Monday, January 25, 2010

Welcome to My Workshop-2010

Well, we’re already three weeks into the New Year and a lot is happening at Ron Cook Studios. Some of it is a continuation of the crazy-busy end of 2009, and some of it is new or in the planning stages. Crafts shows and arts festivals are over until Spring, but exhibits are still going on in window displays and art galleries. In my workshop, older projects are getting close to wrapping up, and newer projects are beginning to obsess me.


I’m one of the founding members of the Santa Cruz Woodworkers, a group started a little over a year ago with the plan to pool our resources and get our work on display at a museum or other venue, and we succeeded in getting ourselves accepted and scheduled for a four-month exhibition at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and  History, July, 2011. In the meantime, in December, 2009, we were fortunate to have been able to set up window Blog shotdisplays of our work in a large brand-new downtown building that is still vacant. Our work is still on display and will probably be there into February. If you’re in downtown Santa Cruz, stop by to see my work. The “Rittenhouse” building is just down the street from Cinema 9.

The Santa Cruz Art League is holding the first of their two-part Harp-head1members’ show. For January and February, it’s for members whose names begin with A-L. February and March, it’s for the rest  of the alphabet. I’m exhibiting there now with my little Medieval Harp “Mercury, The Winged Messenger”. The reception was last Saturday, and it was a splendid, well-attended affair—a place to see and be seen. Everyone wanted to hear my harp, so I spent a lot of time by the display pedestal plucking the strings.

Meanwhile, Back in the Workshop…

Back in my studio, I’m finally getting one of my older projects close to completion. The Mountain dulcimer, “The White Lady”, has been in process for several months.  The edge binding has White Lady dulcimer-binding-72 held me up for some time, but I’ve now got the back binding on and I’m ready to put on the top binding. What’s taken so long is that all the binding is very small 1 inch long pieces of ebony that I salvaged and cut out of keys from an old broken, thrown-away piano. Each little piece has to be sanded into a slightly curved shape and glued into place. The back binding took me over six hours to complete.

Several months ago I decided to re-evaluate my artistic direction and change the ways I express myself. I’ve been a craftsman and  luthier since I built my first stringed instrument in 1972, and after a few hundred instruments, I feel a little—how should I say—burned out. My new artistic direction still includes building some of the instruments I love, but I’ll be very selective about what I make and not in the number and diverse nature of those I’ve Medieval oak stool-72made in the past. The main change is in studying and crafting medieval-style furniture and Chessmen in process-72sculptures that are heavily carved with the old-style characters/caricatures I’m known for. Here’s a couple of “sneak peeks”. Stay tuned. 

Other than that, I do have the ongoing harp and portative pipe organ projects going, albeit slowly, but the late breaking news is that I got a commission the other day to make a custom cherry and redwood mountain dulcimer. Again, stay tuned for updates.

For now, that’s about it. No craft shows or art festivals until mid-March when I’ll take my annual pilgrimage to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the Scottsdale Arts Festival. Until next time, onward through the fog.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

It’s been a while since my last blog entry, and my only excuse is that the Holidays snuck up on me. We took off to exhibit in San Francisco, then it was off to Santa Fe and Grand Canyon for a well-deserved 10-day Christmas vacation. Now I’m back, with new ideas, new projects, and resolutions. Happy New Year!

It’s Showtime!

A long time ago (it seems), back around December 11-KPFA-my booth13, 2009, we went up to San Francisco and exhibited at the KPFA Craft &  Music Fair. This was my first time there, and it was a lot of work  for a two-day show. We did make a few sales, but, unfortunately, that weekend was a very wet one, with a huge Pacific storm dumping a lot of water and keeping many people away. KPFA-Overview of hall w-me in center

Fortunately, several of our old craft show buddies were also there, so we didn’t feel alone in a strange, new environment. (Exhibiting at a new venue is always stressful. Having friends around to give a little moral support helps relieve some of that stress.) KPFA-African harp player in my booth

Several of our booth neighbors were very friendly, and we made some new friends, including a  fellow  from Burkina Faso who was helping out at a friend’s booth , who stopped by to show and play the African-style harp that he made. He played very well, and his instrument sounded wonderful. It made for a magical few moments out of three days of hard work.

More Showtimes!

For exhibiting in Galleries, December was a hoot! I send a piece, my Courting Dulcimer, to the international CraftForms 2009 show at the Wayne Art Gallery in Wayne, Pennsylvania, and two pieces, both birdhouse carvings, were accepted and delivered to the Santa Cruz Art League for the National Sculpture and Drawing Show. I’d been trying to get into the Wayne show for years. This year, my Courting Dulcimer was a hit, and they used it in some of their promotional literature. Fantastic!

Also, during December the woodworkers group I belong to, the Santa Cruz Woodworkers, got space in a new vacant building in downtown Santa Cruz to exhibit our work in window displays for 72-Pianoforte windowthe Holiday season. The Rittenhouse Building is on Pacific  Avenue, the main drag, on a prime corner right next to the big Cinema 9 building, a couple of busy restaurants, and the two-story parking lot where most park for downtown enjoyments. I just found out after I got back from vacation that we are going to be there through January. It’s a great promotional opportunity for our group.

A Southwest Holiday

I barely got back to work in my studio when we had to pack up again and head for Santa Fe, New Mexico, for a beautiful Ron-Santa Fe-Canyon Rd-12-23-09-72 Southwest Christmas. We left on the Saturday after the KPFA show and drove for two days to get to Santa Fe. We shared a house with two friends who drove up from Phoenix. It was cold when we got there, and a couple of days later it snowed heavily. It was another magical time when we walked Canyon Road visiting galleries in the snow. Last year I had my first white Christmas while we were in Yosemite. This year, my second white Christmas (two in a row), was in New Mexico. Beautiful!

Just before we left, and on the spur of the moment, we decided to make a stop at the Grand Canyon. I checked online and found a room available at the Yavapai Lodge, which was 1/4 mile from  the south rim. More magical moments. The Canyon rim was covered with around a foot of snow, and the temperature was as low as it was in Santa Ron-Stella-GrandCanyon-12-28-09-72Fe (around 10 degrees or so). We had a wonderful dinner at the Bright Angel Lodge at a window table overlooking the canyon, then a fantastic breakfast at the old Fred Harvey built El Tovar, also at a window table overlooking the canyon. After breakfast, we hiked about a mile along the rim from El Tovar to Maricopa Point, where the wind-chill factor seemed like zero degrees. We stayed at the Grand Canyon until nearly 1 pm, when we knew it was time to leave and head home.

Back in the Studio

Well, we’re back now, and we rang in the New Year last night by drinking a glass of bubbly around 9:30 or so and going to bed before midnight. On New Year’s Eve day, I started gearing myself Workbench-1-1-10 up for a New Year of projects, old and new. The old ones, which I’ve been working on for quite a while, are starting to take shape and look more complete. New ones, which I’ve been thinking ab0ut and planning for a few months, are beginning to take shape. My Starnina Harp,which had been in and out of process for over two years, is finally nearing completion, if I can ever finish the headCarving first chess piece-1-1-10 carving. The Portative Organ is kind of on hold, while I finish the  White Lady dulcimer and the three-legged stools. And today, I started on the first chess piece carving. I almost finished it in one day. It just needs a little clean-up and sanding. (Only 31 more to go.)

Anyway, after that much needed vacation in the Southwest snow country, I’m rested and ready to carve. Onward through the fog!