Modern Art – Antique Tools

Editor’s note: This is another of my weekly columns in the Wanganui Chronicle. Following it, you will find a response I wrote to a letter to the editor from an ardent climate change denier who has made it his mission to attack me personally because of my advocacy of eco-design thinking for our beach. See here, and here, and here, and here.

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What an awesome weekend of well-organized and well-attended community events we had last weekend!

Saturday was all about Castlecliff, and the driftwood/sand sculpture contest at the beach. Ellen Waugh and Progress Castlecliff pulled off what appears to be the eco-thrifty event of the summer. With a little bit of prize money kindly donated by Mars, Jamie Waugh, and Castlecliff Four Square, and a miniscule entry fee, Ellen and P.C. were able to draw more people to the beach than I have ever seen.

The rest of the ingredients for a fabulous community day were free, abundant and non-toxic: driftwood, sand, shells, pumice, flax, sunshine, and heaps of human effort, imagination and enthusiasm.

I spent much of Saturday applying my head, heart and hands to an age-old craft that I acquired on my New England farm a decade ago: hand joinery. I know some terminology between New England and New Zealand may differ, so let me explain exactly what I mean in five words: bit, brace, chisel, mallet, saw. Screen shot 2014-03-07 at 6.44.36 AM

Hand joinery was traditionally applied to cutting mortises and tenons into massive, squared timbers to build post and beam structures in the 17th and 18th centuries. This was a time when steel hardware was expensive, so wooden pegs were used to hold the building frames together. (Think of an Amish barn-raising if you can, and you’ll get the picture.)

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Because my post and beam farmhouse was built in 1782, and because I was young and foolish when I bought it in 2000, I decided to use a book to teach myself hand joinery and then to build a barn without power tools. To make a long story short, the job started by felling pines with an axe, hewing them by hand, and then cutting the mortises and tenons before having my own barn raising party with about 40 friends. Screen shot 2014-03-07 at 6.43.09 AM

Now that I am old and foolish, and the rules of the sculpture contest allowed for hand tools, I dusted off my bits and chisels and headed for the beach. The first thing I learned was that New Zealand native timbers are much harder than New England pine. The next thing I learned is that art and hand joinery should never be rushed.

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Although I spent eight hours working on Saturday, the sculpture was barely finished by the four o’clock judging, and never during that time did I experience the focused but relaxed joy of ‘joining’ that I recall while building my barn.

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To make a short story even shorter, with the help of Dani, Verti, Maddy and Te Rina, our creation – Surf’s Up! – impressed everyone except the judges. C’est la vie.

On Sunday morning, I managed to drag my limp and lifeless shoulders from bed, and load the car with bins, signs and my family to make the trip to Springvale Stadium for Children’s Day.

Good on Lynette Archer and Liza Iliffe, SKIP Co-ordinators, for committing again to waste minimization at the event. With their commitment and my 25 years of experience in waste minimization education/management, we were able to organize our strategy through five text messages, one of which was redundant!

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By maximizing good design and minimizing physical effort, we were able to divert over 80% of ‘waste’ from landfill – an accomplishment rarely equaled anywhere in New Zealand. Once again, win-win-win eco-design thinking succeeds at being good for people, good for the planet, and saving money.

I strongly believe that as adults it is our highest obligation to set good examples for children to follow. If we do not teach them that recycling and composting are important enough that we ‘do’ them at community events, then what we are teaching them is rubbish.

Peace, Estwing

Response to Letter to the Editor:

Please note I wrote the accompanying column on Monday morning with no comments about council or the man who identified himself as E. Parker that verbally abused me while I participated in the driftwood sculpture event on Saturday.

But on Wednesday, E.Parker, who has previously called me a hypocrite because of my eco-design suggestions for the beach, had written a letter to the Chronicle claiming some further nonsense about me. What he did not include in the letter was a series of bizarre and clearly untrue comments and accusations he made during his tirade.

I understand that we may disagree on how the beach should be managed, but I do not understand why E. Parker has made it a personal issue. May I suggest that I like Castlecliff as much as E.Parker, a fact supported by the hundreds of hours I have spent working with all four Castlecliff primary schools, not to mention the thousands of hours of volunteer work my wife and I have done in the community. Can we agree that we both like Castlecliff while having somewhat different visions for its future?