♪ Woman: Building your own house.
It's the idea of building your own world.
Man: We're within a 16th.
Man 2: It is a very intimate thing to craft something.
I love that I'm building people's homes.
Man 3: My father went and built our family house out here as a kind of a refuge, and of course, no permits... [Chuckling] were involved in this process.
Man 4: That's why we're outlaw builders.
You had to do it first, then prove that it was better for the planet.
Woman 2: These farmers and gardeners stayed on their land when the goal was to get them off their land.
It was a heroic thing, so that made me think, "Well, who else?
Where are they?"
Woman 3: When we come in the main door of Wharton Esherick's home, I encourage people to just take it all in.
This is a space that is a total work of art.
You can hear people coming up the stairs going, "Wow, wow."
Man 5: I wanted to know how to make all the crafts, all the Ojibwe things, and it takes a lifetime to know something.
Woman 4: Being immersed in my culture, it feels bigger than me.
Woman 5:You have a tie to the place of your ancestors and the place where your love is, where your family is.
That's home, and we'll have everything that we need.
Woman 6: I had eight T. Robsjohn-Gibbings dinner chairs, but they had a bad karma.
I live with works made by people who had passion because if this is my last life, I'm gonna have a good time.
[Chuckles] [Theme music playing] ♪ ♪ Man: Home is where we harvest our fish.
Home is where we knock the rice.
Home is out there in the canoes.
Home is when we're out there with our families and we're picking those berries, getting scratched up in the thorns, you know?
Home is also above the clouds, where our ancestors go into the stars, into the Northern Lights.
That's our other home, where we come from and where we go in the end.
Home is where we raise our children and home is where we make our life with our partner.
All of those things, you know, that means home is a huge range, you know, it's a huge range, and within it, we can find all the things that'll give us a good life.
♪ Every Ojibwe settlement within Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, there's an abundance of wild rice.
For the Ojibwe people, that's what we know as manoomin.
[Distant thunder rumbling] We have a storm that's going to roll in here, and this rice right here, it's going to come off, it's going to fall back in the water.
We bind this rice, anything that hits it, the rice will not come off.
And it allows the rice to ripen, and later, we come back, we untie it, and we slap it, and 100% ripe rice comes out, so it's not lost back to the elements or the animals.
There's nothing that can get this rice right now.
The state of Wisconsin outlawed this form of rice-bundling.
It's illegal to do it, but me, as a cultural practitioner and a teacher and educator and father, a hunter/gatherer, I have the right to do this.
I have the authority from the Great Spirit and my ancestors to do this.
We have to continue this type of thing on because without this knowledge, we're just descended from people who used to call themselves Ojibwe.
♪ Biskakone: Growing up, I would go into these museums and I would see these amazing items.
♪ I wanted to know how to make all the crafts, all the Ojibwe things.
I wanted to know how to make the moccasins and I wanted to know how to make a canoe and I wanted to learn how to rice, I wanted to be a good hunter and a provider for my family.
And it takes a lifetime to know something, and so I spent the good majority of my life seeking that knowledge.
♪ There's regular manoomin, which is brown or black, but then we have [Ojibwe word] manoomin.
The rice is just harvested freshly off the lake, it's still green, and you only have a small window to make that.
These two Elders-- Grace and Delia Artishon-- they were talking about beadwork, so I just sat there and closed my eyes and I imagined everything they were talking about.
Grace was saying she puts the needle with the thread on through, she strings it up, pulls it all the way up, and she puts on four beads, and then she puts the needle back through the material and it comes back through the last two and puts on four more, and that's all I had to hear.
I took that, and then I went home that night and I tried it and tried it, tried it till I figured it out.
♪ And if nobody was around to teach me, then I taught myself how to do it, and it went on from there.
What my daughter Wasanodae is doing here, she's dancing on the rice.
She's just rubbing her feet along the rice hull, and what it's going to do is going to roll that jacket off.
I went to our museum and I would look at the moccasins.
They were called the split-toe moccasins, and so I said, "I want to be the one who revives these."
She's using just a little bit of her weight, and she can feel that under her foot.
That's one of the important roles of the moccasins.
We make them for beauty and for purpose.
After probably about 40 pairs, I finally figured it out.
Now I teach classes on moccasin-making and I share my knowledge.
I might have figured it out after it was gone for a while, but I don't own it.
The people own it, so, um, I give that back to our communities whenever I can, you know?
Woman, voice-over: A lot of the traditional ways were lost, so we really rely on those who are bringing back crafts and arts, where maybe we only have old journal entries or illustrations or really old photographs of--of these arts being practiced.
To start etching on the winter bark, you need to first scribe a pattern in there with an awl, and then you're really just working with negative space, so you're removing the layer of bark that has tannins to expose the summer bark underneath.
These winter bark baskets would be used for gathering baskets and sugar containers and all sorts of things for everyday life.
Biskakone: Florals that we usually have depicted on some of our items are representation of the natural world.
We have tobacco leaves, we have five-petal flowers, four-petal flowers, sometimes you'll see a squash blossom.
There's insects-- dragonflies, butterflies-- and maybe you'll even see some rabbits or blue jays, you know, once in a while.
Anungo: Many tribes, they've been really heavily affected by assimilation and intergenerational trauma.
A lot of knowledge has been lost.
The aim was to strip our people from our traditional ways.
How I see it is that every day where we are living our Anishinaabe culture is a radical act of resistance against those that would strip us from who we are.
♪ Biskakone: These nooshkaachinaaganan, these winnowing baskets are made so we can throw it up in the air, and then the chafe will blow away, and the rice will come back down.
Traditionally, the parching and the dancing and the winnowing was all done right near the rice bed, and then they would fill their birch bark baskets up with the finished rice.
Birch bark is our most utilized possession in our culture.
This is a gift to us from Creation.
What I'm looking for when I harvest it is something that's kind of pliable, something that's not too thin.
The thickness of the bark right here, we call basket bark.
Anything thicker than that is what we use in our wiigwaasi-jiimaan, our birchbark canoes.
If you get something thinner, it's called mzinigan wiigwaas, which is almost like paper, paper bark.
So now we have a mechanized form of preparing manoomin, and if our ancestors had that technology a hundred years ago, they'd be using it, just like we are today.
And so we are our ancestors.
Everything they do, we still do it today, and whatever method that we use today, they would do the same thing long ago.
Yep, and you're going to go around both of these right here.
Wasanodae: OK. We're making a traditional cedar mat.
Biskakone: This idea spawned from looking at old photos of our people long ago, sitting on these mats and using them, and what we've come to know recently is that cedar is antibacterial.
When the people dried their foods on there long ago, it helped, aiding in the preserving process.
Up, through, and down.
Wasanodae: My dad's always doing something new and feels like we're reviving something every day.
And for a long time, I didn't really appreciate it.
It was just my life, but seeing how other people live versus being immersed in my culture, it feels bigger than me.
My dad always says I'm carrying two bundles, or I have the best of both worlds.
I get to walk both paths.
Look at that.
♪ Woman: You have a tie to the place of your ancestors and the place where your love is, where your family is.
That's where your home is.
Home has nothing to do with the house.
I love the house, but wherever the manoomin is and wherever the birch trees are, that's home, and we'll have everything that we need.
Biskakone: This lodge was what we call--in the Ojibwe language, it's waganogan.
That structure housed our people long ago, and that kept our people safe, it kept them out of the elements, and it gave them a place.
Our culture will house us through our ability and knowledge to make those wigwams and lodges.
Our culture will feed us through our treaty rights.
We have our religions to keep us sane and--and to keep us focused.
We also have our crafts to give us therapy and keep us focused as well, so culture's very much alive and thriving here in Lac du Flambeau.
we're breathing it, living it every day.
♪ [Folk music playing] ♪ ♪ Man, voice-over: Wood has been joined for making structures for millennia.
Joinery, such as a mortise and tenon, is thousands of years old.
There we go.
The timber frame becomes a very visible part of any structure.
New, modern American timber frames showcase the frame and are highly finished.
It is a very intimate thing to craft something.
It's not for nothing that you say you practice a craft because you're always evolving, you're always learning, you're always thinking.
Man: We're within a 16th.
Gerald, voice-over: I love the geometry.
I love the cutting of wood.
Gerald: You gonna roll this timber or... Gerald, voice-over: I love that I'm part of building people's homes.
I love my trade.
Mortise and tenons are glorified locators, and then you pin it together to lock it together.
If I hold this right here, you have the shoulders and you have the cheeks, which is remarkably similar to the way that I'm built.
I have eight students in this class, four sets of two, and they are working on a timber frame each.
Man: We're building a 10' x 12' timber frame structure.
I'm going to put it up on my property here on the shore.
Think what I'm going to do is make a little sauna inside.
Anton: I always had a fascination with timber frames, and so, when he got a spot in this workshop, I jumped on it.
I work in cloud integration.
Austin: I trade agricultural commodities.
Greg: Students come here because they want to get their hands on the world of craft, and in particular, on the story of the North, where the seasons define the character of the landscape and your relationship to the land and the crafts you can pursue.
Man: This would be oak.
Man, voice-over: I am here with my dad, kind of being his assistant.
Rick: And we hope to go home with a little knowledge and a pile of wood.
I am no longer working for money.
Ben: I work wood for a living, and I have some knowledge of furniture-making, but this is on a much bigger scale.
Rick: Ben is being modest; he's an artist who happens to work with wood.
I don't know if he would agree, but I'm a dad.
Ben: I'm still learning.
Greg: All it takes is curiosity and a willingness to begin.
That's really at the heart of the work of the school and the spirit that students bring to this place.
Paul: Our project is a treehouse for my boys.
We're gonna do all the work on them, then bring the timbers home and hopefully make a tree fort.
Nathan: I'll be the one doing the work at home.
Paul: Ha ha ha ha!
Make sure I don't screw it up.
Nathan: 2 1/4, 3 1/4.
I install underground sprinkler systems.
Nathan: And I am a maintenance guy at his business.
Nathan: We're off by a 16th.
Gerald: One of the guys, I just found out today, is a dentist, so it runs the gamut.
The accountant to the experienced craftsmen come and take these classes.
Woman: North House Folk School emerged from people who care about living a life that reflects the beauty that we're surrounded by here.
Grand Marais, Minnesota is incredibly beautiful, it's incredibly remote, and it has inspired craft and art with the Anishinaabe and the Ojibwe people on whose land we are, and then the Scandinavian influence from the immigrant communities that settled here on the North Shore.
Our curriculum reflects traditional Northern craft, the things that we make that are useful to us in a Northern home.
Gerald: This little knot's not going to bother me.
Jessa, voice-over: Being a Folk School teacher is about being able to share a craft and build a community in the classroom.
Gerald: See how I'm marking this with a nice, long V?
I learned that, like, on the third day of my apprenticeship.
Jessa, voice-over: We look for teachers who have a great story to share.
Gerald: The pants that I'm wearing-- black corduroy pants with bell bottoms-- are traditional German zimmerman's hosen.
I apprenticed as a "zimmerman"-- basically German for "timber framer"-- in my hometown of Aachen in Germany.
There's the tradition of the Wanderschaft-- traveling in your trade for three years and a day-- and during that time, you wear this traditional outfit.
I did that journey and I've been wearing these pants ever since.
Using this as a 16' timber that is drawn as a straight timber is going to get you in all sorts of trouble because it's not straight.
The way you assess it is to get down and sight along the timber.
Man: I see that... Gerald: We speak of crown and bow.
"Crown" is vertically, if it has a curve, and "bow" is to the side, either right or left.
The other thing that you look for in grade is called slope of grain, so the more continuous it is, uninterrupted by knots, the more capacity the timber has.
Traditionally, you work timber frames green.
The wood is fresh.
Woman: Hedstrom Lumber has been operating here in Grand Marais, Minnesota for over a hundred years.
We are pretty much the exclusive supplier of timbers for timber-framing to North House Folk School.
We use 100% of every log that comes into the mill: the bark, the sawdust, the wood chips, all of it.
There's a lot of careful attention to detail, especially on items like timbers that are needing to be made in an exact way to allow the crafters to shape them perfectly.
It takes a custom mill in order to make custom timbers, and we work with the loggers out in the woods to get exactly what they need at North House.
We're pretty proud that we're able to connect to craft in that way.
Gerald: We use the drawings to transfer the lines where a mortise and where a tenon needs to be in full scale onto the timber.
I double-check that no mistakes were made.
The next step is cutting.
[Saw whirring] The chain mortiser is basically a very controlled electric chainsaw.
Once you figure it out, it's a lot of fun.
[Saw powers down] Once that stops, you have a roughed-out mortise.
That still needs to be cleaned up with a chisel.
Hand tools absolutely still have their place in the trade today.
The timber-framing square, the hand saw, the mallet and chisel-- those are the bread-and-butter tools.
Once the joinery is cut, we assemble the timber frame.
The goal is to see where there might still be some little finessing to do in the joinery to get things to be right on dimension.
Actually, you can see right here, see the crush marks there?
That's where it's fighting us.
You get it as good as you can make it before it goes up.
Now's the time.
It's going to stand for four generations.
♪ Woman: At the raising, it has to be exactly right, not a 32nd of an inch off.
I have 182 timbers in my timber-frame home and they all have a memory, in me, of working on them.
In the winter, when it's very cold, the timbers will crack and make a really loud sound, and you know that they're drying out and expanding a bit and maybe telling me something.
[Chuckles] I was a teacher, and I had summers off.
Learning to work with your hands to make something useful is just something I wanted.
Greg: Susan cut every timber in the structure by herself, and it took her three years of coming to our "Build Your Own Timber Frame" class, and now here's this home that speaks profoundly of who she is and about the landscape she values and about the life she wanted to lead.
Susan: The day that we were raising the timber, we had just an outstanding crane operator.
My family came, people from the class came, and it went up in a day.
I just love my area, my woods, and my timber-frame house.
Gerald: Maybe that's enough.
Maybe it's not.
[Indistinct chatter] Gerald: There.
Gerald, voice-over: I think there will always be a place for the craftsperson to exercise what they love, put their personal touch onto the design and the execution and the materials chosen for their timber frames to create these unique timbered structures.
♪ There you go.
This is looking really good.
Nothing gives me more joy than seeing timber joined together like this.
Gerald, voice-over: There will also always be people that want that and that find the timber framer and make the whole thing work, like it's worked for millennia.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Woman, voice-over: One of the things that's so attractive about clay is the sense of collaboration.
The material's very plastic and responsive.
You have to be aware and watching as you're making because you may have an idea about what you think you're making, and the clay is busy making something better.
The slab is my foundational, beginning element, component to everything.
I've always worked with slabs.
It just seems to be the quickest way that I can develop a form.
I've got this slab roller here, which allows me to generate a lot of slabs fairly quickly, and because my objects can be fairly complicated in their construction, I really rely on the consistency and the compression that this slab roller will provide.
I'm going to approximate this barn form, which is going to go on the edge of the bowl itself.
I don't really have a design in mind.
I don't measure.
I'm relying on the fact that I'm going to get something that is somewhat ramshackle in its look 'cause I'm looking for that.
I never think of myself as a master craftsman.
I don't, I don't.
I--I think of--I'm always in the process of learning.
Every time I make something, I have to learn how to make it.
The clay is going to help you, it's collaborating, so it's always a kind of a discovery for me, and for that reason, it's a delight when it turns out-- heh heh!--you know, like, "Ooh!
♪ ♪ ♪ The house, which is around 1870, was the first house that I ever owned, and I created this garden over about 20 years now.
At first, I started very timidly, but as I became more aware of the possibility of what I could do with this property, learning about my own family's history as gardeners, I was able to begin to develop it and then to just use this for me, as an artist, as a second studio.
This will be a completely different textural presentation in about a month.
This garden gives me a lot of satisfaction.
Of course, it contributes so much to my art as well.
It's always been inspiration.
My grandmother, Indiana Hudson, raised seven children, and she had a beautiful garden, apparently, so beautiful it was kind of a famous garden.
I went and I found it.
It's on a hill in Pittsburgh, and the view down to the Monongahela River, with all the steel mills, is the same.
So I could stand in Indiana's garden, what was her garden, and see what she saw, so that made me think, "Well, who else?
Where are they?"
I started my series called "Places of Our Own" around the book "African-American Gardens and Yards."
It had these very detailed maps of all of these gardens, which I interpreted in terms of sculpture.
That made me know I needed to go and see these places, to go find the roots.
The Southern African-American Organic Farmers Network sent me a list of farmers that I could contact and visit them, and so that's what I did.
♪ Syd: The farmers were very, very eager to talk and tell their stories and talk about the dilemmas and the struggles.
There was Jim Crow and all that entailed, the degradation of it, the limitations of it, just the outright racism of it, so there's lots of that, and then the delight.
There was always delight about coming back or family members or what they were able to do, lots and lots of good stories about being on the land and being grateful for having their land.
♪ I did the second series, "More Places of Our Own," with the steel pedestals.
♪ Then the farm bowls.
♪ A bowl is this receptacle, it's this vessel.
It opens out, it doesn't close in; it reveals, it doesn't obscure, and so it becomes a canvas of a page.
The roundness of it, the circular configuration of it-- you have to move.
You don't know it from all sides, it's always changing.
♪ I named the bowls in terms of the farmers and gardeners who have stayed on their land when the goal was to get them off their land.
I'm talking about courage, I'm talking about tenacity, I'm talking about legacy.
♪ I don't have a prescriptive way of working.
I know what the bowls are about.
I know that there are component elements that are a visual vocabulary that include earth textures, plant textures, things that are evocative of the farms that they are calling attention to.
This idea of having this barn door that passes through is not only architecturally descriptive, but it's also metaphorical.
I'm working on a narrative that I want to make accessible to an audience, so I like there to be this almost musical, literary, scientific, uh, botanical, all kinds of stuff that folks from different backgrounds and different experiences can bring to this when they visit this bowl, which is also a place, which is also evocative of a person.
So you can find all of those layers if you're looking for that.
♪ As an artist, you're composing, so I give myself license to improvise.
♪ And I can try stuff, and if one fails, eh.
I can be disappointed and have glorious failures, and I encourage my students to have glorious failures because I know they tried something.
They tried it, and that's how we move forward.
♪ Woman: I'm wondering if, like, now, since these are a little bit wonky anyways, might be, like, a good time to, like, try some leaning or, like... Syd: Absolutely.
Woman: you know, do stuff like that.
Syd, voice-over: My students constantly ask me, "Is it OK if I do this?"
"Well... why wouldn't it be OK?"
But they're afraid that it somehow could defy some law of art, and so we have to go through their preconceived notions of what something has to be to be good because generally, it's not anything that they themselves have decided upon, it's usually someone else's standard, and so it's not only about learning to look at objects and things and view them on their own terms, but also, I think it goes deeper into their own set of values.
Man: This one, I really don't know how I'm gonna glaze yet.
Yeah, it's still up for debate.
Maybe that's something we can talk about?
Syd: Just try as much possible solutions as you can.
Man: OK. Syd: And not worry about... Man: The outcome as much?
Syd: the outcome as much.
You could listen to me and I can tell you, "Oh, I think that should have that on it."
Syd: But that's not doing you any good.
Syd, voice-over: If they finish those projects, great.
But if they don't, that's fine because I am thinking about their journey.
Most of them are not going to be artists and potters and designers.
They're going to be people out in the world, hopefully thinking critically about the built environment and "What do you surround yourself with and why?"
You allow yourself to trust your instincts and to question, and so that is something that art teaches.
♪ Syd: This is Laurie Mason.
She's in Douglasville, Georgia.
This series, the intention of it is to be out in the open, to be outside, so hence the steel and the clay.
So the base is the roots, stem, flower.
When all of these are together, they form a garden of their own.
When I think about these farmers and gardeners and knowing the difficulties for a family farm, I think of them as doing a heroic thing, these ordinary people, who stayed on their land and created a foundation for people to grow.
♪ [Birds chirping] Woman: When we come in the main door of the Wharton Esherick Museum, I step back and I'm quiet, and I encourage people to just walk through, let your eyes wander, and just take it all in.
♪ ♪ This is a space that is a total work of art, from the exterior walls to the hand-carved spoons in the kitchen.
Those lines between what is work and what is home were very much blurred for Esherick.
He had that ingrained sensibility about what home means, what comfort means, what function means, and what beauty means.
♪ I have seen people walk into this space for the first time and cry.
They can get very quiet, they get very animated.
Wharton's son-in-law called it "the house of wows," and I hear people coming up the stairs going, "Wow, wow."
Woman: Wharton Esherick's approach to living, to working is that it is this fully integrated kind of way of looking at one's life, this philosophy that there is nothing too small for artistic input.
What he wanted to express aesthetically wasn't only in furniture.
It came out in sculpture.
It came out in prints.
It came out in all sorts of other forms of making, and so why couldn't it come out in a coffee cup?
Julie: My single favorite element of this studio is in this space, and it's the hand-carved heat return in this wall.
Wharton solves a problem, does it in a way that is fun and incredibly beautiful.
Woman: Wharton Esherick was trained as a painter at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
He married Letty Nofer in 1912, and they had three children.
He started out with advantages that many people don't have.
He had an inheritance that allowed him to buy this property and, for the better part of 16 years, tries to build a career as a painter.
The family lived in the farmhouse.
In 1926, Wharton decided that he needed a workspace that was apart from the farmhouse, then he came up the hill and built his studio.
Julie: On his daily commute, Wharton came up to the studio through the woods, moving through the material that he would turn into his artwork.
Holly: Although Wharton Esherick lived on a rural hillside, he was by no means isolated.
He had many artist friends, including Henry Varnum Poor, who made these portrait plates of the Esherick family.
Henry Varnum Poor has chosen to make these really lovingly done, expressive portraits on a utilitarian household object, rather than on a canvas.
Emily: Wharton Esherick and Henry Varnum Poor had in common the fact that they were both building handmade homes of their own.
Holly: They were very interested in a kind of intentional living: organic farming, growing your own food, making your own clothes.
You're actually building a world for yourself to live in.
Esherick moves into doing these kinds of functional crafts on the side.
He's building things for his family, building things for his friends, and then it grows into this other profession.
He approached furniture-making as sculpture, but with the added consideration of how people would live with the objects.
Julie: So the cabinet desk, if you push gently on either side, it will open.
The doors have stays to keep them where they need to be so that your writing surface... can pull out and rest on these bars affixed to the side of the door... and then your drawers for whatever you might be working on.
And Wharton took a cue from the refrigerator light and put these little pressure-sensitive lights in the drawer, with storage behind.
He was a problem-solver, and if he could do so in a way that was both fun and beautiful, that was the sweet spot.
Holly: Wharton and Letty, they were two really very creative people.
Sadly, their marriage unraveled.
That's when Wharton moved up to this studio full-time.
He eventually sculpted it into an inhabitable work of art.
Esherick considered all of his furniture-making to be sculpture; he was also a very organized person, as you can see in the drawers.
He laid out all of his shirts in a single layer, very nicely folded.
Esherick would tell the assistants they should make the surfaces of the furniture like a puppy, so that people would want to touch it.
We have a hard time telling visitors not to touch the furniture because it just beckons in that way.
Emily: For Esherick, furniture and sculpture are part of the same conversation, that sculpture is furniture and furniture is sculpture.
Holly: This section of the staircase that goes straight up was built in 1930.
The section over there was added in 1940, and so this original section was exhibited twice-- once at the 1940 New York World's Fair and again in the 1950s at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in New York City.
In order to make this more easily disassemble-able, these bolts loosen, and those treads come out.
Treads are not attached to the wall; they are all attached to this center post that Esherick carved with an ax.
An ax was his favorite carving tool.
This is all made out of one single red oak log that he bought for $10.
Emily: Esherick's work is recognized across a number of different contexts: architecture and modernism and the arts and crafts movement.
Studio craft is probably the most significant because of the long-lasting legacy that the work has had on artists who were coming up in the 1950s, 1960s, and through to today.
Woman: I primarily make furniture.
I make smaller projects occasionally, and a lot of my furniture is inspired by Wharton Esherick, mostly his ethos; not focusing so much on technique, more so on making something that makes me happy, that I think will make other people happy in their home, in their lives.
This picture frame is inspired by the woodcut prints that Esherick did, so a lot of, like texture, a lot of lines, a lot of interesting shadows.
It plays with light and shadow.
I think there's more of a movement back towards craft, getting your hands actually on things.
It's very important to me to pass on the traditions, and I love talking to people about the process.
It's hard to not be inspired by the environment that we're in.
♪ Holly: In 1956, Esherick built a workshop on this site, and he went to Louis Kahn to design it.
It was an absolutely happy collaboration.
Even though they had very different sensibilities, they came together on the idea that this building was going to be an artwork.
♪ Late in life, Esherick was very guarded of his privacy and moved the public-facing part of his operation into the workshop, and the studio was something that was really for himself and his very close associates.
Emily: After Esherick passed, the family really wanted to make his legacy accessible to a public that they believed not only could learn from it, but could be transformed by it.
Julie: Every surface, angle, and object in this space is an artwork opportunity for Wharton.
Holly: This place incentivizes people.
It's a call to action to rethink how they spend their time and what is the meaning of the objects in their lives.
♪ Emily: What had been created here was truly special.
When you step through those doors, you experience something real and meaningful and important.
♪ [Water sloshing, birds chirping] ♪ ♪ Man: When I was 10 years old, my father bought this five acres here.
He wanted to move out to the countryside, out here in Inverness and build our family house out here as a kind of a refuge.
He believed, I think, in less bureaucracy and more community spirit, and designing and creating what you think really works for you.
We thought it was great just because it was these very experimental things that were going on.
It was being part of the process of designing, even as a child.
My brother said, "I would like to be able to climb up a telephone pole to get to my room."
These were the pegs that he had to climb up, and there was a hatch-- now it's been closed off-- to get into his room.
I know that was part of my dad's approach-- work closely with the people, imagining and envisioning what type of spaces to create.
We weren't following set traditions from the past.
It was fluid creativity, where things happen more spontaneously.
As a kid, I felt my dad was opening doors for adventures to happen.
I knew he was a professor at UC Berkeley and taught there, but I don't think at that age you really think, "Oh, he is a significant architect in the world."
Man: "This day, I chiseled four mortise joints to receive "the tenons that will be framed in our sauna.
"It's taken me a long time to get over the guilt "of spending days hard at work, "learning to do things that I wasn't trained to do."
That's me, Sim Van der Ryn, School of Architecture, University of California, Berkeley.
[Chuckles] ♪ Micah: My dad's always trying to build things that help people.
This is the accordion house.
This house can fold out.
This was built for migrant farm workers.
Here is the "Build Yourself a Place in the Country" class from UC Berkeley that he and Jim Campe taught here on The Land, and of course, no permits were being involved in this process.
Jim: There is the man in the white hat.
Sim: Ha ha ha!
Man: 'Member that guy?
Sim: Heh heh heh!
Jim: This is a record of a 10-week, second-year university class in architecture which took place three consecutive days a week on five acres, wilderness site, right here.
Most of what we were doing had to do with ways that we could change our environment to be able to live in--more in balance with natural forces.
We tore down chicken coops in Petaluma.
Jim: They were cut in half 'cause that's how we had to carry it back here.
I had a big, red truck.
We were able to bring these students up here to "The Land"; we called it "The Land" at the time.
They built in a way that was more sustainable, and it was also done without permits because, in order to be innovative and creative and affordable, you had to just sort of do it first, and that was kind of--that's why we're outlaw builders.
[Both chuckle] Sim: Yeah.
Man: Sim Van der Ryn was leading a kind of subversion of the architecture profession.
He was teaching at an accredited school of architecture to create a kind of professional class that really understands building through building codes, uh, and zoning, but he took students to The Land and turned them into outlaw builders.
Jim: You would get caught, usually, and after that, you would then prove that the way you're doing it was better for the environment and eventually, of course, the planet.
Greg: Sim's interest in outlaw-building took him into what we now call sustainability.
Of course, there was no word like that for it then; it was just called ecology.
There were really important breakthroughs in terms of a new culture of sustainability that were prototyped in the outlaw-builder phenomenon.
Jim: The first building was The Ark.
It became our central meeting space.
This is where we had our classes, but also where we ate when it was too cold to eat outside.
Most of the students were picking up a hammer and a nail for the first time, so that was the bigger part of our teaching.
They learned fast.
After we built The Ark, each student made very creative places for their own living space, based on their personalities.
One student built himself a treehouse, there was the wonderful little Japanese teahouse, then another person created her little shelter out of a cable spool.
Greg: What they were building really expressed the desire to build a new world.
Jim: They were living in a more communal situation.
They were sharing more and they were learning together and they were helping each other, and that was our life together.
♪ Greg: From Sim's passion for ecological sustainability, a new state governor, Jerry Brown, made Sim California State Architect.
One of the important developments under Sim was the Office of Appropriate Technology.
The Office was setting up wind power, solar power, changing zoning, doing the kind of things that really, today, we're just rediscovering.
Sim Van der Ryn was really a visionary, not just in the immediate design environment of a building, but in the broader-built landscape of our world.
Jim: Everybody got their certificate.
I was the logisticus maximus because I was the one that was able to get the materials.
Then you'll have Sim Van der Ryn, who was Neotome Fuscipes Rex, and that's the head wood rat... [Sim chuckles] Jim: because we lived with the wood rats here.
Sim and I have continued doing the things that we started doing back 50 years ago throughout our lives and our careers.
♪ At the time, there was an emergency for the planet, which there still is, and we need to be doing more of this now.
♪ ♪ ♪ Woman: I don't pursue objects.
They just happen.
They occur in some serendipitous manner, and I think that living with the works by the people who create the things that I feel strongly about is essential as an expansion of what I do.
I made this room into a breakfast room because I wanted the functional pottery to be visible, and I wanted the functional pottery to be used.
This is John Parker Glick, well-known American potter, and he had a pottery in Farmington, Michigan.
He ran a functional pottery, and this is just a small jar.
Behind me is an early punch bowl from about 1950, before he did this very illustrious, batik-like surfaces.
You can see it's much duller than the other works.
But the Michael Gross cabinet will probably never leave because it's so heavy.
It's wood and ceramics.
My house is 1847, and it's near Rittenhouse Square.
It's two small houses, joined together by a garden.
One house is basically my residential house.
The other house is my library.
I'm not sure that I would call myself a collector.
I think I would call myself an educator.
I was totally mesmerized by the fact that people were spending time making objects and working with their hands.
I had the idea for the first course in the history of contemporary crafts.
I went to Harvard.
I went to Yale.
I started to talk to professors at Penn.
Nobody wanted to do the research.
The President of the Philadelphia College of Art said, "Helen, you're going to give the course."
I started building my library at that time.
My library houses a monograph library, a jewelry library, museum collections and public collections, and when curators come here to use the library, I have only one rule: that no book may leave the house.
The little room behind us was a bathroom that was over the Mark Burns ceiling, which is downstairs on the first floor.
We turned that bathroom into an extension of the library.
I have an essay in progress over here, uh, which is overdue--heh!-- but I'm always overdue.
You know, I have all these books from all the artists that I've dealt with for, what, 40 years?
Is it more than 40 years?
It's 55, 60 years I've been working.
I opened my gallery.
People would come, they would talk, they'd have a glass of wine.
It was really a kind of academic hub.
It began drawing from a regional circle, and then suddenly, it became national.
I did a Voulkos show, I had Lenore Tawney, I had Miye Matsukata, I had Patti Warashina, and before I knew it, I was putting together a collection of American crafts for the Hermitage.
They were supposed to keep the exhibition on view for three months.
It's still up.
Nothing was planned.
It all just happened.
It happened through friendships, through discussions, through people living here, and suddenly, it was like a geyser, and it was great.
♪ The house has been really interesting.
There have been constant houseguests.
Richard Shaw lived here, Rudi Staffel lived here, Wendy Ramshaw, Gijs Bakker, Marvin Lipofsky.
I mean, I could go on and on.
Lenore Tawney slept on a mat between our bedroom and the study because she didn't want to sleep alone in the guest room.
The dining room, in my way of thinking, is a post-World War II, period American craft room.
It's not a conscious period room, but there is a sensibility about it.
These are my service plates, and they were made by Robert Winokur, and he made them in two heights.
I have a collection of Fred Woell spoons that encourages a kind of discourse at the dinner table.
Everybody picks them up, they've never seen spoons like this.
We've had wonderful guests here, but it was not just for artists and poets and architects.
It was also our family room.
This chair is Nakashima.
This chair--these four chairs are Jere Osgood, and the table is T. Robsjohn-Gibbings.
Originally, I had eight T. Robsjohn-Gibbings dinner chairs, but they had a bad karma.
♪ I said that?
That my life is not ordinary?
Well, it isn't ordinary, you know?
I have never taken a vacation at a beach.
I have never gone on a voyage or anything.
My life is devoted to my passion for modern and contemporary crafts.
It has dominated everything that I do.
It has dominated the people that I see.
It has dominated the artists that I visit.
It has dominated the correspondence that I have.
It has dominated my telephone calls every day of the week.
It has moved me into realms that I never thought I would be in, and the house has been like a hub, and I wanted to live with works that were made by people who had passion.
I could buy a chair or a chest or a set of dishes, and I knew who made them, and that was, for me, something very special, and I love having them in my life.
A very close friend told me, "This is your last life," and so, if this is my last life, damn it, I'm going to have a good time.
[Chuckles] ♪ ♪ ♪ Announcer: Watch all episodes of "Craft in America" online, with additional videos and more.
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