Making focal point art for fine homes, businesses, and public places since 1981
Ever since that first slap and cry at St. Josephs back in 56’ it’s been rather non-stop. I think the first sculpture I made was in a Fairbanks area nursery school. I remember climbing the basement stairs with my small clay baseball player, disappointed the glaze wasn’t as expected.
Seven years later, on sabbatical in Oak Ridge, Mom was introduced to potting and I met my future wife Ranja. It’s a long story but she was 6 and I was 12. I’m embarrassed to say I mostly remember playing with her older siblings, swimming, making hay houses, and riding their horses and burros. I do remember her as a feisty little sun-baked blonde.
During my teenage years, I got interested in pottery and woodcarving. The winter of 1975 found me spending 30 or 40 hours a week in Ron Senungetuk’s class at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, learning design, metalsmithing, and woodcarving. The next spring, Fairbanks potters invited Marguerite Wildenhain, a former Bauhaus student, to teach a workshop. She commented on my trying to squeeze the whole Brooks Range onto the neck of a 6” vase. She also said if I wanted to attend her summer school, I needed to first go to South Bear School with her student Dean Schwarz and she’d take me on his recommendation. It meant missing the chance to help Ron on his walnut mobile for the Noel Wien Library, but the rest of my education was to unfold from that South Bear summer.
I was lucky to have four summers at Marguerite’s Pond Farm Pottery, learning about drawing, potting, sculpture, and making variations on a theme. Mom went to South Bear in 1977 and met students from Naguib School of Sculpture. Mustafa Naguib, fled the revolution in Egypt to open a small sculpture school in the Chicago area. Over the next three years, I spent 24 intensive months making life-size clay figures and learning about portrait sculpture, anatomy, mold making, and casting. In the summer of 1978, I missed Pond Farm to accompanied my grandmother on a wondrous 6 week trip to Italy and Sicily.
Back in Alaska, I built a couple of yurts on a Fairbanks hilltop. I went to Monday night drawing, carved, modeled, and tinkered. In 1985, Ranja came for a visit, and… I suppose I should start over and keep it to the highlights:
…small berry faces from photo and fridge,
tentative steps up on Cranberry Ridge,
Sacks in a closet of hard Logan bread,
travel by Cat bucket, backpack, and sled.
Summer, sabbatical, hay, horse, and sun,
harbinging true love, swim, ride and run.
Dad’s watching grizzly, Mom’s throwing clay,
I’m skinny and dipping with brothers in May.
Boreal rambles with hockey stick sword,
summers of building with log and with board.
Bent knives and boxes, fireweed fall,
ski race and ice skate, the north country’s call.
Pottery, redwood, sauna and sail,
Blacksmith and hammer, adze, poker and nail.
Clay figure, foundry, Brancusi and bone,
Master and model, bent steel, stone.
Sketch book in Florence, museum and pen,
Grandmother, Moses, Mt. Aetna and hen.
To yurts on a hilltop by ski, shoe and tire,
cooking and carving with soapstone and fire.
Ranja a beacon from childhood past,
True Love for life and companion to last.
On frostbitten bus ride from winter to warm,
in riverside workshop, farmhouse, and barn.
By chisel to wallet to table and spoon.
Careering as sculptor, boom-bust, again boom,
Our children are growing, farewell horse and friend,
back out on the highway to northern road’s end.
Shop, house, and heating in timber and steel,
pump, pipe, and code, reinventing no wheel.
In Homer and hammer-beam, pocket and goal,
from unraveled tangle of nettle and soul,
the phoenix has risen, the ashes now cold,
artwork is making, for sale or sold.
New memories form and old memories fade,
all mingling back into whence they were made.