Creating John Shirley

For some sixty years I’ve been trying to create John Shirley.

My parents helped me–at least some of it was helpful–by giving me attributes, teaching, a reasonably stable environment to work in. A few teachers were patient enough to help me with it. But mostly I taught myself the art of creating John Shirley– till I was about thirtyfive and got help from people with knowledge on how such things are done. Looking back, I think of trying to build things, as a boy, out of wood or metal; off kilter birdhouses, a rather unbalanced and scarred wooden candleholder, a “pin box” of sheet metal with an ill fitting lid, made for my mom. I see myself, as I got to be an adult, as being off kilter, unbalanced, scarred by my own errors with the shaping tool…I didn’t have the skills or the focused attention I needed to create myself without creating a crooked, half-broken artifact. Gradually I’ve patched it, melted and remolded, soldered parts here and there, and the “John Shirley artifact” is at least fairly upright and recognizable. It’s got an image crafted into it that’s close to what I’d been working toward. It’s still prone to proneness; prone to tilting off kilter too easily.

But I think it’s improved, in the last couple decades. I suppose the signs of repair, the seams in it, might be viewed as character.

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