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SILVER MORNINGS & BENCH PINS…

Tahoma, known otherwise as Mount Ranier by most, has her head in the light cloudiness which is filtering sunlight into a familiar sheen off the water of the Sound below our cliff. Not just another gray, yet certainly not gilded with much solar warmth either… we deal in such subtle nuance describing our weather in the Northwest.

My laptop is working this morning so I am tucked back under the comforter with my coffee instead of needing to go down just yet to the computer in the studio. I’m going into the city again today to collect my friend Jane Toleno at the train station & drive her to the airport. She has been on Portland for the birth of a grandson & now will return home to Minnesota. This will give us a chance to visit while relieving her the effort of making such transfer on her own.

I went into town yesterday to work at the foundry… teach/learning with Candace & demonstrating polishing techniques & my preferences for the bell production. She is young but already quite capable from previous work experience so my use of the hyphenated verb usually perceived as a dichotomy & polarity is even more apropos. Teaching at its best comes attached to learning from one’s student, who teaches back in the process as a matter of course… the two are intrinsically trading that truth. This is not an idea original to me, of course, & I love the learning of teaching it again.

I am more & more coming to the notion that this is part of my future work. when I first began learning jewelry technique, while working at a small jewelry store where I had a part time job during college, I ran into other tradesmen who refused to share their knowledge. I learned something to avoid from that teaching. They feared they would lose something if they shared.

Fortunately I also had better experiences with others who were more generous, yet I still consider myself mostly self-taught… all those teachers made me a better student… I know best what I never was well taught.

I’ve been dreaming again of building a new work station in my studio. I’ve been designing it in my imagination for more than a year. Something about the upcoming season… after summer’s Leo lazies have been mostly scratched… makes the studio seem under-equipped to the mission of becoming prepared for the work ahead.

I call it a teaching desk, by which I understand naming my intention to learn what that might mean. The notion has resonance with the antique known as a “partner’s desk” but taking a lateral configuration… two jeweler’s benches side-by-side. I perceive its value to become a pod in which two seeds can share processes of efficiency to accomplish productive work. Each having similar tools at hand to replicate, encouraging the requisite individuation to in fact embody that verb: teach/learn.

I’ve found frustration working in the foundry, which has not considered the potential of its
necessity to provide proper tools & preparation to the task with efficacious joy. Because I can learn I must teach…

A curiously simple example of the sharing with Candace about tools was trying to find a point on the bench pin of her workbench against which to center & brace the object I was working on with flex shaft or the graver. I realized the very personal nature of tools, the collections of which I’ve made & now have refined for my self. More, the nature of what has become habitual about those choices. Any several crafts persons will show their own versions of the same process or collection of tools to accomplish similar work.

I tried to explain the curious dowel I long ago devised to attach to the more standard wooden bench pin sold in any jewelry supply shop. I drilled a hole in that archetypal wedge of wood & set a divotted vertical post which I use to cup & brace one end of small pieces of metal which I hold in place in my left hand while working with various cutting, grinding & polishing wheels in my right. I wished for a picture of this simple adaptation & came home to make one, coming into this series of thought process’s about how we come to choices in our working environments.

Here then is that simple wedge of wood, with its working peg, showing years of abuse:


The bench to which it is attached is one given to me by my father when he bought my mother’s dentist’s office in Colby years ago to remodel for a rental property. He slyly offered it as something I “might” find useful, intuiting my ecstasy in having such a functional antique… he who disliked all old things after growing up with hand-me-downs during the depression & loved Danish modern for himself. But he did love craftsmanship & this has served me as a constant reminder of him as even he could not have quite known, becoming one of my most cherished of several “work altars” in the numerous variations of studio.

I learn teaching my peculiarities. Inside such of the mundane I realize might be something more magic. Simple tricks… What is learned by any other might be something quite else.

I often consider bringing more of the finishing process to my own “in house” studio. This is a situation I have had to live often enough & long enough with someone else’s results, to know I can & must resolve it with more finesse. The bells have long been my baby & then my my adolescent child. They become now more my sister/brother in some sense. They need so much more than I can give in order for them to find their own life. Eventually I must pass them along.

If I’d been offered my life as a job I would probably have quit by now. Thus the bells have become their own entity. Tangible eruptions of archetype. I work with them for reasons not able to be bought with a wage. I must inspire anyone helping me with them by offering something equally intangible, realizing they will move on with their own passion…

I was finally bed-tired last evening before midnight… after a week of staying deep into the wee hours of my lifelong nocturnal proclivities. I return to such schedule especially when Stephen is traveling… he is in Italy. We are enjoying our separate holidays. My desire was to travel instead into neglected studio space & time. I’ve described some of the results in the previous post, with photographs.

As usual, it has taken me some days to find my own rhythm with such rare time. The solitude I love in which to work is always elusive, especially as I choose to live with a social tsunami. I am no social slouch on my own, & this period has included having our friend Taylor here for the first week while his house remodeling project came to be finished. We had a good time making meals together. He is quite conscious of my proclivities inside the rarity of this solitude & thus was careful not to disturb my rhythms. I appreciate that immensely, even as I equally celebrate his joy in being busy for this week nesting into his new home.

There have been several silvery mornings followed by days barely more brightened by our thin sun through the mists & clouds. I have begun to work on a wax I began earlier this summer. My cycles are already beginning to adjust back to the life I know is coming home next week. The first few days’ schedule has already been set, designed to drag me back into the whirl. I will cherish the few days left of my own. It feels bittersweet.