It all happened in 190 Lawrence, at the U of O. There was a time when I thought that wonderful room would be part of my life forever: 20-foot high ceilings with pipes going across it. A bank of tall, high windows facing north. Outside walls of brick covered with ivy that had birds nesting in it. Polished concrete floors. Two huge library tables for working at. Is my memory exaggerating when it tells me you could fit 15 people around one of those tables?
It was all about the work and the stories. There was a wood shop and a kiln area attached to the big room. The wood shop had all the tools in it you needed to do simple woodworking. Dick was inspired by Joseph Cornell, an eccentric bachelor who made 3 dimensional collages in old boxes from bird's eggs, doll heads, old prints, bits of string, etc. The detritus of life intrigued Dick. Things like dryer lint, toilet paper rolls, popsicle sticks, things that there were multiples of, to be found or free. He used a band saw to slice thin pieces from a knarly piece of firewood and then used those to make a fine box with finger-jointed corners. He applied a hundred coats of paste wax to it, which he buffed and buffed by hand, while he told the class a story.
When you walked into one of those Basic Design classes, you never knew what was going to happen. It was exciting. He would get going on a story about the weather that came over the hills, from the Coast Range to his house, facing west on Cantrell Road. After 5 minutes you'd ask yourself what it had to do with Basic Design. At 15 minutes you had pictures in your mind of tumultuous clouds in color and the mountains and the fields and the wind. At 30 minutes you had a bunch of questions brewing in your mind about what the deeper meaning of all this was but you couldn't think about it right then because you didn't want to miss a word he said. At 45 minutes, you felt you had been on a wonderful journey, and witnessed a magic trick, and had someone take your hand and put it on the beating heart at the source of everything. Whew! You didn't know what it meant, but it seemed like you could figure it out if you kept coming to class and tried to do the assignments he gave. These were things like the first assignment, given fall term in September when Halloween was a month away: “Make something to wear on your head that makes the inside of you visible.”