It's Not an Art Project

With my friend, Peter, I have been building a bunk room in the garage.

The garage at our lake house. A place I go to be quiet.

My wife realized that the garage was bigger than was needed, so she wanted us to convert the back half, the one that faces the lake, into a bunk room for those times when family and friends congregate.

Peter is a master craftsman. We worked with him when we remodeled our home in Portland. This home, built in 1911, is a graceful expression of the Arts & Craft Movement. A craftsman home.

We had to completely rebuild the second floor and to put in a new kitchen. But we needed to do so in a way that honored the original craftsmen who built our home. Those who had built a place for generational living.

The ones who created such subtle wonders that, when we bought the home some twenty years ago, would encourage us to sit and just let our eyes wander. Finding little details that would simply delight us.

Little gestures, like how the shape of the hinges in the dining room was replicated in the banister of the stairway. And in the inglenooks. And on the porch.

Thoughtful intention.

Our lake house is only about twenty years old. A very different vintage. And here we were in the garage, building a bunk room.

At one point Peter saw me shaving something down with, perhaps, excessive attention. He was reminded of a general contractor he once did a restaurant remodel with who chided him for taking too much care. He came over and told Peter that construction was not an art project.

And now he was telling me the same thing.

But then, after a moment, he continued his story. Turns out that, later in the project, the general contractor and his son laid the floor tiles in the restaurant too quickly, without letting the glue properly set. A few weeks later, when they brought in a crane for hanging the lighting fixtures, several of the tiles cracked. The repair required much of the floor to be redone at a significant expense.

That was the end of the story and we went back to work.

A few weeks later, the bunk room was done. When we showed it to others, they smiled. With delight.

For while the room was not an art project it was more than a job to be done as quickly as possible. It was done well, with craftsmanship that reflected thoughtful intention.

Ward and I have been, in our separate domains, exploring similar questions. Recently, for instance, he wrote Art, Craft and Labor.

I sense that we are opening up a deep vein for further exploration, perhaps one that will illuminate important aspects of Autopoietic Systems.

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