Sunday, December 16, 2007

Maloof -- by Larry D. Sweazy

OK, I know, last week I was crunched with deadlines (Yes, I hit them, and yes, I’m a little fried, but hey, freelance work in December is always a good thing, so I’m not complaining). Anyway, I said I was going to write about milestones this week, but I’m not. Get over it. Not that I think there are too many blog readers out there in electronic hinterlands who are going to hold my feet to the fire—so, I can change my mind, and I just did. Who cares, right? Maloof is more important than milestones.

At the moment, my feet against the fire sounds good, we’re in the middle of a winter storm. Snow. Wind. Ice. Plunging temperatures and windchill that makes your bones hurt. Reminds me of my two year tour in North Dakota—but that’s a story for another day, and I’m not in the mood to talk about Hell freezing over at the moment.

So—the other night, Thursday I think, I finished work late and turned on the TV. Yes, that’s how I veg-out after staring the computer for 12 hours. I usually have no clue what’s on, and there are a few shows that I keep up with, but really, I try to limit myself since I had a TV addiction when I was a kid. I know, I’m digressing. It must be the storm. The other night. TV. PBS. A documentary about Sam Maloof caught my attention.

I had never heard of Sam Maloof. Have you? See. I didn’t think so.

It would take me a couple of hundred thousand words to tell his story—who he really is. I’m not doing that—it would be impossible. Go to the PBS web site or—like I’ve never said this before—Google Sam Maloof. Yeah, I know, I could put a link in the blog, but I’m lazy, and besides, if you’re really interested, you’ll do the work yourself.

Back to Sam Maloof. He’s a 90 year old woodworker. Makes some of the most beautiful rocking chairs I’ve ever seem. First thing—this guy looks 60 at the most. He works 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Why? He loves what he does. Plain and simple, his work is not work, or a purpose, or a way to make a living. At 90? Be real. I don’t imagine Sam Maloof cares much about money at this point. His PASSION is his CRAFT. And that passion shows on his face—a broad smile, minimal wrinkles, bright eyes behind thick black-plastic framed glasses. His voice crackles with energy and love when he’s talking about his process. He still loves the process.

Imagine being that productive at 90? Still enthusiastic about life, and what’s coming next. Maybe, silently, he fears death. I doubt he’d be human if he didn’t think about it from time to time. But he obviously doesn’t dwell there. Too much to do. Still something to learn—something to build, something to make a little better than the last one.

I was obviously inspired by Sam Maloof’s passion, the way he had lived his life, the way he lives his life. No formal training, humble beginnings, and a strong desire to be an artist. Luck gave him a wife who believed in him—who said, “Follow your dream, we’ll make do.” She also said, when Sam received a rejection slip from a juried art show, “Rejection is good for the ego, Sam.” Not the sugar-coated, oh poor thing routine. His life wasn’t easy. It didn’t just happen.

There are parallels to the writer’s life to Sam’s life. Pick them out for yourself. All artists share common traits, similar stories. Persistence. Luck. Passion for Craft. It’s all there, whether you’re a woodworker or a poet, or both.

Check out Sam’s story, but more importantly, pay attention to the sages of the world who may not tell you how to live as an artist, but show you. There are more of them than you think...

Oh, and that rocking chair? It sold for $180,000.00 at an auction.

Until next week (when I might, or might not, talk about milestones), keep writing.

1 comment:

Dolphin said...

I loved your article! I first learned of Sam Maloof in 1973 in my high school woodshop class, where we watched a movie of his work. Now, 35 years later, I met the artist at the Maloof Museum in Alta Loma. He is a proud and humble man. And you are right about the twinkle in his eye. Thank you for introducing Sam Maloof with style.