Monday, November 25, 2013

an evening with Merlin

My stone guy.....One of the most awesome old dudes out there.
I had the pleasure of visiting him in Livingston where he now lives, just east of Bozeman, MT,
on the way down to Colorado last week.

I got the grande tour.
A shed, no bigger than the bungalito.
One side heated, for the water grinders.
and one side outside, sorta.  For everything else.

He bemoaned his lack of space,
but then cheerily changed the subject to his dreams of a big shop.
A pole-barn.  Where all his stuff would be in the same space,
and he could "really get some shit done."

We talked rocks mostly.
expensive rocks.
mystical rocks.
controversial rocks.
rocks with crappy cleavage,
rocks with special tools,
rocks that were complete junk.
We talked about the ridiculous amount of rocks this guy had come to own,
and what in the hell he was going to DO with them all.
and, with a chuckle, what his wife thought about it all.

But we also talked school.
We talked War. 
Vietnam mostly.
Drug addictions.
Bakeries and love stories.
Metaphysics and weird coincidences.
Rich people.
 Poor people.
Mountain people.
The difference between Craft and Art.
(Merlin most certainly considers himself a craftsman, although I beg to differ....and did.  for hours.)

We talked about his long life in the world of lapidary.
His starts, his stops.  His challenges, and his most proud moments.
Ones where he felt the need (which he rarely does) to drop names of artists whom he's proud to have worked with, not only in collaboration, but also in repairs where not even the original studio could have done better. They said so themselves.  THAT, he says, was something to be proud of.

We talked universities.  school.
We talked a lot on this.  
We considered the prospects of fine art education,
tech schools, workshops, the revere academy.
Apprenticeship. Teaching. Galleries.
And now I know it's the reason I stopped in to see him,
besides to drool over his gorgeous rocks,
and pick up a new loot for Christmas.

We talked about distance.
Between talent and training.
Between working with your hands,
and fulfilling something bigger.
Finding the art in what you do,
falling in love with it.
No matter how badly it can beat you up.
There was a time where Merlin was an affluent rock dealer,
where 30 grand in cash,
and business deals involving it,
were no big thing.
Where loosing it all was, for him, as he has now the space to reflect...
"just part of the cost of doing business..."

Merlins knuckles are raw.
from grinding down piles and piles and piles of lapidary slices.
Scabby, worn, tired.
His shop is tiny.
His eyes are "shot without this damn optivisor".
And he's definitely old enough to retire.

He recognized the struggle in studio art.
The inherent battle of money, and time, and health.

And as a metalsmith in Montana,
and a seasoned road-sales guy,
(35,000 miles a year folks)
He not only told me, with a twinkle in his bright icy-blue eyes,

to buck up.

get busy.

He told me that I'm never going to have anything I wasn't meant to have.

and if you're not having fun, don't do it.

My heart swelled with this good advice.
Thanks, old man.
I needed that.