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John Nippolt
Mana for the carving
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          This is a first for me. Well, sort of kind of a first. I learned a long time ago that my sketches were able to capture my thoughts faster than writing, yet, like most artists, I write notes in my sketchbooks alongside my doodles, designs or working drawings to suggest things that need my attention. In the past, I would occasionally jot down my thoughts while into a project, but I've never done a running commentary (a blog ?) to remark on events that take place during the period of time it takes me to create a carving, shaping the spiritual beast in a particular piece of timber. My embellishments will offer a different look at the wood, and I marvel at its beauty in its new life role as a carving.
        Seguin, a master drummer and teacher, is a long time friend. He knows about wood and he has built many drums. He still hunts goats with a bow and arrow and knows how to tan the goat hide to produce drum skins for the instruments he creates. His passion to seek knowledge about the drum took him to Africa many times when he was a young man, journeys few would take even today.
        These days he still passes on his knowledge to those who wish to follow in his path, teaching the ancient rhythms to young and old alike. He has played with some of the greatest musicians on earth, and I have read that he is known as "Quebec's own master percussionist" still, he remains humble and sage. At seventy he plays with a strength and capability that are hard to equal by those who are many years his junior.
        We were at mutual friend's house where Seguin and I just finished a game of petanque. (like the Italian bocci or French boules) We sat in the shade near an outside table to enjoy a cool drink during our break from the match. I told him I was looking for a couple of good pieces of wood for this year's Van's Triple Crown of Surfing awards. I remembered I had a printed copy of one of the posters in my car. I got up and went to get the picture of what the carving would have to end up looking like so Seguin would be able to imagine the size and shape of the wood I needed to start the work.
        Our friend joined us when I came back with the image. He took one look at the poster and told me he would give me the wood I needed for free, a price I don't normally refuse. We talked about different hardwoods, and he mentioned albezia, a hardy wood, sometimes used for canoe hulls. He had a couple of logs, more than enough for my small need. The day we were supposed to meet kept being changed and I began to worry. We finally found time to go cut the lumber and one look made it clear to me the wood had been left out in the sun too long.
        His chainsaw went through the wood like a knife through warm butter. I knew the wood was rotten and already beginning to decay. This wood could not hold an edge. I stopped him from cutting any further and thanked him for his time and effort. I told him I had a couple other sources and it wasn't a problem to look elsewhere. He said, "Don't worry, come back in a week. I have other logs we can look at."
        The view from his property in Waimanalo offers a spectacular look at Manana Island (also known as Rabbit Island) and Makapu'u beach on the south eastern tip of Oahu. "Come here and do the carvings," he told me, "Maybe I can learn something."
        Uh-oh, red flags went up. Over the years I have found that some of the people who wanted to give me wood for free to carve these surfing awards do so to form their own personal connectedness to them. Now, with a firm tradition in place in the creation of this special series of carvings (22 years worth) it seems even more evident that people no longer do things for anybody else without demanding something in return, and I am wary of the reasons behind such offerings, because hidden agendas often impose unmentioned paybacks. He didn't have the wood I was looking for and I haven't gone back to see him.
        Sure, I have my own stash of wood on hand, fine hardwood that would be perfect for these carvings, such as koa (acacia oak), keawe (Mexican mesquite), and some teak, but I'm always willing to let the extraordinary piece of wood come my way, and this year such wood has found its way into my hands.
        I related the story about the albezia to Seguin. "I would never attempt to use that wood for anything." He was ready with this comment, "I knew you wouldn't want it but, I also know you had to see it for yourself. Let's go see the man who has the wood you want." be continued...