The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

July 30, 2014

Trying to Make Someting Of Myself

Filed under: Art, Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:32 am

This past weekend saw the arrival of the annual Art Fairs in  Downtown Bellevue.  Although there are a lot of things I like about living in Downtown Bellevue, this particular weekend is one of the times I really enjoy living here, as it’s always interesting to go wander around the three different art fairs and see all the cool stuff people are making that I can’t afford.  To be honest, I’m not really sure why they need to have three separate art fairs put on by three separate groups when it seems like it would be easier to just have one big one, but that’s beside the point.  Either way, it doesn’t take much looking to see that there are people with (usually) a lot more more creativity than myself who have managed to come up with some really interesting stuff.  And in a lot of cases, it is things that are well beyond my skill level.  For example, I seriously doubt you’ll see me making fabric-like sheets of woven glass anytime soon, and I think the last time I tried to paint anything was somewhere around fourth grade.  On the other hand, as I wander around the various booths and see the various things people have made, every once in a while, something jumps out at me when I’m browsing around.  Not necessarily because it’s an expertly crafted piece of art (with a price tag that I can’t afford, no less), but because it’s something that, if I put my mind to it, I could most likely make myself.


To illustrate this point, let me show off a couple of somewhat recent acquisitions in what passes for my art collection these days.  The box you see above was purchased from a craftsman on the island of Dominica during the Caribbean cruise I went on with a friend last December.  If I recall correctly, I paid about $50 for it.  On one hand, you have to be somewhat wary when purchasing souvenirs when cruising because there’s a good chance that 75% of the stuff you see in the various flea markets on the islands pretty clearly comes from China (if you’re lucky the sellers will at least have the courtesy to take the “Made in China” stickers off before they sell the stuff to you,) but in this particular case it was clear that this one was hand crafted, as the person selling it was busy working on another piece when I paid a visit to his stand near the cruise dock in Rouseau.  As far as Caribbean islands go, Dominica isn’t exactly the most touristy place you’ll find (I’m pretty sure that particular competition is neck-and-neck between St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Aruba)  but in a way that makes it a more interesting place to shop for things like this, because you’re a lot less likely to be overwhelmed by shockingly large quantities of overpriced jewelry stores and Prada bags, fake or otherwise, and more likely to find someone making a modest yet honest living turning out surprisingly beautiful pieces like this one.  In particular, the detail of the bird carved onto the top of the piece shows someone who knows his way around a scroll saw.  The fit and finish of this piece is also very well done, and indicates that a fair bit of effort must have gone into making it.  If someone was selling something like this at one of the Bellevue Art Fairs, I suspect the price would be far higher than the $50 I paid for it.

And yet, with a bit of effort, I think I could try to make something quite similar on my own.  Granted, I have a lot more tools at my disposal than would be available to a craftsman living on a tiny island on the Windward side of the West Indies, but I suspect that even with all that I’d have a hard time matching the quality, and given the most likely approach I would take to this (using a laser cutter, something I have a bit of experience with) my own version would get far more expensive in a hurry, and would also come with the added drawbacks of leaving scorch marks from where the laser makes its cuts.  I would probably also need to work at a smaller scale, as the laser cutters I have worked with tend to not handle thicker pieces all that well, and even if I do laser cut all the pieces I’d still need a router to do all the edges anyway.  Even if I doubt I’d be able to match the original piece nearly as well as I’d like here, I would still like to try this one out, if for no other reason than to see if I can actually come close to matching this one.

This piece, on the other hand, was purchased at the Bellevue Art Museum Fair last year, from an artist by the name of Christine Hausserman.  Although I don’t necessarily want to disclose how much I paid for this particular piece, I will say that it cost considerably more than the wooden box discussed above.  And yet this was one of the rare pieces at the art fair that stood out and came with a not completely shocking price tag.  When it comes down to it, this is ultimately just sheet metal and Dichroic glass (confession time:  I might be something of a sucker for Dichroic glass) and yet the end result is something I enjoy being able to look at whenever I want.  This too seems like something I could make myself if I was sufficiently motivated to do so, but I get the sneaking suspicion that the management in my apartment building might have some issues if I started messing with a plasma cutter in my apartment (that plus the fact that setting the place on fire seems to be a good way to lose your deposit.)

That seems to be the big limiting factor in all this:  Lack of proper tools.   Sure, there are places I could probably go out and find a lot of this stuff if I needed it for some reason (that’s what hackerspaces like Metrix Create:Space in Seattle are good for) but ultimately I’d love to have some of this stuff to mess with on my own.  To be honest, I’m nowhere near as mechanically inclined as either my Dad or my two brothers, but even so when I get to the point where I buy a house of my own I’d love to build some sort of a workshop so I have somewhere to mess with this stuff.  If I’m ever going to make something of myself, doesn’t that mean that at some point I actually have to make something?

May 29, 2011

Could You Live in Downtown Bellevue Without Ever Leaving Downtown? A Thought Experiement

Filed under: Bellevue — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:13 pm

Contrary to what seems to be popular belief around these parts, there actually are some parts of Bellevue that are not Downtown.  in fact, there’s quite a bit of Bellevue that isn’t downtown, and it’s rumored that if you look carefully, you can actually see some of them from here.  Well OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I suspect that there are some residents of this area (not necessarily residents of Downtown Bellevue) for whom Bellevue consists entirely of the roughly two-thirds of a square mile between I-405 and NE 100th on the east and west, and NE 12th and Main on the North and South, and anything beyond that is Here Be Dragons territory until you reach Seattle.  And speaking of Seattle, I suspect that by the same token there’s plenty of people  who think Seattle consists entirely of the stuff that happens to be between Safeco Field and the Space Needle.  In reality, there’s quite a bit more to both cities, but especially if you live in one of the surrounding areas and the only reason you ever come into Bellevue is to go to the mall, or if you only ever go into Seattle for Mariners games or the occasional visit to the Pike Place Market, it can be easy to conveniently forget that the rest of these cities even exist. 

Over the years, much has been said about the ability of major freeways to act as something of an artificial barrier that seems to limit the growth of urban areas.  As I’ve lived in Downtown Bellevue for what is now getting close to a year (and, at least for the time being, intending to remain here for as long as my circumstances warrant it,) I’ve noticed that not only does 405 seem to act as a barrier to the growth of the Downtown area, but at the same time, it seems to act as a bit of a psychological barrier as well.  During times when the weather is nice enough to allow it, I find that I have no problem walking to anywhere within the Downtown area, be it Bellevue Square, one of the two grocery stores in Downtown, even out to Old Bellevue or Meydenbauer Beach Park on the rare occasions that I find a reason to go there.  Yet at the same time, if I ever have a reason that I need to go to anywhere on the opposite side of 405, I always seem to think it’s necessary to drive, even though several of the places are even closer than the ones in Downtown.  Granted, even within the Downtown area on days when I’m feeling a bit lazy or when the weather isn’t particularly cooperative I might drive out to Bellevue Square or to the grocery store (it’s a bit less than 3/4 mile from my apartment to the QFC or the Macy’s entrance at Bellevue Square, and a bit less than a mile from here to the Safeway,) but at the same time the walking distance to the Best Buy and Home Depot stores out on the other side of 405  is just about the same (a bit less than a mile,) and yet if I was going to one of the two I’d most likely end up driving no matter what the weather was like.  Even on the (very rare) occasions I might go to the Whole Foods Market just on the opposite side of 405 from here, I’d probably be far more likely to drive than to walk, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s on the other side of 405. 

As I’ve considered just why it is that one side of the freeway seems to be car territory while the other side seems to be walking territory even with distances being roughly equal, it has brought up an interesting, if only tangentially related question in my mind:  Would it be possible for someone living in Downtown Bellevue to be able to meet all their basic needs without ever physically leaving the Downtown area?  To be perfectly honest I don’t think I’d ever want to actually try this (if for no other reason than the fact that I’m pretty sure I’d go stir crazy after two weeks of trying it) but the more I think about this, the more I start to wonder if someone could truly do this if they set out to do so.  Let’s just say that they don’t own a car (I do know some people who live here without a car,) but because of this somewhat irrational psychological barrier that I’ve been encountering, they just can’t ever cross 405, or even really go anywhere else into “car” territory.

As such, I am going to make a bit of a thought experiment out of this question, just to get some idea of the viability of doing just this.  Let’s say we have someone living in the following conditions:

  • They live in a Downtown Bellevue apartment;
  • They work in Downtown Bellevue, and thus would not need to leave the Downtown area for their job;
  • They do not own a car.  In fact, as noted above, they would rarely be venturing outside of the Downtown area for any reason (yet at the same time, for most items we’ll also consider what the effect of blurring the boundaries a bit would be, and allowing occasional trips outside of Downtown to other nearby areas);
  • When they move into Downtown, they wouldn’t be bringing a whole lot of stuff with them, so they would need to be able to get quite a few different things within the Downtown area they are limited to;
  • “Downtown” is defined as outlined at the beginning of this post; basically the roughly 36-block area between 405 and 100th Ave NE on the East and West, and NE 12th and Main on the North and South.  Some of the definitions of Downtown that I’ve seen do fudge on the boundaries by a block or two, but for most purposes, this seems to be how the Downtown area is defined.

So given these parameters, would it be possible for someone to live entirely in Downtown Bellevue without needing to leave to meet any of their basic needs?  In this post, we’ll take a look at a number of factors that would affect someone trying to live under these circumstances, and try to get an idea of just how possible this would be.  You’ll find this after the jump. (more…)

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