Relief Carving The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest

working subtitle…

The Mundane Sheds the Cloak of the Secular

Concerning the invitation to occupy the sacred rhythm of labor and rest and to engage the “resistant materials” not for provision first, but for relationship, for worship, for knowing God. I’ll share more on this when the print is done. The block is about 75% carved. I hope to be able to start making some proofs of the image in two or three weeks.

the original drawing

The Valley of Shadow

This song, from the days when I had time to make such recordings, I have not shared before. I always have felt that my recordings are more a like “sketches” or fragments of ideas (what would it be like if…) than any finished songs. I admit that I’m self-conscious of this material, from the engineering, to my voice, and the songwriting itself. But it has sat gathering dust. As an artifact of the story it should be laid out in the light. AMDG

If you listen, thank you for listening. If you read, thank you for reading. If you see, thank you for seeing. Go On, V

Yeah, though I walk through a Valley of Shadow
Under the curse of the Angel of Death
I have a shepherd I ever follow
Down to the breaking of the pure waters edge

He leadeth me; unknown and known
I fear no evil, stick nor stone
My bell, my window, He surrounds me
Staff and trumpet, rod and stone

Daisies and yarrow grow in the meadow
Hyssop in the margins and cactus I fear
Stones stand like monarchs guarding my ankle
Trees whisper ceaselessly, the Ancient is near

Fare thee well hear my spirit
Fare thee well near my heart
Dust to dust the grass is brittle
Boney legs of shattered stalks

The horns of the oxen surrounding the temple
Elders and children stand patiently near
Their eyes are clear, pure little windows
Deep endless wells shining with tears

Gazing on a white and a flame
Growing tall a name and a name
The Universe sings a singing
Calamity unmade and made

The last will be first sorrow will wither
The fattened ones will starve looking for bread
Quiet songs once lost, now will they listen
Bow, swings the scythe, I am low, I am low

The cross is raised over the valley
The mountain, he shudders away to the sea
The bison returning, blasting to splinters
Five for the cross triumphantly

Fare thee well, Valley of Shadow
I see a fell of silver and gold
Five for the cross, echoes through the skyway
Feet ever lightly touch little ground

Crane Cabinets in Ebonized Walnut

Below is a gallery of images of a pair of cabinets built for the bathroom of a couple in Wichita. They are constructed from native (specifically South Eastern Kansas) black walnut, solid and veneered, and white oak. The exterior surfaces were “ebonized” using a process which employs the chemical reaction of an iron solution with tannins in the wood, rendering it black. The design of cranes and bamboo were carved into the surface revealing again the natural color of the walnut in the incised lines. I hired Taylor Johnson to build the casework itself. Using traditional methods, the interior framework is a solid skeleton held together with dovetail and mortise and tenon joints. Taylor fabricated plywood with extra thick shop-made walnut veneer to be able to handle carving without passing through to the inner layers. His focus and skill allowed me to give attention to the design challenges and the artwork and carving and exterior finishing the cabinets. My gratitude goes out to Taylor for his tenacity and dedication to excellence, and also to Steve Hebert, who generously gave his time and energy to brilliantly photograph the cabinets in situ.

The Late Spring Farm

The month of May was wet for nearly the whole of Kansas, and we happened to be one of the wettest spots in the state with over 30 inches for the month. Spring rains make grass grow and the lambs are good and growing. Photography and blogging has taken a back seat in a year of heavy labor on every front, but I managed to take my camera with me a few times while I did my rounds on the farm.

Prints of Jacob Wrestling With God

Archival Prints of Jacob Wrestling With God Are Available for Sale!

We have produced two limited editions, one large and one small, reproducing the oil painting I made of Jacob Wrestling with God.  These reproductions were painstakingly digitally edited and then individually printed by my good friend Mike Schultz in his Portland, Oregon studio.  The image is printed on a satisfyingly thick Epson hot press bright white paper using Epson inks.  The colors are vivid, rich and archival.  Each print is personally signed and numbered.

As stated above, we’ve made two sizes of prints, and they are available for sale in our online store, Baumwerkshop.  There is a listing is for the larger of the two, which is 17″ x 20″, and a listing for the smaller, which is 8 1/2″ by 10″.

The original painting of Jacob was made in 2012.  I have continued to be amazed and humbled by the impact the painting has had on people.  I often receive heartfelt messages from individuals expressing to me how the painting has helped them through a difficult season, or has helped to illustrate challenging and meaningful theology.  The image has even found its way onto album covers, book covers, and countless church bulletins.

As a result, many have expressed a desire to have a reproduction of the painting available for sale.  This is the first time I have attempted to produce and sell reproductions of any of my paintings.  I hope that the final product is a blessing to you.

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest

(And the Kingdom of God?)

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest, 12″x18″, ink on paper

When drawing becomes a prayer, the image becomes a repository for the questions and thoughts offered to God, which then settle on the page. At first like a fine dust. Then into ridges and furrows. Then into fields and gardens.

I thought I had some language to accompany these developing drawings, but they are dissolving into new perspectives without words.

Spirit and Truth, Labor and Rest, 18″ x 12″, graphite on paper
center detail
detail of Mary Magdalene
Detail of the Martyr, Antipas

Trestle Table in Black Walnut

I delivered this table to my client’s office last week. It is good to finish a piece and be able to celebrate it. In spite of this I tend to experience a wide range of emotions and second guessing when I finish a job. One thing that never changes though is the gratitude I feel at the opportunity to be a woodworker, one who engages the authentic witness of the trees. They always have a real story to tell about our God and His majesty and faithfulness.

Trestle Table in Black Walnut

Discovering Design

The discovery of the life within the wood and the relationships they form is exciting to uncover. The early decisions are heavy. Every other act in the process is a response to these chalk marks as they try to hear and echo this walnut tree’s voice.

Underpinning Art with Discipline

The romance of the craft is backed up by countless hours of “mundane” work- the discipline that builds skill, and makes up the real life of labor. Days are spent creeping up on this scribed relationship and the foundational joinery. It’s a blessing to work, and to rest in the presence, at the same while striving towards the goal. Don’t mistake me, I’ve only had enough meager success at it to know it’s possible. 

Technology – Joinery

One side of the natural edge was curving away on bottom edge so I had to cut a shallow rebate in order to have a solid joint as well as cleanly scribed edge. This edge was reinforced with dominoes. The opposing edge curved towards the bottom edge and could be cut square. For it I made a floating contoured spline from Baltic birch. Assembled dry all is tight and solid.

Visualize and Establish Form

Finding a way to visualize the elements in a design is an engaging challenge. Krenov spoke of “composing”, and I’ve adopted his method and language -clamping up and mocking up relationships as the process moves forward. I don’t recall if he used tape, but I recently switched from using blue tape to white tape to mask off shapes- the difference is remarkable. 

Labor – Engaging Harvest

The last bit of joinery for the individual trestles is the horizontal rail completing the “H” form, which will eventually carry the longer rail that will join the two trestles together.

I’m grateful for this job, this material, this process. I heard a song that had a line which proclaimed “I am the record of His grace”.

Almanac of the Wheel of Life: The Farm at Mid-Winter

What does it mean to be a steward of life? It is an unspoken question threaded through my days. Each winter we carry more lives through to the hope of spring. It is the nature of a farm and a family grow, a response to a holy invitation. In our stewardship, we learn to leverage the outward death of winter to build the inner life. Roots and bones. Back to the earth in the compost of the old year, manure and trampled hay, sawdust and wood shavings, in cover crops and dormant roots, even the bones of the dead under the heap or in the earth. Those failures of the past year kindle study and deeper investigations into the principles of agriculture and life. The wheel of life rolls away as a witness to the nature of God, always redeeming death and turning it into the living.

The oblique light comes with a more subtle potency not felt in the haste of summer, illuminating details made bare by the dearth and otherwise overlooked. It is not all romance of slanting light. There is the mud and the death and sickness. There are the broken systems and the unfinished jobs, and the detritus of unclean life scattered everywhere. The butcher sighed and smiled and cried “Ahh, life!” and thanked God as he cut the throat of the lamb. It seems that to live is to accept and know death, and to die is to understand and accept life. It is a mystery that I don’t claim to understand.

“For I know that this shall turn out to my salvation through your prayer and the support of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and my hope that in nothing shall I be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always so now also, Christ shall be Magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:19-21