Make Your Space

April 28, 2022

Make Your Space

Last month I rambled on about Launch Pads. You may have said: “I love that idea but do not have a shop or studio to do that in.” No worries. Use your kitchen table. Most people have access to a kitchen table in one form or another. My very first apartment did not have one but it did have a “fancy” French passe-plat, between our kitchen and our 20 sq.ft. “dining area.” That may have been a bit too fancy. Maybe, I should use the German word Durchreiche which still pretty translates to a “hole in the wall with a small shelf.” Does not matter- when I had my first place, this is where I would work on projects up until the time that I bought a Mid-Century coffee table at a rummage sale for $2.50 (in retrospect, I should have kept that).

Throughout my life, I have always found a place to launch my projects no matter where I lived. Even in the military, I had a 10”x24” bookshelf that I used as my space. Writer/artist Austin Kleon cited Author Joseph Campbell writing about “Bliss Station” with everything set up so that when you have the time between kids, work, life, you can immediately pick up where you left off with your project. My drawing professor, Brigham Dimick, at SIUE would initiate each semester by having students choose a drawing table and pin board to perform their work at. We were instructed to take everything that is dear to us and pin it on our board. We did not have to draw it, we just had to recognize our dedicated creative space.

Of course, making a bliss space in which to place your launch pad will require a bit of organization. I think about this always. Organization is not an “end all.” It is a type of kaizen, a constant learning and adapting to meet your requirements. I still have my original tool box. In my first apartment, it was my EVERYTHING tool box, a few years later it was my hand tool tool box, then my plier storage. Now, it is my model scratch building box. Spaces. Containers. Tools. They can all evolve as you go through life. During my (still) epic search for the perfect space, I have written pages of notes based on other people’s views of organization. As a creative person, there is always the fight between space and objects. Marie Kondo preaches controlled minimalism, Austin Kleon delineates “organized” tools, messy supplies, Adam Savage from Mythbusters and YouTube believes in keeping everything, just have your work areas open. I often play his Tested shows while working in my shop. James May of Grand Tour says to take more of a manager position and keep nothing. Watch his shows like Toy Stories on Amazon. They are true entertainment!  One of my most respected graduate professors insisted on 8 clean workbenches and a 50 foot wall of well labeled matching totes for supplies and research materials. (More on that larger-than-life professor later) I guess that I am a mix of all of these influences. We each look at other peoples spaces and steal what works for our own.

As currently can be displayed and dispensed, I am not 100% into my Bliss Space. I enjoy having a computer near me for referencing/writing, I enjoy my climate controlled Finish Shop for physically working on projects, but also like my garage where I can make dust, get dirty, and store project parts in totes. Ok, at this point, I am not sure if this is helping or not! In an attempt to rescue this post, I will provide some things that definitely work for me.

Top 10 things I have in my workspace: (In no certain order)

Identical storage totes. This sounds simple but when Aunt Mary sends you some mementos to dig through, or you pick up a bargain at a rummage sale, mis-matched totes are a bane to organization. I go with the clamshell totes like the USPS uses that are available here, and sometimes home stores. I admit, I do have some Dollar General versions that are a couple of inches shorter but I can live with that. For larger items on the bottom shelf, I use the Commander tote from Lowe’s. 

Pallet Racking. You have to have somewhere to store items. I am a firm believer in the Extreme Garage steel storage racks from Menards. Pro tip: If you buy two sets, you can separate horizontal bars and span them 18 feet long!

While shopping at Menards, you can Save Big Time by purchasing their lock-together Small Parts Storage by Performax. These babies can lock vertically, horizontally, or be spaced about your studio to organize small bits that would otherwise be lost in a flappy dust covered box under your workbench.

Since we are in the area of small parts storage, one of the best gifts I ever received from my wife was a two sided hardware cart with 72 plastic bins! I have used and reused these for years to adapt to what I was working on. You can get one here at Harbor Freight.

Cutting mats. It does not matter if you are doing printing, modeling, collaging, or anatomical dissecting, you need a good cutting mat. I have multiple. The small ones can be placed on a Launch Pad for whatever current project. BTW snap-off razor knives always accompany each cutting mat. 

Cork Stripping. You may not always have space for a cork board like I did in undergrad, but you can line the bottom of your shelves, or a strip on the wall above your bench with aluminum channeled bulletin bar! This is one of my greatest upgrades ever. That stuff that the school put around the chalk board (or white board) in third grade is great for the shop! Whatever I am working on at the time, I pin references into the strip for the duration of the project.

Notebook(s) Should I have placed this earlier? I did say that there was no particular order to this list. Often, artists and makers like Austin Kleon will have one “holy grail” notebook to log their daily ideas, sketches, drawings, poems, random thoughts in. Not me. I have a sea of sketchbooks that I bounce around between. The important part is that you are iterating- somewhere.

Binders. Admit it- some projects take longer than you thought they were going to. I have an R2-D2 that I have been building for a couple of years. They require a lot of data, measurement, design references, and other tertiary information. Knowing this, I first created a binder for the project with clear references so that when I revisit it every couple of months, I can instantly see all of the relative data before I purchase any given part. 

Pegboard. After 40 years of making, I just purchased a 16” x 16” piece of steel pegboard. At my day job, the simple task of protecting and storing paint brushes was a daunting task. This one simple $15 purchase at Menards solved it. Now, in my shops, I have hundreds of square feet of pegboard but it does not always take that much. Often, you just need to find the right solution for a problem. Speaking of my shop, my finish shop particularly, the pegboard now has kind of a “feature” look to it, highlighting tools that I use often. I always remain flexible in pulling out all of the pegs and starting over. Nothing is permanent. 

I know I said “Top 10” but there is always one more thing. This time, it is graph paper (here). I maintain two large tablets of graph paper in my Finish Shop. When I get an idea, or I am ideating with another maker, I can quickly grab a pencil and explain my idea visually. If it is a good one, I can graduate the grids, and rapidly begin designing to scale. 

In efforts to not bore you too much, I have included many hotlinks. Should you find my blog insufferable, just skip all of my bullshit and click directly on the hotlinks to get a higher quality experience to improve the creative side of your life.

For more intimate pics of my making life jump to IG Sandcruiser13 where you will see behind the scenes shots that happen when I should be working.



Blog 3.0

February 18, 2022

Hello. It is a blustery night on the prairie as a take time by a warm fire to share with you the announcement of my new blog format. I have been planning this for nearly a year and have finally decided how to make the most of my time and yours! Instead of seeing a blog post come across your social media and thinking you should give it a pity “like”, I implore you to click as my blog will be set up like an abstract or table of contents with hotlinks. You can scroll through quickly and see if there is something you like. (if not, please go with the pity “like”)

I will be choosing topics and references that I am consuming regarding making by sharing links. Here is an example: I follow Rob Walker who wrote the book the Art of Noticing. He often keeps my creative mojo going. Notice that? You can read past, go to the website, or get a link to his book. Great dude.

For those who I interact with regularly you know that I have been working on notes about my “future book” on Getting Shit Done to optimize my shop and making experience. Many of my inspiring moments come from artist/writer Austin Kleon who is an amazing blogger. Artists may know his books like Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work, and Keep Going. I felt like I spent months spinning my wheels on how to begin until I read an edition of his blog where he talks about John Swartzwelder from the Simpsons that said to write a “shitty first draft.” That was my impetus to begin writing now & more. More posts, more blogs, & more trade articles. I have found that it works well for me. Just throw crap on the screen in a stream of consciousness manner then go back and edit it later.

At this moment, I am working on the idea of a “Launch Pad.” After exploring ideas of kitting, bubble maps, an Kanban flowing, (all of which have their uses) I settled on my own method of “Launch Pad.” I have a deep love of all things space exploration and this just came naturally as you will see. For years, my wife and I have built model rockets with all of our kids, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. As we neared launch day, our spaces became overfilled with rockets and parts in various stages. To organize this mess, I pulled out scraps of white foamboard and laid on a bench where a kid was working. The rule was that all of their parts and sub-assemblies had to remain on the white foamboard. This brought many great improvements including containment, being able to see parts easily, the ability to write notes directly on their launch pad, and not losing track of sub-assemblies. While the kids were working, I still had projects going through the shop so I decided to put them on foamboard so they would not be confused with the kids’ projects. Instantly, I noticed that my own production had drastically increased! In the last two years I have tweaked on the idea, added temporary cutting mats, used Kanban Post-its on the foam, and even expanded the idea to recycle floating IKEA Lack Shelves to build Launch Pads for the morning launch at home! Coffee? Keys? Sunglasses? It’s all right there. I will have more ready for sale this summer.

I would be remiss if I did not throw a complicated word at everyone. I often find that the Germans are great at providing complicated words. The above post has been brought to you by the word: Gesamtkunstwerk, German for “all-encompassing art.” It is often beneficial to expand your current interest of the moment to art, writing, lifestyle, music, household, et. al. as you will get the ability to fully dive into subjects and uncover various exciting things that you would not if you stopped at the finish line after one race.

Regarding Getting Shit Done, I finished a good book this week titled The Subtle art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson. I honestly did not know what to expect but had some great takeaways that provided more time in my life as the book makes a clear distinction on my problem/not my problem and how we decide to spend our energy as we go through life.

It is also my wish to challenge people to create things. Yes, that is one of my funs. Write down 12 things that you think are good ideas that can be done in an hour. Fold them up and throw them in a jar, box, ammo can, whatever. Next week, randomly select one and do it. Feel free to PM me photo of whatever it was you did. I will be happy to see!



Set to Launch

March 10, 2021
Launch shelf that our family uses every morning.

Thanks to my friend, Brandon Barker, I have regained access to my blog following a migration, smoked Macbook, and a couple of routers. I am back on track trying to find some of the myths of our modern world. Those thoughts that have become so normalized that you unwittingly take as the truth. I have a big one currently. It deals with the how to get shit done as a creative when you have a day job, family, pandemic, whatever. It is my deepest dive into research on the “act” of making. That may be as a hobby, as a job, or as a consortium of many sorts. I remember being terrorized by David Bayles and Ted Orland’s “Art and Fear” in Graduate school. I still love that book and visit it every so often.

I often thought that one had to stand at the crossroads in search of a university job, or find that perfect gallery that was in love with your work. One day, as an adjunct professor, I was doing all of the training and paperwork to start my semester when I found out that both of my classes had been dropped due to low enrollment. Then, I knew- this is not why I got in to the arts. I got in to entertain myself by working through my thoughts and ideas, making things, and possibly getting people to look at those things and step outside of what they previously thought was gospel. I decided to spend my creative energy elsewhere. (Despite not having any classes to teach, the College was still asking me to register for pre-semester H.R. requirements!)

Every few years, I reassess my current situation and adjust course. One of the first questions that I write either in a journal or on a piece of graph paper in front of me is: “What makes me happy.” I know- super easy right? But we have to constantly ask ourselves this or we drift off-course. In Graduate school we had a visiting artist (I have dug deep but cannot remember her name) that said “for inspiration, always refer to your childhood.” This has been some of the greatest advice ever. I began to write down what motivated me through the years. My opening for my TEDx talk in Decatur referred to these things: rockets, racecars, trains, electronics, militaria, trucks, industry… In my twenties there was a resurgance of these themes when I watched Mythbusters on Discovery Channel. I received a total creative infusion when I stumbled upon Adam Savage’s Tested channel on YouTube. I have also learned to revalue my inspiration vs. actions through Austin Kleon‘s books Steal Like an Artist, Show your work, and Keep Going. I hope to absorb and reflect some of the great energy that these two provide for me.

To channel all of this new energy, (here it is: the big one) I have decided to assemble some of the greatest inspirations for my work into a collected volume of knowledge. Yes, I am going to write a book. I do not care if I have to self publish and print 10 copies. It is a goal that I have, and I am committed to keeping it. Bubble thought drawings have been filling my sketchbooks for months now and have coalesced into about twelve general areas (chapters). I will begin researching each one until I feel that I have something worthwhile to provide for creative types like myself. I hope to keep my blogposts short and informed with links to further reading so that the reader does not feel obligated to review a doctoral thesis each time I post.

Also, I will include photographs. Many photographs. Having five paragraphs without a pretty picture is not of my nature. I ask you to follow along and share with those that need a push. I will provide artwork, sign work, and exhibits on Instagram links try Sandcruiser13. Thank you for reading this far! Oh! the working title of my book is “Launch Pad– the creative’s guide to getting shit done.”


Normal Friday

March 15, 2020

Last week I rushed through my closet Friday morning searching for the perfect look for my photoshoot. I have had a couple of requests for head shots this year and felt the ones currently floating around did not exactly communicate “me.” I had decided a month earlier to hire an art photographer known for her unique photoshoots. I grabbed a jacket and ran downstairs to my shop. Rachel Holden was in my drive unloading equipment. Once set up, I realized I was still wearing a jacket. She told me that it was ok, she was just metering light and setting up shots. NPR was playing in the background. I was warned that she had a unique way of shooting a week prior but nothing seemed out of the ordinary at this point. Soon, both of us were on our phones as she needed an assistant to make some shots work. Daniel, from the museum showed up and we began shooting for real. Rachel told me “pull out tools that you use often for your work and lay them on the bench if we need them. Everything began innocent enough. Me, in my jacket posing in stoic positions as if I were a 1990’s investment broker. Then, it got real. She had me pick up art tools and pose with them. She wanted sparks in the background to represent welding and had my assistant, Daniel start grinding on steel off camera to add some context. Then. She placed orange gels on a flood and positioned them close to my face. Not enough. She then had Daniel spray air freshener in front of me to get a “nice orange glow.” Are we about done? “No.” As I finished sneezing and wiping the tears from my eyes, she decided that I should bring out spray paint. (Spray paint is involved in much of my work) Rachel walked to the radio in my shop and put it on a classic rock station. Rob Zombie was on. The pace of the shoot increased rapidly. She had me in a mask spraying paint directly at her camera and lights. What was supposed to be a 15 minute shoot has now rolled up to nearly 2 hours. Volume has increased again, she was hollering at my assistant to throw red dye powder in my face. The camera was firing on all cylinders. Finally, she said “I think we got something.” Whew! I was sweating, my eyes were burning. My shop was a mess. Her equipment was covered in paint and dye. I thanked Rachel, told her to Venmo me, and everyone left. After another hour of decompression, I walked through the sculpture park next to my work. After catching my breath, I sent Rachel a text asking if I could see some raw images. She replied with 5 raw shots. As I scrolled through them, I could only think: I am totally profesh, I am casual, I am badass, I am totally gangster artist! Well worth the money. When I get my blog working on my work station again, I will post links. But, if you really want to see awesome photography, Google or FB Rachel Holden photography! Peace.

Group Dedication

July 1, 2018

As i take a Sunday to relax on the couch and do as little as possible, i catch a television commercial that states “at this minute, 72,000 people are hating their jobs”. Like most people, i have had a job or two that i would just as soon go to the dentist than do another shift. I had a short underemployment stint following graduate school where i scheduled visits to the V.A. just to get a day off.

Fortunately, i have landed in a very nice place that i don’t hate. It is actually the opposite. I love going to work each day. The reason is not just because it is in my field of study, or because i work in a place that is synonymous with fun. Actually, it is a true NFP receiving no government funds or any tax based contracts so the pay is nothing to write home about. Often in a NFP, employees wear many hats and have a mastery of operating a wide variety of functions that larger profit based organizations have individual positions for the same requirements.

With extra responsibilities, many times extra hours are required. Government regulators do not care if you do not have a full time H.R. Specialist, a Safety Officer, or Public Affairs. In the world of NFP organizations, everyone steps up and fills in these important roles.

Add in a major event- large fundraiser, public event, facility upgrade, capital campaign, or a major expansion. With a small but dedicated staff (and volunteers and sometimes board members) everyone adapts to pull off a successful event.

My current organization is nearing the finish line on a 14 month major expansion. I am amazed daily as i do my rounds and notice things that were completed since my last walk through. Many in our organization have stepped up and went far beyond what could reasonably be expected by such a lean organization. People from Education doing landscaping, weekend customer service staying late to paint, Operations sourcing plants, furniture, & contractors. Hell, our executive director has been helping move exhibits and filling in every time someone needs a hand. We also lucked out by having a Site Superintendent that invested himself in our mission and has far exceeded “other duties as assigned.” For that matter everyone has. Employees have put their families and personal activities on hold many times and worked late- as in like another shift late. People have returned at night for lighting design. Employees have brought multiple changes of clothes to insure proper attire and plan for the possibility of being roped into a hot sweaty task. Individuals have worked with flashlights and headlamps into the night to insure that landscaping will be finished. No matter what, every morning education comes in early to get the next day started.

Many days lately, we have had people in our building from 6:00am until the last of the clean up crew leaves at 11:00pm (save for flooring nights that they stay until three).

What does this unending dedication get you? We have cleared land, built a building, built an airfield, installed a helicopter (yes, a real one), built a police car, converted a police SUV to play in, oversaw the design and installation of 22 interactive exhibits, negotiated another land grant, upgraded current facilities, implemented policy, operations, and safety policies, landscaped a couple of acres, and developed educational plans to apply all of this to our mission of being a nationally recognized Art and Science museum for children.

This has literally been a journey of blood, sweat, and tears. I only hope that other organizations find the chance to see what a massive amount of dedication can result in. It has been a wonderful experience and i hope to do this again.

If you find yourself crossing throughCentral Illinois on I-72, heading south on US-51, or even cruising through Springfield on old Rt. 66, take time to swing over to Decatur and check out the lake! See what happens when an old industrial town is forced to accept economic realities and the people come together to make something nice. Like the Zoo, or Pier 36 Marina, or the amphitheatre, the minigolf, ropes course, water park, expanded narrow gauge train, a sculpture park, or our humble children’s museum. Bet you can’t do it all in one day!

J. E. Sandy Sandberg

#bestjobever #nowdecatur #cmofil #sandysandberg #sandbergcreative

The Power of Falling Short

November 19, 2017

Graduate School taught me to “Fail” regularly. I often told myself that in the “real” world that I would have the tools to not fail. I would set goals and keep knocking them out. Great joy comes from lining through a completed item on a list. Just over a year ago, I got a “real” job back in my field. I began as the Director of Museum Experiences at Children’s Museum of Illinois. Life has taught me to take an advantage of that first day of work, while energy is high to write every thought, goal, message, personal notes to self down on my legal pad. The first task of not failing has to be documenting everything that needs accomplished!

One of the phrases that my Executive Director shared with me on my first day, was “Make people’s experiences awesome.” I held on to that quip as I felt it was very honest and a bit vaporous. Over the course of a year, I referred back to it often when I found myself in a quandary about how to proceed forward with an element of some object. Should I find myself “failing”, this phrase would help re-calibrate my course. At the end of the first week, I had created a list- a long list- a long list with half-crazy unattainable goals to use my ability as a creative to put my stank all over this museum.


Crane Day event in conjunction with O’Shea Builders and BLDD Architects. 15 Nov 2017.

My lofty goals included repainting every wall in the 15,000 sq.ft. facility. Inventory, and reset the maintenance shop, install 3-4 new exhibits, repair every broken exhibit piece in the museum, establish Standard Operating Procedures, an OSHA approved safety program… I am serious. The list went on like a runaway letter to Santa. All of the way to the “5-year plan.” Glad I did not over-do it.


I started right in on the first exhibit installation. It was a rather new purchase that had been sitting idle in a classroom awaiting a permanent installation. Maintenance immediately painted the entire wall that it was to be installed on. Electrician ran wiring. I designed, cut and applied all of the graphics. worked some late nights and BOOM! -first exhibit down. That was also the last exhibit to go smooth. By our first event, an excited group of 7-year old kids found a flaw in the design. They learned that if you smack it hard enough, all of the parts will fall to the inside. The following Monday was spent with our new Maintenance worker, uninstalling the brand new exhibit so that we could make modifications. I have learned in the Children’s Museum world, that “modification” is a commonly used word. There are other popular words that are used on Monday mornings I will exclude those from this post. In short, kids are stronger than one may think.

20170303_091942_HDR.jpg     Late winter found me trudging along- still positive, still updating parts for special events, developing exhibit upgrades, working toward awesome. A detail that I have yet to mention is about the “5-year plan.” The first week of my employment, my Executive Director called me in her office and basically asked if I could alter that to a “1-year plan!” [spew hot coffee now] Yes, sure I told her. I still remember the day. It was late November and raining. I was wearing fancy clothes walking around the property measuring to find the best way to expand the facility. As I sat at my desk feeling the water weep through my fancy clothes and shoes, I sketched. I measured, drafted, colored, and drew multiple ideas until I had a workable design.

20170804_114517.jpg    Meanwhile, we received a grant to build out a new Toddler area in our museum. I thought, no problem, I will build this in house to make the most out of awesome. Then another grant came through to build a previously conceived exhibit, then a collections exhibit that had been in the works, then a giant eyeball. Somewhere during that craziness, our “5-year plan” that turned into a “1-year plan” was awarded funding by a very generous donor. [face palm, up eyebrow, head shake]

At a few points (like building a 1/2 scale train engine in my home studio) I thought I was going to lose my brain. My days were spent doing director stuff, then I would come home at night and work on exhibits in my studio. My amazing wife actually served lunch to me one Sunday in the cab of the toddler train engine. I always tell myself that this is what makes awesome. And you know that the opposite of awesome is failure.


Early rendering of Heroes Hall Expansion. Courtesy BLDD Architects/Chastain & Associates.

Fast forward to last week. I hit my One-year mark and somewhere between meeting with our Construction Manager and ordering custom parts for the local college, I thought that I should take note of what actually did happen in the last year. Two weeks prior, I had just met with my Right-hand-Maintenance Lady discussing how many walls were still left to be painted before she took some time off.

In contrast with the many remaining items on the list, I looked back at those job folders that returned to the file cabinet because they made it off of a list. We ended up installing 6 exhibits in a year. This is a rate of about one every 10 weeks. A safety program has been implemented and our facility is up to code. We have an updated color palette that is being reflected in about 90% of the building. Outreach has been increased and we have started developing traveling exhibit pieces to enhance our rental catalog. We are in the process of adding 7000 sq.ft. of exhibit space. (first floor pours next week) Our land lease has also been extended by about 15,000 sq.ft. for future exhibit development. Most of our changes will become very obvious over the next few months.

I often read articles posted by The International Institute for Failure Studies to get my bearings on the idea of failing. Andrew Salyer highlights unique juxtapositions as to what is referred to as a failure. At times, I feel like I work for Ice Road Truckers while gremlins toss random appliances in front of me. After stepping back to reflect, I have realized that you never stop failing. You just find creative challenges to questions that you did not ask. If I could provide one ounce of productive value for this post it would be: Scratching tasks off of a list can be very rewarding. It may seem that we are falling short because we see that The to-do list is still there, so throw those completed tasks in a jar. Weigh what is completed with what remains on the list. Now, to finish painting those last couple of walls…



December 22, 2016

As always, I get busy with the hands on parts of my life and run late doing things like…blogging. I told you this summer that I was brewing up a program to promote STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math).I had just secured a group of websites for “steamworks.” I had recently secured a handful of websites with the name “steamworks” and felt that I had to brand this and investigate learning practices.


How many times have you heard the story about the Uncle that could fix anything? It always starts the same: “When Frank was young, he would take apart anything he got his hands on.” With a reply from the Uncle explaining that by deconstructing household items, gave him the knowledge and confidence to make/fix/repurpose things. This spurred me to tinker with the idea of “no instructions needed(R).”

I began by locating a venue while developing a two day learning program. The tie-in was “STEAM” so I chose a standardised model railroad element to introduce kids to the concept of STEAM while actually applying it. After hitting up some area businesses for funding, I put together a package for each participant that included a modular wooden base kit, an N-scale (1:160) railcar and some random details. Now, we could have set around and followed the instructions and worked as a class to get everything built at once, mount their track and off they went. But, what would they learn? As they opened their module kits, I collected everyone’s instruction sheets. I informed them that they would not need them and threw them away. Instead, they were provided with blueprints and standards for a final product. They immediately began to experiment and figure out how to build their base modules. As some finished, they assisted the other participants to keep the whole class moving forward. When their wooden modules were 20161112_113841complete, they had to choose from a random box of N-Scale track pieces to come up with the exact final measurements for their required module. All of a sudden, the class was waist deep in rulers, calculators, digital calipers, hammers and power drills. This is the magic that I live for! Skipping ahead, after the second class, parents had looks of amazement on their faces. I am not sure if it was the fact that their children were adept at using math and power tools or the fact that someone let me do this in public.

20161203_102328After class one, the kids got to choose paint and landscape details to take home with them while they prepared for the final reveal. During this time, I accepted a new position for a Children’s Museum because I did not have enough going on in life! More on that later…

On December 3rd, our Steamworks team reconvened at Blue Mound Memorial Library to set up their finished works while visitors came to see Mr. & Mrs. Claus. After twenty minutes of set-up and minor tweaking, the children had two steam engines pulling train cars around the 3′ x 7′ assembled layout. It is also of note that gender had no influence on the participants or the visitors. Everyone fought the same to get their time running each train.

I would like to send out a special thank you to our local supporters of the program:

Blue Mound Firefighters Association, Legacy Grain, Dippin’ Merv’s, Castle Trains & Treasures, Blue Mound Memorial Library. With you, these local children gained skills and confidence that can be used as they seek out their careers in a few years.

Virginia Bound…

July 29, 2016

First, some quick updates on this past spring: We have been working with industrial furniture. Rescued an old Science class table and gave it some Sandberg Creative love. It now lives in Dallas, TX. Spent the early spring selling old school lockers and keeping a few for my own studio. Spare time has include finishing up on some random art pieces. (Industrial-Joman Teapot) (Small problems #1)

Early June, I took a planned research trip to Virginia. It was an overdue trip as my list of subjects and places in Virginia had grown to excess by the time I set out. After a couple of days and several hundred miles in my travels, I met up with a friend from college, Manda Remmen and we went on a mission to check out some of the sites photographed by O. Winston Link. (our most alluring part of the mission was trying to identify the bell tower from Link’s sounRural Retreatd piece “Rural Retreat.” We found a good candidate but will have to dig deeper.  I took many reference photos along the way as I was also researching architecture along the Pre-1964 Norfolk and Western Railway mainline. After a quick tour to the start of the Bristol “Virginia Creeper” line and miles of trekking along  highway 81, we finally found where Elvis had stopped to pee. We toured around Emory and Henry college, where my friend teaches art. They actually still have been using the original N&W depot for various administrative departments. After some local fare, we settled down to discuss the days findings. In the morning, I took off on a rambling trip toward Roanoke. At Roanoke, I checked out the Virginia Museum of Transportation. This museum, with VERY DEDICATED staff and volunteers accomplished the highly complicated (and expensive task) of restoring a steam engine to operate pretty much as it was built through their fireup611 campaign. I have to admit that I am a bit nostalgic about the locomotive Class “J” 611 as I have childhood memories attached to this engineering marvel. The VMT was one of my most anticipated stops on the trip but I was somewhat let down. Overall, I liked it and am very glad that I went. On the other hand, I felt like many of the exhibits were very aged. I believe that at one point I found a “click tape” label on one of the older displays. If they do another capital campaign, I would love to direct the exhibits department to help create a modern, interactive group of exhibits for all ages. I understand how funding streams work, and wish that they could uncover other streams to help bring other areas of the museum up to the quality of their steam program. For instance, the children’s area which was located at the far end of the railroad platform in dirty sand by an old storage shed. No one would even be able to see their children if they were brave enough to let them stay there. I would have felt more comfortable allowing my kids to play on splintered, rusted railroad detritus than the out dated playground equipment that was present.

After a long day at VMT, I was pushing time but decided to squeeze my visit to the O. Winston Link museum back in to my itinerary. After entering the former Norfolk & Western Depot and paying my entry fee, I walked down the glass walled staircase to the museum on the lower level. upon entry, I was welcomed by a floor-to-ceiling 20-foot black and white wall print of one of Link’s prints wallpapered down the hall. How glorious! This museum was done right! multiple prints, physical exhibits, sound pieces and collections. It was refreshing to see a museum that I felt like I new the artist by the end. I was traveling with him emotionally on a 6 year journey of time tables, late nights and friends that trusted in him the passion that he was trying to document.  After visiting, I do feel that it may have been skewed toward adults, and a bit safe as museums go. I would have loved to see a digital room with props that kids and adults could attempt to light and photograph. Overall, it was well done and very much worth the last minute addition to my time in Roanoke.

After a bit of BBQ, I began my journey up highway 80 toward Front Royal, VA just outside of D.C. The morning held a unique experience that would flood back childhood memories. Months prior to my trip, I had purchased tickets to ride the Norfolk and Western Class J #611. As a child, the Norfolk & Western/ Norfolk Southern would use this rescued locomotive to carry the brass on summer trips around the Eastern half of the U.S. As a child, when we heard the 611 was coming through, we would head several blocks across town to my Grandparent’s house by the Decatur to STL mainline. We would wait for hours until we could hear the distinct bellow from the “Queen of Steam” and listen to it build until it broke out of town and barreled south across the prairie. These feelings boiled back up into me as I waited at 6:00am for the newly restored 611 to pull into Front Royal.FullSizeRender

Nursing a hangover from a convenient club across from the depot, I sucked it up and searched for a location to get a decent video. I began to hear the distinct low notes of the J’s whistle as it was rounding through town toward the station.  It would be a fine time to note that a high-pressured “Modern” steam locomotive that was built to operate 20 car trains at 80mph, has very little in common with our childhood sense of a “choo choo.” As a J approaches you, the breathing of such a beast becomes alive to you. the “chuffs” of it’s enormous cylinders feel like small explosions. The soot and steam inundate you as it slowly powers by you and a blast of the whistle is enough to cancel out the speaker in your cell phone. As the cacophony of pounding, hissing, vibrating, and squealing passed behind the parking garage I hustled down to my car, the Ohio, and boarded. In a few minutes we began moving. It was anti-climatic as riding behind a Class J was just as smooth and quiet as a modern Amtrak. I would forget that I was riding behind a 75 year old piece of American forged machinery that could shake the fillings out of your teeth if it were not for the occasional glimpse of the locomotive out of the window when gliding around the Appalachian curves.

Next month, I will be talking about another kind of steam: the STEAM kind. so put on your teacher/Learner hats and check back for the new programs that we are currently developing at Sandbergcreative that may be coming to a Learning Center near you!


Peace, Art, & Education

New Show

March 1, 2016

Hello, friends! Last weekend found me taking a relaxing though scheduled drive to the Saint Louis Metro area to deliver new artwork. The pieces are a diptych of two 24″ X 36″ “airscapes” done in acrylic on wood. Yes, I do make two-dimensional artwork! I often find that some of my sculptures are too large for some venues and over the last couple of years I have begun finishing some of my sculptural ideas so that they can be displayed as well. The title of the diptych is Air to Air Porn Remix. I sometimes spend too much time on titles but this one is different as the title reflects the history of the piece. In Graduate School at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, it was a house cleaning every year that a graduating class moved out leaving friends with loads of artwork of varying degrees of finish for their friends. One of my good friends, Justin Maes awarded me with some large wood A-A Porn Close-upcanvasses depicting military individuals in compromising positions. They were very beautiful to look at but the content makes them quite hard to display. Justin was always remixing artwork and music, producing his own tracks in Grad School to accompany some of his works. two years ago, with little money to buy food, let alone canvas, I chose to do my own remix. For two pieces, I chose to paint over the figures with various shades of blue depicting the upper atmosphere. I then placed paper planes engaged in a dogfight, launching phallic salt and pepper shakers at each other. I feel that the content of the original piece still comes through but in a very different way. Over time, I will probably do at least one more set of paintings based on Justin’s paint-outs. More paper airplanes could be involved. Not sure, but they keep coming back repeatedly in my work as I dig deeper into the connections between, violence, beauty, war fighting, heroism, toys, and patriotism. So, if you are in the STL area, check out the show at Saint Charles Community College! March 7th – April 8th.

Talk soon,


Cinema 7

November 25, 2015

So, here are a couple of pics of the Cinema 7 sign that I made for my good friends Eric and Rachel Smith. The body is made out of 3/4″ marine grade plywood. It is painted in Tuscan Red enamel paint. The gold is 24k paint outlined with old-school black enamel sign paint.

Cinema in procThe perimeter was fitted with Aluminum roll stock. The number insert was milled and fitted with clear plexi. I made a somewhat complicated system to bore the holes to accept year-round holiday lights from Target. After a 30 degree chamfer on top, I cold forged brass grommets to match the underside of the bulbs and seat in the holes.

Cinema1After repairing and repainting the steel letters, I used a vintage motor and roller system out of an old beer light to make the rays vibrate behind the number 7. In it’s final rendition, the number 7 was translucent white on a black background. All wiring was UL listed and minimum connections made to insure safety and proper operation. We had previously installed a French Cleat on the concrete wall to accept the sign in a simple manner. This was a fun and enjoyable project and has given me ideas for the idea of the lighted marquis. I am now thinking of what things are so important in our world that we should put it up on a marquis to draw blatant attention to it. I am sure that you could think of some issues that deserve “silver screen promotion.”