Archive for December, 2010

To Mother Earth

December 23, 2010

So, the end of another semester came. I took a couple of days off to get my mind right before submitting grades. Sometimes you have to separate yourself from the emotional connections to be utterly fair. In my time off, I began working with some artist neighbors of mine to build an Ice Bar. This is great back breaking work for anyone looking to unwind at the end of a semester in the snow belt. We began with a simple Art Deco’ish design in their front yard. The other “forts” that I have built for art pieces are usually well planned and thought out- or at least planned to develop in a certain way. This one was was drafted on the back of a pizza box. Ok, so you think we may have had too many drinks and come up with this. You would be correct on that assumption, but probably not on the next. We followed through and received help from a couple of other friends in the last two days. The fort is now, five feet tall (we are building the ceilings at 6ft), we began casting the windows in ice to install over the holiday, the vintage Preway fireplace is installed, the roofs are ready and last, but not least, the bar is installed. After returning from a Winter Solstice celebration, I felt the need to celebrate, I asked my neighbors to join me, and they suggested that we finish the bar first. So, after 2 more hours of back-breaking labor and 11 more ice blocks, we were polishing the top and popped open a bottle of cab sav to celebrate the solstice just as Mother Earth would intend. Erick documented, and I will get some photos up soon. Tomorrow, we will finish the two top courses on the rear of the fort and install the roofs, (reclaimed box-springs) Erick is installing a thermometer to gauge how warm we can keep it without melting it down. We are currently looking for an animal hide for the door. (please do not kill an animal just for this, there are plenty of hides floating around already). Our next step is to install a strand of holiday lights through bottles inserted in the back wall for some mood lighting. My neighbor, Erica, claims that we should build a snowball trebuchet just in case any of our other neighbors become jealous, or the city attempts to raise their taxes.

As far as my other work, I finished the semester up with a half-dozen new pieces. I am only excited about two of them. I will revisit the large scale toy planes as well as more custom tool boxes. The new year will find me working with my friend, Dale Kaminski on a new projection piece that I am really excited about. Enjoy your holiday, whatever that may be and your new year!


December 11, 2010

Been busy this week getting ready for the Graphic Attack show at the 7th Floor Gallery here in Madison, WI. It is great that I am finishing up teaching. Work has shifted into high gear for my last run at the semester. The Graphic Attack show is going to be fun. The reception is Thursday, the 16th 7p-9p. Student, Lucy Jost and myself, Co-curated it with assistance from our Urban Graphics instructor, Erin O’conner. She developed and secured funding for this new class. This weekend, I will be stenciling a Stormtrooper and a Rockem- Sockem Robot. Master Chief will also be included in the show. There will be a game of bags going on all night on Gabe Meija’s East/West rapper bag boxes. (Step next door as Gabe has a show in the East side of the Gallery the same night. There will also be a live D.J. and snacks. See you there!

Below is a paper that I just turned in for my Makers class. It is my solution to the world.

Makers Craft Project.

J.E. Sandberg


My childhood was a gifted one. Not by money or status, but was gifted by having a loving, hardworking do-it-yourself family. I spent my childhood days at my grandparent’s house five blocks from my own. Summer days were spent learning gardening, canning, painting, cooking, cross-stitching, crocheting, landscaping, working on automobiles and working in my grandfather’s wood shop. Little did I know that this early experience wood later inform my whole life. One of my earliest memories is my grandpa building me my own toolbox. It contained a small hammer, two screwdrivers, a fold out tape measure and a hand plane.

For the Makers Project, it was a challenge to create an art piece from theoretical conception to the object as opposed from choosing sketches and altering them contextually to create a piece. It turned out being very rewarding as it provided an opportunity to use life experiences and readings that I have been consuming as a map for the direction of my thoughts as a craft-based piece is conceived.

Foremost in my thoughts was the fact that everyone I was reading talked about using your hands to make quality items. Growing up, I spent most of my time my grandfather’s woodshop. He was a master craftsman in a variety of areas and taught me more than any other figure in my life. He taught me to make what the family needed from scrap or raw materials.

The last few years have raised concerns with me regarding the economy, the environment, and war. It would seem difficult to relate these had I not joined in Robert M. Pursig’s pain of trying to understand ultimate reasons for modern truths. His reason (which I do not dispute) was quality. The lack of quality in the modern world is a result of modern spending habits and inability to refuse lesser quality items in vain hopes to improve their social status. I take this line of thought farther by saying that all three derive from individual greed. This is not to be confused with corporate greed, the outlandish umbrella that protects everyone from overspending. [debatable] It is my belief that there is a personal greed that is predominately justifiable by it’s practitioners. Many say they “want the best for their children.” This is dangerous as it only promotes the abusive system by allowing corporations to provide lesser quality items from manufacturers that are not always produced under fair working environments.

Many people (specifically Americans) abuse the environment through personal greed as well.  Disposable diapers, private trips to school or events, plastic school supplies, and high poly- school clothes are all examples. Parents and individuals will justify their purchases as improving their family situations involving time and money. Wal-mart has focused on this rationalization in the last year with the slogan “save money, live better.” The public buys into the cost cutting more and more each year. On the outside, it appears that it has been a slow process for both purchasing and materials. In reality, labor has been outsourced to countries with less than honorable employment practices at an astounding rate. I recall an article in Business Weekly in 2002 espousing the need for a Chinese trading team for every company to speed up trade agreements and cash in on the cheap “manufacturing costs.”

How does the military fit in? We are a nation created on conquest. We are the smart Western civilization that earned every freedom that we have the hard way. No nation can tell us how to defend our inherent rights. We have the right to cheap stuff, we have the right to cheap oil, we have the rights to the best gemstones in the world, and we have the rights to precious metals. Our military will defend that. This is more complicated than I will fully explore in this paper. Previously, there were two reasons to attack a nation: resources or space. Since World War II, we have included the military-industrial complex.  This is a very interesting situation as people work jobs building military-specification items of the highest quality to earn a pay check to purchase items of the least amount of quality to save money or purchase more cheap goods.

How do we solve this situation? I look to Matthew Crawford (shop class as soulcraft) and the renegade metalsmith, Gabriel Craig for possible answers. Crawford states: “Since the standards of craftsmanship issue from the logic of things rather than the art of persuasion, practiced submission to them perhaps gives the craftsman some psychic ground to stand on against fantastic hopes aroused by demagogues, whether commercial or political. Plato makes a distinction between technical skill and rhetoric on the grounds that rhetoric “has no account to give of the real nature of things, and so cannot tell the cause of any of them”. Our society has become so involved with being able to purchase instant gratification, instead of working with their hands to create, that we have shipped most honorable trades out of the country to the lowest bidder. We are just now realizing that there are no jobs left. Politicians keep promising that they are going to bring jobs back. That is exactly what the people want: jobs to just come back. What the average citizen does not want is to have to adjust their lifestyle via cutbacks or elbow grease to get there.  We should look back to some of the writings of William Morris and read it with the luxury of being in the 21st Century. We should find the parts where he begins to justify labor changes and we should look as a whole to see if changes made to an industry will have an adverse effect in the long run. Or, it may be that as a post-contemporary or alt-modern world that we may have to set limits as to what is an acceptable practice in business.

Finished Tool Box

The luxury of speaking to masses of people is one that I do not have. What I can do is teach younger people that there are much honorable ways to get through life.  I will teach them to work with their hands. If you work with your hands, you contemplate labor and craft- you earn a deeper understanding of how things are made and how they affect the world.  David Nash responded in an interview with Sculpture Magazine responding to his use of simple objects and natural materials in his work. “Of course, we miss a lot now, because there’s so much on screen. It makes everything seem the same-everything’s virtual. There isn’t any “body learning” anymore, an it’s terrible for children because they should be playing with objects.” My proposal is to build toolboxes for kids.  I will build a prototype toolbox, of a classic and practical design from hardwood. It will be a children’s sized toolbox built to military specifications. It will be filled with basic tools and I will show kids how to use each one. Providing the kid is interested, I will give them the toolbox and ask them to use their hands and skills to make the world better.

Next Time, I will provide some more images of my work and less writing! I would also like to give a very special “Hello” To Fisher and Haley Sandberg! Love ya’s!