top of page
  • Writer's pictureElliot Washor

Elliot Washor's TGIF 3.1.2024

“Are you with me now” A J Ryder

“Poi day is a place where our community gathers to continue this important cultural practice of making poi, to socialize with one another, and share ‘ono food.” Waipa Foundation


Our week in Kauai was chock full of personal insights coming off of walks, workshops and workings. There’s really not enough space in a TGIF to mention all of it but here’s one that strikes a chord. Our first stop at Waipa was to be part of Poi Thursday. Here, anyone in the community is invited to help take Taro and make it into Poi that is distributed to families throughout the community.  There are ways of working in an industrial society and there are ways of working in a community. In a factory, you are set up in rows with measures of time and efficiency and someone breathing down your neck. I had a breather this week but that is another story. When I was at Waipa this was a far cry from the way people work. Visually, the linear/no talking/supervision mode of industry and school is replaced by the circle but not just any circle. This is a circle of work, relationships, company and eats. Here you face one another and talk with all your body and your sense working in unison. It is the tacit and sentient nature of work. Here we are in the circle and in the background, you can see other circles and if you look closer, you see circles within a circle. IF this is the way Namahana works and learn en plen air, this is showing the new way forward through old ways. Can anyone say Sankofa?

From hands off to hands on – The future of Craft and Repair - Do not confuse the real purpose for which objects are made and repaired. The value of the craftsperson’s work does not solely exist in the objects but in the person that made them.


Blacksmith, cutler, hatter, shoemaker, tanner, silversmith, cooper, coach-maker, carpenter, tailor, block-maker, mason ship-joiner, bricklayer, chandler, comb-maker, stonecutter, saddler, tanner, hatter, silversmith, coachmaker, tailor, block maker, mason, weaver, ship joiner, chandler, bricklayer, stonecutter, knitter, tiler, watch repairer, jeweler, clock smith, locksmith, shoe maker, shoe repairer, goldbeater, nib grinder, luthier, glove maker, and on and on, all of these are crafts and trades that have been around for centuries but I’m noticing something is happening. Rather than dying off and succumbing to machine made lifeless products, people want to make and others want to buy handmade.


New apprentices are learning the old ways but they are putting a modern twist on things. As 78 year old glove maker Brian Horn from Dublin told his young apprentice: “There’s no point designing something if you can’t make it,”


For years, I’ve been communicating with young apprentices who are making a good living doing what they love doing. One example is a young nibsmith named Matt who works side by side with his mentor Mike and, what I’m noticing is that the demand is allowing more and more young people to consider becoming nib grinders.


When I went to the LA Fountain Pen Conference a few Saturdays ago, I went to visit Mike Masuyama. Mike is arguably the most sought after nibsmith in the world. A nib grinder smooths the nibs of pens so the ink flows out as a response to your personal touch giving you a “smooth ride” and glide with your pen over paper. It sounds a bit silly if you don’t know about it but once you experience a tool crafted to your personal touch there’s a moment like, how the hell did that happen? People writing with fountain pens line up at 7 am in the morning to sign-up and get their nib’s ground. One wealthy person avoided the lines by asking Mike what was the closest airport he lived near? Then, he got in his private jet with the sole purpose of going to Mike’s house with who knows how many pens and got those nibs milled. Aside from paying for a pen of your choice by the look of it, people pay a good price to get their nibs done.


Enter Mathew

Years ago, I met a young Mathew and his mom at a pen show setting his grinder next to Mike’s. At that time Mathew was in high school and grinding nibs was what he wanted to do. His mom supports his decision 110%. This is what he loves. Mike is Mathew’s mentor and to watch them work together is just a sight to behold. Someday soon, Mike knows that Matt will take over entirely but for now side by side (another way of working) they have their own businesses. When you do this type of work, you are engaged with the public who want more than a service. They want a relationship not only with their pen, ink and paper but also with the nibsmith. As you get your nib ground, you are having a conversation with Mike or Matt. They are doing something with you that you can’t do and you appreciate the care and attention you are getting. It is a small price to pay for the writing you love to do. Here there is an aesthetics to writing both about what you write with and how you write. It certainly makes a difference in what you put down on paper. Timing and touch are part of thought. Action and contemplation take on a natural rhythm of the body.


Mike is also a surfer. He is probably more eager to get out on a wave than grind down a nib. But think about it for a second, isn’t surfing a wave something like moving a pen across paper? Does one influence the other?


Here's a photo of what is on Mike’s wheel.  “Each of us is an experiment of one. Each is a unique never-to-be repeated event.– George Sheehan



Great spread about BPL in Transcend Education Exchange this last week.

Looking forward to seeing a number of people at SxSW from the BPL team. I already have a number of meetings set up with folks who will be there from all over the US.


March is Sarah Vaughn Month on KSDS. Happy Birthday Sarah!


Enjoy the weekend!



8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page