Many years ago my husband became enamored with the books of Eric Sloane. Over the years we searched the “used” section at our downtown bookstore COPPERFIELD’S and were able to pick up many different volumes of his work.
Sloane was considered an artist, philosopher, historian and environmentalist. He had a keen interest in New England folk culture, Colonial daily life, and Americana. He wrote and illustrated quite a number of books on tools, architecture, farming techniques, folklore, and rural wisdom. Every book included detailed illustrations and hand lettered titles. A few of our favorites are Our Vanishing Landscape (1955), A Museum of Early American Tools (1973) , A Reverence for Wood (1965) and An Age of Barns (1975).
In this age of reclaimed, recycled, and re-purposed materials Eric Sloane’s work can be an inspiration. He saw the beauty and utility of what was being lost in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. He tried to preserve it in his books. Now, from those books we can learn about the skills, tools, architecture, and wisdom of what has been lost.
Here are some images of our recycled Redwood front gates. Inspired by Eric Sloane and built by my husband a few years ago.
Materials used: 100 year-old Petaluma chicken barn wood for fence boards (these collapsed barns can be found all over the Petaluma countryside), old barn beams as posts, old barn beam cut-offs for the arbor, recycled deck wood for the gate framing.
Sources: Heritage Salvage, Sonoma Compost, and our own deck re-build. The rusty lag bolts came from the Petaluma Junk Company in the back of Masselli’s.
Above, the gate when new. Below, as the gate looks today. The wooden spring on the gate latch was taken directly from Eric Sloane’s books. It was made out of scavenged cherry wood and the latch itself is made of scavenged hardwood shelving pieces from a defunct wine cooling unit.
Hopefully, we can do our part to preserve and conserve those pieces of the past that still have utility and beauty. If not, we can learn the useful skills of the past and put them to good use in the future. No one’s going to do it for us. We’re going to have to do it ourselves!