Go On, Shepherd is a new wood engraving available for sale in my online store Baumwerkshop. As a shepherd, often I find myself in this position, kneeling on the ground tending an animal. It is a humble position, yet, to be nearer to the earth by half or more is significant. Don’t forget that you are dust. Great comfort that is. When I learn of the soil I am learning about God, creator and king of the Universe. It is good to be humble, kneeling on His earth.
What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:12-14 NKJV
“I am a steward because I am not here for very long”, I heard a farmer say once. The land remains and was here before. The sheep flocks – the good ones, are like an organism or a nation, and they persist, reflecting the decisions of the shepherds over them. My flock carries the intention of many shepherds before me and it will reflect mine after I am gone. The sheep too will remain. Any ownership I have is really only stewardship for One who is greater, and it is good to take care of life for Him and with Him. This too is comforting.
These are some of the thoughts I have, kneeling on the earth with lambs.
The cup has been waiting for a plate for years. This summer the opportunity came to carve one, and to send them both together to their new home with my friend Robbie Pruitt.
The “Stone Hefter”, a small wood engraving and lesser spiritual lever
Does It Matter
The question “does this matter” is part of the consistent and insistent background chatter every day of my life. The question never goes away and has a thread of doubt woven through it, but it is balanced with the choices that I’ve made as an individual, and also as part of a family and part of a community that says “yes, it does matter”. It is a faith wager to keep doing it every day. It is not unlike lifting this stone.
When I make art I am praying. I am listening and I am seeking. Please do not misunderstand, it is not a righteous act but a desperate one. When I labor to make a print like this I am asking – begging God that it will be a lever for His Kingdom and His goodness- that it might become part of His own expression. The images and the labor are connected to a mystery as a spiritual practice. Everything is more than it seems, in the same way that a single word in a poem can become a passageway into a new story or a different world that, as it turns out, is vitally interconnected to this one.
Then I have to navigate what to do with it once I’ve made it. The path (in spite of my countless attempts to take it other places) always leads to a wide river called “marketing”. I am on one bank and the rest of the world is on the other. I’m all but convinced that I will drown if I go in. It is a strange baptism.
This is my way of asking you to consider buying this print, if it speaks to you. If you think it matters. Here is the lifeline- sorry, I mean listing.
The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest is a relief print edition carved and printed by hand from a block of linoleum. It is available for pre-order in the Baumwerk Shop. It will be an edition of 100 prints. Numbers 1-75 will be black ink on white paper, while numbers 76-100 will be sepia ink on cream paper. There will be a separate listing for each color option. The black and white prints will be ready for shipping sooner on March 23rd, while the sepia and cream prints will be available a few weeks later.
The Spiritual Mechanics… began as a way of building a repository or archive for many of the symbols that help me to understand my place and function in the world and the Kingdom of Heaven. It is, after a fashion, an info-graphic which serves a developing theology around the ancient kinship of labor to worship.
At the heart is a worldview which sees an holistic unity between what is spiritual and what is natural. These are crude words and a crude image which is looking towards something that is deep and nuanced in its beauty and inherent goodness within the mind of God. My hope is that in here is an echo of God saying of the earth and creation, “It is good”. Also the echo of the Words of the Creator resident in every atom and particle. May it be an echo of John the Baptist saying “change your hearts and minds, because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” May it be an echo of Jesus saying “it is finished” on the cross. Heaven is coming to earth and our labor here is not in vain.
The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest is also a prayer and an offering. It is the noise my heart makes towards God, offering the smallest and most mundane moments of my days as He simultaneously offers them to me. It both seeks to say and asks if it’s really true that labor spent shoveling dirt in a garden , roofing a house, or cutting a stone before God can be as significant a spiritual lever as the most noble words of the priest in the cathedral, or the pastor behind a pulpit, or the hands of a healer in a tent.
I have more openly exposed my heart in this image than in my previous work, where it is shielded by narrative. In following posts I will seek to lay out the symbolism and stories behind the details depicted here, but it should be understood that I have sought to use images like these because for me the words are fundamentally insufficient to describe what it is that I see and seek.
I also hope that you will consider purchasing this print. Many of you know my ambivalence towards the marketing. However, I believe I am called to engage the “marketplace” with my work in a way that settles with my conscience and ethics. Here is a link to pre-order The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest.
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.
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.
New Internal Guitar Label for Mule Resophonic Guitars
I’m grateful for the freedom that Matt, of Mule Resophonic Guitars gives me when I am working for him. I enjoyed making this.
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.
(And the Kingdom of God?)
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.