Friday, January 10, 2014

Winter Now

We are truly in the thick of it up here in Wisconsin, USA.

A very cold snap  -20°F, has been followed with what feels like a very mild 10-20°F. Living in this part of the country has taught me a new type of patience – to learn to live with things I cannot control has been a good thing. Also, when it is terribly cold I can take time to focus inward and that is what I have been doing. Of course, to be honest, I also left and spent some time in San Diego, CA and a couple days of warm, sunshine go a long way toward making winter manageable. Now that I am back, I notice that this freezing cold world can be very beautiful and serene; it therefore has some benefits.

With my focus currently inward I have been thinking about what the previous year brought me in terms of thinking and learning.

Here are the things that stand out for me:

I revisited the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his study of creativity, happiness and flow. In the past I did not find his work all that compelling but this year in discussion with grad students I came to see his idea of flow as very helpful. Rather than my trying to paraphrase his ideas, it may be worth watching this video:

I think what is most interesting to me about his idea of creative flow is the fact that I have felt that groove before when everything was “clicking into gear” for me and where I lost track of myself within something.  My rediscovery of this concept has resulted in my seeking to pursue spending more time on things where I feel that flow happening. This has been very fulfilling.

In addition, this year I read Daniel Goleman’s book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, which contains some content that relates well to Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of flow (in fact Goleman mentions Csikszentmihalyi). My reading of the work of these two men this year was a bit of serendipity and very helpful. It has me seeking that flow/focus where/when possible.

As noted here previously, this year I seem to have developed a renewed interest in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and read the book The Women: A Novel by T.C. Boyle. I’m a fan of Boyle and thoroughly enjoyed reading the book after visiting Taliesin.

Another book that I enjoyed was Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. As usual Kingsolver’s writing is exquisite –mind blowing to me at times. Some have found the book a bit simplistic and preachy but I enjoyed it and it led me to seek more information about monarch butterflies and threats to their survival.

This is just a partial list of things I have been thinking about during these cold months as I turn my focus inward. The year brought many other new things to me, I have been reading more, and focusing a bit more on my own creative work and this has been very fulfilling. As I wrap up the old year and think about the new, I see it as a bit of a welcome rediscovery of many things –and that is good.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

More FLW: Taliesin!

"The House" Taliesin

My visit to the AD German Warehouse renewed my interest in Frank Lloyd Wright and therefore, I am happy to describe my most recent Wright experience.

Yesterday a group of design students and I visited Taliesin --Wright’s home/studio and school. This was my first visit and it was a wonderful experience. The site is cared for by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Taliesin Preservation, Inc. 

According to the Foundations website Taliesin Preservation Inc. was: "created to preserve the buildings, artifacts, landscape, and legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin. America’s premier architect and Wisconsin’s native son considered Spring Green his home, and he built and created an environment both beautiful and inspirational.

If you are in or near Spring Green WI. (in the southern portion of the state) I recommend making a visit. Tours of both the "Hillside School" and Wright's "House" and studio run from May to October and are conducted bTaliesin Preservation, Inc. (reservations are recommended). Taliesin is also a school of architecture.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Follow up on the A.D. German Warehouse

I was happy to see this recent article about the AD German Warehouse. This is a great follow up to my earlier post and answers questions I had about this  building. If you click on  "more photos" in the left column you can get to additional images.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Back home in the upper midwest now, late August, and its hot. The world around me hangs heavy. Heavy air,  plants heavy with vegetables. Everything seems ripe.

It is that semi-magical time of year, when I get back to school, meet with new students and the whole thing starts over. Soon it will be the real fall: cool air, leaves changing, and crisp. For now I won't think about winter.

On a side note, I took this quick picture of a flower, in a vase, on my kitchen table --with my phone. I continue to be amazed at the quality of quick little i-phone pictures.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Qualities of Light

Currently visiting Southern California and lucky enough to spend time at the beach. This is La Jolla, just south of La Jolla Cove. I'm always struck by how varying geographical locations have such variation of qualities of light. In coastal areas of the Pacific, when the fog burns off,  there is a coolness to the air and a bright contrast to the sunlight that is just spectacular. A swim in the salt water and taco post swim = perfect summer day in my book.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lath and Plaster, a beautiful mess

I live in a house built in 1897, it is not a fancy or grand house, just a place that people have lived for over a hundred years. Much of the older more charming elements were “renovated” out of this house in the 1960s by a previous homeowner.  Over the years we have tried to remove the 1960’s elements and replace them with items that are more in keeping with an old house. Another way of saying this is that our renovations consist of getting rid of lots of junky material from the 60s and trying to make the house “look and feel” as old as it is.

Current work in the house involves scrapping away all the 1960s stuff and taking out a wall so that we can open up a small, poorly lit kitchen. In doing this work we uncovered the original wallpaper and lathe and plaster. A little background: lath and plaster was the wall finish of choice until the 1950’s when it was replaced with drywall (aka gypsum board, aka sheet rock). Installing lath and plaster involved attaching the wood strips called “lath” to wall studs (lath was often 3/8” thick, about 1½” wide and 48” long, with a 3/8” gap between them –sorry to use non-metric measurements for those of you outside of the US). A layer of coarse plaster was troweled onto the lath forming the base of the wall finish and this was then finished with finer plaster.
My long explanation of that plastering process was included so that I could share my amazement at the fact that when we removed the ugly fake paneling from the walls we found perfectly straight, intact plaster walls.  Such a precise job had been done originally that after 116 years the plaster was smooth, straight and rather lovely.  Not to mention the perfectly preserved, albeit faded wallpaper. Part of me wants to keep the lath, wallpaper and plaster exposed –as though we were in a hipster brewpub. I keep staring at the exposed elements because I find the whole thing sort of beautiful.  Acknowledging a job well done by the long gone craftsman that did the work so long ago and the slower more painstaking approach to construction is important to me. Plus I really do like the way this looks.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

FL Wright, Richland Center WI and the AD German Warehouse

I was recently in Richland Center, WI a small town that happens to be the birthplace of Frank Lloyd Wright. There is one building designed by Wright in town, known as the A.D. German Warehouse
A website devoted to the building calls it “ one of few surviving examples from his most creative period (1911-1924), and considered his first definitive use of the so-called “Mayan Revival” motif".

The warehouse was designed in 1915 for a local commodity wholesaler, Albert Dell German with construction started in 1917. By 1921, construction had halted; many of the interior details, in addition to the front entrance remained unfinished
While visiting the building, I was shocked to see a sign indicating that the building was for sale and learned that the building was owned by a private investor who passed away leaving the property as part of his estate. The Richland Chamber and Development Alliance is seeking a buyer with the long-term goal of helping to raise funds for public or public/private ownership of the building and for restoration.
The site is not far from Taliesin, Wrights Wisconsin home and compound. It certainly seems a project worthy of investment and its odd to see this building sitting empty and in need of significant restoration.
I was completely delighted by the building and happy to be able to study it closely and focus on design details. I visited the building with a teaching colleague and had a lively discussion with my colleague about how “important” buildings should be cared for  --or not. My colleague had the point of view that such monuments may be useless and dangerous and we should not fear the wrecking ball in such cases. I, on the other hand, believe that restoring and maintaining such buildings is useful for current and future generations. Seeing the patterns in the brick and the oversized Mayan-inspired details made my heart sing and I do hope something can be done to preserve this gem and indeed to make it useful once again.
There is a FaceBook page for the building: