Steve Habersetzer is busy at work on a gypsy wagon, trying to get the exterior finished in time for the Fourth Annual Woodworkers Show, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 7-8, 2009 at the American Legion Hall in downtown Port Townsend.
This wagon is a special commission by Whidbey Island resident, Pushkara Sally Ashford, who is putting it into service for "SingPeace! Pilgrimage for Peace and Global Harmony." Ashford plans to travel around the United States and Canada with a group of troubadours, gathering communities together to sing and talk about peace.
"I've been surprised and delighted to witness the pilgrimage taking shape and building momentum," says Ashford. "We've recently been invited to take 'songs for a culture of peace' into schools as part of the curriculum. Over the coming months, we will be going in the gypsy wagon from neighborhood to neighborhood, town to town, sharing this repertoire with choruses, choirs, song circles, and at festivals, camps and retreats."
The first few months of the journey, SingPeace! will culminate in an appearance at the 2010 Northwest Regional Folklife Festival in Seattle in May 2010.
Ashford designed the 14-foot-long, 8-foot-wide living space during a course at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking, "How to Build a Gypsy Wagon," taught by Jim Tolpin and Habersetzer. The wagon will soon have modern "green" amenities, such as a marine composting toilet, an on demand propane water heater and a solar electric panel for the 12-volt electric system. It will soon have a galley and tiny hearth, as well. "It's essentially like a boat that goes down the highway," Habersetzer says.
Steve Habersetzer uses hand tools to cut the shallow rectangular void where the hinge will rest for the door on a cabinet he's making. "This is more traditional woodwork," he says. "A lot of people would use a router to do this. This is more fun and not as loud. Once you learn how to do it, it's probably just as fast."
Habersetzer knows well the life in a gypsy wagon. At one time, he lived in one himself. That one, he says, was only 6 feet wide. He built his first gypsy wagon, or "vardo," 25 years ago, and several have followed. All of them are designed to suit the owner's fancy - whether for living, playing or working.
Inspired by horse-drawn carts used by the English Romano people, this wagon is a "ledge" design, which includes a small extension on each side, supported by hand-painted wooden brackets, and a small porch on the back. Other vardo types are called the Burton, reading, bow top, open and brush, and they all function as traveling living spaces.
This is the most collaborative wagon project Habersetzer has created. Ashford has recruited other area artisans to take part. The decorative woodcarving is done by Laurence Cole, and Jeanne Moore of Northwest Potpourri and Susan Leinbach, another local seamstress, are at work on the upholstery and interior furnishings. The stained and etched glass is created by Everett artist Stan Case, and Don Tiller is in charge of the decorative painting.
The SingPeace! wagon is on view outside of the Pope Marine Park Building throughout the Port Townsend Woodworkers Show. A SingPeace! gathering takes place at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7, following PT Shorts. Songweaver and director of PT Songlines Laurence Cole - along with visiting song leaders Sara Tone from Olympia and Rob Tobias from
Eugene, Ore. - gather to lead participatory singing on Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. and again from 6 to 7 p.m. The singers will be on hand again on Sunday from 1-3 p.m.