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Monday, May 18, 2015

Just being real, Y'all.

Just being real Y'all.  We human beans are an amazing bunch.  We are capable of incredible latitudes in virtually any direction imaginable.  It is possible for us, if we choose, to stop our lives and turn on a dime, as the saying goes. That is what I have chosen to tell you about in this blog because it has happened to me.   

As many of you know, I was recently diagnosed with colorectal cancer.  I was hospitalized for surgery almost instantly and remained so for twenty days.  I had never in my life been hospitalized.  No surgeries or major illnesses had crossed my path.  Had a bad case of the flu once.  Early that morning I found myself on a gurney being wheeled into an operating room.  As I stared at the overhead lights and looked at the masked faces surrounding me the thought occurred to me that this might be the last image I would ever see.  That I might die.  What do I do?   What do I say?  I said a short prayer and thought how I've had almost 62 years of almost perfect health, more than many have experienced.  I've had great friends and loved my work.  I've had plenty, thank you.

In Hospital for beginning of first chemotherapy session with my Mandarin CD ready to keep me company.

I was as surprised as I could be when I opened my eyes just a crack and realized that I was still alive and seeing the faces of people!  I was in a room looking directly into the face of my sister Ruby and surrounded by her husband Harry and Karen.  Then, I was told that when I began waking up after surgery I had been speaking in Mandarin!  Learning Mandarin has been a personal challenge of mine, but never did I think that I would start jabbering in Mandarin while in the fog of unconsciousness!

Wearing first portable chemo. bag and mowing.
But wait, there's more!  As my mind was growing less and less foggy, I realized that there was something under my hospital gown.  You know, those cloth things with the opening down the back!  Well, when I looked under the gown, I saw that I now had an ileostomy!  I remember the moment well.  This is what it is, I thought.  I'm still alive so this thing on my abdomen, while surprising, must be essential and therefore not a big deal. 

Wearing first portable chemo. bag and working in garden.

The point is that for me, life stopped and turned on that proverbial dime when I went into surgery.  I could have chosen to fight the situation and not accept the changes that came that day, or I could decide to accept that I was no longer in control and go with the changes.  That acceptance was made somewhat more easily achieved by the wonderful, caring staff in that hospital.  Through their compassion and professional skills they earned my complete trust as I struggled to adjust and get better.  That trust allowed me to calm my fears and to become an active participant on my own get-well team.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sewing Machine Collection

This is my latest fun project, repairing two antique Singer sewing machines.  I have always loved sewing machines, since I was a kid.  I have my Mom's machine, a Kenmore, two Singer and two more machines that I will show images of below.  I don't sew with the machines but am intrigued with the machines themselves and how they work.  The two Singer machines sew beautifully after I have been working with them. They run very smoothly and quiet.

This is the machine that kicked off my love for these things.  It is the Ambassador and is nothing special except for the fact that it belonged to my late Mother and I watched her sew with it.  Do the sounds, smells and memories of this machine create my fascination?  Or, was I already fascinated upon arrival and was only recognizing a part of me? 

This machine is a clone machine that was made after World War II.  Parts of the machine were made in Japan by workers and industries that once made armaments.  The machine is called the Sew-matic and looks to be a clone of one of the Singer machines.  

The label on the machine states 
De Luxe Sewing Machine 
Made in Japan.

The Model P-1 machine was sold under the J.C. Penny brand name Penncrest.  It is a three/fourths machine that would be a good starter machine for someone learning to sew.  I had hoped my kids would be interested in sewing machines, but no luck.  The machine works great and the sides fold up to form the case enclosure.  

Next is the Kenmore, complete with its wooden cabinet.  I just fell in love with the aesthetics of this machine.  Despite the stiffness of the lines on the body, it nevertheless embodies a straightforward honesty in it's design.  The stiffness conveyed without ambiguity that the machine meant business and could carry out that business of sewing for as long as needed.  The machine works perfectly and came with a collection of attachments.  

This is the Singer Featherweight, and it has it's own large table that was especially designed for the machine.  What can you say?  This is certainly one of the most adorable machines ever.  The Featherweight does not do fancy stitchery, but what it does do is sew flawlessly.  

The last machine in my collection is the Singer 201-2.  This is a brute of a machine whose appearance belies that fact.  From sheer fabric to leather, the machine can sew on almost anything.  It is soooooo smooth!  Working on this machine is almost tantamount to working on a watch mechanism.  There is a very high level of craftsmanship evident in all of its components.  I will be using this machine to sew projects for my VW Westfalia Vanagon.  I cannot wait!  So, I won't.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Today I received an e-mail from Karen, who handles the office here at Charles Pinckney Designs.  She also from time to time advises me on a variety of things.  As many of you already know, I like to present my supporters with what I call my spiel when a piece of mine is collected. That is, if time allows, sometimes there's just not time.  Anyway, the way it goes is that I take your hand in mine and look at you while saying this:

I thank you for investing in me and my future works.  I just wanted to take a brief moment to tell you how sincerely I do appreciate you.  I know that you enjoy my work and for that I am grateful.  I, however, also know that neither you nor anyone else is in 'need' of anything that I make (this is not food) to breathe one more second in this world.  So, I do appreciate you very much. 

Well, today Karen sent me a version of my spiel that she had tweaked.
This is how she tweaked it.

I want to take a moment to tell you how sincerely I appreciate you and to thank you for your patronage.  I know that you enjoy my work and for that I am grateful.  However, I also know that neither you nor anyone else is in 'dire need' of anything that I make to survive, except in the regard that art feeds our soul and stimulates our imagination.  I wish you the very best for the coming New Year and hope that I see you once again in the future.  

My reaction after reading it was that it's not my voice.  I would not say the rest of the sentence after the word 'survive'.  Not that I disagree with the thought.  It's just that to my way of thinking that part of that sentence is me making a case for why you or anyone should 'buy' my work.  If a patron wishes to express that sentiment then wonderful, I can embrace that.  It is not appropriate, though, for me to tell anyone why they should buy my work.  I do believe that Art feeds the soul and stimulates our imagination. To tell you that my art does that crosses a boundary and enters a realm that I believe belongs solely to the viewer of the art, not the maker.  It is for the viewer to decide what Art feeds their soul or stimulates their imagination.  It's just not how I'm wired.  Anyway, I thought you all might enjoy a peek into some of the perspectives that I feel shape the artist that in turn shapes the work.

Thank you for your time.  If you have been, thank you for reading.  

Comments are always welcome!      Charles

Thursday, August 28, 2014

EMMA Collaboration 2014

The first week of August I attended the EMMA International Collaboration that is held every two years in Saskatchewan, Canada.  This was my second EMMA.  Only one hundred artists from around the world are invited to come together to work in collaboration, teaching one another new skills and sharing creatively in the fabrication of art objects.  At the end of the session an auction is held at the Saskatchewan Craft Council where the objects are sold to patrons in order to fund the next event.

Affectionately known as 'Emma', this biennial weeklong residency takes place in the heart of the Boreal Forests of Northern Saskatchewan. 

Artists are challenged to step outside their usual practice to explore different media, techniques and subject matter.  Professional artists skilled in working with wood, blacksmithing, metal fabrication, forging, painting, fabric, leather, bark, stone and other media are invited.  The artists move around the group to work with each other, asking someone to add something interesting to a project or asking another how to solve a problem with an unfamiliar medium.   New techniques, ideas and inspiration are shared throughout the week.

This year one of my projects was to collaborate with the team that made this clock.  My contribution was to make the pendulum from telescoping brass and copper tubing and an old 1920's pre-vinyl record made from wood fiber and other material that I cut and carved to shape.  The record was at least 1/4th inch thick, very different from the vinyl records we are more familiar with now.  I think the name of the record was 'Good Bye Sunshine Hello Moon' before the label was removed.  

I worked on several other projects, as well, but we were so busy that I didn't take any photos.   It was especially hectic at the end of the week as we tried to get our work completed.  

These are the Blacksmiths forging a relief onto some hot iron for a table that was completed later. Great teamwork! Timing was critical. These guys are from Great Britain, New Zealand, Hawaii, Saskatoon and a Kiwi now residing in Canada. A better group of people you would be hard-pressed to find.

This is Te Rangitu Netana from New Zealand, an amazing graphic artist.  He had never met an African American before and I had never met a Maori.  We were instantly friends.

This is the Tiny Shiny group of Jewelers, Greg Wilbur, John Wirth, Myra Perrin, 'Mary' Podiluk, Melody Armstrong and me.  As with the other work locations at EMMA the amount of skill, talent and problem solving that went on in this space boggles the mind.  Hell of a group and I was honored to be a part of it.  

The Emma Lake International Collaboration grew from a series of wood workshops organized by Michael Hosaluk through the Saskatchewan Craft Council in 1982.  Since that beginning, the EMMA International Collaboration has become a catalyst for worldwide creativity in the arts and several collaborative EMMA events across the world have emerged. 

For more artist information and images visit

Thank you for reading!  Please send me your comments.  Charles

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I really love what I do for a living!

Thunderheads.  Forged and fused sterling with pearl.
I really love what I do for a living.  Last week a client of mine from some two decades ago appeared in my studio with six pair of earrings purchased from me over the years.  She asked me to clean and polish them and remove some wonkyness from the pair with long dangly wires.

Earrings.  Glass crystal and amethyst beads and sterling.

I found myself drawn into a wonderful opportunity to inspect my work that had been in use for more than 20 years!  It was amazing.  I was humbled to discover that the owner of these pieces actually cared enough about her earrings to bring them back to me for a little cleaning.

Japanese Earring.   Copper with polka dot snowflake pattern, sterling and gold-filled wire.
Right off the bat I noticed that all the earrings still had the original ear wires that I had made.  I was told that none had ever come undone.  I still make my own ear wires, and that was satisfying to know that they are holding up well.

Faces in the Window.  Copper, titanium and fused sterling.
The Faces in the Window pair still had all their dangles, even though they were a bit bent.  All the elements continued to perform as intended. That discovery alone gave me a great sense of satisfaction as an artist and designer.

Lanterns.  Sterling, glass bead and pearls.

Whirlpools.  Sterling, copper and gold-filled wire.

The effect of seeing samples of my work return to my studio after such a long time validated to me the time and effort and thought processes that went into the fabrication of each of these creations.  I am very grateful for the opportunity to work as an artist, doing what I enjoy doing each day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

'cross the Tracks

Across the Tracks 

This piece is titled  ‘cross the Tracks.  I spent my youth in a small southern town with a population of less than 4000 people.  I would expect that there are as many divergent views of the South and all things Southern as there are people expressing views.  The story of this piece, however,  expresses only one view, that of mine as I experienced life as a young black child of the late 50’s and early 60’s. 

‘cross the Tracks represents a perspective that I gained during a time of political and social isolation in that small Southern town.  It was a period of growth and development for me that, while taking place in the  midst of  a segregated world, did not taint me with the prevailing oppression. 

My world as a young boy was warm and protected, rich in creative investigations about human relationships, nature, and the personal strengths of  the people around me, the hands that nurtured me.  The thoughts and inspirations that shaped me so long ago are vibrant underpinnings of my work today.  ‘cross the Tracks is a celebration of growth and personal perseverance.  The titanium axel in the center of the piece represents the toughness of the resolve developed there.  Personal success can literally occur anywhere under any condition.  ‘cross the Tracks can represent a place of despair or, as in my case, a place of hope and victory. Celebrate resolve.

The pendant is fabricated of sterling, titanium, copper, bronze, ebony, six rubies, three freshwater pearls and egg shell matrix.  Dimensions: 1.8 x 2.5 x 0.8 inches.