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Field Notes - 3/16/2016

smalina's picture

This past Wednesday at the center, we met in the woodshop to continue our white oak box project. Because it was snacktime when we got there, we headed over to a different part of the center, where we checked out a petri dish paint project some partcipants had been working on (playing on the science/bacteria themes we had begun to explore in the labs at Haverford). Returning to the woodshop, we began by heating a small block of wax, which, once liquified, was collected in small tools we could use to draw on our wood pieces. Carl and I each took two sides of the box and drew wax designs on them. We then brought our pieces over to another part of the room, where we sprayed them first with black tea, and then once that had dried, with some liquid rust. Together, these two liquids turned the wood black (except for the parts covered in wax). We left these pieces to dry so that next time, we could return and scrape off the wax, leaving behind wood-colored designs set to a black background. Because we were ahead, we moved on to drilling holes in the bottom of the box so that we could attach legs. We then began to shape one of the legs using another tool attached to a stationary bike (Carl and I took turns biking and carving the wood). 

As I continue to work with Carl, I become more and more aware of our similarities in terms of work ethic. Both of us prefer to work in silence, and are happy to collaborate as long as it doesn't alter how efficient we can be. We both move very quickly, and are not easily distracted (though we both stopped working when a band played in the main room, and got up to dance). The partnership has made me think about how co-workers and, more generally, people learning together, can create a silent contract that requires hardly any communication at all. Carl and I never spoke about how we wanted to go about our work, and I'm not sure that he would have expressed his preferences had I asked. But being honst and straightforward about how I work best, while still remaining open to his preferences and needs, allowed the two of us to strike a balance between individual and partner work. During the wax design process we both ended up borrowing elements of each other's work (Carl began to draw dots on his wood after he saw mine, and I added in some curves and swirling shapes after I saw how he had incorporated curved lines), knowing that the pieces would come together into one cohesive whole eventually. It was exciting to watch the two of us learn together in silence, and I'm interested in exploring this silence further--particularly in terms of how it can facilitate learning and co-working in a way that language might impede.

Next week, we will scrape off the wax and begin to put the box together. Because this will likely be our last week at the center before returning to Haverford to begin some workshops on bodies, gender, and sexuality, I'm hoping to spend snacktime in the cafeteria so I have another chance to meet some participants--everyone's work is so highly regarded at the center, and I've heard so many great stories about people whom I haven't even met yet. 


alesnick's picture

This account of arriving at such a respectful and effective co-working process without spoken language is so interesting.  It makes me think about how defaulting to words may be much less necessary than I tend to assume.  I think I will experiment with this today!  Thank you.