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.
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!