Moon Dancer: I was 100% certain that this week’s blog was going to focus exclusively on the launching of Moon Dancer, our 55-foot Johnny Depp Schooner, 30-feet up on a bluff, overlooking a large field of sculptures…and Catawba River Road.
After months of work, Moon Dancer is up, but the very last ingredient was something we couldn’t test out until this week. The audacious goal was to create a magical staging area for future concerts, blue-grass blow-outs and recitals. We were set for Thursday night at 7 to kick-off, though people began showing up at 6:30. I climbed aboard, where the band was tuning up. Amps flipped on.
Little lights flickered on huge speakers, and then Pat Thomas, my friend and neighbor, thumped the mic and said,”test.” He nodded at me, smiled, slipped on his guitar and the first words to float out into the valley were from Folsum Prison, a favorite of mine.
“I hear the train a comin’. It’s comin’ round the bend. And I ain’t seen the sunshine since….God knows when. I’m stuck in Folsum Prison, and time keeps rollin’ by.”
I’ve been to a LOT of concerts, but I’ve never heard better acoustics than those drifting down into the Catawba River Valley. Never. These gentlemen have the music and boy can they play! Ever hear really good banjo, up-close and personal? slide guitar? Velvet vocals from none other than Pat Thomas? It was heaven and it was sometimes, in Kenny Rogers-style…funny.
We had scrounged every chair within a mile and asked people to bring their own…and we did just fine. Some surprises? We’d also stocked up on Dos Equis XX and a pile of frozen pizzas, though the people, for the most part, had come to hear music…not eat…not get drunk. In truth, I’ve never witnessed a friendlier, more gracious and attentive group. I’m happy to say, Moon Dancer launched with flying colors and we’re looking forward to many such voyages. End of this story? Nope. Not even close.
Hint: don’t quit before checking-out the list of You Tubes below
What is Dragonfly? Driving down Catawba River Road, you come around a corner in deep woods, look up and say, “What the hell???” Next to a river and seemingly in the middle of nowhere, you begin seeing strange large sculptures, some moving on their own in the wind, some staring back at you, and…there are a few time machines sprinkled in to take you any time you want to go.
You go up a winding driveway with (literally) a big fork in the road. Go left to the falls and guest house. Go right to the main house and the studio.
The Dream: Ever hear of Wolf Trap? Grounds for Sculpture? Jacob’s Pillow? Tanglewood? Each of these places began as a dream, for artists, musicians, writers to come and practice, learn, chill-out and have some fun. These are on a grand scale...now. But like all famous people and most famous places…they weren’t born famous. They weren’t born big. They had to grow.
Right now, Dragonfly is in its relative infancy. Moon Dancer has just been born. The sculpture gardens are a year old and drawing people on a daily basis. But there’s a third invisible leg to Dragonfly that you do not know about, though it has existed for decades.
The Studio: In addition to creating sculpture, fountains, mobiles and writing books, for decades now, I have, on rare occasion, taken on budding artists, sculptors, and mentored the occasional writer. And to pre-answer a question that comes up, no, you cannot come up, checkbook in hand, and buy lessons or tutoring for little Freddy or Suzie or yourself. It’s not like that, and I do not teach classes…not out of arrogance, but out of common sense. It’s actually most analogous to teaching someone to fly a plane hands-on. It’s a one-at-a-time sort of thing. It’s also a bit like asking a master chef to teach you his secrets. In short, it’s for serious candidates only. Over the years, I have taught a large handful of people to sculpt and nearly all have gone on to make some sort of career out of it.
Quick anecdote: I got a call a couple of years ago from a gentleman out in Arizona who wanted to fly out for an interview. I asked him to send me pictures of the things he had done so far, but, he didn’t do that. Got a call a few days later and he was a few miles away in a motel and…could he come over? sigh…. He came over with a handful of pictures of things he had welded together…a nicely done camper hitch, a trailer for a motorcycle, and on and on.
I went through the pile in four seconds, groaned, turned to him and told him that this told me nothing other than that he could weld two pieces of angle-iron together. I stood up, said, “sorry,” but explained that I had, indeed, warned him.
At the last moment, he said, “Well, I do have some sketches…stupid stuff that I’ve dreamed of making…weird funky stuff.” “Bring ’em in…now.” He brought the sketches in. Nothing he showed me was pretty or probably even saleable, but…damned if he didn’t have some things he wanted to say. I think he had some issues with life, as most artist do. I said, “Houston, we have ignition.” He was in that motel for a while…
A while back, I taught a gentleman whose wife had just been diagnosed with cancer. He quit his job to take care of her, sold his house and bought a motor home. Their dream? To travel around the country for as long as they could, being artists (metal artists) and selling from state to state. This was a tough one. I’m not a hard-ass, but a candidate for lessons has to have…something…a spark, a twinkle, even an axe-to-grind sometimes, and Greg had good hands and a spark. Long-story short: His wife, Denise, has recovered and they are living the life, traveling around the country and selling their own sculptures.
If you go to harveygallery.com, you will see that my son, Cameron, is carrying on the history and adding his own spin. And that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. Did Cameron learn in a vacuum, all by his lonesome? He did not.
The Community: About once a month or so, we have class groups come over from the college in Asheville for a visit, sometimes a pep-talk, and sometimes a more formal lecture. These are fun and informal and in almost every visit, I’ll see one or two or three sets of eyes go from glazed to twinkling as that germ of artistry comes to life. One particular gentleman stood out. Super questions, bright, interested, though when I picked him out of the group, he professed to have no talent whatsoever. I rarely badger people, but in that moment, it was necessary. There was a point to make. 95% of being an artist is reaching down and grabbing what’s left of that little kid inside you. That day, the little kid inside the man came out to breathe. He’s alive and this man is, indeed, an artist, and a lot happier.
Pay-Back Time. Yeah, Dragonfly is in its infancy, though Pamela and I are hardly in that category. Is it pay-back time? Yup, to a degree. But teaching one-on-one is also a bit like giving a pint of blood. You can’t do it half-way or half-assed and you can only give so much, so often.
Why the name Dragonfly? I’d be willing to guess that not a single one of you would know. Are dragonflies pretty? Yup, we love them. Are they around here? Yes, in squadrons. Did the name come from these magical bugs? No. The first jet, the one I learned to fly jets with, was the twin-engine Cessna T-37. Its nickname? Dragonfly, because of its shape and its ability to turn on a dime. Sweet plane. And those beautiful creatures that hover over a pond? Little but, they’re at the top of the food chain in the wild. They’re a lot like the plane.
Are we finished now, Henry? Yup!!!
P.S. If your little child inside you is awakening, take a look at a book called, A Passion for Metal, Schiffer Publishing. Unlike most books on sculpting, it tells you the truth and it tells you what you’re getting into. And yeah, guess who wrote it. There’s a You Tube which gives you an excellent taster as to what’s to come.
P.P.S. If you’re curious, here are a few of our You Tube videos. If you know us, you will recognize Pamela’s very, very sultry voice on them: Go to: http://henryharveybooks.com/uncategorized/what-is-dragonfly/ for the hyperlinks.