Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Good Fences

I have had an email exchange with Jameel Abraham that brought to mind an old story. Jameel is a maker of exquisite Ouds. If you have not seen them, you simply must. Visit Khalaf Oud Luthiery Blog

In our exchange, I was reminded of my time in New York City, when I shared a tiny storefront space with a guitar maker. It was as I jealously watched my shopmate, Justin Gunn, craft his arch top guitars with his hand tools in a 10'X10' workspace that I realized that I had to find my own answer to my desire to make an enduring object of beauty and value in wood with the tools that I loved using. It was in this small space that I made my first chair.

It was also in this space that I met Eddie Boros. Eddie was a fixture in the East Village, living in the apartment where he was born (until his death in 2007) and making art the only way he knew how, out of the refuse of the city streets. Eddie created the tower of toys that you may have seen on the beginning sequence of NYPD Blue. He was a real character, like one of the Bowery Boys, only in sandals and a string of pearls.

I got to be friends with Eddie as he would visit our shop, he even made me the sculpture that you see in the image. Eddie was the real deal. He made things with a natural ease that most artists would kill for, imaginative and complex yet simple. When he asked me what I'd like, I said that I thought my wife would like a horse. A couple of weeks later he brought this work to me. He said that he couldn't figure out how to finish it, so he made a worker perpetually toiling on it. He made this with a few dull tools and a bottle of glue. It's a prized possession. If I could make sculpture like this, I would.

But back to my story, one day Eddie came into the shop to find my shopmate Justin playing around on my small lathe. He berated Justin for toying around with this "dangerous" tool. He turned to me and said, "It's ok for you, you're like a carpenter, a fence builder, he's an artist!"

Perhaps it seems strange, because their work is so different, but when I look at Jameel's Ouds or Eddies horse, I have a similar feeling, perhaps it's the humbling presence of art, or maybe just the burning need to build a fence.


James said...

Thanks for the blog, it's a real inspiration! I'm a carpenter and when I'm framing or triming or for that matter, building cabinets, everything seems to flow. But in the shop everything feels so tight. My perch seats look clunky and forced. Your chairs are art in every sense of the word. Your art is subtle, architectural and utilitarian. It inspires me to continue and return to the shop to find a sense of comfort and ease.
Thanks so much,

Peter Galbert said...

thanks for the comment and encouragement. I've said in the past and believe that I shouldn't be labeled a carpenter because I am unable to build like one. My attempts at building structures should definitely be left to farm outbuildings, the chickens and goats don't mind my shoddy work!