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The main trunk of the elm measures about 14’6″ long and 4′ in diameter 

I love reconnecting with old friends, especially when it involves consulting on the fate of a large tree. I first learned of my friend John’s elm when I posted his images and text as part of my Archive of Old Trees about four years ago. We’ve kept in touch via facebook and email since then, and have been looking for an opportunity to get together. I was sad to learn of the tree’s recent demise – John posted images of large branches shearing off exposing rot – so I suggested he consider bringing the logs to a mill to make good use of the wood.

John acted immediately and before I knew it I was boarding a flight to Chicago to meet with the mill guys and strategize with John about what to do with the wood. I urged John to keep the main trunk as long as possible, considering the age of the tree (about 200 years) and potential for clear, tight-grained and figured wood. We spent an afternoon at Horigan Urban Forest Products surveying the logs, consisting of the main trunk at 14′ 6″ x 4′ diameter, and several large branches, some with interesting contours and crotches. Given the limitations of the mill’s portable woodmizer and the properties of American elm, the logs obviated a cutting program that will yield about 2000 board feet of mixed width 4/4, 5/4, 6/4 and 8/4 lumber.

John and I spent the remaining weekend catching up, playing music, visiting old friends and devising a project. We decided to invite a network of designers, artists and woodworkers to make things with the elm, culminating in an exhibition and/or website. The things made will then branch out into the world like branches of a tree. We’re calling the project Arborigin and have secured the domain name as a placeholder. We have about three months to develope Arborigin into a feasible project while the wood cures, so stay tuned, and send a note if you’d like to be involved (

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Original Plat of Survey from 1897; note the elm at 2’d

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Clifford E Martin and the Stanley #57



Original patent drawing of the Core Box Plane, Stanley #57

For reasons beyond my grasp, my mother’s side of the family has always been somewhat shrouded in mystery. It was often a challenge to parse reality from myth in her stories, and in truth the two were often interchangeable. True, her mother tamed foundling birds and played ragtime piano, her father designed derrigibles and other early aircraft, but not much is certain beyond that. I knew her father grew up in Greenfield, Massachussettes and was among the first to graduate from Pratt’s engineering program. I still have his textbooks on mechanics and engineering graphics, dated 1911-1914, along with his Brooklyn street address.

Since my mom passed away just over two years ago I’ve found myself wanting to solve some of her family mysteries. I miss hearing her stories, and researching her background helps me cope with her absense and stay connected in some odd way. My detective work has led to reading Census Reports beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, and following leads as far as I am able via public records on the internet. The most startling discovery thus far is that my great grandfather on my mother’s father’s side, Clifford E Martin, has a few patents for wood-working tools.

On the Census Reports from Greenfield, Mass, Clifford E Martin was listed either as a Pattern Maker or Tool Maker, employed by the Greenfield Foundry, or Greenfield Tool and Dye. I know the company well because many of my favorite antique hand tools bear the Greenfield stamp. One of Clifford’s patents is for the Core Box Plane, a hand plane used to make precise concavities in wooden ‘patterns’ to be cast in iron, and was in production as the Stanley #57 into the mid-1940’s when it became obsolete to the industry.

The connection may seem mundane, but to me it is revelatory. I use many tools familiar to traditional pattern makers in my sculptures, making ‘patterns’ or ‘originals’ in wood that are then cast in bronze. Most sculptors work in clay, foam or wax before casting in bronze, but I’ve always preferred the precision and aesthetics of working in wood, not to mention the technology in the form of vintage hand tools, like the Stanley #57 Core Box Plane designed by my great grandfather, Clifford E Martin in 1909.


Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati


View from atop the Pendleton Art Center, overlooking Cincinnati’s OTR neighborhood

Ene and I both love to discover new places and figure out what makes them tick. Fortunately, our collaborative projects as Wowhaus often require us to develop site specific works in unfamiliar territory, forcing us to accellerate the discovery-making in brief but densely-packed journeys. We’ve each developed complementary tools in the process; Ene tends to focus on the social fabric and relationships that give shape to place, and I tend to concentrate on the built environment, history and environmental factors. Of course there is a lot of overlap, but the default division of labor makes for an efficient use of limited time.

Wowhaus was recently awarded the commission to realize a public sculpture in the historic Pendleton/Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati. We spent an action-packed weekend doing reconnaissance that we are just beginning to unpack. Over the next month or so, we will circle around our combined research and collaborate on a design for a permanent public sculpture. We owe a debt of gratitude to many who have acted as our guides, hosts and workshop participants, especially Artworks Cincinnati. I plan to post a more detailed narrative as the project takes shape.

Dedication of the Colorado Judicial Center

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North Elevation of the new Ralph L Carr Colorado Justicial Center

I spent two days this past week participating in an elaborate dedication ceremony for the new Ralph L Carr Colorado Justicial Center in Denver. Wowhaus was awarded one of the highly competetive public art commissions for the new building, a modernist riff on classical temple architecture featuring a soaring, circular atrium capped with a transparent glass dome. The building was designed by Fentriss Architects, who are probably best know for their now iconic, tensile-tented Denver International Airport.

It wasn’t as easy as you’d think spotting the eight participating artists in an atrium chock full of attorneys, judges, state representatives, clerks, former governors (4) and all of their entourages. Colorado is very proud of its reputation as a renegade state and the majority of its legislative practitioners trend towards Maverick in both style and substance. For every ‘rep’ tie, blue blazer and pair of horn-rimmed glasses there was a goatee, wild mane and bolero. From the many conversations I had over the two days, I found the circuit judges from small rural towns to be the most colorful and candid. One gentleman regaled me with detailed questions about my art practice, then made the bold assertion that what artists and judges have in common is that we are both ‘truth seekers’ by nature.

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A boisterous crowd gathers in the atrium of the new Judicial Center.

I was inspired by the unexpectedly high-minded tenor of the occasion, having given little thought to the life of the building beyond the initial inception for our sculpture that is now knitted into the building’s functional and visual identity. I was equally surprised and delighted by how interested the principle speakers were in the design of the building and integrated artworks, how much they know about every nuance.

Granted, everyone was on their game; the keynote speaker was Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, predeeded by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Colorado Supreme Court Justice Michael Bender, but something about the combined speeches and subsequant conversations rose above mere good form and comportment. Something about the level of enthusiasm for the new building and the artworks it contained, a shared passion for the value of place, beauty and order, convinced me that they really, really meant what they were saying. They truly believed that the Rule of Law is the very pillar of civilization, a sacred if imperfect, hand crafted experiment subject to the vagaries of time, technology and temperment, and that the majesty of the Law, its transparency and logic, could be made manifest in the design and implementation of a building and its contents.


A view of Tsuru, our cast bronze sculpture integrated into the building’s interior courtyard.

Mostly, the occasion gave me insight into the design-consciousness of the legal mindset, and made me proud to have contributed in some concrete way to the contextual backdrop in the ongoing pursuit of the Rule of Law, however obliquely. The occasion restored my faith in the persistance of narrative, especially in an age of the perpetual Now. I hadn’t realized the extent to which symbols, even physical places and guided experiences in the form of art and architecture can actually carry complex and meaningful narratives, let alone the role these narratives can play in everyday life. Perhaps as we lurch into the perpetual present tense required of us as we negotiate digitally-mediated technologies, media and commerce, we will begin to rely more on the substance and integrity of physical place to frame the narrative and remind us of our better selves in the process.



To read more about the development of our Tsuru Project for the Ralph L Carr Colorado Judicial Center, click here and scroll down.


Free Sign #3

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Free Sign #3, found in Petaluma, CA

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To read more about my Free Sign Project, click here and scroll down.


deepcraft home

I recently launched my new website. Though still in prototype form, has five live pages that I’m hoping will generate traffic as I continue build to out its content and ecommerce potential over the coming months. For now, the site features my Deep Deck longboard, available for commission as a made-to-order item. The longboard is a kind of ‘hero’ product around which I will develop a distinct Deep Craft line, including furnishings, clothing and other essential wares that live up to the Deep Craft Ethos. If you visit the site, which you can by clicking here, please hit the ‘contact’ button and drop me a line so I can add you to my mailing list. Thanks!

Notes from the Bonfire


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