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Louise Pithoud:
Male and Female Bacchants Installing a Herm (1792)

"I consider them ours."

Installing comes after design and fabrication, and little of either of those earlier stages really prepares anyone for the final challenges. This is where idea finally meets its context, where imagination finds its anchor. Final boundaries and ultimate limits finally come into play. There was probably no way to fully prepare for this day other than to acknowledge it coming. The ruminating that dominated design matters little now. The overlooked will have their day. Last minute surprise will complicate the whole conception, a final reckoning occurs. Reputations might well be threatened and might be made. Be very afraid. It won't matter.

I warmly anticipated Installing the new front porch stair railing.
I'd been missing that railing since we had to remove it when we replaced the steps with a properly formed set, ones which met up with the porch deck without that extra large last step up. The old railing was the wrong angle then and could not be shimmed into position. I held onto it, thinking it might somehow be adapted. I was disappointed when I learned it could not be fixed, and finally just gave it away to Kurt Our Painter as much to get rid of it as to make a gift. I noticed the blacksmith performing demonstrations at the Saturday Farmers' Market and asked him if he ever dabbled in front porch stair railings. He invited me to check out his website's pictures. I did and became fascinated.

Not that much of a designer myself, I left the design up to The Muse and the blacksmith. He created a small scale model to show his idea and we quickly approved it. He'd cautioned us that it would be months before he could begin the actual fabrication, since he had a few jobs already in process. We waited and then waited some more. I'd insisted when we agreed to his design that I'd be allowed to watch some of the actual fabrication and he held true to his promise. It seemed a painfully slow process, like N-dimensional chess, filled with mystery for me. I was not certain what I was seeing other than to understand that I would never come to understand the fabrication process. It seemed a painstaking kind of magic and I accepted that it would probably never be any different. Months and more months passed.

The final fittings, where he brought the railings over on the back of his ratty pickup and positioned them where they were to be installed, identified a few relatively minor shortcomings, disjoints between concept and reality. Each fitting found at least one more necessary adjustment until they were down to an apparently manageable few. More but smaller disappointments followed, each testing the temper of the installer more than that of the almost finished product. Each small adaptation slowing already painstaking progress, each one a seeming existential threat to the whole project. It always comes down to something unanticipated. How one adapts to this eleventh hour insult deeply influences the whole result. Whatever high ideals informed the design and the build remain at risk of being killed right up to when the installation's finished, if, indeed, it's ever done.

There's never was any way to fully prepare for any Installing and it's galling to acknowledge this fact. I spend most of my time, most of my days, imagining and thankfully only a few spare minutes Installing those ideas into what I intend to be finished writing. I expunge ideas so that they might stop haunting me, stop threatening to drive me crazy, but the Installing's never simple, rarely easy. The result is virtually always different than I'd imagined it would be and it's humbling to see my ideas so tempered into being. Before, they were just notions, mere concepts. After, they're no longer running around failing to make sense. They've taken form, for better or worse, both a blessing as well as a curse by then. The installation utterly changes their meaning and often their purpose. They're screwed down into place, into permanent position, and so changed. Our new stair railings are works of art masquerading as house parts. Their creator considers them his installation, duly signed and dated. I consider them ours.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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