In the mid 1990s I met a Native American from the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon. He told me about “Hand Magic.”
Native Americans view themselves as a part of Nature, not separate from it. Their belief is that there is but one creative source in this Universe, and man is just the vehicle through which art appears. In much the same way as a bird builds a nest, or ants build an ant hill.
When it comes to humans the Native American calls this “Hand Magic,” The Great Spirit guiding the artist’s hand through the mind and creating a piece of pottery, a blanket or some other object.
In the Middle Ages in England as in the rest of Europe men built houses with the minimum of planning or measuring. Just as there is very little planning or mesuring in a piece of Indian pottery or weaving.
Today these old crooked thatched roofed cottages still stand and the blend perfectly into the surrounding landscape. They actually add to the beauty of the English countryside.
I have come to realize only man is capable of creating ugliness. A man builds a barn in a field and paints it red; it is ugly, a blight on the environment. But as Nature takes over and the barn becomes derelict it becomes a thing of beauty; people come to photograph it, and artists paint it on canvas. (Above.)
Everything in Nature is beautiful, and if the artist is connected to this Spirit within as he/she creates, the art cannot help but be beautiful.
I have not always subscribed to this thinking, but over the years as I built bicycle frames it became an automatic process; second nature, so to speak.
Metal expands and contracts when it is heated then cools again. In time I knew which way the frame would distort and would actually start brazing with the frame out of alignment so it would be in alignment after it cooled.
The amount the frame was out of line at the start of the process was not a measured amount; it was an amount determined by eye, a feeling if you will.
After a frame was brazed and had cooled it was checked on a surface table and measured with a dial indicator. The frames were always within ten thousandth of an inch or so and therefore required a minimum of cold setting to achieve the final alignment.
When I met a customer I was building a frame for, I knew immediately what I would build for him. I would take measurements to confirm; I would not want the customer thinking I was building his frame by “Guess Work.”
In my early years as a frame builder I had also made ornamental iron work, and had painted pictures in oils. When I left the bike business, I was aware that whatever it was within my makeup that allowed me to successfully build bicycle frames, would allow me to embark on other creative endeavors.
Meeting that old Coquille Indian in Oregon confirmed what I had begun to figure out for myself. Now as a writer and songwriter, I believe as many other songwriters do that songs are already written and songwriters just pick them out of the air as they float by.
Some reading this will dismiss it as “New Age” bullshit, and that is okay because thirty or forty years ago I would have done the same.