From tree to shelf

22C-6-20130618175226My initial idea was to design a cabinet for a particular tree in the forest, and then to find a way of bringing this into the library, with the imprint of the tree on it. A good starting point; but I also wanted something that responded to the library itself, not just refer to the forest outside. I have always found that ideas can take you so far, but then you enter the world of making, and that has its own process. So now I am working with the designer-makers at Miller Howard Workshop to transform these initial ideas into realistic designs that can be laser-cut by Woodford Engineering in Lydney. For me, working collaboratively in this way is exciting, and together we are exploring ways of attaching to library selves (or even to the books themselves) somewhat akin to the way the fungi attach to tree trunks. For this post I have pulled together early sketches to show some of the ‘thinking through drawing’ that is going on. I will keep you posted as the design evolves. Good working with you, Tomas, Úna, Milo.

Memory water

Cabinet spring smDriving along and I see a couple by the side of the road collecting water from the gutter in clear plastic bottles. Well, that is what it looked like at first. Turns out that the water is from Saint Anthony’s Well just up the hill, and they travel a considerable distance each week to come and collect “flouride-free” drinking water for their children. Also, she tells me how flouride is linked to memory and her memory has improved since drinking the water regularly. Well I know that the water from this well is meant to cure any skin condition if you drink it seven times in the month of May, but I hadn’t heard the connection with memory. I could certainly do with some if this is the case, as my memory is appalling (I even did my art degree thesis on living without memory!) This memory water set me off thinking about the difference between change and progress: spring water rather than tap water could be seen as trying to turn the clock back, against progress, or it could be seen as a positive change, aligning ourselves more closely with nature to increase sustainability. Either way, I intend to include some well water in the cabinet. Thank you (in my rush I didn’t catch your names) for giving me a bottle of the water to take with me.

Chicken of the woods

Cabinet fungi smStill looking at how fungi attach to trees and the shapes they create, and this one gave such a fantastic splash of colour I couldn’t resist including it here. “With a lemony, chicken-like taste and texture, this fungus is good sautéed, deep fried, baked, and may be used in soups.” However, elsewhere it says that for some people it may cause dizziness when eaten, so approach with caution. But then something about its shape seems to suggests ‘dizziness’, doesn’t! Well done Úna for spotting this one.

A Fortunate Man

Cabinet fortunate sm“Landscapes can be deceptive. Sometimes a landscape seems to be less a setting for the life of its inhabitants than a curtain behind which their struggles, achievements and accidents take place. For those who, with the inhabitants, are behind the curtain, landmarks are no longer only geographic, but also biographical and personal.” The opening of John Berger‘s book A Fortunate Man (The Story of a Country Doctor). Set in the Forest in the 1960s, it tells of Dr John Sassal and gives a real glimpse into Forest life and what was changing at that time. Fascinating. The grainy black-and-white pictures by Jean Mohr are so atmospheric. In my mind this book connects with my earlier post  ‘Essence of Library’ as it talks about how universal ideals (in this case of social health care) play out locally. I am looking for a second-hand copy to include in the cabinet. 

Tree typography

Cabinet grafitti smWhat surprised me about this was how far it was from the path, and on a tree that didn’t in any way stand out from the others around. A mark not so much as a public declaration, but more to quietly indicate a previous presence to those who happen to stumble upon it. For a moment you are both there. As the tree grows in girth the letters are often stretched sideways more than vertically, creating a tree font. Something to keep in mind with the laser-cutting that I am looking into for making the cabinet, as this technique can just as easily engrave the surface with text as it can cut right through the material.

Essence of library

Cabinet Wings of Desire smWhenever I visit one of the libraries in the Forest I bring a bit of Berlin with me, well an image from Berlin, at least: that from Wim Wenders’ film Wings of Desire where the camera glides through the great central library in West Berlin, revealing the ‘angels’ (all dressed in long overcoats and invisible to the mortals) listening in on the thoughts of the readers. As the camera glides we hear a crescendo of overlapping thoughts: for the angels libraries are noisy places. This comes to mind because however local, however modest a library might be for me it always contains a fragment of the grand idea of the Library, and an essence from the great libraries of the past. I love libraries. They are special places of exploration and repose, each with its own locus and something unbounded about it. Every community should have such an ambitious place within it. Do check out Wings of Desire if you haven’t do so already, it is a wonderful film.

Life in the woods

Cabinet gipsies smTalking about growing up in the Forest a few decades ago and instead of turning to your Xbox (well, they weren’t around then but the equivalent) or the nearest pub/club, instead going out into the forest with your friends to meet up. The Forest not as a place to escape too (as an outsider from elsewhere), but to live with, to incorporate into your daily life, to live in even: which brought to mind this picture of ‘gipsies near Cannop’ that I came across in the Forestry Commission library. Does anyone have this sort of relationship with the forest these days? Thanks Neil, you got me wishing that I had grown up in the Forest too!