Prairie Home Furniture

Celebrating  The  Arts & Crafts  in  Bozeman,  Montana


  Academy  of Creative  Hands, Hearts,  and  Minds


     In 1988 I received a BA in Elementary Education from the University of Montana.  I have always included the joy of working with the creative instincts and natural willingness of my students to create with their hands, hearts, and minds.  This became most apparent when the high school curriculum I developed won Alaska's Spirit of Youth Award in 2004.   In short, this curriculum used the required curriculum (math, science, reading, writing, etc.) to teach the practical skills needed to repair, design, and construct a variety of job requests from the community.  The Kali Crew was created.

     Needless to say, my first lesson in this curriculum, one practiced daily, was counting to ten.  After introducing students to the fundamental aspects of woodworking, I took their newly acquired skills into the community.  My students became involved with all aspects of repairing, designing, and new construction;  from repairing their neighbor's steps to building the coffins for their community members who passed away.  With this pragmatic approach to teaching, my students gained the necessary self-confidence to complete their requirements for graduation.  To my great relief, every student still had the ability of counting to ten. 

       The great joy of creating with our hands, hearts and minds has been on the decline within our public schools, lessening the self-reliance of our students, community, state, and nation.   However, this is no fault of our dedicated teaching staff, for I know too well the difficult demands and countless responsibilities administrators, teachers, and aides have during every second of every day, but rather on the public's changing perceptions toward the leading role public education should retain within its community.   

      Our recent economic and social challenges, due in part to globalization, parallel the  social and economic upheaval of the Industrial Revolution of the mid 1800's.  In both past and present periods, polarization between traditional and progressive practices occurred.  The key to a successful outcome depends on how we, as a democracy, respond. 

       One of the major effects of the Industrial Revolution was the industrial mechanization of America's workforce.   Gustav Stickley's pragmatic response to this industrial mechanization was the introduction of  his new line of Craftsman  Furniture in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1900, marking the beginning of the Arts & Crafts Movement in America.  Stickley's new furniture designs adopted the industrial machine, but not the poor quality related to mass production; every design required experienced hand craftsmanship ( the mortised and pegged thru-tenon being his hallmark).  

       Our public schools, during this rapidly changing period, was  positioned to respond with new curriculums and pedagogies to better reflect the changing social and economic needs.  Thus, a new challenge  of prioritizing educational needs, for both  local communities and their students' ever-expanding world ensued, leaving school boards across America in a political quagmire.  American educator and philosopher,  John Dewey, in response to this new challenge, wrote extensively on prioritizing the educational needs within a rapidly changing society.  

      In the books, Democracy and Education(1916), Experience and Education(1938), and  The School and Society(1900),   John Dewey proposes a pragmatic approach to teaching within our public schools.  The foundation of this approach is to evaluate the elements of change and adopt those which will best fit the democratic ideals of the community, the key to both Stickley's and the Kali Crew's success.    

       It was this pragmatic approach and the child centered ideals of Maria Montessori I brought to the classroom.   It was during my teaching career I discovered the works of John Ruskin and William Morris of England.  These readings led me on the path toward the world phenomenon known as the Arts & Crafts Movement.  The philosophy behind the Arts & Crafts Movement fitted perfectly within both my professional teaching methods and my fine woodworking pursuits.   I was very fortunate  having the opportunity to combine both my passions of teaching and woodworking and have this combination prove successful for my students.

        Horace Mann, the congressman who launched our public education system, stated, "Public education is the greatest invention of mankind."  This remains true today.  As the mortised and pegged thru-tenon represents the integrity and beauty of Gustav Stickley's furniture, our public education system should represent the integrity and beauty of our democratic ideals.  

        I would like to began a dialog with interested community members on the potential of creating an, Academy of Creative Hands, Hearts and Minds in Bozeman, MT.   This academy can be as simple as finding a community meeting place where adults and children have the opportunity to share the process of creating their arts and crafts.   It is this act of sharing which creates a healthy, happy, and prosperous community.  If you would like to join in this conversation, contact me with your creative thoughts.


        I have included my resume' below for you to peruse.