Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Spark

In a comment on one of my posts, self taught artist asked about how I got started in woodworking. I've written some of this before on LumberJocks, but will repeat and expand on it here. I'm going to start with some background, bear with me it is relevant.

When I was 4 my family moved into a haunted house. The house had had only 2 previous owners, the architect who built it for himself only to run out of money, and the woman my parents bought it from. Mrs. M.'s parents bought it for her as her dowry. When my parents bought it Mrs. M. was 90 something and headed for a nursing home. The house had not had much done to it in years. It was at the end of a dead-end street, a dark brown Dutch colonial. The only occupant an old woman, and my guess is that fear made her come across as mean.

My parents bought that house because of location - there was a good elementary school within walking distance and my father could walk to work, size - this house was big with a full attic and basement, and I'm sure cost - because of the work it needed it was less expensive than other houses in the area.

Once we moved in my parents got to work fixing the house up. Wall paper was removed, paint added to walls and the like. And this is where my grandfather enters the picture. Granddaddy Art worked in the building trades. He didn't live close by, but as long as there was apple pie for dessert he would put his expertise to work for my parents. He was also adept at salvage so when my parents decided to replace the claw foot tub in the bathroom with a more modern model he acquired one. I have vivid memories of riding home down the Massachusetts Turnpike in the back of the new bathtub.

Granddaddy Art would come for several days or a week to help with the rehabilitation of that house - fixing the wainscoting on the front stairs, rebuilding the chimney, ... I loved to watch this work. Although he worked on our house I don't have an image of my father building things . Granddaddy Art built things. We spent part of most summers at his "camp" in the Berkshire hills - a cabin he'd built. Later I learned that he'd salvaged a house from one of the towns on the site of the Quabbin Reservoir and reassembled it for his family on a lot in Springfield. His grave is in site of that house.

When Granddaddy Art was at our house I would follow him around, not too closely as that would get me in trouble. I can remember sitting on the basement stairs while he and my father worked on some creation, and standing on a ladder with my head peeking out of the hatch in the attic watching him rebuild the chimney. I was always curious about what he was doing, but never learned any secrets from him. He was a traditional sort and construction wasn't a vocation he thought suitable for girls.

I think it was watching him that gave me the confidence to think that I could make things. I'd seen it done and it didn't look so hard. That was the spark, and it's why this blog has the name it does.

One regret I have is that he died and his tools were sold off, before I caught the woodworking bug. I would love to have tools from his shop, or to have learned from him. I'd like to think that he'd have mellowed by now and would be proud of the things I build.

1 comment:

Self Taught Artist said...

hey thanks for letting me know you posted this, what a great story! Look forward to the next installment...I'm actually hoping to learn a thing or two :)