Friday, October 17, 2008

Musing from last night, or the night before.

I've never felt lighter on my feet, or stood taller, nor carried more, worn a heavier mantle, in my life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I was in Galena at the wood kiln this weekend

I was in Galena at the wood kiln this weekend

It was wonderful out there
Being is easier
Chop wood, carry water - so to speak

Effortless being
Through new landscapes, one upon the next, all the same, all different.
They are all part of me.
Driving hills, curves
The city returns to sight. It is alien; I have never seen it before.
It is indifferent. It is not part of me.

Campfire heat on my face, hands, warming through my slacks, toasting my toes
Falling asleep to the sound of rushing water, creek a few yards from where I lay
Waking, snug in my tent, to the sound of rain falling
There is no time here. The sun rises, the sun sets.
We play our parts in a familiar dance
Glaze, load, stack firebrick to form the door.
Now we make adobe from clay and grass; I form thin pieces in my hands
I turn my hand onto Jay's to pass each piece, and my hand is dwarfed by his.
He, in turn, presses each piece to the door to seal it, smoothing it together.
We make fire.
Radiation from firebox door, and I turn to warm each side
Peer into the air intakes; embers glow, flame alights
Smell of heat, of wood burning; I taste it
Lean on the kiln, listen to wood crackle
Sit on a log, gaze into the night; the longer I look, the more I see
Stars are but an idea in the land where city glow rules the night sky
Pre-dawn, feel hidden from the world, at the bottom of a green bowl
We have abandoned technology in favor of a simpler life. We make fire.

Chill turns to frost. We add layers, we grow the fire.
Move our chairs farther, make hot coffee.
Gaze, stand and walk through the night, stoke
Blast of heat from a white-hot bed of embers
As I add wood, the intensity becomes painful; I'm glad to close the glowing door.
Return to sitting, gazing, radiant heat
All is still. We don't speak; perhaps we don't think.
Gaze, stoke

All returns to silence.

written: 4 May 08

Monday, October 13, 2008


Another old post, originally written 15 Sept 07; a year and a month ago. Has it been so long?

This morning and afternoon I attended a workshop with Meredith Brickell, a ceramic artist who lives in Raleigh, NC. Her show at Lill Street opened today, but many pieces were already purchased after a week in the gallery (the new owners will be allowed to pick them up in a month when the show closes).

It was super cool and fantastic and I learned a bunch of new things.

It's hard to explain what about it makes me so excited. She was pretty cool. The workshop-mates were cool. Meredith worked with a practiced ease. I get the sense that she showed us some things that answer questions I hadn't yet figured out how to ask, somehow shaving months or more off my learning curve.

But aside from the immediately practicable skills, there was hope. Ideas on how to keep practicing clay at home, how perhaps to keep my ceramic practice going at home. She went to school and practiced graphic design for several years before going back to school for ceramics.

With the cost of clay rising, I feel like that might be an inhibiting factor... so doing electric firings is more cost effective from a firing standpoint, and lets me buy clay cheaply. Was I really worried about the cost of clay? Now I TA for wheel classes; this buys me a bag of clay every week, if I want to make so much work.

In addition to demonstrating many of her techniques, she also shared glaze recipes and talked about her process. She worked with confidence and is a gifted teacher, sharing many small tips and tricks that she's discovered, and gave general encouragement and guidance.

Small Lessons

I wrote this four months and a week ago, found it again, thought it worth sharing, maybe only for my benefit:

I had to copy a handful of comments, by hand, from the master submittal markup (it was a door submittal, which is the most detailed and complicated submittal that most projects will have) onto five more copies. It would take a couple of hours. Instead of being impatient to finish, I decided to enjoy doing the lettering by hand. And I did, and had a most pleasant afternoon.

Was tempted to respond to my PM's criticism with sarcasm, realized it would do a lot of harm and in the end, no good. So on several occasions in the next few days, I managed to not even spend time thinking of a good comment (that I could then keep to myself). Surely that was better for all involved.


Another old one, from late July 2007. My God, I've suffered from this for so long. That's at an end, now, work's become fun. The post feels unfinished, but the seed of the thought is worth having.

On the professional front, I find that I'd like to not care about the quality of design, but can't. It's a losing battle because I'm probably the person who cares most, but has to answer to everybody. Yeah, sure, it's just a job, but it could (and arguably should) be done a whole lot better. I actually lose sleep over this stuff. I thought that maybe my time and skills could be bought (arguably the whole concept of employment), but they're not paying me enough that I can lay aside the need to find a really good solution. From a moral standpoint, one could argue that it's good to not sell out... but every morning I'm a little more tired.

This brings me to the section where I spiral, again, to wondering if I can have better control over things. What I'd really like it to be a designer - from making clay things to conceptual architectural design - and for people to value this enough that I can make a living.

Large scale sculpture and public sculpture remain possibilities. I make work, follow and refine each concept, sometimes lay it aside for a year, a couple of years. The interest is in exploring the idea, in the discovery. Unlocking the puzzle and making those pieces that sing is only one step...


I started this post on the 7th of September... 2007. A year and a month and a week later, and I'm still tired. This should tell me that something's not right... but I'm not so tired, not nearly so tired. It's shifted only in the last couple of weeks. The problem isn't the job, though; it's my approach, it's how much I love and how much I care. Which is also why I'm so good. But I reached a point on my most emotionally taxing project where I let go of it. I just let go, because I couldn't save it, it's far too late, and I am worth more than that beautiful building. Fuck. Since that time, two of the senior staff have left the firm, two of the young'uns have left the firm, and we've picked up two new young'uns. Dear Ben. His insight has been invaluable, and he's one of the ones that left.

And now his mantle's on my shoulders, as project manager. And I am; the reality became startlingly clear today. The owners are billing out on my projects in the amounts I tell them to. I am the PM.

Well, I started this post on the 7th, and now I'll wrap it up, though it won't really be finished.

The burning question is, "why am I so tired?" Finally took the chance of declaring my ongoing exhaustion to half the office (the half that was there) - 1 of 2 owners, 1 of 3 senior staff, all us young'uns (3, self included). Everyone was sympathetic, having run into the same thing, sometimes constantly. Kind of a funny comment to end the birthday cake gathering, but, whatever.

The problem? Architecture is a mentally taxing profession! Part of it is that the way we work is often unsuited to the task at hand. We need time alone to concentrate on tasks, and are besieged by phone calls. "The design problems cannot be solved between phone calls," Ben aptly put it at a staff meeting some weeks ago. That's part of the problem.

Another part of the problem is that thoughtfulness isn't much demanded. I want my job description to be "architectural design" as opposed to "architectural services".

Obviously the solution is to vie for more satisfying work assignments, and less time in the office to allow more time for the things that I do love. We'll see how that pans out.

For my birthday, I went skydiving.

Originally written 7 September 2008

First the ride up (and that was extra fun because my tandem jumpmaster was goofing around and I retaliated). Then seeing people jump out of a *perfectly good airplane* one after the next, and then going ourselves. Freefall, get oriented, do the checks, fall some more, pull, then a long lazy canopy flight. Sightseeing, some sharp turns for fun, more sightseeing, and the return to earth, sliding in feet first.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Brush with greatness

From February 6, 2007.

Today's daily peace quote reminds me of one person in particular.

In the second semester of my final year of architecture school, I had the priviledge and pleasure of being instructed for two weeks by Australian architect Glenn Murcutt. This is a guy worth imitating. One-man firm with a waiting list of years and a Pritzker prize (architecture's greatest honor) to his name. At the same time, he's a delightful and kind person, an honest critic who showed the greatest respect to his students. My project got off to a very slow start: much to my surprise, he told the class, jurors, and observers at the end of our two weeks that he first was afraid he was going to lose me. And then he ended with sincere and wonderful complements to my project.

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Smart people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
- Mark Twain

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Normally I stay out of politics

But this was too funny not to share. Check out the full article at WSJ here.

House Republicans share the blame, and not only because they opposed the bill by about two-to-one, 133-65. Their immediate response was to say that many of their Members turned against the bill at the last minute because Ms. Pelosi gave her nasty speech. So they are saying that Republicans chose to oppose something they think is in the national interest merely because of a partisan slight. Thank heaven these guys weren't at Valley Forge.
(emphasis mine)

Update, as I've been trying to figure out what the hell's going on outside my head: read this letter (PDF format) from a healthy bank. (Purportedly. I haven't tried to check the veracity. Found the link via a discussion.) Kinda the other side of the bailout coin.