May Day, May 1st, has been celebrated around the world many different ways. Ancient Romans had their Flora, celebrating the goddess of flowers; pre-Christian Germanic countries had their Walpurgis Night; Scotland had the Beltane Fire Festival, and Ireland had their similar Feast of Bealtaine. (Both countries burned huge bonfires in the evening of May 1st.) All these festivals celebrated the ending of winter and fertility and rebirth of spring. Several of these ancient versions of May Day also involved the traditional fertility rite of the May Pole dance. Similar, tamer versions are still around even in the United States.
Since the labor and Communist movements of the 20th century, May Day has become more and more a celebration known as International Workers Day or Labour Day. In Russia, during the Cold War, May Day celebrations included a huge parade in Red Square showing off their military might. Even the nature-based Bealtaine celebration in Ireland became a day of protest, often violent. And… that brings me to our Santa Cruz May Day riot.
Our little beach/college town had its own small gathering for workers’ rights and fair labor practices. However, a young militant group used the gathering as a rallying point for their “fight against the money-hungry, greedy businessmen”… etc., and began marching down our main street. A few began painting graffiti slogans on walls, then threw and broke bottles of paint on walls and windows, then threw rocks through the windows. A few more joined in, and when it was over, 15-20 buildings were damaged. Most businesses hit were local-family-owned stores, a couple that can barely afford to stay open. Some of the windows broken were in the new and vacant Rittenhouse Building where the Santa Cruz Woodworkers (of which I’m a member) had our exhibits in the windows. Several of our wood pieces were damaged. The picture is of the Rittenhouse building’s owner gazing at the rock that came through one of the windows and hit some of our art work.
Oh… enough of the downer news.
Meanwhile, back in the Studio…
For a few months now I’ve been working on a dulcimer commission. I’m happy to say that the carving is done and I’ve been assembling the pieces. I’m at a point now where I’ll be doing several days of sanding before I can put the last pieces on and finish it up. It has cherry sides and a book-matched cherry back and a salvaged redwood top. “Avery” is looking good.
Last week I got another commission. It’s a smaller one, but it will be as fun to carve as “Avery” was. This commission is for five spoons made from boxwood my client sent from Maryland. Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) , known also as common box or European box, is a shrub that has very dense white-to-yellow wood. It can grow like a tree up to around 25 feet high and have a trunk 8-10 inches in diameter. Old box hedges in England grew quite large over 100+ years, but are becoming scarce as they’ve been cut for development or for their wood. Box Hill, Surrey, in England is known for it’s stand of natural, wild box “trees”. Box was brought to the United States and can still be seen used as short hedges lining yards and walkways.
I’ve started roughing out the spoons and letting the wood dry a little (it’s still fairly green). The boxwood spoons are the upper left group in the photo. I’ve also roughed out quite a few regular spoons and spurtles. After last year’s shows, I nearly sold out all my spoon stock. Time to replenish.
Progress on the furniture pieces and portative organ has slowed down, at least until I finish my commissions. And in my front workshop, I’m still working on a zither restoration. It’s a small job, and I’m getting it done little by little. With everything I have to work on, I’m finding there’s just not enough hours in the day to do it all. My hands get sore and my eyes get hazy. (Age???)
Anyway… onward through the fog.