Google+ Followers

Saturday, May 2, 2015

IN CHRIS DURGIN'S WORKSHOP


chris durgin

I dropped in on friend Chris Durgin earlier in the day to make video of him working on a resonator guitar. A young talented musician is putting it together with him, Justin Willey, who picks bluegrass with his dad, Jerel, and his uncle Joe. They are not afraid to make music. When they pick, it's music you hear. Justin likes playing Chris's guitars. He has been playing resonator guitar, Dobro being a brand name, and talked with Chris about helping him make one. Chris's skill and Justin's knowledge of working with wood, which he does for work. He works in a cabinet making shop with his uncle Joe. Justin picked the wood he liked, beautiful, broad stripes of grain. The wood is from a tree of northern Australia, a tropical mimosa, albizia lebbeck, Woman's Tongue. It has leaves like a mimosa, flowers like a mimosa, the tree itself shaped like a mimosa. Chris and I questioned how it came by the name Woman's Tongue. We deduced a suggestion might be in the leaves. I was reminded of a long-leaf house plant, the Mother-in-law's Tongue, long and pointed. I remembered a story from the past of an old preacher who said in the pulpit one day his wife could stand to have about ten inches cut off the end of her tongue. He was referring to an old saying that a gossipy woman had a long tongue. His wife divorced him. They were living in old-time mountain tradition where you don't get a divorce, certainly not a preacher's wife. She meant business. I knew the old boy. He wasn't much in the pulpit.

chris durgin

Chris is making guitars, acoustic guitars for serious musicians. He is wanting to make a dvd of video made from him putting the guitar together he's working on now, step by step all the way to completion. A couple times a year a local arts group has a day of people driving from artists studio to studio around the county. Chris has a bluegrass band jamming, refreshments, talk with Chris, see his shop. He wants to have video on the tv of him putting the guitar together, a day at a time. We started this project with an unclear vision of what we wanted to do. We fumbled about. I was waiting one day for him to tell me when he wanted me to start the video when he said, Don't get this. So I didn't. When he'd finished he asked why I hadn't made video. I said, You said not to. He laughed. He meant not to run it while he was cussing. He was having issues with a tight spot and let go a streak. He meant, don't record that. We realized we need to communicate better. Without even talking about it, we agreed we'll communicate better in a split-second and we were flowing together. I saw what we were doing visually. I got it. He got whatever he saw for himself. Today's filming I had a feel for the flow of what we were doing and followed his hands sanding the edge of the recently glued binding all the way around. I stayed with him until he wore himself out. I move around with the camera, take a digression and examine the wood grain up close, follow the curves, watch the rhythm of his hands with the sandpaper. At this moment I can smell the sawdust and feel it in my eyes. That's pure suggestion. I don't want to hear what a psychologist would call it.

chris durgin

We started the project unsure of it as a project, though after a few shootings, we have it. For my part, I was unsure of what he wanted it to be. For both of us it was an idea finding its own path. I feel like the moment it came together for me was when I followed the grain of the inside of the side like a track I was driving with a car and followed it up overhead and around. I did it just from looking for a new way to look at the form, a piece of wood sculpture, while he was doing something else. He laughed and said, Yeah, a roller coaster. And it came to me, yeah, a roller coaster. Hesitation fell away to let go and follow the wood. Let the wood guide me. Let the wood be the landscape. Chris doesn't want it to be on him, but on the work. He can be sanding in one spot for a long time. It gets boring after awhile. The rhythm is interesting itself and holds the visual interest, but after awhile, I like to let the camera drift, a technique, or anti-technique, learned from Andy Warhol's 1968 film, Lonesome Cowboys. A horse standing still, the camera looking at the horse's face while story is going on nearby, camera drifts down the horse's neck, to the ground. I like to play with letting the camera meander without my mind involved and see what it finds. Not too much, just something to do for my own kicks. I've got it that what Chris wants me to do is get my kicks with the camera, play wide-open freely and see what happens.

chris durgin

It's not about being good or bad. It's about putting a guitar together, working with the wood. I'm getting acquainted with the grain up close, following its lines, looking at the grain from close and a distance, while being sanded. Now I want to make the wood itself the star, the focal point, the purpose. I know Chris well enough to keep my hands off things in his workshop. Everything is where it belongs for its reason, and fingerprints on wood. Like I've learned to keep my hands off the donkeys because they really don't like hands crawling over them, I've learned to keep my control of my hands in Chris's workshop. And I don't like to be in his way. This makes my camera operating easy for him to work with. I stay out of his way, am able to get up close to his hands and not be a bother. We're flowing together better every day. By the time we're done, we'll be ready to start. Though I feel like the beginning was rough, the results look good. We've been not talking while making video, but today I think we broke that ice. We decided to go ahead and talk. Give it some kind of sound track. I can ask questions about what he's doing. He can give illustrative answers while he's working. He's good at explaining what he's doing. We'll do more talking. Allow conversational talking too. A reality show. Anyone who knows both of us would roll around on the floor in a fit of mirth imagining us at work on a project and calling it reality. I am discovering wood in a new way, seeing deeper into the wood itself. I learn from him telling me what he is doing and why, tells about the wood. I'm getting a good education and having fun too.

chris durgin



*




1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. Well said about someone whose works of exquisite attention are reminiscent of The Master Carpenter Himself, Builder of Eternal Souls that He is . . . and Maker of those heavenly mansions awaiting the faithful

    ReplyDelete