Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Start of a Seattle Tool Library Network

With the PNA Tool Library currently celebrating its 35th anniversary, we’re always a little surprised when some people still stare at us quizzically and ask “what the heck is a tool library?”  In many ways, our little program has been a bit of a neighborhood secret all these years, highlighted occasionally by the Seattle press but more frequently just going quietly about its business, supplying neighbors with the tools and education they need to take on projects, explore new skills, and save a couple dollars in the process.

Much to our surprise, though, those humble years of reliable community service have recently helped to inspire a whole new wave a tool libraries throughout our city, our region, and even the entire country.  In fact, Seattle now has tool libraries in West Seattle and Northeast Seattle, with projects starting up in Ballard, Capitol Hill, Beacon Hill, and through a couple farm coops as well.  Where once the PNA Tool Library stood alone, it now seems poised to become an exciting part of a burgeoning tool library network.  

An initial celebration of this network is currently on show as part of the Buster Simpson exhibit at the Frye Art Gallery through October 13th.  Through a simple cubby display filled with tools, we’re hoping that the opportunities produced by tool libraries everywhere will continue to inspire and empower neighbors from all communities to come together, share their resources, learn from one another…and hopefully stop asking us ”what the heck is a tool library?”

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Matt Babcock, Sculptor

Krill, kinetic sculpture by Matt Babcock, 2013, Edmonds, WA.

Matt Babcock is a sculptor who lives and works in Seattle. Matt’s goal is to create “complex and changing impressions using simple materials and methods.” He claims inspiration from his love of nature and interest in how things work, and says, “Often I start by trying to distill something interesting from the structure or behavior of an animal or plant.” His goal and inspiration are evident in the piece called Equestrian that he recently installed near the Phinney Neighborhood Center.

Matt has thought of himself as an artist from day one. “I have pursued art as long as I can remember, some times more actively than others. Matt has been creating art as his day job since 2008, and says, “I feel fortunate that my day to day life revolves around art.” If only we could all be so lucky!


When asked about his very first sculpture and the meaning behind it, Matt said, “When I was five my dad set me up with my own workbench and tools. I spent countless hours making things, things that I thought of as functional, even though the function was usually mysterious or imaginary. I’m still making things like that, only bigger. I didn’t think to call them sculptures when I was five, but I do now. For me the meaning is the function or action of the piece, whether or not I can say exactly what the piece is supposed to do.”


It takes Matt a long time to complete a piece. He says that “many spontaneous moments of inspiration get rolled into the process,” but overall he is inclined to be thorough and methodical. Equestrian represents about a month’s worth of full-time work, from design through installation.  


Matt is clearly a dedicated, passionate artist. What words does he have for aspiring artists? “Find the things that make you feel like you’ve been picked up and rung like a bell. Then try to make stuff like that.”


Equestrian will be at the Heart of Phinney Park at N 67th St. on the west side of the Greenwood Ave. N until the end of November. You can see more of his work on his website,, or get in touch with him via email at

Written by: Jennifer Roberts

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dorothy McGuinness

Dorothy McGuinness

  Most of the time, local artists are not able to work on their art as a full time job, instead they make time in the evenings and on the weekends. Dorothy McGuinness is one of those artists, working full time and pursuing her passion in her spare time. Dorothy is a local Contemporary Basketmaker who took her first basket making class in 1987 from the University of Washington Experimental College. During this time, she learned twining, coiling, and diagonal plaiting with natural materials.
            In a recent interview with Dorothy, I learned about what goes into one piece of her art, how many hours, where she finds these hours, and the meaning that goes into them. “A small piece may take 10 or 15 hours, the larger ones 100+, but most are probably between 25-40 hours to finish.” So when does she find these 100+ hours?! “Since I normally work a full time job,  I work on my art in the evenings and weekends. Some weeks it may be only a few hours and other I may work 30-40+ hours.” There are a lot of hours unslept, so Dorothy can do what she loves most.
            Dorothy commented on the influences behind her basket weaving, “for me I think basketry works well with my left brain, I have always been interested in math and science and this interest is translated into my work since I utilize a lot of math and geometry in constructing my pieces.”

            It’s obvious that Dorothy is very talented and makes beautiful pieces of art. So for all of you out there who are aspiring artists, Dorothy has a bit of advice for you. “If you want to be an artist, you just have to keep making art and exploring your craft and your medium. Some of your work may not be that great, but every once in awhile you make something great and the more you work, the better you will get.”

            Dorothy’s art will be displayed at the Phinney Neighborhood Association, the art gallery is located on the top floor. Her art will be displayed from June 16, 2013 to August 2, 2013.

“I’ve made so many lifelong friends through basketry; I’m not sure where I would be without the basketry community.”
Written by Jennifer Roberts