Building Fences · 24 August 2007

I would like to consider myself an artist but I do not think that building fences qualifies me as such. Even though I take pride in what I do and put in a bit of my own flair into the projects and even look on my finished work as a piece of art, I think I am lying to myself when I say that I am an artist. After all, I have only two fences to my name so far and really do not want to build any more and I can not really compare myself to two real artists that I know.

I really do like the two fences that I have built. I look on them with pride even though I know every flaw in each of them. I see the beauty of the wood. I remember the care given to the design and construction. And I know the time and energy I spent making them paid off. After all, my wife likes them and others have commented about them. Still, I can not substantiate the claim that they are the works of the artist in me. After all, an artist plies his trade for years to get the process and the product just right. Like two artists that I know and respect.

One of the real artists that I know lives in Monroe. Kerry sits near us at church and we have become good friends over the past few years. Kerry’s art is done in wood and metal. He has made planter boxes, beds, candle holders, and lots more. He has his own forge and bends metal or saws wood in his shop when he wants to be creative. We see some of his work every Sunday on the stage of Cascade Community Church. The beautiful dais from which the pastors speak was made by Kerry’s loving hands. He also made the planter boxes which double as places to put candles and such. Kerry’s pieces are wonderful works of art and perhaps one day, I will take him up on his offer to show me how he does what he does.

The other real artist that I know is part of my family. Uncle Mark lives in Shasta City, California and builds taiko drums. Taiko is a Japanese form of music which uses drums as not just the beat but often the focus of the music. Uncle Mark introduced me to taiko when I was younger and I am always mesmerized by its sound. But Uncle Mark is not a professional musician. He is a professional drum maker.

Uncle Mark started out making taiko drums when he helped found Denver Taiko. The group of musicians had no money to buy drums from Japan so they made their own. With help from others, Uncle Mark started making them from barrels. Then and even today, he dried and stretched his own cow hides for the drum heads. His persistence at his craft earned him a trip to Japan in 1989. This National Endowment for the Arts trip gave Uncle Mark the opportunity to study how the masters in Japan make taiko drums. Now he has his own shop in California and ships drums all over North America and even has drums in the U.K. and Germany. You can see pictures of his work at but they do not do justice to the actual products. The drums are musically and artistically beautiful and I am happy that my wife got me one for my fortieth birthday. Even if I do not play it as much as I should.

I know that I can not compare myself to my friend and my uncle when I think of creating art. And I know that my real art is in crafting words, something that I enjoy and practice almost daily. But when I think of making a fence, I really do think of it as an art project. It may not be an art project that adorns the front of a church or is the focal point of a music group but it is an art project that will be enjoyed by my family and those who come to our home. So in that sense, maybe it is a work of art.

© 2007 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Published 08 November 2007 in The RiverCurrentNews


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