Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lunch With a Miracle Worker

Last week I finally got an opportunity to visit the Popular Woodworking shop over at F+W Publications in Cincinnati. On Wednesday, I popped in for a quick tour and Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick was the consummate host. (Megan, it will probably never be noticed but when I signed in upon arrival, I wrote down that I was with the Department of Corrections Work Release Program.)

During my visit, Megan took me to lunch along with Senior Editor Bob Lang and Art Director Linda Watts. (As a quick aside to the unknown scantily clad 19/20ish year old girl with the WiFi laptop who was singlehandedly taking up an entire 4+ person booth at Panera during the height of the lunchtime rush… it’s ok, Missy…. it’s all about you.)

Most folks who venture onto my blog know who Bob Lang is. Not only do his books make him the undisputed guru of measured drawings for seemingly everything related to Arts & Crafts…his own work is excellent (like the Sapele bookcase on the cover of the August 2008 issue of Popular Woodworking).

Today, however, I want everyone to learn about the work of a different master, so I am providing a bit of insight into the talent of Linda Watts. To be honest, I do not know everything Linda does. I only know that she did an amazing job on a project that meant the world to me.

Linda worked on the photo that was used on the back page feature I wrote for the April 2008 issue, but few people know the effort that went into creating that photo. We needed an image of Simon to use with the article, but in the years before he unexpectedly died, I had only taken one or two photos of Simon in the shop. And in each of these photos Simon was surrounded by mountains of junk. There were no stellar shots of Simon in the shop that screamed out for inclusion as the centerpiece of a feature for a national magazine.

I remember lamenting the situation with Megan over the phone last year when she told me that if that was the best photo we had, we would just throw it to Linda and see what she could come up with. I didn’t know what to expect, and a couple of days later when Megan emailed me the proof of the article and I saw what Linda had done I was overjoyed.

You see, when Simon died in January of 2007 I struggled to find a way to honor him properly. I sent a donation to Guide Dogs For The Blind. However, I wanted something bigger. He was that kind of dog. He deserved a statue like the "dog that saved Charlestown in the 1938 flood" in the movie Slapshot. Then, one day I came upstairs from the shop, sat down at my computer, and while looking through a stream of tears I wrote My New Apprentice as a testament to the dog that meant so much to me and died way too young.

Thinking of Simon and speaking of him still stirs up the strongest emotions in me. It would have been very easy to just include a photo of the beautiful little puppy Peyton in My New Apprentice, and at one point I suggested that. However, Megan said the column was about Simon, and she wanted it to have his photo.

Linda, I thank you so much for seeing to it that Simon’s photo was included. I am sure most of your work goes unnoticed by the vast majority of the readers, but I know firsthand that not all of the amazing craftsmanship that appears in the magazine comes from the sawdust clouded shop that sits just a few feet away from you.

The most important thing I have ever personally seen in Popular Woodworking was photographed in Holland, Michigan but tweaked and perfected on Linda Watts' computer screen.

Thank you, Linda.

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