Video, Woodworking, Bookbinding... Whatever!
We shouldn't be afraid to embrace whimsy, that nagging idea that life could be magical; it could be special if we were only willing to take a few risks.
- Donald Miller (Author)
OK, I’m no Steven Spielberg. I’m not even qualified to run a camera for the likes of Steven Spielberg. But sometimes lack of qualification doesn’t matter. Occasionally you have to just pick up the camera and hit record.
I’ve always enjoyed filming things even as a kid, and I’m still always on the lookout for opportunities for video projects. I’ve actually gotten fairly adept at using Adobe Premiere Pro and have created several music videos and other nonsense.
A friend of mine and I even embarked on a year-long project to document traveling to Colorado craft breweries for gigs that I had booked. We tried to capture the vibe of a buddy road-trip and what it’s like to be a travelling musician, and we interviewed the brewers while we were there. We decided to write a bunch of low budget skits to intro each episode. It was a fun project though an immense amount of work.
I’ve also been involved with a local director in creating music videos for my children’s music. We were working on a very limited budget and had to really improvise. I had to make an entire world out of paper puppets for one video and perform while standing in a bathtub for another. Those were great learning experiences.
So I’ve been an actor, a props guy, a location and talent scout, writer, director editor, or whatever the project needed. If you think you’ve got an idea for a video, even one that seems a little, how shall I say… “weird”, I might be your guy.
This is a very low-budget skit that my friend and I created as a teaser for Colorado Sessions. Filmed on an iPhone using a green screen and Adobe Premier to edit. Our poor friend Bill got roped into being the mad scientist and spent and afternoon laughing maniacally. The hardest part about this was unsuccessfully trying to get our cat to sit still Bill’s arms. The acting was NOT the hardest part.
Ok, this is about the weirdest and most fun video I’ve worked on. It’s a music video for the song “Venulegur Dagur” which means “Ordinary Day” in Icelandic. It’s basically a lyrics video where each phrase is presented in a different format. Not only did this involve obvious editing work in Premiere, but also linking to Adobe Illustrator and AfterEffects projects as well as screen-printing, woodworking, graphic design, crafting, drawing and even cookie decorating as well as providing some very interesting filming opportunities. This one had it all. There’s also an Icelandic version where each scene was replicated but with Icelandic lyrics instead.
I am no fine woodworker. You’ll never get a splay-legged table or hi-end cabinetry out of me. But I do love a good woodworking or craft project. I find it really satisfying when a dovetail joint comes together or when a nail drives straight and true with one hammer strike.
The woodshop is where I work on little art and craft projects. It’s covered in beer stickers, antique shop lights and posters, and the walls are filled with old tools from my Dad and Grandpa. The rafters are hung with Christmas lights and the pieces that result from my obsession with creating. There’s usually some random old music coming from the CD player in the corner.
Like most everything I undertake, my woodworking projects are… questionable. At first glance, most of them seem like ideas a kindergartener drew with crayons. But once I get an idea in my head, the only resolution is to complete it. Otherwise, it’s just stuck up there with all the song lyrics and hare-brained plans. I love spending time in the woodshop, under the twinkling lights, with some Oasis blasting while I work on my bikes or try to make some crazy idea a reality. There’s craft beer in the fridge if you want one.
I also just love found objects and feel that they were placed (left?) on this earth to be repurposed. I have bins and bins of all sorts of interesting trinkets, clock gears, antique keys, bike parts, little ornate scraps of metal. I just can’t pass this stuff up or, God-forbid, throw it into the trash. Instead these objects make their way into some piece of weird art or even something more utilitarian like a pencil holder.
My hare-brained projects include a ukulele made from a cake pan to look like my sun logo, acoustic tiles made from recycled jeans material and coffee sacks, a dollhouse replica of our actual house, and various little boxes and holders. I also make a lot of frames. I’m not even sure how this started, but I’ve made frames out of bike parts, tied knots, ground lights, cellphones and even a old purple bass guitar I found abandoned by the side of the bike path. Then I feel obliged to make some art to occupy the frames, and so I end up with water-colored fish, bikes made from clock parts and framed drawings. Yeah, I’ve got a real problem, and the woodshop, which has started looking like a mad art gallery, is evidence in my insanity case.
No one has ever commissioned (or even asked) me to work on these things, but who knows? Maybe you’re thinking, “I’d really like a steam-punk box made from plumbing parts to hold my office supplies, but who’d be stupid enough to do that?” I’d be stupid enough.
A friend of mine sent me a video about a traditional book bindery. It was fascinating. I had never really thought about how a hard-bound book was constructed. The video showed the complete process set to music. They used antiquated equipment, carefully cutting, folding, pressing and sewing paper and cloth until they had produced a beautiful book. My friend should have known better.
I instantly thought, “I want to do that.” So I started researching how to bind a book. What I found were instructional videos teaching you how to make a book using commonplace items like scissors, thumbtacks, and bricks. Not good enough. I wanted the antiquated book press made of wood and iron and the bone folding knife. I didn’t want to make a book to have a book. I wanted to make a book to make a book.
So I got to work in the woodshop designing and building some equipment based on what I had learned. I made a book cradle, a press and and a sewing frame. They may not have been as timeless as the equipment I saw in the original video, but they were certainly more substantial than the makeshift setup in the DIY videos.
While I was building these items, I decided that my little future bindery needed a name, so I came up with the moniker of “Hare-brained Bindery” which seemed fitting. I designed a logo to brand the operation and added this to my new equipment.
Now that I had a bindery. Time to make a book. In keeping with my goal of making this the full experience, I purchased materials from my local art supply store, including large sheets of high-quality paper, davey board, a bone knife, bookbinder’s awl, sewing needles and binding ribbon, and book cloth and waxed thread.
My first book was… OK. The experience of constructing it was fantastic though, so I was off and running, and I was slightly addicted. I bound books of different sizes, learned to make my own book cloth and started experimenting with unusual cover shapes. I’ve covered books using old shirts and made end sheets out of topographical maps. I’ve learned the difference between a leaf and a page, how many portfolios to include in the signature and how to tie a binder’s knot. I have homemade jigs, templates and bookmark ribbons. I may be off in the weeds on this one, but I am certainly having fun.
There are 195 countries in this world. So presumably there are at least 195 different cuisines. On her Global Table Adventure, Sasha Martin cooked one meal from every country and documented her journey along the way for the rest of us, and as soon as I stumbled across her web site, I was in.
Embarking on this adventure was an easy sell for me. I like to cook anyway, so exploring the different cuisines of the world had a real appeal. Admittedly I’ve been moving at a much slower rate than Sasha, and it’s questionable whether I will make it through every country, but my personal Global Table Adventure has been a ton of fun. In my behalf, many of the meals I’ve cooked have made their way into regular rotation, and I’ve cooked them dozens of times.
I decided to start at the beginning and work my way through the countries alphabetically. This might seem a little OCD, but when you have 195 options to choose from, it helps to have some structure to make a choice, and it prevents me from just going straight to the meals that I’m already comfortable with. When you’re going alphabetically, you can’t skip Burkina Faso. So I started at Afghanistan and moved on from there.
Along the way, I’ve learned to cook with exotic spices, familiarized myself with the Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern and African markets in my area, learned quite a bit about other cultures, tried some foods I’d never even heard of and generally just opened my mind to possibilities. It’s fun, and I think I’ve become a better cook. I finally get to buy those items in the supermarket produce section that always had me scratching my head. I’m now the guy with the jicama, dragon fruit, plantains and red palm oil in his basket.
Don’t get me wrong, some of the meals haven’t gone all that well, but the vast majority have been fantastic, and all of them, even the disasters, have been fun. I’ve made apricot leather, Johnny cakes, rosewater and saffron custard, cassava balls and all sorts of stews, curries, kabobs and desserts on this journey. My spice rack is filled with a wild variety of options, things like paunch puran, achiote seeds, and masala. I’ve loved every step of the way.
Some of the more memorable meals have been the Kabeli Palau, sweet potato mahi mahi fish cakes, Belgian stoofvlees, curried chicken salad and Bolivian peanut soup. As I said, there have been a few mishaps too. When cooking the Albanian lamb dish, I accidentally used vanilla flavored yoghurt in the gravy. That was …um …interesting. And the fermented locust tree beans (sambala) that used in making babenda from Burkina Faso were the most foul smelling thing I’ve ever encountered in my life. It nearly ran me out of the house when I opened the package. But it’s all an adventure right?
I’d highly recommend exploring Sahsa’s site and cooking some meals for yourself. It’ll definitely expand your horizons. Personally I’m waiting to see if it will be hot enough today to cook a bunch of limes on the sidewalk in the sun, so that I can later pickle them for a week to be used in a Cambodian soup with grilled eggs. I think I’ll skip the side of fried spiders though.
Years ago I wrote and recorded a family music song called “Birdsong“. It was a fast-paced rock tune in which I rattled off the names of 192 birds. I know, it’s a little crazy, but I got the idea while on a nature hike with my daughter where we saw a green-tailed towhee. I thought, “Man, birds have such interesting names”, and the next thing you know I’m staying up late on ornithological web sites looking up bird names and trying to get them to rhyme. The song ended up being somewhat popular on satellite radio for a while. So I had to learn how to perform it live. What was I thinking?
At any rate, years later, I wrote another song called “Songbird“. This was a little folk tune about a bird I saw in a thicket while mountain biking. It was more straight-forward and less likely to bring my sanity into question. It really didn’t occur to me at the time that the song titles were somewhat reverses of each other.
Then at some point I got the idea that I wanted to produce a vinyl record. Who in the world decides to go the vinyl route during this age of digital streaming? I mean, CDs had already become a thing of the past. Vinyl was like 3 technologies behind. Well, I had grown up in the age of vinyl. I used to have a huge collection and just loved dropping the needle on a new album, putting on the headphones and listening while I read the liner notes. I just loved the whole experience and missed it to be honest. Having your tunes on vinyl meant you were a “real” musician to me, and just once in my life I wanted to hear my songs on a turntable.
Now producing a full album was just a bit too rich for my blood, especially given the fact that I was likely to never break even on this questionable endeavor. So instead, I opted for a 45 RPM single. That’s when it hit me that side A could be “Songbird” and Side B “Birdsong”. There seemed to be a balance in that. And to justify the cost (seems like I’m always rationalizing these ideas), I decided that I would give some of them away as a thank you to some of the folks who had really helped in in my music career. It was an idea that had been percolating in my head for a while. I wanted to say thanks to those folks who had really made a difference to my music or who had taken a chance one, but I could never decide what a good gift was. Now I had it. I’d give everyone an antiquated item that they couldn’t even use!
Then as these ideas do, my little songbird project spiraled out a bit. I decided that in order to make the gift unique and give it some meaning for those folks who didn’t even have a turntable, I’d hand-draw one of the birds from “Birdsong” on the cover of each single. That’s right, I decided to hand-draw 192 birds! Geez Steve. So I paid my friend Lori, who is an artist, to use 2 of her bird paintings which hang in my house to use as the cover art and I pulled the trigger.
Now I spend some of my Sunday afternoons sitting in a coffee shop or brewpub drawing a bird. Yeah, I’m that crazy guy over in the corner. It’ll take me forever to get through them, but I really enjoy it. I have quite a few of them complete and even more to do. If you are interested in purchasing one, I’m selling them for $50 each. I am not repeating birds, so the ones that are taken already are gone, but you can request the available ones if you really are into Rufous-headed Groundrollers. Click on the button below to find out more.