Monday, December 6, 2010

It has come to my attention, from the lathe, when it rains.

So there it was a lame attempt to fill the title of this most recent blog with a number of phrases that will get the general search engineer's attention and bring them to this blog. Yeah it is all science and number crunching and a big fat load of hooey if you ask me. I am not much of a writer in my book but in a couple of other people's opinion I do pretty good. Or would that be fairly well, well there goes the fun of doing this again. Self judging, second guessing and leaving my editing notes all over the screen again.

I am more interested today in singing the praises of one Ms. Susan D. Henson. In case anyone was wondering where I hang my hat these days well it is in a home that Susan so generously welcomed me into. A home filled with warmth, kindness, beautiful smiles, seasonal decorations, the aromas of good food, a good beer when you need one and now a pile of tools and wood in her garage. See I came for her retirement and wound up going north, packing my shop into the RV and driving it south to Virginia. I came for the party and never went away.

Now on to Ms Henson. My friend Susan. A Beautiful woman with a huge heart, a love for life and enough patience to deal with me. The things that define her in my eyes are

1. Her lust for life: Good food, good mead, good friends. Kind of a modern day Viking chick if you know what I mean. An educated palate, the southern upbringing that makes anything edible a potential meal, and no fear of experimenting with a variety of spice combination.

2. She is a hot chick! Can't say anymore because that would just screw this tribute up but in two words, Hubba, Hubba!

3. Patience: The aforementioned attribute that allows me to stick around. Thanks for that one.

4. Brilliance: Beautiful and Smart too? Yep you got it. An accomplished writer, a true artist of the written word.

5. Kindness: She has plenty of that. More than most actually, she volunteers, she donates, she sponsors children in underdeveloped nations, she gives to toys for tots, and spent three years growing a long head of hair for the Locks of Love (see organization. And a bunch of other stuff that just make me smile to think of.

6. Just lots of fun! She has friends, she enjoys her friends, she puts loads of faith in her friends and she is a true friend. One of those that you keep forever. One of those whom you do everything to make happy. One of those that deserves loyalty, fidelity, to be included in any party and made guest of honor at some.

So there you have it. My friend in only a few words. Not even scratching the surface of the person she is. Not even placing the light in a manner to illuminate the gracious person she is. And by no means, making the kind of heartfelt statement that I really want to. Guess I can't write as well as some people may think.

Ok now on to stuff from the lathe. I have not turned much more than pens lately. Somehow I got into them in Buffalo when I started doing them at work. The boss at that Woodcraft liked us to do something on the floor through the course of the day. (Very nice people Bruce and Sally Anderson) The store had limited traffic, because it is Buffalo NY and people there have learned to live on the cheap since Bethlehem steel closed in the 1960's. But the rest of Western NY and northwestern PA should take note that there is a Woodcraft there and just be nice enough to stop in! (insert Damnit here)

So I started making pens, perfume atomizers and kept going with the Christmas ornaments and other stuff that you could do in a couple hours. Go figure I did it during the work day, and who wants to haul stuff back and forth from work?

Sample photos follow:

And to the When it Rains portion of this post. Hey I got here in November and have been loving every minute of this. I have had the opportunity to spend time with a very good friend, get to know some good folks, see an old friend from High School days, talk to another friend on the phone but not get to see her yet, and get adopted by a cat that does not make me sneeze nor make my eyes itch. Go figure I would have all this luck. I even got a job selling tools here (even if it is just Craftsman at Sears) . So I am off in my goulashes to turn for the day in a lovely woman's driveway, being watched through a window by a cat.

Friday, March 26, 2010

How did it come to this?

I'm packed. Sort of. I am sitting on the couch of the RV looking at the boxes and systainers and tool bags and electronics and wondering how did my life become so simple yet so complicated. You see the goal was to reduce my personal pocessions, fit it all into a 21 foot RV and drive around like a nomad until I found "the place" to call home. It's clear to me that that is still not the case. I have managed to get everything in but there is some stepping over and moving around that has to happen to simply get a soda from the fridge or reach into the cupboard for the bag of junk food. The piles are those things that I cannot work without but could live without.

Inventory: You have seen the photos if you are a Facebook friend. It fits into 9 boxes in the living compartment. I will be listening to these pieces rattle around until they find the settling point. Ah if only sales were better here in AZ or on the web.

Tools: The lathe fits in the underside compartment with some wood and the rubber matt I stand on to work but the stand is just not making it. It's gonna be the last thing in the door and will sit on the floor at the back door. It's just too wide at the base and will also have to find the settling point. The multi-function table and CT-mini well they have taken over the kitchen area and it's good the wheels lock on the vac. The tool bags, well it's just good that there is not going to be a passenger in that seat. Wood, I did reduce the pile of blanks but did not get to all of the green stuff. Hey it's AZ the stuff has to dry out slowly or it will split. Project supplies, all of the liquids are gone but there are little things like ornament hooks, dowels and stopper sleeves for bottle stoppers, bottles for diffuser/oil lamps, etc. While in AK at SKS I built a cabinet for the systainers but that pile has grown and I have two on the floor. Ah the love of FESTOOL and the smell of new tools.

Computer and camera bags: yeah they live on the couch bed and will be moved here and there to do what I do with them along the way. Gonna get some pictures of the lava tubes in Northern New Mexico. Gotta do FB updates when I can and then there is always mapquesting the next route to program it into the GPS. OK I'm a geek.

Along with this goes the hotel services equipment. Hoses and cords, cables and such, it's gonna fill the bathroom and the last space in the outside compartments.

So this is why I am procrastinating for the day. I have to tie down loose materials, secure for the road, ensure the shifting and rolling is minimized and then button down the rest for the long journey.

The goal for day one is to make it to Parker, CO to visit with a new friend whom I really have never met in person but who has been instrumental in the "pimping" of my wares. Pictures will be posted and I'm sure there will be a blog post about the Beast visit, no matter how short.

Nothing else is planned so it's really up in the air from there. Intention to make it to Buffalo by 1-2 April is still on track and hey if you are in Buffalo on 3 April you can watch me doing a FESTOOL Demo at the Buffalo Woodcraft. Come on in and seed the crowd giving the appropriate oooohs and wows at how well these tools work in the hands of a professional cabinet maker. (Ahem that would be me thank you very much).

So watch for updates sporadically on FB or text messages from me along the way. Happy Trails.

Oh and as far as parting shots on AZ before I go. Nope they can all just sit here and rot in their UBER conservative Tea Bag desert. Hypocrites abound out here. Racism runs rampant, and all things considered, I am not gonna miss this place at freaking all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

closed for business

This past week I have really started trying to get loose ends tied up and end the AZ experience. Most of it is mundane paperwork to cancel the business license, close up shop and push the inventory into boxes. Doing final projects, maintenance on the lathe, putting an edge on the turning tools and stuffing it all into the belly and living quarters of the RV. OK I bought a couple of tools too, but it's FESTOOL and it is massively discounted.

Tonight I got a phone call from a Prescott based wood turner who was disappointed to hear that I was leaving AZ. He had planned to invite me to do some demos in woodturning for the Prescott Area Branch of the Arizona Woodturners Association. Nothing specific, not a topic that anyone of them could not have done, just a different perspective. Now kids this is a first for me here in AZ. I have done a bottle stopper demo at the Phoenix Woodcraft, have taught classes in woodturning there too but nothing more than intermediate techniques.

I frequently take my projects into work to have a critique session with the more advanced turner, the finishing guy or the carving instructor and at times to just irritate the guy who cannot complete a successful turning project that does not involve a pen kit. Sometimes I ask the opinion of a customer who is a turner or carver and enjoy the differing opinions. Most of the time if it comes off the lathe and I am happy with the shape and the finish I will stick it into the display cabinet with a project completed by Shawn B. Riley card on the shelf next to it. Funny thing is that I think of my self as a beginner or intermediate turner. Much to my surprise I generally get some helpful comments and the occasional compliment. It's good for the ego, I get some good ideas and more fuel for experimenting with shapes or techniques.

So much to my surprise, tonight, a guy who has come into the store, has seen my projects, is generally a nice guy, and who is very enthusiastic about turning, calls me on the phone after hearing from one of his friends that I am leaving town. Wow. We talked about his health as he suffers from chronic troubles with his back and legs, talked about the Prescott wood turners, talked about what projects we are working on and finally he expressed his disappointment that he never took the opportunity to invite me up to one of the Prescott clubs meetings to have me (yep me) give a demonstration on wood turning. When I asked him what stood out in his mind about my work that would have made me the guy whom their club would benefit from my demonstration, his reply was simply "sometimes it's nice to see someone do something that they (the club members) just haven't thought of yet." These guys, who come into the store' apparently discuss the single piece lidded boxes that I turn with long finials and delicate stems. I think of them as continuing works in progress. They have visited my ETSY site and downloaded the pictures of these boxes for discussion at their meetings. WOW!

Ok so now that my ego is boosted and I have been invited to join an exclusive online woodturners group, I just might start raising my prices, make a video and be all snooty and stuff.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Social Networking Old Style

So we have seen that blogging is just not my thing. It takes me forever to think up what I am going to say. Takes longer to get it written, edited, posted, re-edited when I notice misspellings and mistakes in grammar. Takes even longer to find out if I feel comfortable posting it because it may offend my friends or family and then if it passes all criteria I usually cut the text back and start all over again.
The modern (pronounced Moe-dern) approach to self expression got short circuited when I got a Facebook account. I could drivel in short amounts and deal with things being taken out of context in minutes. I could post pictures and sit back and wait for the comments to roll in. I could look at the posts of my "friends" and make a few comments about the things they were interested in. I could look at photos of friends with more interesting lives (in my eyes) than mine and applaud their courage in their causes, delete their FARMVILLE requests and gifts and then move on. It was pretty addicting and I checked it often or stayed logged on to follow a comment stream. Then came the inclusion of family into the mix.

With family I tempered my posts, set up rules for my following their posts and photos, made fewer comments and even hid some of my friends because they posted some pretty raunchy stuff or some things that were questionable and worse to filter the comments of their friends from my page for the same reasons. It was something about my niece ( a wonderful mature woman who has achieved much in her short life so far) looking at these things associated with me that made me cringe. We as a family are like many others. We have our family face and our rest of the world face. Now how could I ever not accept a family member as a FB "Friend" to keep them from the raunchier side of my existence?

Now as for their posts, their friends, their pictures I glance at the public stuff and let the rest reside in their worlds of FB. I do not make comments unless it is encouragement. I do not follow photos back to albums. I do not question them about what they were thinking or doing in a certain situation. It's none of my business. They are all adults now and do not need to be judged by me. Anyway their lives are much less questionable than mine.

So now to the Old Style stuff. I spent the past 5 days in the company of family back east. I stayed with two of my brothers and their families and we celebrated birthdays. We talked and laughed. We ate bad Buffalo, NY food and bad Salamanca, NY food. We tossed back a few brews and a couple of shots. We saw friends and extended family and then we dealt with the consequences of our obnoxious behavior. At one point I actually said to a family member "Damn, I wish I were as drunk as I am acting" as I had become very loud and free with the jokes. Hell, I would have kicked me out of the bar we were visiting but the owner is extended family and we made their month with our bar tab. There was no blogging, no FBing, no tweeting and no texting during that 4 hours of fun. Well having not seen these people for nearly two years it was time to do some real connecting. But with the number of people present, the number of hugs and swigs to be had during that short period of time it really was like internet chatting or micro blogging after all. I needed more time with them, less distractions and a little less beer.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The next step

Who knows what the next step is gonna be. OK why all the confusion Shawn? What's the problem? You had a plan. You were gonna travel the country and find a place to write about and sample the local flavor and try the local woods. What happened to all of that?

Easier said than done these days. Sure I live in my RV, haul my tools and wood and goods along with me as I go but, there has been no go for over a year. I made my trip to Alaska, turned some birch at Stonekettle Station, made the trip to Arizona, turned and carved some Mesquite, made the trip to Salamanca, NY home of my childhood and turned some Maple and Walnut back there. And though I have my Navy retirement to live off and had the dream of paying for my hobby through sales but here is the rub. Of the hundreds of pieces I have turned, I have only sold a few dozen. My forms started simple, I experimented with combining turning and carving, did some pretty ornate stuff but, still I schlep my boxes to the Saturday market in Mesa and then schlep them back again. My RV is getting full of finished work and unfinished projects. So I took a job selling tools and wood for others to create, taught a few classes and made some contacts but, again the pile grows. Where is the outlet? ETSY, nope but it doesn't cost much so I keep the account. Face Book? Worked for a while but, these are my friends and family and I care to give them away more than sell them to those people. At Work? Nope the owner of the store discourages that and is pissed when we sell to each other too. And on top of that the people who come in there are in the process of doing things for the same reason.

So I keep piling it up in hopes of the outlet making itself apparent to me.

But still I hear the success stories (mostly from Pen guys) who sell some crappy writing implement for $80 - 150 each. Do I begrudge them of their success? Nope they have something they can carry with them, use in front of potential customers, and coyly say they can probably work one in for them (the potential customer that is.) Can you imagine seeing some guy walking down the street with a bowl or bottle stopper in their pocket? Can you see yourself saying "Hey where did you get that bowl?" or more likely "What a freak!" So suggestions are welcome. If you know someone who desperately needs a bowl, bottle stopper, miniature lidded box then hey send them my way. Keep me from being the freak with the bowl walking into the restaurant asking if I can use my own bowl for my soup.

There are also a number of local galleries here in AZ. You figure they may want to discover a local artist with a unique sense of style and some pretty cool forms but, NO! They want the guy from Connecticut or New Hampshire who makes one bowl a year (and not much different than mine) and asks $1500 each. Go figure. So walk-ins are not welcome here. Maybe I will start mailing stuff to Connecticut or New Hampshire. Ok search engine let's find a bowl, bottle stopper, lidded box deprived shop out there in New England and get this party started. Then Maybe I can get the hell out of the desert before Hell temps return.

I am returning to the road in April. I may be in a town near you sometime in those months as I find a temperate climate with loads of trees and eager shoppers who wish to stuff their shelves with affordable art and keep this boy turning. For those who may drop in here is a sample of the stuff I am schlepping around. Drop me a line if you have a question or want to gather some wood products to stuff on your shelves with other stuff.

Claro Walnut Lidded box ($45)
Maple Platter ($125)

Black Cherry Bowl ($45)

Birdseye Maple Diffuser/Oil Lamp ($35)

Madrone Burl Bowl ($45)