'Treats' Acrylic on wood assemblage ©robinrkent

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Folk Art Diary: A Trip To The Candy er, Hardware Store

'Milkman' folk sculpture
©robin r kent
I remember being dragged along as a six year old or so, doing Saturday errands with my father. One of the most dreaded stops for me was the hardware store. 'Too much stuff with too little color (dull grey), and what was the point of it all?,' I thought. How boring.
When I grew up I found myself still as the companion in hardware store stops. My energy immediately drained when we hit the threshold. It was a man's world in my mind. Let's get outta here. How boring.
But as I grew into creating contemporary folk art, I found I was missing the tools and thing-ys needed to make the wood sculpture and assemblages do what I wanted.  I gradually understood those thing-ys had names and functions.
Come to think of it, the workbench in my family's basement belonged to my grandmother. She was the daughter of a Swedish boatbuilder turned carpenter. Must have some of that dna. My favorite childhood toy was the wooden cobbler's shoe: you'd bang the (colorfully painted) dowels down into the sole and then flip it over and hammer again.
Self Portrait with Tools
©robin r kent
It all began to fit together. Um, maybe not so boring.......
I started to notice what a difference 1/4 inch of a screw length can make when it bores into your palm. Or how a dull bandsaw blade can set off the fire alarm without any notice.* And the classic purple thumbnail caused by a misguided hammer, or my favorite moniker for it's cousin: 'the persuader'.  No wonder they call some folk art 'naif' or 'naive art' and 'art brut.' Not boring at all.
My bookkeeper thinks it funny that under 'Artist Supplies' I have the following listed:
band saw blades, exterior screws, fastener bits, panel nails, washers, baling wire. Well, bailing wire in Vermont, anyway. All these little silver thing-ys have a function.  When I see them now in their boxes hanging on the store display, I can picture them already doing their job.
Glad to be part of a profession where some of it's skill comes from evolution and intuition. How 'bout you?

*It lends an atmospheric mood to the shop with low hanging clouds of smoke - a similar ambience can be found in my kitchen while I sear a steak in a cast iron pan.)


momamama said...

Love the milkman!

Robin Kent said...

Thanks, he's my kind of man.

Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors said...

I like your self portrait. It shows such delight and whimsy. My father actually worked in a hardware store when I was a little kid, and i can remember him working with hand tools. Fast forward into this century, and I find I can't stand most wood working tools because they are noisy, but I like hand tools!
I can remember my father planing a door and the wonderful curls of wood falling on the ground beneath him, for me to play with.. Thanks for the memories.
I like the mailman too!

mimi said...



Robin Kent said...

Yes, they sure can be noisy. I've gotten to the point where I finally take care of my ears and lungs by 'suiting up' for take off when getting down to work. Once I came into the house and terrorized the cats because I had the dust mask still on my forhead. I've never seen - before or since - them run so fast ducking under the couch. The moment is burned in my memory: the calico one looking at my eyes and then to the top of my head when it registered. It was turn and bolt after that.

Carole said...

Robin you had me laughing by the time I finished the title of your post! Love you self portrait! The milkman reminds me of my husband's Uncle Ben. He was a dairy farmer in Lumby, BC. Find that on the map! :)

Robin Kent said...

That's the second time I used my self portrait painting. The first being on my initial post back in March (St. Patty's Day-can't forget that) but who reads back that far? The panting fit the subject of this post so I snuck it in - again.

Robin Kent said...

...er painting that typo was (above). Gotta stop hitting that 'post' button so fast.
Found Lumby, BC. Looks beautiful. No wonder there why a Vermont dairy farmer would remind you of a Lumby dairy farmer. That life style is worn with pride on their faces/bodies. True salt of the earth. Love it and them.

oldblackcatboo said...

I have the "basic" tools and my circular saw for cutting boards and my reciprocating saw for yard work and such. But then I saw Sandy's cut-outs and she was talking about her scroll saw....unfortunately I didn't have the funds to buy one. :(
Then the other day when my stepmom was cleaning out my step-grandfather's house and all his tools and giving everything to Goodwill, I asked "Hey does he have a scroll saw?"...apparently he does. So it looks like cut-outs will be in my future! (once I learn how to use it! LOL!)
:) - Cindi

Robin Kent said...

Talk about kismet! And with an ancestor helping you along..Guess your stars are all directing you towards making wood art!