It’s been awhile since I heard voices from the big old tree on Cascade Drive. I would sit next to the bridge on concrete slab, sometimes eating bits from my lunch box I saved after school, to share with my friends the fairies, who lived in the gnarled oak. I never remember talking about them with anyone of my friends. I suppose I knew no one would believe me if I spoke about their tiny voices and the long discussions we would have quietly. I just always knew they were there, like old friends waiting for me, each time I would take the time to sit and listen. We usually talked about how to make a ladder out of dried leaves, or a bed of soft ferns. Sometimes I would make furniture from little sticks and bits of bark and group them into a setting complete with moss carpet. If the remains of my little grouping sat on the stoop, on the way home and the wind hadn’t blown too hard, I knew my friends had come to gather there….those little fairies, whispering and playing in my arrangement of dusty leaves and twigs.
I’m not sure when I became distracted with other delights like hanging out in the playground with the boys, or trying on different shades of lipstick. But one day I walked by the old tree and I knew they weren’t there anymore. A chapter had ended and a new one wasn’t at all clear. When had I decided all things had to make sense and fantasy was a thing only fools believed in? But it happened without much regret, well maybe a little…but homework and chores gobbled up my fairy voices. There just wasn’t time or the inclination to listen anymore.
I’ve been a designer now for almost 35 years and if you count back to the days of making stick arrangements, maybe a little longer. Construction management is my everyday. Punch list items roam around in my head, of all the rooms I'm designing. It’s seldom I have the time to really play with materials unless I design it into the projects I build (which I usually do). Yet only a moment of pleasure exists at the end of the work, when the fantasy becomes reality, before I close the door on one finished project and open the door to another.
A few years back I decided the only way I could insure playtime never left my world, was to open a studio warehouse, take the materials I love to play with and put them out on a table, that I didn’t have to put away until I decided. The best gift I have, besides the smiles on my children’s faces of course, is the ability to transform at any moment, on any whim, with any reclaimed scrap of a sweater or blanket or paper mache’ beads. I crave creating from something old, used, beat up, and usually broken. Making it into a new thing is what I do best. I collect those things that have long lives. Things that live to tell a story excite me, as you can tell from my Antares collection.
I still think about the fairies from time to time and wonder if there isn’t something about childhood that stays with us over the years, like a breathing forest, a bird in front of my window or a gurgling stream. Maybe we don’t believe the way we used to. Maybe we can’t hear the voices anymore, but when I hear the laughter of a young child, or see the delight in a clients face, or find just the right old pulley to hang my light from, or the right convergence of materials, there’s the same thrill of the ride. The same knowledge that fantasy is only a matter of perspective and I’m never far from home....if I can simply listen.