carpentry (77)

Handcrafted Homes in Pennsylvania Woods

A terrific article in today’s NYTimes (3/16/20) online by Michael Snyder, with great photos by Chris Mottalini.

Everything about this story and the photos struck me as right. I felt at home here. I love the rumpled bed in the second photo. I also like the idea of an “alternative to modernism.” 

How Two Children Are Keeping Their Father’s Design Legacy Alive

A pair of Pennsylvania homes constructed by the Japanese-American furniture designer George Nakashima have become an enduring testament to mid-century folk craft.

“From 1946, when he founded his studio on a three-acre plot in New Hope, a historic artist’s colony halfway between New York City and Philadelphia, to his death in 1990 at the age of 85, Nakashima devoted his life to transforming slabs of walnut, cherry, burled maple and redwood into coffee tables shaped like pools of water, Shaker-style chairs with hand-whittled spindles and dining-room tables fashioned from slices of tree trunks, their cracks and seams bridged with joints like butterflies caught in amber. ‘He felt his work was a form of integral yoga: How you work and live is all connected,’ his daughter, Mira, 78, told me on a damp, gray morning last fall while showing me around the grounds of the studio, which she has run since her father’s death. Organic, improvisational and individual, the tens of thousands of objects he made in the course of his lifetime were also functional, meant for daily use; they were, Mira says, “the antithesis of Modernism, a protest against mass production.”

“But the homes where Mira and Kevin live, patinated and imperfect and crowded with debris, more fully capture the spirit of mingei. Less an antithesis to Modernism than an alternative to it, such projects embraced 20th-century idioms while refusing to accept industrial mass production as the fundamental fact of modernity. ‘Dad always said that building furniture was just like architecture but smaller,’ Mira says. In his houses for his children, the opposite holds true: Like Nakashima’s tables and chairs, they can be read as works of folk art, useful objects that, as Yanagi wrote, ‘honestly fulfill the practical purpose for which they were made.’”

www.nytimes.com/2020/03/16/t-magazine/george-nakashima-legacy.html

Article sent us by Elizabeth Kirkland

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SunRay’s Treehouse Masterpiece

Just when you think maybe SunRay has done all he’s gonna do — like major buildings — he pulls off this wild soaring, spiraling, 4-story log-framed structure in the woods. The spiral turrets up top are just insane. I mean, holy shit! SunRay rolls on, a true Spirit of Nature in his designs, carried out with incredible (and intuitive) building skills.

I wrote Uncle Mud (aka Chris McClellan) about SunRay’s latest (I’d seen a pic on @cabinporn) and he responded:

Lloyd,

I was there in 2018 during the rebuild after the fire so I don’t have anything newer than framing, which I have enclosed. Bonnie sends this video. I’m off to the mountains of Jamaica to teach mud building again next week. The village of Nine Mile is very sweet to us. The little kids call me “Meesta Mood”. People there make $20 a day but a sack of cement costs $10 so no one every finishes their house. When we were there in 2018 we taught them how to make windows out of bottles that get thrown by the side of the road, putting up a rough “Tree of Life” window in the dead of night before our flight home. When we came back in 2019 we were treated to this lovely view of the finished window.

(I’ll put up Mud’s photos in a later post.)

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Japanese Carpentry Workshop

“…thought you might be interested in this. We’re hosting our first ever Japanese Carpentry Workshop this year. We’re bring out two full-time professional carpenters from Okayama, Japan to lead the class. Kohei and Jon specialize in ishibatate construction. 7 days of Japanese joinery with hand tools to build a timber frame from the ground up. Details here if you’re curious: www.theyearofmud.com/natural-building-workshops/japanese-carpentry-workshop

Still love following your work! I trace back a lot of my building inspiration to your books over these 10 years.”

–Brian “Ziggy” Lioila

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The Half-Acre Homestead Book Is Finished!

(Subtitle: 46 Years of Building & Gardening)

You know, it’s Thanksgiving morning, both boys are off for the holiday with spouses’ families, and Lesley and I are working on our separate crafts. What a difference with no phones, no email, no business necessities, no one else around. Witness the fact that I’ve hardly blogged at all lately. Gonna have to get one day a week here with no distractions. A right-brain day!

The unbound pages came in from the printers a few days ago. What a thrill! The book’s getting bound (in Hong Kong) this week, shipped and will be available in early March, 2020. When we get it together, we’re going to take pre-orders.

I’m still getting used to the book. After covering hundreds of builders over the years, this is the first on my own (and Lesley’s) work.

Stay tuned.

These photos shot with iPhone. We just got these early pages.

Music de éste día: The Gilded Palace of Sin by The Flying Burrito Brothers, 1969
www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUeFJ7QIRbE

Here’s how I make books:

Read More …

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My First Building Project (1961)

Designed by my surfing friend John Stonum, who was in his final year of architecture at UC Berkeley. (I was his first client.) It had what we called a “sod roof” in those days (now called a “living roof”). I got a big load of merch-grade redwood 2×4’s at the closing out of the nearby Olema Lumber Yard for — get this — $35 per 1,000 board feet, and nailed them together on edge for the roof deck. I let them run wild on the right-hand side, so had to cut off about 14 feet of them. I started out with a hand saw, then went and rented a Skilsaw to finish the job.

I was working as an insurance broker in San Francisco and would rush home from work every night and as well, work on weekends. As the years went by, I started on a very ambitious remodeling of the old summer house on the property (in Mill Valley, Calif.), and what with the cultural revolution brewing (I was listening to Beatles records while working), my dislike of wearing a suit and increasing boredom with the business world AND a growing love of building and working with my hands, I quit my job in 1965 and went to work as a carpenter.

The roof had two layers of tar and gravel, then 2″ of coarse gravel and 4″ of earth. It was planted with chamomile and in the spring, it was covered with white blossoms.

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Lloyd and Louie Visit 02 Artisans Aggregate in Oakland

Tucker Gorman is an artist/woodworker that I recently met through Foster Huntington. Tucker is one of a group of builders, artists, welders, sculptors, and gardeners that operate out of a number of large buildings in the industrial part of Oakland, Calif. I’d been there last week and took my friend Louie with me to see it all this week. (BTW, Louie is 92 years old and still rides a 500-foot zip line across the Garcia River in Mendocino county to get to his house.)

It’s an amazing setup, with a group of ultra-competent people engaged in all kinds of activities. There are a number of dimensional sawmills — the largest can handle a 5-foot log — and the yards are piled high with stacks of sliced‑into‑slabs logs and stickered lumber of all sorts. In one building, there’s Joinery Structures, a custom sawmill with mills, planers, joiners, sanders, and other milling tools I’ve never seen before.

There’s a greenhouse in which seaweed is dried. There are chickens, guys working on making chicken feed out of food byproducts, a nursery, tanks containing sturgeons, and Soba Ichi: a very cool-looking, fresh noodle restaurant. More photos of it here.

Central to all this is Paul Discoe, a Zen Buddhist priest who studied under Suzuki Roshi at the San Francisco Zen Center and then spent five years studying with a master carpenter in Japan. He’s published a beautiful book, Zen Architecture: The Building Process as Practice.

I don’t have a lot of time (one could spend days writing this place up), but here are a few photos:

Brilliant use of shipping containers

This mill will handle a 5-foot log. With these mills, the blade housing moves on tracks; the log is stationary.

Paul Discoe’s collection of Japanese carpentry tools

More pics to follow when I get time.

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