Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 11, 2021

"I know it when I see it"

Most projects, whether completed at work or pursued as a hobby, involve hours of skilled steps. But some involve that elusive element we call creativity - of looking at what you are given, imagining what you want it to be, and then somehow connecting the two.

This came to mind while watching husband Art repair the driver's seat in our 1996 van. It has been "leaning" precariously to the right for years - the consequence of plunking his ample behind on a frame not intended for such a load.

Removing the seat was a challenge as the bolts holding it in were not easily accessed and were firmly seated after 25 years. Detaching the upholstery revealed the extent of the damage, culminating in the decision to build a new frame. Soon, he was measuring and drawing sketches by hand. Then came computer drawings and buying angle iron, bolts, washers and other supplies. He fabricated the pieces using a saber saw and drill press, then put them together. The upholstery was fastened with "clips" fashioned from a clothes hanger.

The whole process took several hours a day spread over a week. Just as that project was drawing to a close, I received an Instagram message from daughter Mariya:

BEHOLD!! My coffee-table-turned-display-table masterpiece. Countless hours of measuring and re-measuring and sawing and cutting and painting and gluing and drilling and working with the world's worst material, plastic acrylic sheets, and now my Millennium Falcon and other "Star Wars" LEGOs have a secure, artistically lit, and prominent space in our living room.

She's a "Star Wars" nerd and her 7,541-piece ship is a prized possession. Accompanying the message was a library of "progress" pictures, detailing the steps she had taken. I asked what prompted her project:

After I finished building my massive LEGO Millenium Falcon, I knew I wanted to have it prominently displayed. I also knew that our cats are jerks and would definitely go after it and rip it apart piece by piece, so it would need to be totally enclosed.

She concluded with: "It looks sexy as hell in our living room."

While a small part of Art's "real" job involves repair, most of it doesn't. Mariya's job involves some occasional art work, but certainly nothing like her coffee-table project. In contrast, Art's daughter Karen and her significant-other Mike have made rebuilding and restoring classic cars a business for years. Many have been featured in Street Trucks, Modern Rodder and other publications. Six work in their business, including Mike's son Michael. Karen explained who does what:

Mike talks to the customer, finds magical solutions to problems, some painting and final quality. Brandon disassembles the car. Michael designs and makes body modifications and helps the customer pick colors. He does the modification metalwork, all the bodywork, and all the show car quality paint. Michael, Brandon, Mike, or Chris do the repair type of metal work: rust repair, panel replacement. After paint, Brandon spends 50+ hours wetsanding and polishing the car exterior. Chris does all the mechanical: engine swaps, chassis swaps, fuel and brake systems, suspension, exhaust ... Eric does the electrical, including a new chassis harness. Michael designs the interior with input and approval of the customer. I build and cover the interior. Eric and Brandon do the assembly of the rest of the car. That means installing most of the interior parts - all the switches, handles, gauges, etc. The car exterior all needs to go back together - the trim, lights, etc. Mike ties up loose ends and does final clean. Mike and I order parts as the work progresses. There is a lot of brain storming between us, because we are not putting the car back the way it was made. My interior stuff overlaps electrical and assembly and vice versa.

Maryia's wife Miriam�s "day job" is in biochemistry, but she's also passionate about cooking and baking. She recently spent countless hours making a cake for a friend who is allergic to a long list of foods and isn't able to eat store-bought or homemade ones. Miriam had to find a substitute for almost every common ingredient. She was pleased with the outcome and his reaction to tasting the final product.

Daughter Katie just completed her master's degree and is looking for a position that involves generating diverse workplaces. But she and husband Matt, an information-technology type, have developed an unrelated interest in cooking. They have dabbled in every step, from raising their own foods to putting the end product on the table, sometimes using gadgets I don't even know the names of.

We have a slow cooker, instant pot, and Dutch oven, which we use for different meals. The instant pot is really great if you want to make something in less time, while the slow cooker and Dutch oven are good for slowly simmering things to get a nice, rich flavor over a longer period. One of our biggest purchases last year was the Anova oven, which can be used like a regular oven or can be used with steam. It can sous-vide [French for "under vacuum"] meats so they are deliciously tender ... At the same time, sometimes you don't need fancy equipment ... I have shaped baguettes using some clean dish towels and blind-baked pastry using parchment paper and dried chickpeas! That's the great thing about cooking/baking - it's some science, but some creativity/fun too!

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, while deliberating an obscenity case, admitted he was unable to define what obscenity was, but added, "I know it when I see it." In a similar fashion, I have never found a definition of creativity that really resonates with me, but I'm certain it is an indispensable part in all the situations just described.

Top (l-r): (1) Art holding the seat frame, emphasizing the bent and broken metal. (2) Ready to install the "new" seat. (3)Mariya used corner clamps to ensure square corners. (4) Mariya with her creation. Bottom (l-r): (1) One of Karen's seats. (2) Karen with one of the company's completed projects. (3) Katie holds some of her baguettes. (4) Matt "mugging" for the camera next to their Anova oven.

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