A previous ITEr has suggested that I share something about life in the ITE outside the workshop: “where we live, where we eat, where we walk . . . the stuff of life in the ITE.” This raises an interesting point about this year’s ITE: how focused on work we are.
Unlike what I understand to be true of past ITEs, since we actually began working, we four hardly see each other outside of the workshop. We don’t eat together; we don’t drink together; we don’t hang out together; we don’t walk around together; we don’t socialize together, except on our planned excursions. Some combination of us (but not all at once) will occasionally go to the hardware or grocery store together, especially if we need to drive there.
There is comradery and good humor in the shop when we’re working together. Most of us stop and look at what our colleagues are doing. We ask and answer questions. We share pointers. We share tools. We make jokes. We work.
Sometimes I think I talk to everyone more than anyone else, because I walk around periodically to take photos and I ask (at the least) about whatever I’m photographing. I’m not sure I would ever have a conversation with Sean if not for this function.
As far as I know, Siegfried is the only one who does anything but work. Sean comes in early, takes a long lunch, comes back, and works late. Sometimes Sean goes out to buy supplies. Jean-François comes in early but not so early, takes a long lunch, comes back, and works late. Sometimes Jean-François runs errands. I come in later (early for me, sometimes after working in my room on the computer for a couple of hours), work through lunch, and leave at 6:30 or 7 or 7:30 or 7:45 to eat and call home, and then I work on photos and the blog until 11 or 12 or 1 or later. I see Jean-François in passing when we go next door at night to go online (we don’t have wifi in our rooms). Siegfried takes the time to walk or bike around town, to eat out, to look around, to meet people. Tonight, he made himself go out despite his fatigue, and he happened upon a rock concert, where he had a good time.
Working double duty takes its toll. I’m exhausted every night, and I fear it shows in my blog posts. I feel like I don’t have the extra energy to socialize. Then again, tonight I went out for dinner and a beer with Jane and her honey (my first evening out), and I’m still up and going, though it’s now 3:15—not an unusual hour for me to be up at home, but not a time I’ve managed to see here until now.
For my part, another reason I don’t socialize with the boys is that I’m tired of planning our group’s social activities. I have ended up planning all of our visits, contacting all of our hosts, finding compatible dates, recontacting our hosts, getting directions, driving us—this is not a role I enjoy, but these are trips I want to make, so I’ve stepped up to make them happen. I have spent many hours doing so, and just the trip to D.C. alone was worth the effort, but—can you tell?—I’ve reached my limit. I wish that the Wood Turning Center would take on some of this task, but the one time I asked for help, the scheduling ended up back in my lap.
I want to turn. To turn nearly as much as I’d like, I spend what otherwise might be free time keeping up with photos and the blog. And I feel pressure to turn. I’m sure Siegfried does also. The current of Sean’s and Jean-François’s drive to produce is sweeping us all along. I feel the pressure to keep up despite what I know about my own need for balance, despite what I tell myself about taking in this experience, despite what Albert has told us about not needing to produce but needing only to experience.
There is exchange happening, for me, in the shop. In my turning, I find myself responding to what others are doing or to conversations I’ve had with them (I will try to relay some of these conversations in future posts; I’ve had a few good ones). What I see and hear sparks ideas, and I’m trying them. It’s not imitation, though I’m borrowing some techniques; it’s inspiration: I’m inhaling everything around me and letting my body translate what my blood absorbs into my own expression. According to Albert, this is a form of collaboration, and it feels like it, though I haven’t yet actively worked on any pieces with anyone else. Siegfried and Jean-François have both spoken with me separately about collaborating. Jean-François and I have a specific project in mind. Siegfried and I are still sussing out the possibilities.
Time to go to the shop, dear readers. This is how it is at the moment, here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the 2007 International Turning Exchange. I’m not complaining (much!); I have tried to simply describe what is so. This may all change today. Peter Harrison, our furniture maker, arrives this afternoon to spend two weeks with us. And tomorrow evening, we take a little break to visit the Rhoas in Collegeville, PA. For now, this has been a valuable reminder that there can be life outside of the workshop here in the ITE. I just have to step outside.