Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Riff on Reciprocity

Guys like to solve problems. It’s in our nature. And we especially like to solve other people’s problems.

Tell us what’s wrong and watch how fast we start trying to fix it for you. We’ll offer up all kinds of solutions to whatever situation you’re in. It took me many years before it sunk in that most people I knew (and especially women in my life) just wanted me to listen, be understanding, and not actually try to solve their problem.

Buckminster Fuller was a pretty good problem solver. I like his 
take on it too: "When I am working on a problem, 
I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is 
not beautiful, I know it is wrong"

But let’s say that you aren’t simply seeking a sympathetic ear but are actually asking for help. Whenever you do it’s a smart artist who gives a little something in return.  It doesn’t have to be much, just a genuine* token of appreciation. An acknowledgement that someone else took time out to give you a hand goes a long way. A simple thank you note will do. 

So if you interview someone for a favor, about their technique, business practices, how they wrote their successful grant, technical tips, and so on, maybe write them a note, take them out to lunch, buy them a cup of coffee, a bottle of wine, or some other small pleasure to express your appreciation.

Providing a little tangible token of thanks is a gesture that builds goodwill and positive energy.  Think of it as providing karmic balance if you like. All it takes is a little reciprocity.

*Intention is important here. Sincerity counts. People pick up on it pretty quick if you’re the type that comes across as a calculating mooch. No body likes a mooch, even less a calculating one.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

More Useful Things

A few more useful things from my workbench to yours.

Hardware store reading glasses = cheap 2.50 power magnifying lens

Six inch square cork tile for pinning and drilling objects

Kneaded eraser for testing punches and stamps

 Hardware pruning shears will easily cut up to 18ga. metal

 My all-time Best Useful Thing =
Jeweler's saw blade to clean or enlarge
pre-drilled holes in freshwater pearls

Strange Attractors

I carry stuff around in my pockets. On any given day I’ll have at least a couple of small stones, a bright scrap of paper candy wrapper, an odd piece of colored plastic, or any number of other tiny odds and ends* that attract my attention. This, I might add, is in addition to a pocketknife, pen, and notepaper. No artist should be without pen and notepaper.

In The Poet’s Notebook, J.D. McClatchy wrote, “The bower bird in me is forever collecting colored threads and mirror shards to make a sort of world.” I love that quote. It perfectly describes my behavior.

Pocket stuff

What I carry in my pocket reminds me to stay awake to play and re-enchantment with the Ordinary and Everyday.  This  stuff awakens me to look at the world with fresh eyes, or acts as a trigger for a piece, or might actually wind up in a piece. 

 Small pendant in sterling, 23k gold leaf, 
and pocket stuff ~ candy wrappers
and a found piece of red plastic.

I think what attracts my attention, what I notice and surround myself with, what I collect and carry with me, are the things that help me make my sort of world.

* In old anglo-saxon “ord” or odd, was the beginning or point of something. So the phrase originally meant “points and ends” or scraps. "Odds and ends" may also have originated from lumberyards—odds were bits of board split irregularly by the sawmill from the point, ends were pieces trimmed from boards cut to specific lengths. Or so my research on the internet tells me.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Useful Things

Today, a few useful things from my bench to yours:

 Empty ball point pen tubes for sawblade holders

 Heat bent toothbrush for those hard to reach places

 Wine bottle corks for needle file handles

 Coat hanger wire = fancy soldering pick

Sawed-off clothes pin for small bench clamp

Mountain bike hand grip for the jeweler's sawframe

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


On walks, or morning runs, around Greenville it’s impossible not to notice something botanical. This is about as green a place as I’ve ever lived (and aptly named). Even in the middle of what passes for a Carolina Winter we have plants blooming, roses in December, camellias in February, and much of the foliage remains green. On first arriving here I was nearly overwhelmed by greenery. I am not alone in this. Many art students here find themselves collecting, drawing, painting, and/or forming seedpods and leaf shapes of every variety. It creeps into your visual vocabulary like Kudzu*.

Spring is coming. In North Carolina azaleas, rhododendron, crepe myrtle, and the ever magnificent magnolia will bloom along with countless other flowering plants, many of which look like they're downright out of Jurassic Park.  But it’s the leaves that fall I find fascinating.

In autumn the multitude of leaf shape, surface, and variegation leaves (ahem!) me breathless sometimes. Some are quite intense, if fleeting. I find that very appealing. While spring has its undeniable charms I am reminded in fall ** of both the temporal nature and individual beauty of each passing year. It heightens my appreciation for every other season ~ those in nature and in our own lives.

*Introduced in the US in 1876 from Japan it was promoted as soil erosion control in the 1930s and it’s been growing ever since. It can grow as much as one foot per day in summer months.

** The story goes that “fall” is an American colonial word for autumn because New England settlers were amazed at the sudden dropping of leaves from the brilliantly colored deciduous trees.