For the love of wood

No better way is there to learn to love Nature than to understand Art. It dignifies every flower of the field. And, the boy who sees the thing of beauty which a bird on the wing becomes when transferred to wood or canvas will probably not throw the customary stone.
Oscar Wilde

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(fresh strawberries on a walnut trivet / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(a walnut trivet topped with a couple of fried squash / Julie Cook / 2015)

When I first started this little blog of mine, or as my husband lovingly (cough cough) references as that “blob”, I was truly wet behind the ears not having a clue as to what I was doing.
I’d never “blogged” before nor was I any sort of computer guru, “thecie” or wizened journalist.
I was just a newly retired teacher who still had some “teach” left in me.

I started posting some pictures I’d taken, some words I’d written, some recipes I’d cooked and little by little I had some folks stopping in for a “visit”— eventually some of the visitors decided they liked what they saw, or read, or both, and wanted to hang around a while. . .

One of those early visitors happened to be a man named Michael.
Michael, who is also retired, lives in the neighboring state of South Carolina. Michael loves to cook, garden and enjoys living on “the mountain” as he lovingly refers to his home in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It seems that Michael has channeled those retired energies into his wood shop—as in he makes things.
All sorts of beautiful wooden things.

As a former art teacher, I greatly appreciate the gift of talent when I see it.
Michael has the gift—the gift of “eye” and talent in that he can see in a piece of lumber something beautiful.

His creations are not sculptures or decorative pieces of art but rather functional and utilitarian natural pieces of wonder.

Perusing his blog, where he shares his talent, I was amazed by what I saw. And lucky for me, for us, he sells these pieces of functional beauty.

https://michaelswoodcraft.wordpress.com

A couple of Christmases back, I wrote a post about Michael’s work–espousing the difference between what makes art art verses the functionality of utilitarian objects—as well as how we may have the rare opportunity of finding both in one object.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/functional-or-decorative-or-both/

Over the past couple of years, I have been blessed to call Michael my friend.
I am also fortunate in that I have several of Michael’s cutting boards gracing my kitchen, a beautiful hand turned step stool, an ice-cream paddle and a handful of hand cut honey wands—I have given Michael’s pieces as both Christmas and wedding gifts.

There is just something very special about the tactile quality, coupled by the visual beauty, of a piece of wood that through both the vision and talent of a human being can take on a life of its own.
Michael is that gifted.

I want to share a few shots of an absolutely beautiful piece of burl wood that Michael has cut, sanded, finished and crafted into a cutting board like no other. Sadly a computer image cannot do justice to the tactile relationship we have with wood. To feel its weight, the smooth sanded core coupled by the rough bark exterior. . .to see the rich warm colors brought out by the lightly oiled surface is certainly best experienced in person. . . however these few pictures will simply have to do—not unless you too decide to wander on over to Michael’s blog where you might want to just try this all out first hand with your own board, birdhouse, honey wand, ice cream paddle or chopping block. . .

Thank you Michael!

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(16 x 10 at widest burl cutting board / Julie Cook / 2015)

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Along with the cutting board, I received yesterday two walnut trivets / coasters which will match my soon to be table chargers—of which I can’t wait for them to arrive as they will accent my kitchen so beautifully

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Functional or Decorative or both. . .

It is the mission of art to remind man from time to time that he is human, and the time is ripe, just now, today, for such a reminder.
Ben Shahn

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(one of Michael’s beautiful wooden cheese/ cutting boards with a couple of my kumquats)

When I was in the classroom, early during each term I always had the same discussion with my kids by posing this question. . . “what makes art Art? What is it that constitutes “art” as being what we perceive and define Art to actually be? Was it merely something pretty to look at, something aesthetically pleasing, something worth a lot of money, etc? Which would eventually lead to the discussion of decorative verses functional—eye pleasing verses utilitarian.

The kids and I would then examine the Arts and Crafts Movement sorting out the relationship the Crafts industry has with the Art world and of the role “functional art” plays in the bigger picture known as the World of Art. And just so you know, in this retired art teacher’s humble opinion–it has everything to do with “Art”

So imagine my joy upon discovering that a fellow blogger friend, who I met not long ago, is a woodworker—meaning he creates beauty from pieces of wood—and his beautiful pieces are of a high functional practicality. His name is Michael Laico of Michael’s Woodcrafts
http://michaelswoodcraft.wordpress.com

I have typically been more of a painter of sorts throughout my life as painting, drawing, even printmaking, have been more along the lines of my strengths. I have always admired and envied those who are the 3D artists among us—those who sculpt and form material such as clay, tubes and sheets of metals, as well as scrapes and pieces of wood, into not only visual but tactile treasures. Michael is of the aforementioned category.

I love finding such treasures, especially in time for the holidays as giving gifts, those which are made by hand, possess both beauty and functionality—which in turn are the best gifts to give as well as to receive. They are both personal and useful, which makes them some of the more treasured gifts as they may be passed down from one generation to the next and in turn develop into family heirlooms.

Michael has a great blog where he not only showcases his woodworking talents but his aptitude for photography as well as his strengths in the kitchen as he offers a wealth of tasty recipes. But it is his gift with a lathe that sparks my eye.

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From cutting boards, to cheese boards, to rolling pins, to ice-cream scoops to even birdhouses, Michael offers a wonderful selection of pieces each individually crafted into not only functional pieces of rich beautiful wood but into pieces that are truly aesthetically and tactilely pleasing.

Of course I had to order a few items as Christmas gifts, but let’s keep that as our little secret shall we as I don’t want anyone finding that out too early ..

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So as I focus this week on the things of which I am most thankful for, I add Michael and his talents, as well as his desire to share those talents with someone such as myself, to my list of gratitude..as well as for the other very dear folks I have met and now consider to be wonderful fiends via this world of blogging.
Grace and peace to you all. . .

What’s in a door? Utilitarian necessity or art? I say both.

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“Strange – is it not? That of the myriads who Before us passed the door of Darkness through, Not one returns to tell us of the road Which to discover we must travel too”
Horace

Over the weekend I had another blgoger visit my “site” and reblog the post on “Thank the Door Openers.” I, of course, am humbled and honored whenever anyone visits my posts, likes my posts, and especially wishes to reblog something I have posted. As I am a relative new baby to this blogging business, having just started at the end of February, I am not the most savvy when it comes to blogging—the procedures, the etiquette, the whole ropes of the blogging world. I just try to do my thing, and hopefully bring some sort of knowledge, pleasure, hope, happiness to anyone out there who may stumble across my little blog.

I also tend to be a bit naive when it comes to people, always just expecting people to be more like myself and mostly wanting to do the right things, especially by other people. So I’m assuming (there I go again) that reblogging is a good thing. The visiting blog site is all about “doors.” I’ve showcased a couple of my daily quotes with some pictures of doors I’ve taken on various adventures. The blog, which visited my little blog, is: legionofdoorwhores.wordpress.com
And I must say that there are some very beautiful pictures of doors, from all over the globe, on this blog.

When I first saw the name of the blog site, the word whore in the title kind of threw me, as the word has very negative connotations in my world. Growing up the word whore was used to describe a pretty low individual, mostly female, who just threw away, in most cases, one’s body for sex to and with everyone and anyone indiscriminately—it was an individual who possessed little to no self esteem, and as a younger person, the word, to me was just really bad.

As a lifetime high school educator, I have learned that certain words that were once considered negative and bad to, say, my generation, are used very freely and loosely today by this generation. I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing and I could write an entire paper on this little topic but that is not my intent today. I just really want to talk about doors.

So back to my being humbled by someone wanting to reblog my posting on a door…which got me thinking…. You may have seen my post “Never be deterred by the closing of a door” with the images of the Parisian doorknobs…I explained in that post how, on a trip to Paris, I had become captivated by the myriad of beautiful and old doorknobs, I was suddenly noticing, gracing the doors to home and shops all over the city of Paris.

Being a history nut, plus spending my life as a visual arts teacher, I saw the knobs as tangible links to Pairs, her ancient stories, as well as very small intimate pieces of her beautiful art…art that was not showcased or housed in a museum but actually free for everyone to see, touch and enjoy—but a type of art that most people simply walked passed without giving a second glance or thought.

I must confess that it was, however, on an earlier trip to Italy, that my visual interest to such things as doorknobs and doors was actually piqued. I began to understand the importance and history, as well as for the storytelling, which was behind so much of the aging architecture in these ancient European cities and towns. Maybe I feel this way because I am an American who has grown up with urban sprawl mentality– the concept of if it is old tear it down and make way for new, modern and sleek, because we know new is much better than anything old…I am sad to say….and that kind of thinking is indeed oh so wrong, but there I go digressing again.

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Our American story is the story of a baby compared to so much of the rest of the world. In the South, life dates to the Civil War, and in some spots, even to the Revolutionary War. Up North, things date to Pilgrims—out West it’s all about cowboys and gold rushes…none of this Mozart slept here, Galileo taught here, Peter and Paul were imprisoned here, Hadrian built this wall, etc, ad infinitim.

So what someone may see as a utilitarian object such as a knob, a door—I see as art, as beauty as history. On the latest trip, the great retirement adventure, I wanted to look at things other than knobs—windows perhaps. I had really liked windows in Italy. My future daughter-n-law told me that Prague was known for having beautiful doors…. maybe it was to be doors.

Once we landed in Zurich and began the acclimation to our new world, I was finding that it was to be doors after all. I began snapping pictures, much to the consternation of my traveling buds…. “Wait, stop here,” “no, wait, here, this is better,” …but soon my weary companions were eager partners in crime as they canvassed our jaunts picking out and choosing the next “star.”

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By journey’s end, almost 3 weeks worth of adventure, I probably had 150 shots of doors alone, not to mention my endless pictures of the sites and visions from our overall adventure. The doors are all from Zurich, Switzerland, Innsbruck, Austria, Salzburg, Austria, Vienna, Austria, Prague, the Czech Republic and Berlin, Germany.

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There are pictures of doors from the oldest Synagogue in The Czech Republic, to those of historic individuals such as the door to Kepler’s home in Prague, Mozart’s home in Salzburg, Schubert’s humble childhood home in Vienna. There are the ancient doors to mighty Cathedrals and welcoming churches, doors to wealthy homes as well as to humble homes. There are doors to offices, banks, businesses and schools as well as for back alley service doors.

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Doors to hotels, bathrooms, restaurants, doors to castles…some of the doors are well worn with age, some appear new. Some of the doors are metal; some are elaborate and decorated with intricate carvings, some simple and plain. Some of the doors have windows; others are just ancient slabs of heavy wood. There is even the door to Angela Merkel’s office at the German Chancellery, which is no different form all of the other doors in the Chancellery—a simple blue door.

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I suppose doors may be seen in one of two ways—they are either doors that invite or doors that repel. They are perceived as either shut and forbidding, or open and welcoming. I, for one, have never looked at a door as something that cannot be opened—at least, eventually opened—as in, come back later during operating hours, or, knock or ring the bell and someone will let you in.
Perhaps it’s all a matter of positive and negative. The proverbial glass that is half full or half empty. I just have never taken the time to think that a shut door necessarily means “no, not ever.”

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There are reasons, sadly, to lock and bolt doors—as in “don’t come in and rob me, hurt me, steal from me, harm me”—Churches in the big cities, here in the States, use to always keep doors open—24/7. Even now, in the smaller towns, sadly, churches must lock their doors. What once was open for those indeed of some quiet time lost in prayer is now locked tight from those who wish to take that which is not theirs—or those who wish to harm the alone, the single, the lonely. The sad list goes on and on.

But to me, however, a door, the knobs of a door, are all pieces of something beautiful. They are artistic, especially the older ones, the ones not usually found gracing the entrances here in the US. That’s not to say we don’t have pretty doors—we do, it’s just that they are not a prevalent as they are “across the pond.” If we want an old door, we usually have to go out to an antique store in order to buy one—on the other hand, across the pond, their doors have been up for quite some time—a couple of centuries at best.

May you view doors not as mere barriers but rather as stories—stories old as well as new. May you view doors as the handiwork of artisans and carpenters. May you view doors not as stopping points but as beginnings. There are possibilities behind every closed door, the possibilities begin when you knock and turn the knob—and don’t worry if it’s locked—just come back during operating hours.

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I’m including a few of my pictures with this post to give you some idea as to the type of doors found on an adventure. I’m also including a couple of the shots of the door book I put together—similar to the book of doorknobs….
Enjoy one person’s take on the utilitarian…

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…and to anyone who sees “their” door here…I am sorry if you are upset. I am not making any money from your door–I just thought it beautiful and wanted to share it with those who just pass by it every day without stopping to see beautiful “art.”