BRADLEY SANDERS
Through the woods
BODY, MIND, and MATTER
Please suspend disbelief- please remove your boots before you enter my home, remove your web of attachments and considerations; and set up a small empty spherical space in your mind in which you can visualize. If you are disturbed by thinking spherically , then choose a cube. That is your box. .. or your world. In order to visualize, you must either have seen and remembered an image or a sound (yes you can visualize sound) or you must make up a vision. This is your laboratory.  
a good exercise to help you establish your laboratory is to download Google Earth: http://www.google.com/earth/download/ge/agree.html.
find your home, or any other location which pleases you, and then zoom all the way out. Take a dive- zoom in fast. Zoom out fast. Open your eyes wide and notice details with your peripheral vision as you zoom in and out at a moderate speed. This is your first laboratory tool here- scaling. Many folks already know how to make themselves small, but some don't. So I mention it here. For me, this skill is a space ship- it can take me anywhere. Breathtaking, isn't it? 
An image set I've recently been introduced to is the relationship of a cell  structure to the structure of a galaxy.
The earliest I can remember this kind of imaging was when I was about fifteen; and picked up on the (now obsolete) image for atomic structure, and it's relativity to our common graphic image of the solar system. To me, those images represented structural similarities from macro to micro. Doesn't that just blow your mind? The comparison suggests Fractals.but you and I  are right in the middle of it, and.......
Here's another Earth map; computer generated by tracking Facebook linkages. The linkages are the map.  I use Facebook as an example because elegance of their system architecture, that it can support this immense network efficiently.
This and other global networking systems are our mushroom, our mycelium, our nervous system, our instantaneous connection to almost anywhere on earth at any time.
We have looked at Scale, linkages, and the idea of systems. Since this whole thread is about me, we'll say that I'm the center of the Universe. There's a line of energy that begins at the center of the earth and goes straight up through me and outward to the universe. My inner ear, if I'm lucky, always has a direct fix on this line of energy. This idea is not esoteric and complicated. It is scientific fact. I'm carrying around an invisible instrument which allows me to see level and plumb, if I practice a bit..   you, too! All of us have this capacity, or we wouldn't be able to walk. Although it may be atrophied in some people, there is a visual aspect of this phenomenon, as well.
Angles other than level and plumb are more difficult to see, but there is something in us that turns on like a light when we see or sense perfect level or plumb, for instance, in a building or in a work of art.
Surrounding these fundamental lines of energy are others more subtle but significant. To me, these are the forms which an artist seeks. Oh, and there is the surfer- you know, "the curl". This line of energy is the loci of a moving wave form. Fabulous!

So why does it not matter to me whether I'm working with chicken feathers or gold?
Is it scale that matters? Feathers look very different when you change your perception of scale.
One small object- a feather, and we have three or more doors:of perception: the binding structure of the barbs and the barbules, the questions of aerodynamics brought by the shape and rake of the feather's many parts, and the mysteries of the feather mask.
I have a reason for mentioning these approaches. Drawing and sculpting is a way as well as a product of seeing. When Michaelangelo was making a drawing of a person or an object, he was seeing through the surface of the object and into its structure. He was seeing with the eye of a person sublimely aware of gravity and its effects. He was seeing the blood through the skin. So was he drawing in order to see, or seeing in order to draw? 

Well, I just don't know. I have been trying to answer that fundamental question for all my adult life. I can tell you that drawing or rendering an object as I observe it sears the object onto my mind in such a way that, after I have drawn or rendered an object carefully, my life has become infinitely fuller by virtue of seeing an object not only with my eyes, but with my body and my mind.

All of this occurs in the theatre of one's visualization sphere. There is something fundamentally wholesome about tracing the hand of nature with one's own.
Here's a little piece of nature that some human may have noticed and consequently invented the zipper! When a bird is preening, the bird knows exactly how to re-interface those interlocking structures designed specifically to channel  air currents, repel rain, be repairable (preening), and provide insulation. How is that? Most of us don't even know that such a thing as barbs and barbules have anything to do with feathers because we don't perceive in that scale. Most of what we "see" in our busy lives is just an outline or a flash of form quickly processed to a word icon and passed by. It is only in extraordinary circumstances that we pause to see. It seems to me that we immediately relegate our perceptions to icons- usually "the Word".
GENERAL DIRECTIONS
The following is about SPACE, real or imagined,  If you are to place objects in your mindsphere, for the sake of your sanity, you need a defined space. A sphere is a defined space; a cube is also.  That's pretty obvious stuff in the world of visualization. What we miss sometimes- in our language and in our understanding of the space around us- is SCALE. We get it that a dog is bigger than a mushroom, but that is only a visual assumption, because the body (mycelium) of some mushrooms include many square miles of an organism similar in structure to that of our nervous or vascular system, The aboveground part of the mushroom is simply the fruit. So the term "Mushroom" as it is used in our daily lexicon is inadequate for a deep explorer.  If you follow that same big mycelium in, that is, into its cellular structure and beyond, you wander into a world where there is no separation. 
The following scale-changing exercise is valuable as an entryway into the realm of your visualization. Thirty years ago the process would have been astonishing. Today it is simply exhilirating. 
Rendering and Drawing
While I was noodling on the idea of visualizing, I became conscious of something I had never put together before- for me, visualization in this space of mine is not for the most part visual- that is- forming an image in the visual cortex.  Sounds live in my space; memes (structured ideas} live there; and most annoying, Loop Tapes live there- the kind of crippling negative or limiting thoughts that are repeated again and again, thereby filling and obstructing this our only here-and-now space.

This observation makes it easier to use my space, and as usual, my space needs a good housecleaning.
SCALE
We're creating a space here, yes?          and adding light               ....will you put something in it?    perhaps a reference point? 
TOOLS
BODY MIND
My goodness, we have just had a couple of inadvertent visualizations! Haha!  "The curl" is a really good one, I think. "The curl" applies well to large organizational problems as easily as it does to dancing through the day.  Of course, following the curl is pretty unpredictible and relies almost entirely on trust and intuition. I use the idea of "the curl" as a visualization for my movement through...well, life.  There is an interesting "TED" lecture on this subject- "Biomimicry",  with Janine Benyus.
Here is the link: http://blog.beliefnet.com/scienceandthesacred/2009/08/following-natures-design.html 
  I ponder a lot about systems, realizing always that I am a system.
I am always asking myself why I am so fascinated by every craft process. I have, in my museum career, had more than considerable opportunity to examine the crafting of our ancestors as pertains to structure- both the structure of the artifact and the structure of the material from which it was made. In fact, this was precisely my job- to examine museum objects and mount them in exhibits in such a way that they received minimum stress. This process entails using as many sensual resources as I can muster- hefting the object, gently sounding the object- finding weaknesses and analyzing in time how different support systems will impact. The object might be a book, or a prehistoric tiger skull, or a textile from long ago.
During the course of hundreds of thousands of these examinations, I gained a huge appreciation of the fundamental human act of visualizing an object, and then creating it from natural materials. I also realized that our senses give us much more information if we consider those "intuitive" feelings that most of us ignore.
ALCHEMY and ME
It is the transaction upon which I focus. The materials, the tools, and Myself in a feedback loop triad.. a system, so to speak.
You may not give credence to the tools or materials interacting in a feedback loop. However, it is most certainly present, in my experience. A feedback loop where tools and materials are concerned is most easily recognized by the presence and modulation of vibration. For instance, in the operation of a lathe, if your tool is not sharp, or is held in the wrong way, it "chatters". -it speaks to you with considerable authority. The materisla resist your advances in varying degrees according to the personality of each piece of material- the more natural and unprocessed the material- the more individual personality it expresses.
Every process, I believe, has an optimum vibration rate at the point where the tool joins the material. This might seem  complicated, but it's pretty simple, when you break it down. I'll give an example:

In a lathe turning, there are several issues which impact that special microscopic area where the tool meets the material:

-the set of your body and hands- the way you hold the tool
-the tenseness or relaxation in your muscles
-the rpm of the turning
-the angle of the chisel point
-the angle of approach to the work
-the support for the tool
-the depth of cut

(this is a simple exercise for your visualization chamber, and is intentionally set in an area of tool use with which few are familiar).
So are you still ready to travel through the woods? Be cautious that you don't step in elephant crap.
BODY MIND
MATERIALS
I prefer a point of reference because it gives one infinity to work with and graphically suggests a spherical approach. You may like an equator to work with.  Pre-computer, this was all very difficult to do; but working in a 3 dimensional drawing program really gives one a boost in the visualization area.  Remember that scale only applies when you put that tool into use.
TO BE  A CONTINUUM
What's the point?
Here's the Point.
VISUALIZE!
Your body as a tool
I have been teaching small tool use (metalsmithing and miniature sculpture) for a long time. The most astonishing thing to me is the body contortions into which most people put themselves in order to make a tool work. It seems as if the tool is using them much of the time. In order to get a chisel to work, they might throw their elbows up and twist 60 degrees to the side and cross their legs and lean over  and turn their head to the side. It always sends me into a giggling fit.

CENTER, I know that many people do Yoga and other body and mind exercises these days. Let's consider this the Yoga of Tool Use. If you intend to use a tool, set yourself comfortably, whether you are sitting or standing. Center yourself. Remember this first: all your moving parts constitute an arc, except your wrists, spine, and ankles. These parts will do compound arcs, but always arcs. If you intend to make a flat stroke, all this is working against you unless you have control of your movements. Our bodies do not easily express straight lines, although we are exquisitely designed to do so if necessary.  So CENTER FIRST! RECENTER OFTEN!

RELAX. As you center, relax and get focus on your body. Your whole body is intimately connected to your visualization space. Gradually take your attention up from your fingertips and toesies through your body center to your visualization space. Be aware that you are in control.
I do this every time I sit down to work. And often during my work.
Bend your elbows to bring your fingertips together. Wasn't that easy? That is your work area. If you see very well, or if you are working on something that doesn't require micro-attention. You are set to work.

SET YOUR WORKSPACE. If you can't see what you're doing or if the object of your attention is small, then bring the workspace up to meet your eyes. This is very important. Most jeweler's benches are set at chin level, so that you don't need to bend your back to see. This is the First Level of Contortion. Also, because I work so much at the bench, I have had my eyeglass depth of field set to the best working distance for the rest of my body. Most optometrists set the depth of field at a nominal distance for reading, which is not necessarily correct for working close with your hands.Most people, especially if they have trouble seeing, work at standard table height and  bend themselves to the work, sometimes with their chin almost on the table. We all know that this is an important dinner table height, so that we can put our elbows on the table while we eat, regardless of what grandma says.
You will often see young people doing this- it is a clue to take them to the optometrist because they are probably having trouble seeing. This can result in a lifetime's bad working posture if not corrected.

SET YOUR LIGHTING. Most work spaces that I observe are poorly lighted at best. There is a huge difference in your capability to do fine work between a well lighted and a poorly lighted space.  I try to create workspaces with 3 different types of light: Area lighting, flood lighting, and adjustable lighting. Overhead flourescent lights are good area lights, particularly if they are fairly low (8') above each work space. I use flourescent floods in clamp-lamps just above and in front of me- at about 3'-7', both focused generally on the work space. The final lighting- preferably an adjustable desk lamp- needs to come from the side opposite your working hand. It is very distracting to work in the shadow of your own hands. An adjustable lamp allows you to focus in at any angle, close to your work. Ahhhhhh.
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SEE. When you bring your workspace  up to visual level, the light is right, and you are still not able to see what you're doing with corrected vision; correct your vision some more. Jewelers and others who work in detail often wear a loupe, or an optivisor, I like the optivisor best because it is for both eyes. I have optivisors in my shop with different levels of magnification from 2 to 7. The #2 is comfortable for working at 10" to 20"= the #7 has a focal length of about 2", and is great for examining what you have done with your work, but not so good for working, unless you can work 4" from your face. The central idea here is to see as much as you can. And- remember as much as you can.

VISUALIZE. We have set  you up in a correct position and given you supersight. What more could we do?  We have come full circle at a different level to what you cannot see. You are often unconsciously working on what you cannot see. You certainly see a knife halfway through a watermelon. Much of the time your work is obstructed, and you must depend on feel and visualization to achieve a good stroke.
This situation is a good opportunity to practice visualization. I will use a flat paintbrush as an example. Suppose you are painting a sign and you have outlined the letters and want to fill them in. Try that from the First Level of Contortion. Believe me, if you are twisted up, you will not succeed.
Look at the end of your brush... do all the bristles lay nice and flat next to each other? (this should be a soft, flat brush with long bristles) wet the brush with water or solvent, and smooth it into a flat. Remove the excess liquid. Your paint should be of a thickness that will not run, but will fill the edge of the line without skipping or gapping. Dip the brush and wipe off most of the excess. Never dip the brush all the way to the ferrule! You do need enough paint in the brush to run a line,though. Hold the brush up diagonally with the bristles down and see if a drop is formed at the corner.
This is your first visualization. The drop on the edge of the brush is the feed for your brush stroke. You must now visualize the extra paint inside the package of bristles, all draining down to that point. GRAVITY RULES!  Remember that when you are painting- if you hold the brush up, the paint drains back into the ferrules. If you are painting on a vertical surface, this is extra important. Many people hold the brush like a pencil, with the bristles up, hoping that gravity is suspended. Ha!  Think of the Japanese calligrapher. Their brush is held vertically.

Now that I have made you totally uptight, loop back to Center and Relax. The purpose of the above narrative was to provide you with an example of the visualization I use when I letter with a brush in the Western way. I will abandon this narrative and get back to the point, which is, be aware of everything that is happening in each stroke. If it is a brush, visualize the paint streaming and the tip of the brush; if it is a chisel, visualize the blade edge where it meets the material. Use the earth zoom and imagine what is happenibg microscopically when the tool meets the work. Visualize the position of your joints as you.make each stroke. You need a movie in your mind which describes what you are doing just as you are observing the moment. It is sometimes quite exhilirating!




CONTENTS:
TOOLS
RELATIONSHIP with TOOLS
GENERAL DIRECTIONS
I perceive tools in what is probably different than is normal in this culture..