New Use of Old Wood

December 31, 2012

“When trees mature, it is fair and moral that they are cut for man’s use, as they would soon decay and return to the earth.  Trees have a yearning to live again, perhaps to provide the beauty, strength and utility to serve man, even to become an object of great artistic worth.”
— George Nakashima, The Soul of a Tree:  A Wood-worker’s Reflections

Handmade wooden bowl

Handmade wooden bowl

Bowl made from a red maple tree fallen on my family's farm

Bowl made from a red maple tree fallen on my family’s farm

“Ours is a search for pure truth in the most realistic ways — the making of things.”
— George Nakashima, The Soul of a Tree:  A Wood-worker’s Reflections

“There is a line from a Sexton poem: ‘The writer is essentially a crook./  Out of used furniture he makes a tree.’  . . . After all, that is what art should do; create something natural out of all the used-up sticks and bureaus of our lives, the detritus of our lives.”
— Maxine Kumin, To Make a Prairie

One of my most cherished Christmas gifts this year was this wooden bowl made from a fallen red maple tree on my Dad’s farm.  My sister and brother-in-law commissioned the bowl from a wood worker they knew.  It’s a wonderful keepsake from my childhood home, a one-of-a-kind work of art, new use for old wood.

Coincidentally, David Perry, one of the bloggers I follow, just wrote about handmade wooden plates made by a Vermont woodworker and friend.  Perry’s post is a love song to things analog, like the handmade wooden plates and bowl.  I can relate.


Everyday Sacred

June 4, 2010

Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender

There’s almost nothing better than to curl up with a good book on a rainy day.  I just re-read one of my all-time favorite books, Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender.  I liked it so much when I first read it years ago, that I bought a copy for myself.  Bender is perhaps better known for an earlier book, Plain and Simple, about lessons she learned during an extended stay with the Amish.  Everyday Sacred is a meditation on the theme of begging bowls.  In the Zen tradition, a monk carries a begging bowl and accepts, with gratitude, whatever is given.  Bender writes about bowls as metaphors for her life experiences in a way that inspires the reader to be more attentive to the everyday gifts life brings.

On re-reading this book, I found I was again intrigued by a couple of ideas that I remember vividly from my first reading.  First was the description of an art class called “The 100 Drawings Project,” where students drew the same everyday object 100 times.  Making one hundred drawings of the same object forced students to push their limits, take risks, and discover new techniques and working styles.  Ever since reading about this project, I’ve been dreaming about doing 100 drawings myself.  But the dream has remained unrealized (so far).

The second story that made a vivid impression was the experience of a woman who had lost her home and possessions in a fire.  She found that a cherished object that she had gifted to a friend was returned to her by that friend after the fire.  Another woman had always given away things she really didn’t like, and after the fire, these same things were returned to her.

Sometimes you find the perfect book to fit the mood of the day.  Everyday Sacred was like a visit from an old friend.

Treasured blue bowl, a birthday gift from my friend Lynne