Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Panama Pictures

I just had an amazing opportunity to go help my talented friends Grey (aka Filastine) and Nova on their sailboat and travel through the Panama Canal. Filastine and Nova bought an older steel fishing vessel turned sailboat, the Arka Kinari, which serves as an almost carbon free way to travel across our planet, as well as the stage for their multi media environmentally-charged show. If you don't already know their music check out their newest album Drapetomania here, and you can see more of their work here.

So I headed down South to meet the Arka just after its Atlantic crossing, and joined them in the Guna Yala region of Panama. There they performed a show for the indigenous peoples of the region, the Guna, who are facing mass relocation from their sinking islands. The climate crisis is very palpable here. Due to the rising sea levels most of their wells are flooded and they do not have enough drinking water. 

Grey and Nova played a show in stormy weather conditions, and the next morning we raised anchors and set sail for Cristobal, the Atlantic entrance for the Canal. 

The seas were very choppy and I held on for dear life. Our talented Captain, Ben Blankenship, was not in the least phased by the swells, maintaining composure and calm as he kept drawing on his tobacco pipe while on the wheel. It must be the name, the Blankenships have sailor blood. I, on the other hand, am not an experienced sailor, this was all new for me, and luckily I quite loved being on the ocean, swells or not. 

We arrived at night and set anchor by the entrance to the canal, in the company of another hundred or so ships all waiting for the protocols to start the voyage across the isthmus. Most of the ships were enormous container ships and oil tankers.

While anchored for a few days I got to work. Fixing all kinds of small things on the Arka that had broken, were about to break, or needed some attention. Turns out ships are always decaying; inevitable being that they are steel and wood vessels in corrosive salt water. It was very hot and humid and sometimes tricky to work in very small ship crevasses, but I loved the challenge, and I dare say I had fun too.

Finally we got the go-ahead to pass through the Canal, with our Panamanian pilot onboard. We left in the afternoon, and ended up mooring to a buoy in the  precarious manmade lake Gatún. The whole Canal is a bit unstable, relying heavily on pumping out excess water, mowing back the jungle, and keeping up the aging concrete. There's a great passage in Alan Weisman's book "The World Without Us" on just how quickly and violently the landmass would rejoin without the constant preventative maintenance done by humans.

They moored us to another sailboat and squeezed in a container ship behind us inside the locks. All together we went through six locks, three up and three down. It took us two days to get through the Panama Canal, with an amazing overnight in the crocodile filled lake Gatún. 

While in the lake, we had some down time to celebrate the passage as well as entertain haircuts before entering the Pacific side. Here I am grooming our fearless Captain Ben, while Nova attends to Grey.

Between being a hairdresser and resident welder on board, I enjoyed excellent sustainably sourced food thanks to Portuguese Chef Pedro, a truly talented cook and food activist. I learned sailor knots from my dear friend Claire and sweet French sailor Yann. I enjoyed laughs and tea time with Sarah and Claire, both representing England. Shop talk and music was exchanged with punk- electrician Aaron from Switzerland, with more musical accompaniment from Grey and Nova. Nova, I will miss our fancy coffees in the galley! It was truly an international crossing.

And here we are on the Pacific side of the world. The container ship above is not even that big...
Below, my parting shot, one early morning in Panama City, on my way back to Winter in Taos. I am excited to rejoin the crew of the Arka at some point and continue helping keep the boat afloat and looking good.

Until we sail together again! Á Bientôt Arka Kinari!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Shop Magic~

All that comes out of the shop is not enormous work. In truth most of what I do in the shop is smaller work, architectural ironwork, odd fabrication jobs, and smaller sculptures.
Sometimes I get to work on a project for a long time, though that is rare, it's really nice.
That way a piece can grow slowly, and it enables me to experiment with various processes that I would not get to do when I'm under a tight deadline. 
I love working in my shop, and the trick for me around all the tools in the space is to keep it organized. It's like any job I guess, where you need to know where everything is, almost without thinking, so you can perform the magic that it takes to create something.
The shop is the container, the tools are extensions of my hands, and the coordinated dance that happens is the "process" that I just get lost in. I love that state. 

After the Flybrary build, the shop was a complete disaster. To be expected, as I had completed a years worth of work in four months. I walked in and right out of the shop door several times over the span of five days until I had enough emotional and physical verve to deal with it. It did take close to a week to arrange, but the result was great, I can see my table again!

I had a roster of jobs piling up that needed attention so there I was back in the shop, building new things. Between forged hinges and fire screens there was a very special table in the mix. It started with a rough design I drew, which the client loved, so now I just needed to understand how to build it...

This table needed to be able to heat its top, a beautiful piece of stone from lands far away. It was a challenge and after much ado and experimentation, I decided to approach it with controllable radiant heating coils embedded into the table base. After setting the coils I poured the mortar.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Here it is with the mortar in the shop. It took several days to cure with a constant source of heat to help the mortar set. You can see the wire coming out of one of the legs. This will run under the clients floor and up into a controller to heat the slab.

And below, the finished and installed piece, with the marble slab on top. Magic!

Monday, September 16, 2019

it starts Here...

It all starts with this little spike decorated with fluorescent pink tendrils, marking your spot on the Playa. I'm not sure why this little marker makes me so happy, maybe just being placed somewhere, build it here, right here, an unveiling of months of work.

I admit the last few months have been rather intense. I worked every single day on the Flybrary starting early May. I have never before been as focused on a project, and I really understood how much of me it would require. In those four months, my family and everything else took the back burner. Now, as the dust is settling there is finally time to digest the here it goes...

Some of the many pictures of the experience, starting with one of my new favorite peeps, Brian, holding it together in the air. Thanks to his and Johnny's amazing wrenching hands, there was not one bolt missing. Three day build, VR forklifts, a tow-behind-pneumatic ground anchor driver, a boom lift, Christian's Hiab crane and a huge 75 ton crane for the bird truss. That's something!

I had good help, but even managing people is a lot of work. I am grateful for being prepared both physically (thanks to ketosis) and mentally to make it happen. And it did. 

My lipstick cladden forkie, Margaret. Bad ass inspiring.

I had a fantastic crew, and they all got along as well, an important factor in keeping it all going. Big shout out to you all! 

The camp at BM, known as the Flybrary Art Support Camp/ Taos Camp, was lovingly planned and put together by a few and was hands down one of the best camps to date. 

The food was amazing. The weather was incredible. To those of you who have not ventured out to Black Rock City, this may be no big deal, but to those of us who have- we know that crew, camp, weather and food will make or break you.

Anka flew in from Berlin to cook bacon and eggs..amongst other things..

Sabrina joined us for a few fun moments.

..a small repeat from 2018 of the three musketeers, repairs on Atlas..

And I got to fly! Really, after almost 20 years I finally got to see it from above in a tiny Cessna. A real treat, thanks Firefly!

The Flybrary was so much fun. We checked out books all week, spontaneously opening whenever we wanted, the Flybrarians jovially steering the mood within the head. About half of the checked out books came back, which is great. The response was impressive and I think most all had a memorable moment in or around the sculpture. 

Harlan joined us for the family portrait.

We all are looking fuzzy sharp after my presentation at the ARTery.

I had invited two Danish members of the Human Library to stay with us in camp. I had never met them before, and it was to be their first time at Burning Man. Sif and Kay turned out to be fun loving adaptable people who will remain friends far past the playa. 

The Human Library was a complete hit at the Flybrary.  We checked out human books almost every day, and as the word spread more and more people came to check out the books. It was tremendously moving to see the interchanges between "book" and "reader" and to get some feedback afterwards. Lots of discovery happening there. Burning Man seems to be a fitting environment for this model and I can see the Human Library returning for years to come.

some reading going on...

sassy Flybrarians

The core crew and I were out there for three weeks. That is longer than I've ever stayed before, and the actual Burning Man festival started to fade quickly that last week on the Playa. During the event I was still working, getting fuel for the generator, dealing with lighting, running various Flybrary errands. I actually did not see much this year as I was chin deep in the project. It was really an experience in festival world, how this immense production comes about and how it disappears in a matter of days. We left Friday, almost a week after the event ended, with only a one or two forklifts and forkies left to help us out on a mostly empty playa in the middle of nowhere, Nevada.

We had trucked the sculpture to BM on one commercial truck and the rest of the components on Christian's awesome crane truck, Atlas, as well as full size trailer. It always looks like a circus is coming to town when we transport our work, and so picking a safe route across the States is important. We chose to go through Arizona, as Flagstaff is such a welcome hub for us...but just outside of that liberal bubble of a town we got pulled over, and "put out of service". The stress this caused was unnerving, as we had to reconfigure our load with the addition of yet another truck, backtracking to save the day. We re-arranged the load again once we crossed the border into Nevada, for they seem to have seen it all in Nevada. Except I did get a ticket for driving too slow! That would be towing a travel trailer with a 20 year old Toyota, not an easy task.

I decided that the stress was not worth it so I order a second semi truck for the return trip. The trucks were supposed to be arriving the same time, but trucking is an organic thing, so we loaded the last truck a day after the first, a week after the end of the event, after a rain storm.
I've seen more of Gerlach in this trip than over the last 20 years. Enough said.

We drove home lighter and faster, Atlas carrying the travel trailer and the Toyota zipping right along. We skipped Arizona and came through Utah this time. That's pretty creepy too though.

Clearly we were all relieved to make it home, and the Flybrary came back on two trucks, weathered but well. 

Ulanova taking a moment.

Where to next? I do not know yet, but I hope its second life will be somewhere semi permanent or permanent. There is interest and more is brewing. That feels great, as it has been such a labour of love, and I believe the message in all of its forms is timely and relevant. 

endless de-MOOPing....

More soon. xo