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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hi ho everybody, what a year 2009 was for me! It seems like just yesterday that Karen and I were heading out on the road to do another show somewhere. It is, instead, January 3rd, 2010. During this brief respite from Art Fairs, we are enjoying days of non-commitment.

One of the high points of last year for me was my trip to the great state of Alaska in June. I was invited by the Anchorage Museum of Art to teach a workshop in conjunction with the opening of a huge gold exhibition. My workshop was titled 'The Story as Jewel'. It centered primarily on the personal journeys of each individual in the class, their memories and stories being translated into a representative form in metal or other materials. Using this format, the individual became the most important tool. From deciding on exactly what memory to use, how to represent it and even whether or not the individual possessed the skill levels to execute the work or not, these matters all had to be worked out in three busy days.

One of the things that helped me a great deal was a concept that I borrowed from Bob Ebendorf when I attended a workshop with him at Anderson Ranch, Colorado. On the first night, while we were awaiting the arrival of additional workshop members, Bob referred to them as 'family'. He said that 'while we are waiting for a few more members of our family we can do ...' I don't remember what came next. I focused on that moment when I sensed a shift in the dynamics of the group. By labeling us 'family' he had immediately removed all barriers to cohesiveness and unity. We changed from being competitors among a group of strangers to being co-helpers. That was no small feat in a room full of artists who hadn't known one another previously.

So, during my class in Anchorage, while pointing out our many similarities in a nurturing family atmosphere, it was possible to extract from each person those truly unique qualities that make us distinct individuals. The workshop in Alaska went amazingly well! Largely, it was due to the curiosity and receptivity of the students. This was a departure for all of us from the usual jewelry workshop. This was a leap into the great experimental unknown. I thoroughly loved every minute of it! If the resulting works and stories developed by members of the class are any indication, they enjoyed our experiences, as well.

After the workshop ended, I spent another week in Anchorage just being Charles the Tourist. I met people in coffee shops, while walking downtown and while walking on the Alaskan Trail or riding the train. The Alaskan Trail is a walking, hiking, jogging and biking trail that is many miles long and continually in use on the long summer days of more than 18 hours of sunlight.

On the first of July, my friend and Olympic medalist Becky Voris and I hiked to the top of Flattop Mountain. This is the most climbed peak in Anchorage and I am thrilled to have done it! To me, it was a REAL mountain, in every sense of the word. I kept wondering when we were going to break out the rope and spikes. In addition, it rained on the way up, making for slippery footing. 'What am I doing here?' I kept thinking. I am a Southerner from the lower states, for crying out loud! Made it, though.

July 1, 2009: Reached the top of Flattop Mountain about 9:00 pm, and it was still light, of course.

One day I took the train to Seward, which I think is to the southeast of Anchorage. It was a great site-seeing destination. The starting point for the Iditarod sled race is located in Seward. It is also the home of a footrace that is a nearly vertical course up a mountain and back down again. I met one of the contenders as she was practicing doing runs up and down Flattop. Yes, she was literally running on those narrow, steep and rocky trails!

If you are in Anchorage around the first of July, you must attend the Girdwood Forest Fair. It is a crafts fair like none other, set on winding trails through the forest and filled with art, food, entertainment and mosquitoes. Actually, the air was so heavy with Deep Woods Off from the insect candles that I saw not one bug. There were all kinds of foods offered for sale along the trail. I highly recommend the reindeer hotdogs!

The landscape was nothing short of breathtaking wherever I looked and I was especially impressed by the glaciers. Hint...if you are offered glacier ice to eat, first make sure that it does not contain ice worms, because they are very real. I had friends that pointed out the good ice from the bad for me. Also, it helped that they sampled the ice first.

While taking in all this wonderful panorama and enjoying the experiences with new friends, I knew that my time in Alaska was somehow going to manifest itself in my work and in the ways that I approach what I do from that time forward.

In September, I was part of a three-person show in Dawsonville, GA at the Bowen Center for the Arts. The media represented were fiber, ceramics and jewelry/metal. It was a surprisingly cohesive show, given the differences in our individual works and sense of design. What emerged was a commonality that was at once clear to the eye but difficult to articulate. So, I did not try to put my feelings into words. I simply enjoyed the sights of our work.

While doing a show in Gulf Breeze, FL last March, Karen and I visited the Air Force Museum in Pensacola. All my life I have loved flying machines. I think that they are beautiful sitting still on the ground. When they do what flying machines do, they become something awe-inspiring and have always touched my soul. Touring this place, looking at images of the aviators of yesterday touching and being touched by those machines, seeing images of young men and women pilots wearing their achievements with pride, something became clear to me. If I had to define one lone regret in my lifetime, it would be that I did not continue flying after I soloed and had my shirt tail cut off and presented to me. A voice inside me acknowledged that this was a path that I should have taken. Win, loose or draw, I should have gone down that road. But, I turned away.

One of the things that most of my artist peers complain about are the expenses involved in working the art shows that we do every year. In order to cut down on the lodging and food expenses, I decided to purchase a camper to use during the many shows where camping would be possible. I am now the proud owner of a 1985 Volkswagon Vanagon Westfalia. It will sleep four people, has a fridge, stove, sink, running water, electricity and storage. I have dubbed her Moby after the whale. She is large, white and I was able to make a whale of a deal. Presently, she is sitting on the driveway awaiting the arrival of new fuel lines and coolant hose assemblies. I have been pouring over drawings and instructions to familiarize myself with both systems so that I can get started as soon as the parts arrive. The mechanical work will depend, however, on weather conditions where it is not raining or the trmperature is not below freezing. Anybody that wants to help, just grab your thermals and come on!

In the year 2009, my focus on titanium used as forged material grew larger than I had anticipated. Use of the metal quickly opened up new ways of thinking about my present designs and I came up with many new ideas, as well. I found that forging titanium allowed me much greater latitude of expression than I had thought possible. As proof, by sketchbooks are filled with designs that are waiting for the time when they will evolve on my bench. All the while, these new pieces are maintaining their connection with us through the stories that they represent to me.

I will be creating larger works in 2010, as well. These works will be suitable for wall hanging and outdoor placement. Right now, I think that these larger pieces will only be available from my website.

My book of images and stories is still an ongoing endeavor. The book will contain images of works that I have fabricated over the years, accompanied by the stories that brought them forth. In conjunction with the book, I am thinking about developing a recording of me telling the stories, as well. The stories are my form of oral history, after all!

It is simply not possible for me to express the gratitude that I feel toward everyone that has supported me over these many years of creating art. I am so very humbled. The notes, e-mails and phone calls that we have received touch me and leave me speechless. All that I can say to each of you is thank you, thank you, thank you!


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