Saturday, February 20, 2010


     I would like to do something a little bit different this time and that is talk about some of my influences in building.

    And that means no pictures, mainly because I don't have any, and that really hurts because I am a painfully bad at typing. So instead of spending a lot of time trying to type I will leave links to more information or you can dig around the internet on your own.
     First on my list is Thomas Jefferson and his beautiful home Montecillo in central Virginia. I grew up in Virginia which is to say I grew up with Jefferson. He was a man of many accomplishments but his designing and having built his home was at the top of the list. To this day it is one of the most important homes in our country ( and maybe the world ) and what stands out for me is that he thought of every aspect of what a home is and how to make it better and more efficient. If a home can be an intellectual exercise then this is it. I am not nearly as knowledgable about his role in founding and designing the University of Virginia but I must look into that someday because it is just another example of his ability as an architect.
     Next is Wharton Esherick who was a key player in the arts and crafts movement of the 1920's and 30's. His studio in Paoli, Pennsylvania has been the most inspiring building for me and the type of work that I do. I will give you two sites to go to: and I first heard of Esherick in an article in Fine Woodworking Magazine in I believe the late 70's and was blown away by his wood sculptures. Then a couple of years later Fine Homebuilding Magazine had an article on his studio and I knew I had to see this place which I did. I was impressed enough that I joined the museum and remained a member for the years that I lived in Virginia. Suffice to say that his art work and studio had a very organic, natural feel to it. I hope you will take the time to see for yourself. If there is anything in this blog that appeals to you, and even if there isn't, then you will love Esherick.
     Bill and Susan Yanda were friends, mentors, and a passive solar promoters. And it was an honor to work for them many years ago building an attached solar greenhouse to there office. In the mid 70's the New Mexico Solar Energy Association put on the annual Life Technics Conference devoted to the use of solar energy. Of all the many excellent speakers who gave presentations Bill's talk on attached solar greenhouses was the most dynamic and captivating and ever since I have been a proponent of the concept. Bill coauthored the book The Food and Heat Producing Greenhouse with Rick Fisher which is still available. He and Susan travelled the country giving workshops on how to build and operate low cost, owner built greenhouses. To think this was all way back in the 70's before the word green had been applied to sustainable building is remarkable.
     Last but not least is Roy Underhill the creator, host and co-producer of the Woodwrights Shop on PBS. I was a friend of Roy's and worked under him briefly at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation when he first started there creating and running their 18th century housewrights program in 1980. He is one of the smartest, most energetic, and funniest people I have ever known. His knowledge of wood, and its uses in building, and of the history of tools and building techniques is encyclopedic. Check out his books ( ). And checking on Roy on the internet, I have not or seen him for many years, I see he now has a school ( ).
     There are many other influences I have. I could have mentioned Frank Lloyd Wright or countless others but these are the top five. I hope you will check them out.