Arts & Culture: Diversity Dialogue

Cultural Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts in New York State’s Southern Tier

Labor Day

Labor Day was seldom a day of rest or recreation.  As an artist who earned money outside her art, this holiday for others meant a stretch of time to create.  Any day “off” meant a day to be “on.”  Or more likely, that I could get in the flow and stay in it, which for me means staying up ’til 4 or 5 a.m. and being able to sleep later.  Or not have to be presentable and have the working luxury to  run downstairs to crash the kiln, or start the beater, pick up the pen, or tap on the keyboard.

My mother and grandmother worked outside the home until they died. My father lived long enough to retire. I grew up watching my parents, second generation Americans, manage multiple jobs. Not quite two or three like my grandparents, but sustained “moonlighting” by my father and skilled seamstressing by my mother in addition to their full time day gigs. 

Labor Day: I salute the memory of their beautiful efforts and endurance. Whenever I felt burdened by the call to create ( which is not always a joyous, clarion thing, as there’s tons of practice, prep, hauling  and slogging) vs. the too-justifiable desire to rest, I remember them.

The blessing of living where we, in the Southern Tier of New York State live, is that the need for green expanses, running water or glimpsing wildlife, could be gained any weekend or end of workday.  The landings along the Chemung were a favorite respite, as was Seneca, off-season, Cayuga, midweek, the Caton road to the marsh and the substation, anytime.  So much magic here… that crossroads in Caton/Corning, the back way to CCC once the trailer park was gone, that ever lovely change from town to country driving  5 minutes up that street… was it Pine?, to Spencer Crest.

Steps to River

Steps to River

Caton Cattails Marsh

Caton Cattails Marsh

Rabbit Cloud

Rabbit Cloud

Labor Day makes me think of tools and how wonderful they are.  My favorite store has long been a good hardware store.  I’m not a shopper, but I become that kind of grazer, gazer, feeler of things and imaginer in a hardware store.  So much of what I do includes or involves metal, though I’m no metalsmith.   That ancient formulation of the elements– air, fire, water, metal, wood — in creating, I’m the fifth element, though I use lots of water and breathe/shape air…

And I review the line I’m trying not to cross in this revery: tools vs materials. Materials as the stuff worked on, tools those things I use to manipulate/shape/mark the materials. Whew.

Yet on deeper consideration I use assortments of acorn nuts, beaters, blocks, cotter pins, cans, cutters, daps, drills, elevator bolts, files, flashing,  gouges, hammers, hooks, knives,mills, nails, needles, pen nibs,  pipe cutters, pliers,presses, punches, rasps, saws, scissors, scissors, screwdrivers, screws, setters shredders, staple guns, staplers, T-squares, washers ( o how I love washers), wedges, and wrenches; metal tools.

It is amazing how the right tool will not only solve a problem, but may inspire new work, with the options it makes possible.  That happened for me with two different screw punches, both so efficient and elegant… my Japanese screw punch and my little metal screw punch. The Japanese screw punch enabled my sculpted clasp book series and the little metal screw punch made it possible for me to amend metal heishi ( think tiny washers) re-punching larger holes in them for stringing.

I celebrate those that made these wonderful tools that enable me to create.  That labor aids my labor. Happy Labor Day!

2 comments on “Labor Day

  1. Meleny Peacock
    September 2, 2008

    Akua, thank you for your Labor Day message…I’m ever grateful that I had the opportunity to work with you way back when…your message rang true for me…my parents both died still laboring (NO chance to retire), even dying of cancer, both in their mid-sixties…they worked hard every day of their lives to send me and my two siblings to the best schools in the country, just as yours did…so, I, too, salute them on Labor Day and every day of the year…and I keep up my art, writing, as much as I can, if only in tribute to them…I appreciate also what you said about tools, which I, too, marvel at…the hardware store is to this day my favorite store…I spend hours in them…a pair of Japanese scissors is amongst my favorite and most effective tools…and I do remember fondly your sculpted clasp book series…and I salute the tools that enabled those…thank you for doing what you do to enlighten our lives and help us salute those who labored so hard to make our lives possible.

  2. akualezli
    September 5, 2008

    I deeply appreciate your response and sharing! Delighted to read your
    ever insightful words. Wishing you the best in all ways,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on September 1, 2008 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: