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I’ve spent a good deal of my life fascinated with traditional boats.  Building them, drawing them, designing them, playing in them, reading about them — it’s a lifelong addiction.

Over the course of my adult life I’ve built a series of skin-on-frame boats.  Most were kayaks.  A skin-on-frame boat is just that. A very light and strong frame is constructed over mold. Bent wood or plywood ribs are inserted and stringers are attached to these. The skeleton is removed from the molds and a fabric skin is stretched over the frame.  The skin is then painted to deter rot, sun damage and to repel water.

Over the course of thirty years I’ve built a half dozen of these boats, a pair of single kayaks, another single kayak,  a huge double kayak and a canoe.

(The big kayak was built from the plans in George Putz’ Wood and Canvas Kayak Building.  George lived near me in Maine and passes away before I discovered his work.  I suspect that he knew my old [also late] friend Max Wheildon who put me on to canvas covered craft when I was a little paddler.)

My last skin-on-frame boat was high tech.  It was built from a super light steam bent frame and aviation skin.  The skin was attached with heat sensitive tape and shrunk to drum tight when an iron was passed over it.

A little over a year ago I began to explore bird forms in the same manner that boats are developed and built.  I carved birds and sawed them into sections and half-“hulls”.  I drew and laid out lines like I would when designing a boat.

Northen Cardinal (about 40")

I made sense to approach building large birds like a skin-on-frame boat.  The same technique was applied, with great success to early airplanes.  In fact some modern airplanes are still fabric covered.

Developing the techniques for this work has been difficult and there have been setbacks and failures.  I’m writing now because I’ve finally a large bird in frame.

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Toy Barn Toy Farm

My wife and I have been cleaning the living room in preparation for the holidays.  My job is to find dusty things and mop them down with a damp rag.  This is one of the many dust collectors that I attacked today.

I’ve built two of these English style toy barns. The first (pictured below) was for my daughters and built in 1993.  The second was built for may grandson eight or nine years.

They are quite large.  On on each end they have a fenced pen or stalls.  The center bay is kept clear (to pull in a hay wagon or harness a sleigh?). There were several sections of fencing to set up pastures.  Each was painted in traditional barn colors and lightly distressed.

At the time I had no clear idea of how to approach carving animals, but I did it anyway.  The one pictured included a flock of sheep (with matchstick legs), a pair each of pigs, cows, horses and chickens, and a single collie dog.  Looking back, nearly two decade, I can say that I am satisfied with the collie.  The remainder of the livestock would be handled differently.

These barns took a heavy beating.  I had no idea in 1993 how tough kids are on toys.  The one photographed below has been completely rebuilt once and is ready for another.

I hope to build more of these one day with much cooler livestock.

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This is not a public education blog…but I am a public educator and teaching is one of the many things that defines me.  I’m learning to cope with (public) educational turmoil my remembering what I’ve done (and still do) for children, and focusing on my larger role as a teacher — teaching carving, ukulele, letterpress to my larger community.

I often get to talk to folks not in education about public education.  Most seem to understand the ridiculous state of things, but they keep supporting and voting for the politicians that have put us here.

I recently explained some difficult situations that I face within my school to a friend of my mother.  She responded that I didn’t understand and clearly not seen a recent article about a successful young teacher in an urban school.  My 30ish years of first hand experience is trumped by an article in the paper that supported her vision of my job.

Every school where I’ve been staffed diod a superior job of educating children before the current reforms reached them.  We had more fun (Yes that’s first on my list!) and learning was more relevant (Relevant experiences are the key to successful education.) before politicians and business folks decided to apply quantitative assessments (standardized tests) to what we do.

No standardized test can measure joy.  No standardized test can measure intrinsic motivation.  No standardized test can measure the changes that a socially aware class can affect upon its community.  No standardized test can measure a student’s ability to think independently.

Because of this, most of the great things in education are being squeezed out.

I understand a call for accountability.  I understand wanting to ensure that every child is learning.

My intention here was to introduce a relevant article from Education Week Blogs.  Here it is:

Turmoil Seems to be Chief Product of Education “Reform”

By Anthony Cody on December 1, 2011 11:52 AM

When something keeps on appearing as a byproduct of an activity, eventually you might begin to wonder if perhaps the byproduct is actually the objective.

The one result that education reform efforts seem to have in common is turmoil in our schools, especially those where there is high poverty. Let’s take a look at the strategies being employed, and what they are yielding:

Read the remainder here:

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I spent a few years, in the 1990s doing sign work for Marsh Supermarkets.  My focus was on chalkboards — listing weekly specials and directing shoppers to merchandise — but I managed to develop so large displays, signs and window splashes.  I’ve come across some of this work and will be posting it periodically.

This piece is from the same period, but had nothing to do with the supermarket biz.  I purchased an airbrush and developed a technique to reproduce art deco foil backed signs.  This one was for my step-daughter, Emily.  I spotted it on a recent visit to her home and shot a quick photo.  I have been toying with using a similar technique to develop a Little Bird sign.

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I did not go out and replace my Johnson’s Wax last night.  By the time my uke lesson knocked off and I ate dinner I had no use for it.  I’ll pick it up on the way home tonight.

I took a quick glance at a Google search for Johnson’s Wax yesterday afternoon and have a few additional observations.

I am a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and once made a pilgrimage to Illisnois and Wisconsin to see his work.  I visited his home and studio in Oak Park. Illinois and Taliesin near Madison.  On the way home we stopped at the Johnson Wax Building in Milwaukee and were very surprised to find that the building was not open to the public.  We were met at a gate by a guard who kindly turned us away. It was clear that an empire had been built on Johnson’s Paste Wax.

In my recent web search for Johnson’s Paste Wax I first visited the manufacturer’s website and discovered (or was reminded) that Johnson Wax Company has dropped “wax” from the company name and added the founder’s initials.  At some point, when the popularity of wax as a household product and the company broadened its offerings it re-branded as S.C. Johnson Company.  In searching their own website I can find no mention of wax as a currently manufactured product.

I’m sure that this is the reason the the internet is full of forum postings warning of doom and gloom and that Johnson’s Paste Wax is no longer being manufactured and has gone the way of the New England Pilot Cracker (A truly tragic loss!).

Johnson’s Paste Wax is still readily available and (presumably) still manufactured.  (Perhaps S.C. Johnson has a giant tank filled with was that will supply the world until the demand is gone.)

It’s on the shelf of the Noblesville (IN) Ace Hardware and I know I spotted it in a big box store last week.  Websites offer one pound cans (a 20 year supply for my use) for $3 – $8.  I did find cases (6 cans) for $35 offered by a mail order warehouse offering products no longer manufactured.

I may have to buy 2 cans — just in case.

I think that’s quite enough about Johnson’s Paste Wax.

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One of our concerns is sustaining local business.  One of our favorites is The Wild, a children’s bookstore and social hub on Noblesville’s city square.  It was reported in January that they would soon be closing their doors.

Today we recieved the following email…

Dear Friends,

Today a good thing happened. A local family with a passion for literature and learning came forward with serious, substantiated interest in owning The
Wild. In the coming month, they will take our store for a test drive while
making their final decision.

What does this mean exactly? It means we will stay open, operating as we
always have (Pages in the window and Jane on the story time stage), for the
next 30 days. At the end of that time, we will either celebrate the passing
of The Wild torch or the good times we have all had together during the past
four-and-a-half years. No matter where we go from here, you will be the
first to know.

This is a very good thing. We’ll report more as we know it.

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A Real Time Machine

Indianapolis Market 1908

Daily I visit Shorpy to get my fill of living in the past.  Several times each day a very large high definition photograph is posted for analyzing and discussion.

I am hooked!

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With a Wild and Heavy Heart

With a heavy heart I am sharing an email that I received from Jane Mills this morning.  It looks as if The Wild will be closing its doors.  Jane Mills has become a good friend and has done so much good to bring books, art, music and clarity to Noblesville.  I hope that someone can step forward and continue the good work that she has done with her husband, Ernie and son, Fritz.  I have had the oportunity to share my stories, music and art with her customers (Those 120 uke players are Folk School students).  She’s employed by daughter, Hannah.  The store has been the “cracker barrel” for forward thinking politics.  It is so sad to see such an important local business fade away.

Dear Friends,

The Perfect Storm of circumstances, some predictable and some personal, has
forced us to make a very difficult decision.  We have made the The Wild
available for sale.  If no buyer is found by February's end, we will close.

When we opened The Wild in 2005, we had a most romantic vision for what it
would be.   After more than four years, the reality is that it became more
than we had ever dreamed and one of our most personally gratifying
experiences yet.

Together, with you, we have:

--Read more than 1500 stories together 

--Hatched 7 healthy baby chicks

--Collected and delivered enough peanut butter and jelly to Horizon House
homeless shelter to make 1800 sandwiches for people in need

--Completed so many craft projects that we stopped counting around 10,000

--Eaten 1.35 Dum Dums for every completed craft project

--Through OLG and St. Paul's Church, donated thousands of books to children
in Appalachia, many of whom had never owned a book of their own

--Graduated more than 120 students from ukulele classes

--Given $30,000  in discounts to local teachers and schools

--Learned to knit, paint, sculpt, needle felt, cook, properly brush our
teeth, safely approach dogs, write stories and poetry

--Helped grow the collection of library books at New Britton Elementary in
memory of Wild Child Katie McGee who lost her battle with leukemia in July
of '08 at the age of 9.

--Displayed the art of at least 200 young artists

--Decorated more than 600 cookies and 360 eggs, made a home for fairies,
tutus for dancing, pirate chests for burying and one of the coolest trash
art robots ever

--Enjoyed the company of visiting snakes, trained dogs, potbellied pigs and
dancing chickens-all of whom were almost as fabulous as the humans who
shared them with us

--Raised more than $20,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to help find a
cure for CF, in hopes of giving 30,000 kids across the country a chance at a
future

--Met countless authors and illustrators 

--Kicked up our heels for the Breaking of Dawn, the Dog Days, the Deathly
Hallows, Five Ancestors, Rattlesnake Season, The  End, The Last Olympian and
the Son of Promise 

--And, perhaps most importantly, taught one another by sharing our
differences

Thank you for buying a book from us when you could have gotten it someplace
else.  Thank you for your stories and your friendship, for your loyalty and
support.  We have taken it all in and have been honored to be part of your
lives during the best and worst of times.

There are a number of you who deserve a personal thank you.  For fear of
leaving out a name, if you are an artist, author, teacher, musician, mom,
dad, firefighter, librarian, dentist, veterinarian, grandma, grandpa, scout
leader, historian, 4-Her, chef, dinosaur hunter, herpetologist, farmer or
friend who has taken the time to share your passion or your craft with our
young Wild kids, please accept our sincerest thanks.  To our employees, all
three of you, you have become and will always be considered family.

Our plan was to leave the world a better place when we finished than it was
when we started.  Together, we did just that.

With Sincere Gratitude,
Jane, Ernie and Fritz Mills

The Wild

884 Logan Street

Noblesville, IN 46060

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Road Trip

We tried to get the family together and hit the road over Christmas break.   Our busy schedules (Heck Hannah was out of town for a week, Phoebe had rehearsals and Julie was back at work), lack of funds and winter weather kept us homebound.  (This isn’t all bad.  I usually master a new skill set during the post Christmas lull.  This year I made Shaker boxes.)

We’ve a long weekend coming up so we’ve all dedicated Sunday and Monday to a winter roadtrip.

Last night we brainstormed a bit.  We discused Louisville, Chicago and our usual haunts.  I’ve always wanted to go to Berea, KY, a mecca of folk and traditional culture.  I checked out Boone’s Tavern.  It seemed too rich for our blood but there was an add on the website for a “$78 Winter Warrior Special”.  I called to see if all five of us* could stay in one room for that rate.  We come close.  There is $10 upcharge for a roll away.  You can’t beat that…I booked the room there and then.  (Later I discovered that Berea is in a dry county. I’ll cope, I’m sure.)

So Berea it is…one of the nation’s top 10 arts communities!  I’ll let you know how it goes next week.

*Hannah’s friend Eli will be joining us.

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My Morning Walk

I drop my daughters off at school each morning.  This week their drop off time has co-incided with dawn.  I can get to Potter’s Bridge Park minutes before sunrise and don’t have to scoot to school until just after.  The last few mornings I’ve joined a mixed flock of Canada geese and mallards as they begin their morning rituals.  Warblers, kingfishers and woodpeckers join the show.  I’m hoping that during my fall break (The first three weeks of October) that I can spend a few mornings in a canoe watching the birds begin their day.

White River Panorama

White River Panorama

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