I don’t want to lose the link. And this story is so intriguing.

Why wouldn’t you expect Astronaut’s eyes to bug out!!! I mean, look out the window!

I’m glad science has proven it by measuring eyeball deflection! What other proof would I need. Sheeeeshhh!

I love the conclusion – “NASA does not currently think that the vision problem will preclude long-duration human space missions,” said Dr. Richard Williams, NASA’s chief health and medical officer. I think a vision problem is the one factor that will preclude human space missions!

Bob Darr and the Arques School of Traditional Boatbuilding

The CCA Furniture program faculty went on a research trip last week to the Arques School of Traditional Boatbuilding in Sausalito. Bob Darr the master boatbuilder and heart of Arques spent an afternoon showing us around the beautiful boat works loaded with delicious eye candy. I’ve been in hundreds of workshops, studios, boatyards, lumberyards and junkyards in my life – but none as sweet as Arques.

There were boats in various states of construction on blocks, hanging from the high ceiling, outside in the yard and Bob introduced us to some sweet ladies out in the water waiting for a turn on the Bay.

Boats galore

Sweet lines in Pepperwood

Not a straight line on her!

Lawrence couldn't get the smile off his face!!

Bob showed us all stages of the process from drawing out boat lines by hand – no 3-D rendering programs here!

Ducks lined up in a row!
These are used to hold thin battens in place when drawing curved lines in lofting plans.

Through model making and a nice little rowing dory under construction by students.

Model under construction using identical tools and methods as the finished boat - except for those teeny weeny little hammers!

From model to full size!

And of course the real test!!

Down on the water we could see some of the other wonderful craft that Bob has built and overseen.

A gill-netter once used for salmon fishing up the Sacramento River delta.

A sweet 16' sailing dinghy, built from 'scrap'.
I'm wondering if I can get in, cast off and sail away before anyone notices.

Arques has been restoring the Freda for many years. A major project to breath life back in to the oldest active sailing yacht on the West Coast. Built in 1885.

Freda's shapely stern

Thanks Bob, for such a rich encounter!

Bob Darr, master boatbuilder.
In his element.

Natural whittling

At the aWay station two dogs helped out by whittling alongside us arguably more dexterous whittlers and created quite interesting works – at least to me. Clearly dogs are a different species – or maybe I would have come up with something similar if I was limited to my sharpened canines.

In my beach wanderings of late I’ve been collecting naturally occurring whittles. They are just driftwood pieces, but somehow they look as if they were more carefully shaped than by the random processes of water, wind, sand, sun,

and toredo worm!

Towards a Poetics of Making

Lately, I have been considering what I find to be the most engaging questions in my field and wondering if the theory that is available is of much use to me – or to my students. My friend at CCA, Dean Schneider, has been reading David Pye on the Nature and Art of Workmanship as part of his final thesis and it occurs to me that Pye’s notions of Workmanship of Risk and Certainty are still some of the most useful concepts for me when thinking about art, craft and design. I’m wondering if there aren’t other parameters and concepts that I find relevant in my work that might be more universally and usefully applied across the field.

But where to start on such a project? I’ve titled this project ‘Towards a Poetics of Making’. Admittedly somewhat pompous, but I think appropriate. I’m searching for qualities in making that can be identified clearly and that help understand the nature of making and at the same time provide tools for makers to think about, conceptualize and move their practice forward. Much like the notions of simile, metaphor, meter and other tools help poets to understand and construct their work while achieving a transcendent and culturally valuable outcome.

So what aspects of making could be relevant to this project? I’ve already talked about some concepts which I’ve been finding useful in some earlier posts. In my recent travels and spending time with students, faculty and the general public I have been introducing, discussing and enriching my own understanding of the notions of  ‘artifact’ and ‘translation’ that I introduced in  a previous post – which you can read here.

An over-arching question which I’ve been finding a useful tool arises from my thinking on ‘artifact’.

What concepts or cultural values adhere to a particular process?

In defining artifact I have focussed on the idea from science of an artifact being  a direct affect (often unintended, unexpected or unwanted) from a particular process or tool. In art making this is often referred to as a ‘mark’ and the consequence of using a tool is ‘mark-making’. The quality of the mark is determined both by the nature of the tool (be it pencil, or oilstick, or chainsaw), the ‘fluency’ and intention of the artist, and the medium which supports the mark.

I my thinking about translation, I have wondered what is gained or lost in translation as a concept or action gets transferred across media? In my own recent collaboration with Matt Hebert of SDSU using both hand whittling and digital fabrication, I have wondered if the inherent qualities of the whittlings – the form and surface that derives from the subtle interplay between the initial shape and material properties of the wooden piece, the shape of the knife, and my own thinking with both hand and mind – get lost or augmented by their subsequent translation through digital processes into objects of radically different scale, process and materiality? And then, what new attributes come from the translation that add to or contradict the initial qualities and readings provided by the whittlings? Of course, these attributes can be both physical and conceptual. I’m still thinking about it, and I’m hoping the works that we make together over the next few months help me discover some answers.

One thing I have concluded, is that the works in design, craft and art that engage me the most are those that have the process of making and the meanings that adhere to those processes at the forefront of their conceptual underpinning.

Which leads me inevitably to some thoughts on ‘craft’. At a discussion following Fo Wilson’s recent lecture at CCA, someone made the statement that ‘craft is an activity that brings you closer to the source.’ I like that! The notion that any activity that brings you closer to the core values and qualities of that medium or field is ‘craft’. So cooking involving all unprocessed ingredients where you are close to the source of those materials and understand the cultural histories and values of all of the materials and processes involved is close to the ‘craft’ of cooking. And this applies to both the cook and the diner – both the artist and the connoisseur. The source is in the sauce!

This way of thinking clearly applies to traditional notions of craft practice and allows us to expand the use of the term ‘craft’ to cooking, writing, and even designing video games. I have mourned the passing of a useful definition of craft as it has been applied to any activity which requires human intervention – the craft of shopping? Perhaps these notions of ‘source’ and ‘artifact’ can help me reclaim the terms as something useful to me as a maker who loves and is embroiled in the histories and stories imbedded in the tools, materials and processes I employ.

I welcome any thoughts you might have! These tools will only be useful if other people find them handy!

NorCal Musings

I’ve been working with a great group of graduate students at CCA this Spring in a Studio Research Lab entitled NorCal Musings. We’ve been spending time at the ForSite Foundation near Nevada City in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and at the Headlands Center for the Arts in the Marin Headlands. You can follow along on our explorations and see the works we are making in process at the new blog we’re creating.

NorCal Musings

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