My day starts with coffee, one cup per day then tea. Up to the studio I go with my steaming cup of black tea with lots of milk. (A habit I picked up in England.)
The important thing – and the way I start every day there – is quietly sitting on my studio steps for a while, drinking my tea and watching the birds that congregate around my studio door. Chickadees, thrushes, sparrows, and juncos are almost always there. Occasionally a grosbeak or two. Here on the mountain things move slowly. Rabbits sit quietly in the green grass near salal and salmon berry bushes, undisturbed. After my tea and thought I begin my day, poking through mental notes and tattered sketches to find my direction.
Today I’ll begin making 5 houses for the gallery. I think about the little houses in my paintings, humble structures built by settlers and honest working Americans from little to nothing. I will try to emulate that process by using the bits and scraps lying around the studio grounds.I think about these pieces the way a sculptor does, no measuring, just putting the pieces together until they feel right.
My studio area is like a treasure chest with lots of rusted metal and rough scarred wood. I will keep looking till the right piece presents itself.I seldom listen to music when I work here. The sounds of birds and the buzz of natural life entertains me.I don’t have much in the way of tools. A rickety old saw, a few hammers and such. People are often surprised and amazed that I produce anything at all.
When it rains I work indoors and when it’s cold I move into my little Shasta trailer or if my wife can tolerate it, the house. I often do my encaustic painting there in the winter. My tools for encaustic are very simple – an electric encaustic pen and a few chunks of wax. Fumes and wax problems are kept to a minimum this way which allows me to work anywhere.Around noon I walk to the house and make another cup of tea and check my internet messages etc.When I get too cerebral I will cut wood or work on something that needs fixing although I should do this more often. I find it increasingly helpful. The older I get I am finding a little more comfort in doing physical work. (Using a chainsaw tends to get me back to earth.)
I spend a lot of time alone here but I am not lonely. I feel deep kinship with animals and trees etc. Every day I notice some small gift they afford me, the growl of a raven passing over or the staccato of a pileated woodpecker searching for insects.
We don’t have a television anymore. We don’t need one.
I love sharing my place with friends and people looking to learn. Despite the rudimentary facilities, people who come here and are always enriched by the experience I think.
Being forced to function with a minimum of tools etc creates a powerful learning environment whether it be rustic jewelry, encaustic, wood work, welding, collage, drawing or anything else I happened to be thinking about or teaching.
There is a common thread that binds me to this special piece of land. Birds sing, dogs bark. Coyotes howl, rain falls, wind blows and occasionally the sun shines. Through it all I work, thinking watching and listening.
Common thread? Affinity with nature.