June 2, 2007

"A League of Our Own" -- Movie about the League

In my last post to this blog, about the League's 75th anniversary, I briefly mentioned the movie that the League has commissioned. Now allow me to expand on this subject.

This movie was created by Ken Browne Productions, from NY City, and has been in production for two year. It is an hour long, and will be shown on NH Public TV on July 18, and probably other times during the summer. The style is basically in the Ken Burns vein (he made the Civil Wars, Baseball, and Jazz documentaries for national public TV). The movie is called "A League of Our Own," and it does an incredible job of capturing the history of the League, as well as explaining what is important to the League, and what makes fine craftsmanship important in our culture. I can't speak too highly about the production values and the dedication that Ken put in to this effort.

And I am happy to note that I have some presence in the movie. Ken interviewed me about a year ago, and there are three places in the movie where my voice is used to explain some aspect of the League or of fine crafts. Those sections are accompanied with images and video of my lamps and of me doing some work on the lathe. At the very end of the movie, there is a section about how craftspeople are moving forward in to the future, including the internet...., and you will hear me talking about this very blog that you are now reading.

As I said, the movie will be shown on NHPTV on July 18, and it is being pitched for national public tv distribution as well. It is also available as a DVD from the League http://www.nhcrafts.org/pdf/DVD-Order.pdf or by calling 603-224-3375. If you have any interest in the meaning of fine craft, or in the League, this DVD is well worth owning.

League Turns 75!!!

The League of NH Craftsmen is the oldest state-specific craft organization in the country, and almost the oldest craft organization of any kind. And this year the League celebrates it's 75th anniversary. In May, the League had a wonderful party at the Grappone Center in Concord. I was hugely impressed by this event. There were 300 people on hand, including Governor Lynch. Laura Knoy, the well known voice of The Exchange on NH public radio, was the host, and she did a great job. The speeches were fascinating and well deserved awards were given to a couple of long time ((and world renowned) craftpeople in the League. A silent auction was held that raised $9000 for the scholarship fund.

Many of the people in attendance had significant historical connection to the League, and many of them I have not run across for a long long time, so there was a lot of reminiscing. And a lot of self-congratulating for the huge strides the League has made in the past 10 years under the leadership of Susie Lowe-Stockwell, the Executive Director. In terms of financial stability, reputation, the tightening of jurying standards, and the overall well-being of craftspeople, the League has never been in better shape.

The party was more than simply a one time event. To me it represented a deep well of support for the League, and a high level of morale and goodwill towards the organization. That speaks so well for the future prospects of the League of NH Craftsmen.

One wonderful way that the League is celebrating this anniversary is thru the creation of a fantastic hour long video. That movie had it's world premiere at the party, and I think every single person in the room was newly informed and emotionally affected by seeing this production. I will talk more about the movie in another blog entry.

This picture is of myself and Gary Kalagian, who is chairperson of the hugely important Standards Committee of the League.

May 20, 2007

Incidental National TV Shade Viewing!

On Friday night, I got a call from a friend: “Turn on ABC right this second!” So I did, and there was an interview with a celebrity,..., and one of my table lamps was prominently displayed in the background. This was World News Tonight with Charles Gibson, and they were showing a 5 minute segment on their Person of the Week, Paul Simon. The lamp shows up maybe 3 or 4 times.

It was a nice ego stroke for me, even though probably hardly anyone else noticed. Still, if you are curious, you can check it out on this link: http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=3190827 -- it starts with a short advertisement that cannot be avoided, but the piece is quite interesting. I have no idea how long ABC keeps this link alive, so eventually it may expire.

Back-Saving System Installed in Shop

A few weeks ago, I had severe back spasms. I have had them before, but this was much worse. Probably the cause was my own failure to do as much stretching as I normally do. Anyway, it scared me a bit, and I resolved to figure out some ways to make my work a little easier on my back, and therefore hopefully to prolong my career as a heavy-duty woodturner.

My good friend Kevin Plunkett is a fantastic jeweler, but he was originally trained as a mechanical engineer, and has all sorts of metal welding and cutting tools. More importantly, he is ingenious at figuring out gadgets and systems to solve unusual problems. Best of all, he is the kind of person who jumps in with both feet to help! A friend indeed!!!

What we decided on is an electric winch for lifting the heavy Aspen logs from the floor up to the lathe level, and a trolley that moves the winch along an I-beam so that it can be positioned exactly as it is engaged by the two ends of the lathe. Maybe that sounds simple, but it was important to figure out how to hold it up to the ceiling in a totally safe way. In the end, the weight of the system and the log are suspended from a total of 9 roof trusses.

Two unintended benefits arose from the installation of the winch system. First it also allows me to lift the lathe bed extension in to place. The extension is used only occasionally, when I make floor lamps bases, but the thing is probably 300 pounds and very awkward. Now I will create a wheel system for moving it along the floor, and the winch will lift it in to place. Hooray!

But the more subtle and interesting benefit of the winch is the total freedom it has given me about when I start the work of making a shade. In the past, I could only begin making a shade when Kathy or Tom were around to help me lift and position the heavy Aspen logs chunk, some of which approach 200 pounds. They both have busy lives of their own, and Tom is off to college next year...., so the process of “logging on” was something that needed to be planned. Now with the winch and trolley system, I can begin work on a log whenever I want. That may not seem like much, but in reality it has made me more productive. Late in the afternoon, when my muscles are warmed up and I happen to have some free time, I can put a piece on the lathe and get some of the initial work started. Maybe I even do that with 3 pieces, one after the other. The most heavy duty aspect is done when my body is best able to absorb the jackhammer vibration.

Kevin is now building me a system for moving the logs from my outside chain sawing yard to the floor near the lathe, and a related system for grabbing the log with the winch, both of which will provide for less physical stress. So.... from the excruciating pain of the spasms in my back have come some real and innovative solutions. All thanks to Kevin. He has my deep gratitude for the assistance and the dedication.