Have I mentioned this is a month long fellowship at the Winterthur museum and research library? It is. It's fantastic! It's like being a time traveler. I can call up articles, documents, drawings, receipt books and journals of the shakers and a few other things from other utopian communities like Birdclyffe and Rose Valley.
While here, I'm looking at two diaries primarily. Isaac Youngs and Benjamin Gates. Isaac is sort of Benjamin's master or teacher and I guess they may have been lovers?! But that is an aside and speculative. So I'm reading Benjamin Gates' handwritten diary. In reading this, I was struck by how in winter months, there are fewer entries and in summer, more. I find this interesting as when I'm busiest, I'm often unable to record my work properly so I always underestimate so as not to pad my own vacation time.
My hope is to discover how their work lives matched up with my own. Benjamin was apprenticed as a tailor but took on many different jobs, notable firewood splitting, stacking and moving wood and loading wood boxes and sheds! A job I've spent about four to thirty hours a week year round for about sixteen years. So my wonder is whether people were given leeway or freedom to pursue interests within the community workload. Could they make as many jackets as they pleased as long as they were nice? There was no Walmart or Amazon so it made sense they made everything from buttons to shoes and clocks. Though that stopped when clocks were cheaper.
Also I'm wondering how they budgeted labor. Was it added up by the elders? Were there committees devoted to assigning work? How long did it take to sew a coat. Or make a table or chair? I have of course, in my own records or Twin Oaks records, labor sheets that show when I began a chair and stopped. How many hours a week I took to make a table. Though it's more since I'm working within the pentameter of a small budget. Now I claim more since able to since most things sell or are on commission. But early on, it was a challenge since it was all speculative if it was for sale and I couldn't make things for the community except by volunteering the work as I did plenty.
Below is each month written out in his
wonderful script. In excuse my index finger in some photos I have to be careful when photographing the material as it's fragile so I'm holding the place in order to photograph the page. I was shocked to find the fellowship doesn't offer a manicure to the fellows so that's why my nails are wrecked. Normally they are so well kept. Lol.
I’m writing this in order to direct people to a blog I started http://www.fulanofellowship.wordpress.com connected with a fellowship I’m undertaking at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. I’m writing about the Shakers and other utopian communities in connection with Twin Oaks, the current state of the communities movement and my own life. My focus has been primarily with regard to furniture making as I myself make and am in love with making chairs as well as other useful things for the farm, and looking at the chair making and other work of the Shakers and how their work loads and budgeting matched up and differed with that of Twin Oaks. I’ m reading and partly transcribing journals and diaries of members to learn their mindset, the variety of work a member did, their work day and work week and even if I can, their musings, joys and struggles. In addition, I’m making measured drawings of various things they made and illustrating them in a few journals I keeping, all the while noting humorous or interesting details in the collection of shaker material in the library and museum itself.
While here, I’m also looking at everything else held in the museum from Chippendale furniture to portraiture and the wide array of decorative arts in American history. Winterthur is considered the belweather of the decorative arts in america and holds symposiums on various subjects. It’s pretty exciting. I’m also visiting places of note that have a special link to Twin Oaks in a way, like the Wharton Esherick museum and other little communes if I can manage it in terms of money.
Of course anyone who knows me, knows I can’t help but be distracted in these efforts by the various oddities and peculiarities like the displays, discarded kleenex, or the museum guard or barista interactions I had. So I’ve decided to include them too in my ramblings to offer a hopefully interesting if not edifying experience to the reader. Living in community is interesting, so in my conversations, the question is always posed how I came to this fellowship which leads to questions about Twin Oaks and my every effort to evade discussion on the matter leads to more questions. Not evading really for any other reason but that it gets lengthy to explain everything to every person I encounter here. Mostly I’m just trying to blend in, which can be a challenge when your slacks are too short exposing your mismatched gym socks. It’s also been a challenge trying to budget living here as expenses are great in Wilmington, DE and my funds are as usual very limited.
Winterthur sits on about a thoousand acres of forest and pastures not unlike Twin Oaks, so it’s been a treat to walk the woods the way I do at Twin Oaks and discover natural wonders like massive fallen trees and mushrooms, as well as the occasional interesting piece of litter or artifact like broken jars or remnants of brick, and the like. There are many stories and wonderful people working here. Experts and scholars in many fields, so there’s plenty of interesting conversation which is my favorite thing in life. Feel free to follow the blog I started as I hope it might interest people in community and those who are interested in community as well as those interested in museums, decorative arts, history, and just the wackadoodle mindset of a weirdo who can get off tangent pretty easily. So if you like long, poorly punctuated, verbose, garrulous, circuitous, overly detailed-about-the-boringest-things-ever, partly maybe incorrect speculations or conjecture based on my three week foray into material about which much has been written more legibly and is also readily available, then you’ll love my blog. I do think however, I can offer an insight into both being a Twin Oaker, living much the way the shakers did, and a furniture maker. I find it interesting to see the parallels in say how long it takes to make a peg board, what work can be finished in a week, the losses due to mistakes or interacting with the outside world as a commnitarian, with that of the shakers and their constraints and privileges. Please chyme in with any correction or additional thoughts or information you may have on these matters. The photo I shared is a shaker inspired table I made now living in the ZK snack kitchen from a red oak that stood near ZK. And a chair I made with a group of women from UVA who came to watch a chair being made. In Community, Purl Samoheyl Sunrise
We live in a community that is based on sharing, yet struggle just as much as any other parents to instill the value of sharing on children. Are the sharing habits of commune kids actually any different than those of the mainstream? Effectively encouraging sharing appears to be an as yet unsolved problem. Mandating children’s sharing seems to miss the point: kids don’t seem to become empathetic sharers by having their toys passed on to others by force. But a lassiez-faire approach will often leave children stuck in selfish habits. just as well. Does the commune life help create an example of sharing, or does so much shared actually work in the opposite direction, encouraging children (and adults) to claim out whatever personal domain they can. Keegan and myself, adder Oaks, explore these questions and more on this episode of Commune Dads.
Keegan and adder take on tech. Both share their interest in teaching children to understand and program computers, but express fear at the way computers and smartphones can have power over people. Keegan shares his childhood memories as the first personal computers made it into homes and his lifelong obsession with computers that he has spent his adult years fighting off. Can children on the commune avoid a similar fate? Adder expresses his nostalgia for video games and shares his plan to teach a 5-year-old text-based computing. Both try to make sense of the ubiquity of smartphones in the lives of today’s children.
Everything Bad is Good for You
In the Beginning… was the Command Line
K12 Online Education
Anki – Powerful, Intelligent Flash Cards
Opening Music: Commune Dads Theme – Nick Paoletti
Closing Music: Happy Rock – bensound.com