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« Everyone's a Photographer | Main | Progress »

Hand Magic

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, 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 measuring 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, through repetition, 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 or fifteen thousandth of an inch and therefore required a minimum of cold setting to achieve the final alignment.

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.


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Reader Comments (6)

I think you're right Dave. Good post.

May 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterStephen McAteer

“Music has always been my path. My question has always been, ‘Where does music come from?’ I’ve always been fascinated by that. I think music comes from a place that everything comes from. And it just happens that when it arrives at me, it becomes music. That’s my theory, but I haven’t found out yet.”

-Joe Garrison, musician and leader of the band Night People

So talent comes from inspiration, creativity, drive, persistence, skill, experience, and ultimately, from the same source life comes from. And that can’t be coded, it can’t be written or passed down, it can’t even be taught. We can only recognize and appreciate the resultant work. That may not even happen in one’s lifetime, but then people in possession of it aren’t waiting for recognition.

What does that say of those that are pining for attention, validation, confirmation, relevance, and acknowledgment?

May 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

"Everything in Nature is beautiful"


Not buying g that sweeping statement.
Never mind the fact that ma is part of Nature.

May 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterArt I Fice

Steve - I like it when people tell me they like my work. Validation maybe. But Chuck Close said something like "If no-one is around to see my art, I'm probably not going to make it".

May 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterStephen McAteer

Dave, I could make, many, many, comments about what you have written in this. But as an artist sculptor and musician, my ears and hands are always attuned to sounds and feelings. One sound that I will never forget, Is time trialing in the 1940s 1950s On a cold, wet early morning, all alone, about to catch my minute man. The sound off Dunlop #3 tubs pumped till they ping, humming along on the road. Another beautiful sound, that you can hear on Youtube. Is Miles Davis all alone just the sound of his solo horn, opening the set, in "Time after time" Munich Germany 1988

May 9, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Dave. See you are moving and have listed parts on eBay. Some good buys there good luck mate.

May 13, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

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