Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Last Canadian Man in America

Chainsaw / Forge / Kiln / Cupola / Solar

Absolute Freedom at 7 Rivers Resort! There is no other way to describe it. Imagine 42 acres of timberland backing onto seven rivers in the middle of America. A place full of meandering gravel paths with heaps of cut and dried hardwood. What more could test the strength, endurance and imagination of any creative spirit? What do we really know about pioneering our own alternative buildings, forging a life for ourselves and constructing and operating our own kilns and furnaces? In fact, unless one has ever challenged themselves beyond the realm of theories and ideas and attempted a hands-on approach of demonstration and experimentation, absolute freedom may very well remain impossible to achieve.

Although most of the processes overviewed in this booklet may appear filthy, exhausting and undesirable, it is my belief that the highest form of clarity in life cannot be achieved without the uncertainly and risk involved in chain-sawing raw timber into new-fangled dwellings, forging metal, firing clay bodies and casting molten bronze and iron. Courage and survival still stand hand in hand. Sustaining oneself depends on relying on ones own resources. Personal instincts, skills and feats of stamina continue to uncover and reveal the wonderful experiences that await us in our lives.

As strange as many of the illustrations and photographs contain in this booklet may seem; my intention is to dig deep into our common desire to build our own foundations on this earth, disregard any traditional dogma, and allow for a more sensitive and better world to emerge.

Half Man / Half Beaver (Chainsaw)

What kind of tree? How kind should one be? I cannot imagine a more efficient and powerful tool that could be set at arms length. The chainsaw is capable of creating the joinery necessary to raise fallen trees and begin building structures dedicated to the pleasures of living life. Remember, every grueling winter could have been held at bay, in the wake of this cruel and superb saw.

By keeping the cuts simple and the design raw, the chainsaw strikes forward and slices backwards, creating bevels and planes that are intended to keep water out of any dwelling. Shelter is provided and artisans and craftsmen move inside. Water towers facilitate the private steam houses and lavatories. Bellows are set in motion and the storage houses fill up with coke, iron and limestone. This building tool is capable of setting carts in motion and launch vessels into the sea. This tool allows the architect, engineer and artist to find common ground. Building makes sense and buildings rise up.

Ownership is called into question when one spends their efforts on creating structures that are intended for many people. Should the one who worked the hardest have the gatekeeper’s authority, or should the one who labors the longest take it easy and free. Never forget that community depends on free exchange and absolute freedom awaits only those who are willing and able to facilitate all that they need.

7 Rivers Resort is located near Warsaw, Missouri. This resident artist project is focused on "getting back to nature". Workshops involving timber will be the basis for building structures, wood carving symposiums, and habitat workshops. These building seminars will allow innovative and experimental artists to reach out into their surroundings collaborate directly with nature in the hopes of pioneering alternative visions.

The progressive thinkers who are affiliated with 7 Rivers Resort are intent on: contributing to human health and welfare, finding technological and innovative new ways to improve life, expanding our knowledge of the world through unique discoveries, protecting our environment and improving our natural and physical surroundings, and conserving and contributing to our common cultural/artistic heritage.

One chainsaw, one backhoe and nine days labor was all that was needed to raise the first “Bull Horn” structure down Artisan Alley at 7 Rivers Resort. A modern day Big Joseph Montferrand (resident artist) came together with Jim Lohe (site manager) and Pat Clarida (property owner) in order to construct the first of many dwellings intended to facilitate housing, baking, carving, forging, casting, firing, dancing and living life.

The Anvil is Ringing (Forge)

What about the pressing need for hinges, latches, bolts, locks and lock plates; sharpened harrow teeth and hoes; and steeled axes? At some point it becomes necessary to center the tuyere and pump the bellows, draw the smoke up the flue and strike down on the anvil. While forging one must become skilled in hammering, fullering, forge welding, puncturing, bending, cutting, riveting and tempering. From the decorative design of a gate to the tempered iron of a pinpoint awl, the forger divulges their craft.

Prior to harnessing the power required to cast liquid metals, the forger demonstrates their skills in transforming and manipulating some of the most stubborn material on this earth. Out of the junkyards of today, handicraft and invention emerge at the hands of our second creator, the Demiurge. This modern Vulcan re-creates from that which has always existed. Iron bars and metal stock are formed and twisted, drawing out their meaning into the world. Forged artifacts take their place among us and satisfy our needs for both the fine arts and practical use.

One of the first craftsmen to appear on the horizon is the forger. Their familiarity and nostalgia, mixed with their contemporary problem solving abilities, makes them one of the most desired instruments employed in a community of artisans intend on regaining the sight of its own goals. The forger very rarely redoubles their efforts without considering where that path leads.

One forge, one anvil and one million strikes of a sledgehammer rang out and revealed the passions of the blacksmith. Providing the visiting artist with the facility and opportunity to create their artworks and heat their studio at the same time seemed to good to be true. Innovation and new technologies allowed the forge to generate residual heat for the forger’s abode and ease the rising need for hot water and cooking conveniences.

While the craftsmen focus on the road underfoot and the artists explores the horizon, it remains for the artisans at 7 Rivers Resort to meld their desires with their talents that are required to assemble a enduring community intent on discovering their collective capacity. The forge stands along side the anvil and together they represents our need to shape or world and lay bare our handiness. The forger recalls and values “what one person can do, another person can do”.

Ole, the Blacksmith (resident artist) laid hold of the forger’s instruments in the fall of 2007, and with those tools he bellowed out a range of new forms and artifacts. Sculptures rose up, the rocks were set in the trees and idle materials began to move. Energy revealed itself in every living being and every being thing. The rocks spoke, the trees sang and the earth moaned.

The Kilns are on Fire

Missouri hardwood is cut with the axe and split by the froe into long strips of fuel and fires rage in the hand made downdraft kilns. Heat races through the bottom flue, under the pottery and up the fourteenfoot stack on the other side of the clay house. The slurry from the neighboring rock quarry is transformed into fired earthenware and stoneware. Heated, once again into solid rock: vessel, tiles, bricks and plates are brought into being. Artifacts are prepared, set a blaze and finished by the dozens.

The hands of the potter press hard into the clay, however the voice of the earth imprints itself, even deeper, in the mind of the artist. Working both rationally and spontaneously, the sculptor refuses to let clay rest or dry out in order to achieve a satisfying form. Soil is set on high, the earth achieves honor and even dirt and mud are celebrated. At the end of our lives, we must also transform back into clay and it is clay alone that stands the chance of being reassembled into a puzzle picture view of our time on this earth.

The ancient pottery needs only to be rebuilt. Its design is timeless and its purpose is clear; drive out the water and cook it into stone. One needs only to consider, very seriously, if the object they have shaped deserves the privilege to be transformed into rock. Once loaded into the kiln and slowly heated, this clump of earth is allowed to hold its form, attain its efficient composition and emanate a meaningful aura.

The Kiln is on Fire – part 2

One kiln, one stack and two thousand degrees Fahrenheit is achieved in order to bake clay in an oven, reach the temperatures required for a furnace and produce synthetic rock in a proficient kiln. Sculptural clay and ceramic sculptures are the outcome, however the downdraft kiln holds the vital heat used for heating the studio and baking a long list of provisions and rations. One needs only to unload the kiln door, brick by brick, and lay back on the stones in order to feel connected to the energy flowing in and around them. The open hearth harkens back to a communal setting, circulated around an open fire, free from confining structures and walls. In this place, one recollects being comforted and a great sense of belonging is achieved.

All of the fuel is available on 7 Rivers Resort. The earth longs to create equipment knowing full well that all equipment belongs to the earth. 7 Rivers Resort beckons the craftsmen and artisans to step forward, One only needs to dig deep into its clays and try their hand at creating the makes of this world. The bricks of the kiln yearn to be heated, long to be taken to temperature and wish to challenge the forms contained within their walls. Few object will endure and stand the test of time. Uncertainly and risk produce the greatest rewards.

The inept, idle and unlucky stand very little chance at creating a clay form that demonstrates the “primacy of the art object”. Clay has waited a long time and longs to wait. The artist has a short time to craft anything of significant value. Mackenzie Inu (resident artist) labors ceaselessly at 7 Rivers Resort: throwing, coiling, hand building and molding many artworks. The fires are tended for days at a time and the waste piles are crushed into grog for several other projects. Yet, in the end, the door to the kiln is opened and stunning and striking objects emerge from this alchemic portal.

Cupola and the Cupolette (Furnace)

The collier tends half a dozen hearths and dances about the long green poles around which he has built a chimney of small “lapwood”. Vigilance depends on finding “mulls” and “jumping the pit” and drafts could mean the end of his hard work should any one of the piers be set aflame. Cords of timber are transformed into charcoal and are mixed with salvaged coke and coal. The sole purpose being to produce enough fuel to charge the iron and reduce it to molten metal.

En-anti-morphs are carved and burned out into every available material. Sand and clay are mixed and made moist. Brown sugar, molasses and corn meal are also blended. Negative spaces are carved into dry hardwoods and sandstones. All molds are formed, rammed and allowed to bake as the blast furnace is ignited and pumped full of air. Only the light of the moon and the flame of the furnace assist the foundry-men, who must charge the cupola with iron, coke (coal) and limestone. Liquid iron is achieved and the tap hole is botted up. Within minutes the slag hole is oozing and excess iron finds its way to the top of the iron chamber.

At this point, the only sound in the foundry is the sound of the furnace itself. The bellows are halted and the caster and the “deadman” must catch the molten metal and transfer it into all of the molds. The tap hole is hammered out and a hundred pounds of red liquid rushes through the dam hole. Any sign on water will cause an explosion of metal “shot” should it come in contact with the volatile liquid. In the end, molds are filled, cooled, opened and their contents are cleaned and polished. The foundry-men have completed their work for the evening and set their sights on creating an even larger furnace: the Cupolette.

Cupola and the Cupolette – part 2

One cupola, one iron crew and two thousand pounds of iron, coke and limestone are set in motion and cast iron radiators and bathtubs are melted into are wide range of new functional and decorative designs. Natural sands and clays meld and take on shapes in order to direct the molten metal in an attempt to create contemporary stove plates, vessels and accessories in and around Artisan Alley. Flask upon flask and cope upon drag, the foundry-men demonstrate their innovative skills in achieving some of the most difficult objects and artworks produced at 7 Rivers Resort.

In a culture designed to make individuals consumers, the foundry man still has a chance at transforming some to the most difficult and stubborn materials on this earth in a non-alienating way. Organic forms are generated from his hands and a sense of being our own “second creator” is achieved. Once again, we allow ourselves permission to fabricate and build our own world upon this earth, a world that is not based on the illusion of choices and superficial artifacts. The found man understands the importance of filling vacant spaces with new and interesting things. These things, in turn, take on a being of their own and the “primacy of the art object” emerges in all of his creations. The denying of his craft is almost impossible, once faced with the complexities and beauty of his once liquid iron forms.

Ursula Biringuccio (resident artist) appeared on the northern horizon and began hammering out shards of iron from pre-existing forms in the winter of 2007. She began by drawing negative forms into the open air of 7 Rivers Resort and framed her invisible ideas with a wide range of molding sands and skills. In the midnight hour on a cold winters eve, her cupolette was ignited and charged full of all that was necessary to tap out one ton of molten metal and create some of the most complex and creative forms at Artisan Alley. She brought the necessary technology of iron casting to 7 Rivers Resort and left a wealth of knowledge and artworks in her wake.

The Sun-Catcher (Solar Heat)

All of the new fangled structures on Artisan Alley are south facing and they are designed to demonstrate a great amount of care being considered in balancing the use of “glass to mass” in regards to their passive solar heating capabilities. Drawing from the works of James Kachadorian and utilizing a basic knowledge of his ten solar principles, Michael “two-pound sledge” Wickerson (resident artist) and property owner, Pat Clarida (Clarida Construction), have focused on building a studio based community at 7 Rivers Resort capable of facilitating a range of artisans and craftsmen. Jim Lohe and the other directors have been essential in digging out the foundations that were required to lay out infrastructures and buildings that will heat and cool all of the dwellings and workshops.

Orientation with respect to the sun, year round activities, effective solar masses, and well-sealed structures are just a few of the principles that the members of the 7 Rivers Resort community are following. In addition, projects are focused on utilizing simple and inexpensive devices for storing and heating water, baking goods, and drying firewood. Overheating is being tended to and residual heating systems are being utilized to draw heat from existing ovens, forges, furnaces and kilns. Without professing to have all of the answers, the directors of 7 Rivers Resort are intent o understanding and demonstrating their knowledge of working with existing natural systems. Proper air circulation and tight insulation are the keys to providing a pleasant atmosphere for the artisans to work and live within.

Above and beyond any traditional approaches, the members of 7 Rivers Resort are determined to pool their resources, problem solve in non-conventional ways and prioritize creative and passionate efforts for developing passive solar heating structures. Innovation is the most valued skill in regards to the progressive thinkers associated with 7 Rivers Resort.

The Sun-Catcher – part 2

One sun, one Artisan Alley and two miles of gravel road are brought together in order to form a community driven to carve out a place for themselves in the world and provide alternative visions for the world. One need not begin by changing the world; one needs only to change people sensibilities towards the earth. Once this is accomplished, the world cannot help but adapt and change towards this enlightenment.

What would one do if their week’s work was cut in half or their heating and cooling bills were made nearly obsolete? Would they pick up an instrument, would they toil in a greenhouse or garden or would they throw a “perfect game” of horseshoes? What is our Renaissance going to be like? How will we recognize it? The new is a lot more alien to us than we can imagine. Good luck in a achieving your goals.

In the hopes of digging deep into our common desire to build our own foundations on this earth, disregarding any traditional dogma, and allowing for a more sensitive and better world to emerge; the directors at 7 Rivers Resort and the Workshop Masters of Form down Artisan Alley have chosen to lay bare they intentions in this booklet.