PARTICIPATORY SPORT FOR CRAFT ARTISTS
Welcome to my new Crafthaus group. In this forum I will explore how artists who also have skills in other disciplines, art related or not, can harness and express our various talents through our chosen professional art form. If you are a painter, actor, musician, philosopher, botanist, or whatever, sharing the same body with the craft-artist in your mirror, you can combine these talents and express them through your work. If the possibilities of this interest you...let's get started.
First, let's define who we are. A "Renaissance man", or polymath, is someone who is proficient at many different skills, usually both arts and sciences. Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Pythagoras, and Ben Franklin to name but a few are great examples. These men set the bar very high because they were gifted, if not genuine genius, and were proficient in science, education, art, philosophy and sociology in their day. Without having to reach that high, I think a lot of artists are "Renaissance people" on a much smaller scale than such historic greats.
I am a silver sculptor, flutemaker & designer, published novelist, airplane pilot, parent/grandparent-guardian(underrated skill if ever there was), and amateur foil fencer. I have a passion for quantum physics and wrote my own theory on the origins of time. I've created web pages, stop-motion animation, edited films, written movie scripts & TV pilots and taught creative writing. I play a few instruments and sing in the shower. In past years I was an elected public official, fund-raised almost a million dollars for a library renovation, ran a presidential candidate’s local office, and fought the waste industry to protect my town. I've traveled the length and breadth of the Milky Way in my imagination and breathed in so much gold dust off my bench that my family will probably have my remains cremated by a refinery. One thing I'm not good at is being a commercial success in my own right (we’ll touch on that in a future post).
I’m sure if you wrote down your varied accomplishments and life experiences you’d have as busy a list as mine. The sum of who you are as an artist is much more than the work you do at your bench. Of course, our art already reflects who we are, but there is much more we can bring to our work. How to sizzle them all up in the same pan will be the challenge I put forward to this group.
I hope you'll join in and contribute to the conversation with your thoughts, ideas, experiences, and suggestions.
I've been absent from these pages for the summer while I started a new book and concentrated on getting some flute projects out the door. This month I've actually (gulp) taken a spare bag or two of time to myself and done sweet fork all. What a treat that was. It's been at least a century since I could live a couple of weeks without feeling compelled to do anything.Well, not nothing... (How can any self respecting obsessive compulsive polymath really do nothing ?) That would be unconscionable. Aside from cleaning the garage, copying 500 VHS movies to a hard drive, retrofitting my workshop so it's ready for some serious work this fall, and so forth, I've been completely idle. Unless you add...oh, never mind. I guess the point is that is really, really hard to do nothing at all when you're wired to be busy all the time. I don't even have a cell phone and I still can't stop whirling like a dust devil.A couple of thing I discovered while running on empty for a few weeks. First, doing…Continue
I've been so busy with work I've missed writing the blog for a couple of weeks. I've got some ideas to share, I just need time to assemble the thoughts. In the meanwhile, let me share my latest flute images. These portraits are of famous opera divas past and present (taken from images while in costumed role). Each disc (flute cup) is a little over 1/2 inch in diameter and they are all chased and raised out of the flat surface of the cup - nothing is soldered on.I hope you like them. Joan Sutherland, Diana Damrau & Sarah Brightman.Side view of cups showing relief.…Continue
Now that I've admitted and conceded that, despite all my interests, I am a bridesmaid to the flute first and last, I should come to terms with it and mold the future I want from the history it has given me. When I first set sail in business on my own, my intention was to make a great flute and compete in the market like any sensible manufacturer. Making a great flute was easy - I had a sensible business plan, talented employees, and the requisite skills to succeed. Finding a place in a very competitive market? Not so much. A quarter century gone by and it appears I’ve found my niche - working alone to create a legacy flute, a work of art and music that stands apart in the crowd. A flute to perform through generations of players, become part of musical instrument history and family heritage. Of course, history, not I, will decide if that succeeds. But there is no reason a well made and cared for flute can’t be played for hundreds of years.What's germane to the polymath here is how I've…Continue
I quit making flutes permanently at least 3 times. My love/hate relationship with instrument making has been lifelong. Sure, it was always a good conversation icebreaker (especially with the girls), and working in silver has always been a pleasure for me, but it was primarily repetitive bench work. So I left it to write, compose music, make jewelry, and on and on. But it paid and my employers let me work from home while I persued other things. So back I went. In the end, as all who master a craft come to, I know flutes down to my bones. I instinctively understand and can connect all the mechanical & acoustic complexities in my mind and so can construct a concert flute from raw materials without the need of CAD, castings, dies or lathes. With all that at hand, I came to the conclusion that there was no reason I couldn't turn flutemaking into the art form I imagined when I first started my career, instead of searching outside the field for artistic satisfaction. Work in Progress: 3…Continue
In my search for the future, I realize that my past has had many signposts along the way that said ‘stay on this road’. But in my polymathic psyche, I couldn’t do it. When I started my own flute, a major dealer in the UK picked them up and we were on the path to being a successful player in the industry. But I took a different tack because I didn’t really want to be an employer/manufacturer. I sold 2 novels to a major children’s publisher and they wanted more but I didn’t want to lead the life of a kid’s writer who makes most of their living visiting schools. I had an agent handling my movie scripts and almost had a movie contract - and if I’d focused on screenwriting, might have broken through.I recognize other times I’ve been on that threshold but these are 3 major turning points in my career path that determined what I wouldn’t do but didn’t really determine what I would do. While I didn’t consciously decide this, I think my polymathelogical mind kept telling me that too much focus…Continue
Do you ever feel the need to reboot your life?As an artist who works his own schedule, I all too often get overwhelmed, backlogged and confused by the number of balls I juggle just to stay sane. This is one of those days. I over-promise to deliver work and when things get ahead of me I start to screw up more which slows down production and makes me further behind which feeds the ol’ OCD and makes me lose sleep, try to do too much, screw up more and - you guessed it - slows down production which in turn makes.... well, there’s the slope none of us likes to be on. As a result, I jump completely off the ride, take a day off and then restart everything as though I’m on time.Today is such a day - reboot day. I have 2 flutes that are nearly done but “nearly” in the art world isn’t the same as nearly in, say, manufacturing, accounting or horseshoes. On top of them, I have 2 commission projects arriving in the next couple of days. One with a return deadline as the customer needs his flute…Continue
Time to shift gears away from science and into music. I play jazz flute and piano and when I read this interview with Branford Marsalis (sax player who led the Tonight Show band for Jay Leno), it connected with some thoughts I’ve been mulling over about the metal art world. I’ll start with the excerpt and comment at the bottom:“You put on old records and they always sound better. Why are they better? I started listening to a lot of classical music, and that really solidified the idea that the most important and the strongest element of music is the melodic content. In jazz we spend a lot of time talking about harmony. Harmonic music tends to be very insular. It tends to be [like] you're in the private club with a secret handshake. I have a lot of normal friends. 'Cause it's important. [When] you have a bunch of musicians talking about music and they talk about what's…Continue
Continuing my cross referencing science and art, here’s another planckscaleblog entry that I think applies to art and connects a bit to last week’s entry as well: how we observe the universe. There is so much more to see in the world than what is right before our eyes that much of it requires some imagination. Movies and video games and ubiquitous internet interaction have robbed people of their need to imagine. So much special effects and fantasy realism make it unnecessary for kids to carve a stick and imagine it as a wand because they can buy one that is product tied and battery operated. This has some relevance in our world where there seems to be a need to “educate” the buyers to what we are creating in part because they can’t seem to imagine it on their own.Here’s how I saw it 4 years ago when NASA had a great day...FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2009Bombing the Moon for Fun and ProfitI loved today's moon mission attempting…Continue
Here's a planckscaleblog.com entry that I think applies to art as well. We all have some filters on what we will or won't see even when we're staring straight at it. As artists we use all our senses to see beyond the ordinary but what really lies beyond the ordinary?SATURDAY, MAY 22, 2010 We have eyes...but do we really see? An obvious observation about a dog is that you can hand them anything and they'll accept it without understanding. A lump of food, a digital watch, a stick, can of soda are all in the same basic place to them: can I or can't I eat it? When they're through with it, the item joins the background noise of their lives.But a less overused metaphor is when you point at the clouds or the stars for the dog all they see is the end of your finger. Looking up, or observing the background of the world, is not only incomprehensible but irrelevant to them.I wonder if the same rings true for us on some level. Are…Continue
Following up from last week, here's a flute that I chased with an abstract art deco design that depicts the story of time from the beginnings of the universe. Some is standard science, some is my own theory. …Continue