The Ugliest Bowl I'll Ever Make -- and Here's Why...

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Project by BrentH posted 07-31-2015 06:22 PM 8610 views 3 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

They say, “History is in the making” but sometimes the “Making is in the history”.

That was the case with this bowl. It’s a project that didn’t make any sense except for the history of the materials I used to make it with.

Exactly 100 years ago, my wife’s grandfather (her mother’s father) was building his dream home in the middle of nowhere – the high desert of Utah, where there was literally nothing but sagebrush in all directions.

But this was no ordinary homesteader’s cabin – it was built with a double wall of adobe brick, plastered and scored to look like cement block (the newest thing then) and with built-in cabinets, closets, and beautiful woodwork.

His bride-to-be was living 150 miles away – working to help pay for their special home.

They were anxious to get married, but family tradition and his father insisted that the older brother marry first, and he was taking his time about it.

Finally, they were married in January 1916 and moved into their just-finished home. A year later, twin girls (one of them my wife’s mother) were born to them.

Just 2 years later, he was gone – dead from a gunshot wound. Nobody knows exactly how it happened, but family tradition is he reached for his rifle hanging over the fireplace (probably to deal with some wild animal disturbing his livestock, which wouldn’t have been uncommon). The trigger caught on something – some clothing was hanging to dry – and the gun fired, killing him instantly. She found him there when she returned from visiting their nearest neighbors.

With a farm in the middle of nowhere – and now three very young daughters to care for (they were expecting their third child when he died) – she had no choice but to abandon the farm and move back to the city.

...And so, for a 100 years, the house has stood alone, exposed to the desert winters and the desert sun.

As we were visiting there recently, I wondered if, as a sort of family memorial of the place and of them, I could make something from the wood that remained, now very weathered and worn. I took a few pieces to see if, just maybe, I could create something worthwhile from them.

That’s the story behind this bowl. It’s not pretty, but neither is the house anymore. The memories remain, as does their legacy. With over a hundred descendants today, they are not forgotten. Perhaps this bowl, ugly as it is, will help keep their memory alive.

-- Brent H. --"This retirement stuff is hard work. I need to go get a job so I can get some rest!"

14 comments so far

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2483 days

#1 posted 07-31-2015 06:40 PM

That’s a beautiful bowl. No doubt it will become a cherished family heirloom to be passed along to future generations. And an even better back story.

Did the pitchfork also come from there?

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View BrentH's profile


75 posts in 1516 days

#2 posted 07-31-2015 07:07 PM

Did the pitchfork also come from there?
- JoeinGa

Joe: Interesting that you would ask that. Yes, all the items in the photos, including the tools and the weathered board, came from there, but we picked them up years ago.

-- Brent H. --"This retirement stuff is hard work. I need to go get a job so I can get some rest!"

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2616 posts in 1540 days

#3 posted 07-31-2015 07:25 PM

It’s a great story, Brent. I wish people in my ancestry had bothered to build things, and, more to the point, write things down.
About the bowl: The story itself makes this bowl beautiful. Even without the story, even a red-headed, freckle-faced step kid (he said by way of analogy) is not ugly . He’s different. But not ugly.
Anyone who reads this story has shared a memory. This bowl means something to me now. It has me thinking about my own family’s history, some of which I got orally, from my Momma (whodid write down her memories, later in her life, for which I’m eternally grateful), and from Dad, who’ll be 90 in November and remembers things in his own special way.
So, you see, my beloved Buddy, this ugly bowl has moved me. And, it will, whether they know it consciously or not, move many others. May I respectfully suggest that you rename it? It speaks volumes. Please don’t minimize it.

-- Mark

View peteg's profile


4435 posts in 3299 days

#4 posted 07-31-2015 07:49 PM

You’ve done your forebears well, just had to work with what you got, what a great story
well done

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View doubleDD's profile


8588 posts in 2520 days

#5 posted 07-31-2015 07:56 PM

Being so ugly is what makes it beautiful. I agree, an heirloom it will be.
It must of turned quite easily with the wood being so dry.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View RichCMD's profile


427 posts in 2418 days

#6 posted 07-31-2015 08:15 PM

The beauty of this bowl is that no one who knows the story will ever be able to look at it and not recall your wife’s grandparents. I think you have admirably achieved your goal of creating a memorial for the family.

-- Ride the bevel!

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile


1306 posts in 2190 days

#7 posted 07-31-2015 08:38 PM

That is a great story uoy got there. Like that you have kept the weathered outsides of the boards.
Thansk for sharing

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

View leafherder's profile


1835 posts in 2429 days

#8 posted 07-31-2015 11:09 PM

1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – Yes some may think it is ugly at first glance, but when they hear the story they will truly see it and recognize its true beauty.

2. Beauty is only skin deep – Not true in this case, the real beauty lies within – it is the love and history that went into the creation of the bowl that makes it beautiful.

If you have not done so already, please write down the entire story. Keep it with the photographs of your ancestors, the house, and the creation of the bowl. Tell it to your children, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and as many more of those 100 descendants that will listen. Do not let the story be forgotten, it is a fine example of love and devotion and respect for the past.

I am a History major working as an archivist – the best way to make history come alive for students is not by memorizing dates of famous battles but with true stories of the everyday lives of ordinary people. Archives and Museums LOVE these kinds of stories – in one bowl you have captured the hazards of settling the Western frontier, historical marriage practices, the place of women in society, and architectural history.

Thank you for sharing – the bowl and the story.

-- Leafherder

View JollyGreen67's profile


1676 posts in 3239 days

#9 posted 08-01-2015 01:08 AM

Did you also rescue the pantry ?

-- When I was a kid I wanted to be older . . . . . this CRAP is not what I expected ! RIP 09/08/2018

View BobWemm's profile


2680 posts in 2402 days

#10 posted 08-01-2015 01:32 AM

Brent, that is an absolutely beautiful bowl, and a wonderful story.
Thank you so much for sharing it with us.
A truly great reminder of your family history.


-- Bob, Western Australia, The Sun came up this morning, what a great start to the day. Now it's up to me to make it even better. I've cut this piece of wood 4 times and it's still too damn short.

View marc_rosen's profile


155 posts in 3657 days

#11 posted 08-01-2015 02:55 AM

Hi Brent,
That is a great story and it is certainly an inspiration for me (and others too) to make something useful or ornamental from a piece of family history. There is nothing ugly about that bowl at all and I especially like the weathered edge grain that remains at the rim.
Thanks very much for posting this. Marc

-- Windsurfing, Woodworking, Weaving, and Woodducks. "Most woodworkers are usually boring holes"

View grace123's profile


256 posts in 3239 days

#12 posted 08-01-2015 03:18 PM

Your woodworking skill is something I admire. The story of the bowl and its connection to your family history are simply outstanding.

View robscastle's profile


6308 posts in 2681 days

#13 posted 08-01-2015 09:14 PM

A most interesting and well documented project.
It makes you think the homestead coluld be restored abd returned to its former glory as a LJ community workshop or such!

I could just imagine Patron and Littlecope on the roof repairing it !
You may wish to give some thought later to making a display case for the bowl and featuring the history content with it.

-- Regards Rob

View Schwieb's profile


1890 posts in 3938 days

#14 posted 08-06-2015 12:33 AM

Great post! I especially like the work that relates to family heritage. Well done!

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

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