I went home on New Year's Day to Bucks County in Pennsylvania, which would have been my father's 85th birthday, my four siblings and their children always making an effort to meet there after the Christmas holiday. This year, everyone could make it except my older brother (I have 4 siblings and 9 nieces and nephews).
My father worked all over the world in Steel, until he took early retirement at the age of 55, heart problems having taken their tool. As it turned out, he got out just in time, the industry collapsing in on itself shortly thereafter. My father didn't sit on his hands during his remaining years, doing a fare amount of consulting work. He also spent a good deal of his time at a handmade bench in the basement, as my grandfather had done in his garage, crafting the most exquisite jewelry. The latter once took a trip to California with a briefcase full of bracelets made out of silver spoons and knifes, and sold the whole lot to the stewardesses and passengers on the plane! My father's creations? Never for sale. Instead he wore what he created, and made pieces especially for family members and friends. You'd go for a visit, and he would invite you down to the basement, and the next thing you knew, he was fitting you for an amazing creation.
My father was a big guy at 6 foot 4. Broad shouldered with big hands, he fairly towered over everyone. As a kid, he was taken with Gene Austin, cowboy songs, and The Shadow, later acquiring a great deal of experience in carpentry, furniture making, stained glass lamps, and working with tools. In short; he was intensely creative, be it at the blast furnace, or when making exquisite rings, bracelets, bolos and belt buckles. I've included two of his works here.
In the bolo above, a turquoise salamander is chasing a bug, the shape of the stone providing the inspiration. My father gave this creature coral eyes and silver feet, and wove the leather bolo on which it climbs towards its prey, having learned how to weave as a boy scout. For him, half the fun was finding a beautiful stone and figuring out what it wanted to be. He'd hold it in his hands for a long time, turning it over, looking at it, often coming up with ideas that had an element of whimsy.
This belt buckle is also made out of green turquoise, and is encased in silver, the belt itself being handcrafted. Everything he touched was considered, planned, well-thoughtout. Nothing done half-ways.
Turn the piece over and you see my father's Baroque sensibility at work. Since the stone was green, he cut out the silver backing so that it would show through a pine tree and moon. Of course, only the wearer would know this. Being a man of detail, he also stamped his name, the year, and where the stone was obtained, in this case, Cripple Creek, Colorado.
These two pieces are but a fraction of my father's beautiful work, and I am honored to wear them in his memory. Tonight, they made a trip to the New York Philharmonic, where I heard Beethoven performed. I sat there thinking about the things they had in common. Men of stature (literally in my father's case) with hearing loss and physical difficulties, both intensely creative: nothing stopped them from creating art.