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Autumnal Viewpoints Through Colorful Boxes…


I’ve gloried in our recent “Indian Summer”… even these too-short sunny days held unexpected joy! This view out a window over the studio’s sink caught my camera’s eye for the vibration between the trim color & that of the asters blooming beyond.

I’ve worked some of this great time outdoors in a different vein from my usual studio work… ‘obsessing for the last several weeks on a project which has had a long gestation & yet still required much deep concentration of mind & physical wrangling to bring into fruition.

It is a lighted wooden box containing two double shafted polishing motors, one mounted above the other, with a vacuum system to collect their dust. My theory is that the four grits of silicon brush wheels which we use to do much of the finishing on the bell castings would be thus organized so as to allow the process to become almost yoga-like, taking each piece through the sequence, from coarse to fine, without interruption, while reaching gently into the four quadrants of this configuration. Able to go immediately back & forth, bringing up the surface in a more real time way than how we have often worked this part of production: bringing multiple pieces up to each stage before proceeding to the next… & thus handling each piece multiple times.

Another finisher who works with the bells has designed a system mounting those four wheels on a horizontal axis, accomplishing much the same thing, but requiring one to move or stretch along a fair amount of dedicated bench space. My design saves that precious space in my studio & hopefully will do it more ergonomically.

At this stage it was finished enough I could begin painting it with a primer coat… nice enough color… industrial, although a bit lavender, but I’d dreamed something else…


My father was quite a do-it-yourself type so I grew up with a fair amount of observational capability with basic tools. I built my own, sometimes rather complicated canvas stretchers for paintings while I was in college, I’ve done much decorating & remodeling on numerous homes & studios over the years. Each of my many studios [& I can count at least 15…] has required creative construction at various scales, from moving walls to building cabinets. I’ve worked in spaces so generous as to become ball rooms & I have lived & worked in as little as 600 square feet. Each studio became by definition a very physical expression of how I lived & worked… who I was at the time.

Most of these working spaces acquired an identifying name & looking at the list I realize there is so much of my story in them… UP WILLOW was my longest situated studio, for a dozen mostly happy years under a big weeping willow tree which named the street in West Sedona, & The AERIE overlooked my last grand view of those Red Rocks. The BOTHY was barn-like on a rural property called Avalon in Sonoma County. The CABINET & The MEWS were both quite contrastingly urban in the Fischer Studio Building, downtown Seattle. Now I call my Island studio The HOLD, for being anchored in the foundations of our home, which Stephen has named Soundcliff as both a description & a prayer.

Over these decades I’ve evolved-by-testing my basic collection of sturdily eclectic & somewhat modular furniture which allows me to fit what’s necessary & familiar to ‘most any new space. I have developed a certain capable adroitness suiting my languorous peregrination. I have proved & improved my systems along the way. Each studio has needed to suit how I was working during its period: the smallest was only a wax design space for when I first moved to Seattle… having the foundry nearby for all the other processes. The current one wishes to be able to tackle most varieties of creative & production work except casting. It anticipates the possibility of doing more teaching as well as to facilitate work I’ve long dreamed, but postponed. Of late I have had to accept that each studio just might be the last… yet, I still anticipate designing a portable studio system, so I can work any place in the world as we travel!

“It never takes too long to do it right the second time,” I remember Uncle Vernon, Poppa’s twin brother saying. While I was growing up on the farm his shop always seemed so enticingly organized. My father always worked with a bit more of daring do. I found myself needing to use both forms during this recent project. Having only minimal tools for such construction I cobbled my design carefully in each moment of progression, holding the dream in my mind even as I spent days doing by hand-fitting what a more capable shop might have accomplished in hours… IF I could have legibly drawn it all up as a finished plan well ahead of time!

My method toward doing it right the first time required a certain dialogue between the actual parts: my wooden pieces against the polishing motors, like Montessori Blocks assisting to wrap my brain around designing an acceptable form holding all the guts of function inside that final skin of unexpected color.


Beside the spinning wheels & their control switches I needed to mount lighting & there was much which needed attention as to flow… that yogic flow of potential process… & air flow as well… collecting the dust residual to any polishing process.



I thus spent another hunk of time noodling with PVC pipe & fittings in the space backside to facilitate connection into a vacuum system. This piece is a very physical enclosure for much more which is quite ephemeral. It became thus a piece of sculpture along the way. I am only now, at the end, able to begin testing my theory with this as a tool. I’ve needed to make adjustments, adding a baffle to better control the fair breeze created by the wheels themselves, which is almost livelier than the vacuum!

So I have added new color & form — plus some weight! — to that furniture collection. While its construction may not have been exactly efficient, I believe its functioning will reward me! I’m pleased with myself & am ready to test it… I have some bells to polish!


After one last detail showing how the box hugs the motor, I timidly share some beginnings to learn how to manually focus in my camera. All this first year I have been using the automatiic focus mode because there were simply too many other things to learn & to practice! But the spider webs this season are big glorious constructions all through the house, studio & garden. While in certain light they have caught my eye, most times instead they catch my entire face as I walk blythefully ignorant of their presense until I’m wearing remnants of their distruction!

But the auto focus mode does not see their micro threads either, of course, so my desire to capture them requires me to accept a long invitation to practice manually focusing on them.

While I still find a good deal of frustration trying to look through a pixilated viewfinder I have begun to be able to grab some shots which would elude & frustrate me even more before this experimentation.

Further lessons will be necessary as to flash lighting & this is a curious shot of the recent full moon rising above our palm tree beyond blousey garden beds. Note the bell hanging from the bean trellis…


‘Ding!