Category Archives: Essays and Other Writing

The Scything Handbook: Learn How to Cut Grass, Mow Meadows and Harvest Grain by Hand

note the degree of rotation in the front figure; however, he’s got the wrong leg forward! see youtube…

The Scything Handbook is one more on a string of beautiful, helpful (and once common) pearls that can help save us from a debilitating fate as mere “consumers,” and restore us to our birthrights as participants in creation. Full disclosure here, I know the author Ian. We’re teaching a class together in Oregon this August (info and registration here), and I also wrote the forward to his book, which is brief, clear, and as simple as a clean cut with a sharp …

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Beauty and Building

It’s hard to talk to people about beauty and building. Last fall, a friend of a friend came by to see what we’re building. He looked appreciatively at our modest but well-built structure — which I have been ornamenting by cutting curves in rafter tails and support brackets — and said, “why are you spending all this time to cut fancy shapes when you have a house to build?” Before I could reply, he said, almost to himself, “Oh, you’re an artist,” as if that explained otherwise aberrant behavior, like a diagnosis of disease.

It’s the view from economic laws …

Posted in Authors, Buildings/Structures, Essays and Other Writing, Featured, Kiko Denzer | Tagged , | 5 Comments

The value of water

the value of waterThe thirsty drink water from a bowl made of mountains, hills, and trees…

In the rural area where I lived for 20 years — and throughout Oregon, as well as elsewhere — “watershed management” has become a common term. Farmers and ranchers compete with urbanites and salmon for water to feed us all. The media call them “water wars,” but without water, no one eats and no one “wins.” If the salmon lose, we lose too. The issue looms ever larger: climate change, population growth, and an economy on the verge of collapse. Fear makes it hard …

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Bill Coperthwaite & the Arts of Culture (a review of A Man Apart, Bill Coperthaite’s Radical Experiment in Living, by Peter Forbes & Helen Whybrow)

A Man Apart, Bill Coperthaite’s Radical Experiment in Living, by Peter Forbes & Helen Whybrow

I met Bill Coperthwaite in 2007. I had recently read his book, A Hand Made Life, and was deeply impressed by his stories and practice, and the way he was trying to live out an answer to questions that, by our denial of them, define our culture:

“Can you have ‘culture’ without violence?”

“Is beauty useful?”

“Are justice, democracy, and peace possible if most all of our technologies require violence?”

Like Gandhi, Bill figured that whatever he could make for himself meant less dependence on …

Posted in A Handmade Life: In Search of Simplicity, Authors, Books, Essays and Other Writing, Kiko Denzer | 1 Comment

Mud Mural at Colorado State University Pueblo, with Kiko Denzer

Getting mud to stick on the wall

Maya Aviña teaches fine arts at CSU in Pueblo, Colorado. For about the past ten years, she’s been immersed in natural building, which she has also made into the focus of her research at the college. Last year, she invited me to come be an “artist in residence” and do a mural project. The challenge was to bring life into dead space: a bleak, harsh, hard-edged, institutional (college) courtyard of grey and yellow concrete pressed down by massive, overhanging soffit walls of more cast concrete. It looked (and felt) like a pen in …

Posted in Authors, Books, Buildings/Structures, Current Work, Dig Your Hands in the Dirt, Earth, Essays and Other Writing, Kiko Denzer, Sculpture, Working With Children | 1 Comment

Terra Preta and “the Biochar Solution”

The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change, by Albert Bates A review by Kiko Denzer

Living trees lock up carbon, and burning releases it. That’s the conflict-ridden equation of global warming. Albert Bates has been at the front lines of the warming conflict since his 1990 title, Climate in Crisis. In this book, he defines “biochar” as “charred (pyrolized) organic matter intended to be applied to soil in farming or gardening,” and argues that partial burning of waste wood and other carbonaceous matter can effectively “lock up” carbon and store it underground in a human-fired echo of what …

Posted in Authors, Build Your Own Earth Oven, Essays and Other Writing, Fire, Kiko Denzer, Ovens, Ovens | 1 Comment

Tribal Genealogical Patterns: A Universal Language?

[download this pattern as an envelope design here]

’the folk has thus preserved, without understanding, the remains of old traditions that go back sometimes to the indeterminably distant past, to which we can only refer as “prehistoric”…’ Had the folk beliefs not indeed once been understood, we could not now speak of them as metaphysically intelligible, or explain the accuracy of their formulation.

—    Ananda Coomaraswamy, “The Nature of ‘Folklore’ & ‘Popular Art,’” Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society, 27, Bangalore, 1936.


Carl Schuster, a little-known art historian, spent about thirty years of his working life wandering …

Posted in Current Work, Essays and Other Writing, Kiko Denzer | 4 Comments

Living More with Less

We’ve been attending a local fellowship consisting of an interesting mix of Mennonite families (almost all of whom have left agriculture for more “professional” pursuits), as well as baptists, quakers, and a bunch of folks I won’t try to categorize. Many of them are self-employed, live fairly simply, and try to uphold basic principles of love and justice. We sing and share potluck every week. That, to me, is the essence of “learning by doing,” and as such means much more to me than any creed. And I’m filling in a big gap in my education, which didn’t cover this …

Posted in A Handmade Life: In Search of Simplicity, Authors, Essays and Other Writing, Kiko Denzer, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

A Work of Art: Rediscovering a Way of Working for Beauty

Students at the McKinley School in Salem, OR work on a mural of their own design

Stories and lessons learned about the hows and whys of living by a traditional understanding of art — not as object, but as activity, as a way of life. Included are essays about principles of design, measure, and proportion, as well as social and economic aspects of working as an artist — earning money, working for community, teaching, learning…. You can read it in it’s entirety below, and download it free or buy a paper copy ($20, full color, w/photos) through the bookstore. There’s …

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