Sarah

My friend Sarah is an artist and wood worker in her second year at IYRS (the International Yacht Restoration School) who possesses an exacting eye and a wonderfully lighthearted design sensibility. ¬†I don’t know how else to describe her work: everything she makes is just so HAPPY, but with enough subtlety that it doesn’t become too cute. ¬† Her craftsmanship, perfectionism and attention to detail imbues each piece she makes with a quiet elegance, something that has made her work stand out since our days in the art department at Brown.

I’m always inspired by people who learn through an immersive experience, perhaps because this is how I most enjoy learning as well. ¬†Sarah literally lives and breaths the life of a woodworker, and you can tell how much she is getting out of the program because of it. ¬†She even served me grilled salmon the other night which was flavored by cedar scraps rescued from the shop! ¬†Here are some photos from a little shoot we did this weekend, which includes the chair she made for her summer project and drawings of the shelves that she designed and built for a coffee shop in DC. ¬†I am dying to have her make one for my apartment some day- they remind me of the Life Aquatic, I think because of the bubbly corners. ¬†I am also obsessed with her tools, some of which she made (like the backing out plane with an inlaid heart and the brass bevel gauge) in her first few months at school.

To inquire about custom furniture work, email Sarah at sarahannegoldstein@gmail.com

Touching 1799

Photographs from my afternoon at the Coggeshall Farm Museum, which I’ve mentioned before here and here. This was a completely different kind of museum experience for me, as Coggeshall is anything but the vitrine-full-of-fragile-objects type, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a working re-creation of a New England tenant farm at the turn of the 19th century, and the devoted staff and team of interpreters want (and expect) you to get your hands dirty when you visit!

1. Kitchen linens dry/ 2. A spinning wheel/ 3. Kitchen company/ 4. Nothing decorative on this mantle/ 5. Farmboy, fetch me that pitcher (out of my dream pantry, I couldn’t stop looking into this cute little room)/ 6. Insulation? No! That’s salted bacon/ 7. The sparse, utilitarian feel of the house vaguely reminded me of modern Scandinavian interiors/ 8. Making Johnny Cakes/ 9. Hand stitching about the pocket of some wonderful garment

hand-me-down

Here’s a shot of the wonderful ring that my mom passed along to me on my 25th, which is made from an old spoon. ¬†She wore it all through her twenties, and I can just see it on her hand while she played the guitar with her super straight, long hippy hair. ¬†In my family, we call a gift like this a breast feather. ¬†Mother birds often line nests with feathers pulled from their own chest in an effort to keep their babies safe and warm, so to give a breast feather is to give something that you hold close to your heart, and to do so lovingly and selflessly.

Mitsuru Koga

Aren’t these incredible? ¬†Japanese artist Mitsuru Koga¬†carves tiny beach stones that he has collected into vases and other charmingly small sculptures. ¬†He says that “as in the way waves abrade stones I scrape stones with careful attention,” and that he is merely contributing to a natural process that began many thousands of years ago with the rocks’ initial formation. ¬†As such, he questions what man’s position in nature is. ¬†Can we accept that a pioneering pair of human hands is just another kind of natural force, like the ocean’s waves? ¬†(all photos from misuru-koga.com)

Handwriting

Remember when I told you about my new friend Justin? ¬†Well, I forgot to mention that, among other things, he worked under a master stone carver for four years (writing in stone?!? ¬†I would not do well with that) and is also pretty handy with a quill. ¬†His calligraphy is so stunning that he was even asked to write out his cousin’s marriage documents. ¬†This is the card he gave me for my birthday, isn’t it beautiful? ¬†The marbled envelope was made by John C. Bielik, a fellow interpreter of history that Justin knows through the museum world. ¬†You can purchase John’s wares online at his Etsy store¬†or at the Coggeshall Farm Museum Store in Bristol. ¬†What’s the best card you’ve ever been given?

Fleeting Subjects

One of the most challenging, and therefore appealing, kinds of photography for me is portraiture. I am particularly fascinated by portraits of ordinary people and everyday life, and I’m beginning to appreciate how hard a photographer must work to connect with his or her subjects. ¬†Most people, unless they are models, actors, or center-of-attention goofballs, feel pretty shy and silly in front of a camera, myself included, and it is up to the photographer to put them at ease. ¬†My father’s late friend, Mathias Oppersdorff, was a master at this.

(Here I must apologize for my horrendous reproductions of his images.  These are photographs that I took of the pages of his book, People of the Road; The Irish Travellers.  I was too excited about sharing these to make high quality scans.  Mostly, I want you to see his content, but take my word for it, these plates are crisp, rich and gloriously textured when you see them in person).

I remember Mo as a quiet, easygoing bachelor who had a mischievous grin and a penchant for speeding us along in his Volkswagon on our way to the beach. ¬†He was the son of Polish immigrants and resided for most of his life in South County, RI. ¬†Over a period of nearly 30 years, Mo journeyed to Ireland to photograph Travellers (a distinct ethnic group that is frequently confused with the Romany Gypsies of mainland Europe, and sometimes referred to as Tinkers,¬†although most would take offense to this term today), and his book illustrates the gradual transition in the late 1900’s from their centuries-old nomadic lifestyle to a more settled existence in trailer parks and housing projects, a compromise that had to be made as they saw the need for their children to be in school. ¬†He had to work hard to earn the trust and respect of a people who faced discrimination and often violent rejection from society, and as a result of his efforts, he has left behind an extensive record of a way of life that is nearly non-existant today. ¬†A quote by one of his subjects sums up a sentiment that seemed to be consistent among the Travellers he worked with: “Just because I live in a house doesn’t mean I’m a settled person. ¬†I will always be a Traveller.”

Mo alludes to the difficulties a portrait photographer faces in his introduction when he says, “as photographic subjects, they were unwilling and defensive. ¬†They were as suspicious of me as the settled community was of them. ¬†It was acceptable for me to stop my car at a camp and take a few pictures, but then I had better be on my way. ¬†It was another thing to be allowed into their lives. ¬†I had to work against great odds to establish myself as a safe figure. ¬†From their point of view, no outsider could be trusted, especially someone asking questions and taking pictures.”

Whatever he did to get his subjects to open up, it worked. ¬†His book is a consistent source of inspiration for me, and the forward that he wrote provides an informative setting for the photos, bringing to my attention the story of a people that I previously knew almost nothing about. ¬†His dedication is succinct and poignant: “…to the Travellers, whose many campfires I shared.”