I threw my leather gloves down in a flourish.The last of the dirty work – the bending of steel rods, the grinding, the welding, the weaving of baling wire, the oil sealing – on my Community Grove sculptures was finished. The gloves – new and clean just weeks ago – were embedded with oil and the seams were broken open in places, testament to hours and days of joyful metalwork.
My eyes wandered to the detritus – the scraps of steel rod and wire,the hand tools and power tools, the layer of welding dust coating everything on and around my table and across to my work "bench," an old, long bar counter from, what I was told, a pawn shop. On top were plastic bins and boxes of small tools and materials and several Folger's coffee cans (my parents' coffee of choice) filled with screws and nails and random findings. My mind flew back to the Junker ("Yunker" in my family's German heritage) Brothers garage, which my maternal grandfather co-owned.
The garage was only a few blocks from my grandparents' home in their small south Texas town. Grandpa would come home at noon for two hours for dinner – the biggest meal of the day. It was always heavy on fried items, including Grandma's homemade egg noodles crisped up in the skillet with lots of butter and corn flakes cereal. And bacon, always lots of bacon or leftover ham mixed into the green beans.
After a nap, he would sometimes let me walk back with him to the garage. I was fascinated by the workbenches and shelves full of tools and parts, but I was not allowed to explore there. Instead, he would give me (was it a nickel?) to buy a roll of Necchi wafers from the front counter and ring it up myself on the old cash register with the delightfully satisfying bell and clunk of the cash drawer as it opened when the sale was totaled. I would then sit on the stool and ring up combinations of items for imaginary customers.
Grandpa was parsimonious with his words, but quick to point out when my/our actions didn't line up with his way, the correct way, of doing things. Back at his workshop in their home garage, on the other hand, I knew, from his lack of reaction, that I was free to open the many coffee cans, cigar boxes and jars with the seemingly endless, to my young eyes, amounts of treasures - recycled bolts, nuts, springs, washers, gaskets, with which I created patterns and experimental structures.
As a girl in the 60s, there were many things that I was not allowed or supposed to do. But, that smell of oil and ground steel and copper from my grandfather's car repair garage and his home one are the same aromas I now create in my studio.
A place to decant my brain, to capture inspiration and share fresh insights. [Posts from 2015 onward]