Saturday, June 11, 2005

Hand work

I'm a fair-weather friend of technology. I love my Apple Powerbook, my flash memory stick, my bicycle, my new Keen sandals. But by and large I resist the intrusion of too much technology into my life. Our cottage here in Ireland is a welcome refuge from mass production. Virtually everything in the house -- furniture, crockery, rugs, soft goods, and especially art -- was made by our own hands or by artists and craftspeople who live nearby. We have lately been replacing our Louis Mulcahy dinnerware with pieces by friend and potter Hedi O'Neill. We love the gay colors of her work and the fact that every piece is whimsically different. What joy to have such neighbors.

My friend John, the sculptor, has taken up a new medium. He used to work with the great chunks of wood tossed out by the shipyard in Dingle. The yard is now gone (the era of the wooden trawler has passed), and John has made the move to laminated plywood. He sketches out his 3-D pieces on the computer, saws the requisite shapes, and glues them together into rough blocks. Then he sets to work giving the piece its final shape, the long and laborious work of the hand. The natural wood grains of his previous sculptures are replaced by the artificial grain of lamination -- and thus does art make of mass production a thing of beauty.