On the Road with Johnny and Claude

The Freightliner, the Sprinter, The Red Head, as I prefer to call her, was finished and we were going to be loading the back for her first long distance haul in her newly renovated condition. John had spent the past year slowly and methodically bringing her from near salvage-yard oblivion to showroom stature.

From a flat bleached-Florida-white to a gleaming silver, with a rusty red headliner and matching rust-colored leather seats she is but a memory of her former abused self. Having a new engine (and many other replacements), fabricated bumpers, a winch, cameras, trailer hitch and aluminum paneling in her cargo area (to list but a few of her updates). The girl's got game.

We left Ann Arbor, MI, U.S.A., at almost 6 pm on a Saturday night. With John at the helm and Rosie and myself in the cab we were determined to drive all night and arrive in Tucumcari, NM 24 hours later.

Running a business and fostering the creative mind takes a massive amount of energy and concentration. Replenishing ourselves can easily take a backseat to simply "making things work". This was going to be a working odyssey (this ten day loop) but it was also plotted as a favorable time to cast a glance at what we have accomplished and to look ahead at where we are bound as METAL would, come 15 April 2013, celebrate two years since opening to the public.

The iron pour that we attend is responsible for John and I having met. The people we associate with there are of inspiration and affection. The rituals of the pour are, in no small part, the rituals of creative and collaborative people in search of their golden fleece.

Wind was the constant on this adventure. If we had only had a sail atop the Red Head; Even returning through Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa (we expect a blow when on the high plains desert) and beyond, there was a constant howl and vehicles were losing rooftop pods and belongings at a rate I had never witnessed.

We spent the last night of our journey in Lincoln, NE where I could tour his boyhood sites, see the work that he had done before our association, much in ceramics, and have impressed upon me the influences on him. He warmed up the SAAB that he and his father had refurbished and we took a tour of downtown, complete with a detour that I have been sworn to hold dear and not reveal.

An odyssey, a renewal, an energizing- just like the Red Head, Johnny and Claude were replenished and the creative juju in our collaboration restored and confirmed.


Of Union, Skillfulness, and Craft

A functional business partnership is not dissimilar to matrimony; minus of course, certain degrees of familiarity: you experience one another at your most functional and at your least, you strive to balance those strengths and vulnerabilities, you can find yourselves with differing perspectives on the piloting of people and other concerns, and you must communicate more than you ever imagined possible (all right, more than I ever imagined). You must exert acceptance and tolerance of ways not your own and navigate the differences with a deep appreciation of the very traits and abilities that are not your own, but that you could stand to sometimes adopt.

John Daniel Walters and I have a unique alliance and what I think of as a respectable business. Our joint and individual willingness to learn, to nurture, to nudge one another, and our operation inspires me independently of the work that we do. This business of being human is no insignificant matter. The business of business is no insignificant undertaking. Envisioning a livelihood and an enterprise, plus its organization, is a significant chunk of consciousness. Like anything in life that we come in contact with, all points stand to be altered by the tiniest brush with what resides nearest.

I find my creative drive taking new form now: "business woman", which means to me, being a producer and being a creative problem solver, as much as accentuating my own artistic inventiveness. A business is no different than anything else in life- there are ebbs and flows, there are successes and shortfalls, there are moments of brilliance and of doltishness. Some of John and my noblest moments have been the unplanned and the near misses, the saves and the hilarity of providence intercepting at a moment of miscalculation.

Add to our collaboration that of our recently hired personnel and you have a family- sometimes of greater functionality, sometimes lesser, but always evolving and trying new approaches to better both communication and practices, so that a successful business, and advantageous and pleasing working environment can be enjoyed by all. The word "team" might be too sportsman-like a term; perhaps my love of the west makes us more of a posse, but whatever we are, we have evolved and managed to design and fabricate a line of tables, benches, pedestals, and object surfaces that are now ready to be made visible.

Why am I bothering writing of teamwork and communication, of the prickliness and pleasures of human exchange? Because they are all what goes into the design and manufacture of what our newly produced line of furniture is. Labors of love are not without the other thing(s) like aversion, dislike, futility, and the fumbling of vision as it smacks up against practicality. It all, every last little nuanced bit, goes into the design and production of anything of quality and relative permanence. Though you can't be ambivalent when it comes to launching from design to production you do, in the end, navigate all contradictions in the process of creating anything of worth.


I am Surrounded by People and Things That I Love

I am surrounded by people and things that I love. That encircling includes items that were made or salvaged or rescued by those to whom I am, in some fashion, attached, or by myself, and I am in continuous reflection on the connections that my environment prompts. I am, in general, deeply affected by my habitat. Aesthetics are paramount to my sense of pleasure and to my overall wellbeing.

If I make a one week stand in the Buckaroo Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico, the room is reinvented according to my pleasing. If I am driving cross country, from Baraga to Bisbee say, my car is my mobile home and adorned, like my more stationary residence, with the objects of well wishing and safe travels that are presented to me: an iron pocket goddess, a glow in the dark Virgin Mary, a small tin of assorted good will objects, an Hopi crow, basalt from Lake Superior and even red dirt from Conchas, New Mexico.

The desire to create is not unrelated to the desire for beauty and, in my case, poetry and the physical reminders and remnants of a life lived, of lives lived, the lives being the living done by those whom I love or have loved or who have, in some fashion, crossed my path.

I emphasize the poetry because that is the drive beneath all others. The first thing that I remember being absolutely immersed in was writing and in particular writing poetry. A newly minted teen I knew that a small press and learning bookbinding was in my future. But somehow that love, a love of books, of old books, of typography, of objects with history and or making do with what is reclaimed or repurposed evolved into a delight in the old and metal and then in the making of metal objects and then in the business that is METAL.

People like to know what it is that I do with the sorts of things that are sold in the gallery or that John and I, and now Drew, might design and fabricate. So, with the help of friend and photographer Patrick Young (http://www-personal.umich.edu/~patyoung/) I am including some ways in which I have utilized the treasures that come to me or that I have rescued and resuscitated. Patrick was set loose to find the collections and assemblages that caught his eye - like most of how my my living flows - it all amounts to the acts and spirit of collaboration.