Over the past year, an ambitious young Amish woodworker (and tool collector) named Dan Raber has stripped a nondescript storefront in downtown Millersburg, Ohio down to its bare elements and transformed it into a store selling home goods and tools with the strange and wonderful idea that customers looking to equip a colonial-era homestead could find everything they need within its walls. Dan makes and repairs wooden furniture using traditional tools from a shop in the back of the store. In an era where so many Amish businesses are permitted to use (diesel-generated) electricity under the ordnung of most assemblies, the traditional way of making things (and thus, the tools) have been largely forsaken in favor of more efficient methods and tools. Dan is a real history buff, and he feels very strongly that by abandoning traditional tools and methods his fellow Amish are losing a real community asset, and his store offers classes as well as access to large stores of working antique tools for anyone (inside or outside the community) looking to keep up with this tradition of craft. It the most beautiful store I have ever seen.


The Colonial Homestead is located at 144 A West Jackson St. in Millersburg, Ohio. It does not have a website, nor will it. Dan does manage to call me whenever he finds antique leather working tools.

* * * * *

I was in Amish country to tour various leather working shops. With all the demands of a non-industrial, horse-dependent community, Holmes County Ohio holds great interest for anyone passionate about hand-worked leather. I visited more than ten independent leather working shops and talked with a lot of fascinating craftsmen. I started with a visit to the amazing Weaver Leather, just down the road from the farm where we stayed:


The smell of thousands of tanned hides was pretty great, but my favorite thing I saw at Weaver was when the lunch whistle blew and half a hundred Amish women emerged from the off-limits parts of the warehouse to head outside and play volleyball!
 
After that I visited a number of smaller leather shops, and saw a lot of really interesting old sewing machines (some of them hand-cranked, some pneumatic-powered) beyond the typical Singer 29ks and Tippman hand stitchers:


I had to stop at Yoder's Blacksmith Supplies as well. How could I not?


Look at all the anvils!


If anyone on your Christmas list is looking for an anvil, you can't beat the selection at Yoder's!

Also, not far from Yoder's is Edna's farm stand. I recommend the raspberry jam. It's $2.00, on the honor system.





Photo
This blog is intended solely to share the things I come across that inspire me. If I have posted a copyrighted image, I have only done so to the extent necessary to comment upon or discuss it; I will always include a link to the original source of the image if that source is online or acknowledge the source if it is in print. If I have reproduced anything of yours here that is copyrighted and you want me to remove it, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will do so right away.

On Why to Make Handcrafted Toys

Posted by jdg | 12:33 PM

"At a party filled with the denizens of the mainstream of Human Progress, I was once introduced to the smiling ensemble with a good deal of gratifying enthusiasm as 'the fellow who makes toys.'

There was a moment's hesitation while the smiles were quietly reinforced, and then one tanned, good-natured smile asked with much interest, 'That's nice, but why?'

Did I make a lot of money at it? Was it for political favor? Did it attract the ladies, being the fellow who makes toys?

Why, in fact, should a grown, sane---for the sake of argument---semi-responsible adult, with no special fascination for the woodshop and no particular promise of remuneration, waste his time making toys when there are shops full of the same on nearly every street corner?

Why make toys at a time when, as never before, toymaking has become such a colossal industry---when at this very minute toys are being made that use almost every shape and theme known to man?

. . .

Toymaking, as everyone knows, is a major industry and, as such, must obey the rules of survival for any other profit-making giant. The goal is to appeal at the time of potential sale, and all else is incidental. To do this, many concerns must slavishly follow adult consumer trends, pander to short-term interests, exploit a childish fascination with the grotesque, and back it all up with a fundamental faith that man's desire to dominate will sell forever---especially to kids.

Because a toy, to the merchandiser, is not a necessity or a functional item, it must follow strict criteria to insure consumer acceptance. The commercial toy must be as gaudy and as cheaply made as possible, with a consequent loss of durability, safety, and lasting value. The toy must knock down to handy shipping size, must sell at a fixed multiple of its worth, must fill proper display requirements, and must attract a suitably significant slice of the populace. It must be so intricate to manufacture that no other concern will risk the cost of tooling to steal the idea once the first concern has the jump on the marketing promotion.

Thus the boom in twentieth-century toymaking, complete with all the technological resources of computerized research, has pushed and stretched the meaning of the word 'toy' to cover everything from pliable sex-appeal dolls to fully functional miniatures of that character-building, time-honored sporting tradition of our culture---the jalopy derby. 

As a result of the machinations of big business competition, only the hardiest marketing risk can survive. And so it has come to pass that in spite of the toy boom, or perhaps because of it, never has so few true toys been offered."

      from The Art of Making Wooden Toys (1975) by Peter Stevenson, 1941-2012



One of my favorite books. Stevenson Projects lives on here.

Photo
This blog is intended solely to share the things I come across that inspire me. If I have posted a copyrighted image, I have only done so to the extent necessary to comment upon or discuss it; I will always include a link to the original source of the image if that source is online or acknowledge the source if it is in print. If I have reproduced anything of yours here that is copyrighted and you want me to remove it, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will do so right away.


The kids and I stared at this giant painting (it's 96 by 66 inches) for about ten minutes the other day (you can click on the above image to see it huge). There's a bit of a trompe-l'oeil effect and it hangs on the wall in one of our favorite parts of the museum.

Grandma must have been a pretty cool lady, we all agreed. 

Source: Detroit Institute of Arts

Photo
This blog is intended solely to share the things I come across that inspire me. If I have posted a copyrighted image, I have only done so to the extent necessary to comment upon or discuss it; I will always include a link to the original source of the image if that source is online or acknowledge the source if it is in print. If I have reproduced anything of yours here that is copyrighted and you want me to remove it, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will do so right away.

As a man who has been the primary caregiver to my children for over six years (I don't like to say stay-at-home dad, but, well: yeah), I have spent years collecting propaganda images of fathers burdened by their children created during the women's suffrage movement. Here we see one of the "worst possible outcomes" of giving women equality, and I love the idea of my lifestyle horrifying an entire generation of selfish, boneheaded jerks.




 

Okay, that one is officially my new facebook profile picture. Note the bucket.


Hell yes:



Even the great Honoré Damier got in on the action:



This one is rather interesting. Instead of playing in the insecurity of men, it seeks to exploit the insecurities of women seeking power outside the home.


What if he's happy at home with your little babes? What if they look at him adoringly, and even the cat is content? And then the text on the bottom: I DON'T CARE IF SHE NEVER COMES BACK.


What I love about this propaganda is the idea that these men are supposed to be emasculated or feminized by attending to their children (which I may joke about sometimes, but hardly believe). A hundred years after these images were published, when I was interviewed by that New York Times reporter last summer, the conversation turned (as it always does) to the "but don't you feel emasculated" BS, and I got pretty riled up and started talking about how I get to do so many more "manly" things now than I ever did when I was working in an office. I really think that's true. Few people ever talk about the (rightful) emasculation of the American office environment, in the sense that as more and more women get high-paying, high-power jobs in corporate America, finance, medicine, law, etc., there is no longer anything really all that masculine about sitting around on your ass in an office all day staring at a computer screen and yapping into a speaker phone. Why, you can't even sexually harass a secretary like they do on Mad Men without putting your corporation at a risk for a huge financial hit! In fact, women have proven to be so great and effective working in traditional male office jobs that it seems like maybe those jobs were never all that "manly" to begin with. Whatever I am now, I take care of my kids' every need and do the laundry AND I spend most of my days in the fresh air out of doors. I've learned to work wood and leather, fix bikes and build wagons and toys, grow food for our table, and even make a fair bit of money writing and taking photos. I don't know if that makes me any more or less masculine than if I'd stayed in my career, but it sure as hell makes me feel more human than when I was spending 60 hours a week parked in my Aeron chair 28-stories above an outrageously expensive city I was too busy to really experience. So, as the living personification of all those turn-of-the-century fears, I wish I could whisper in the artists' ears: Chill, y'all. It's actually not that bad.

(I would, however, also verify that mustache and beard-pulling is definitely an occupational hazard)



Photo
This blog is intended solely to share the things I come across that inspire me. If I have posted a copyrighted image, I have only done so to the extent necessary to comment upon or discuss it; I will always include a link to the original source of the image if that source is online or acknowledge the source if it is in print. If I have reproduced anything of yours here that is copyrighted and you want me to remove it, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will do so right away.