On the loss of a friend and mentor. John Kidd.
October 4, 2012
In 2004 I was living in the Tidy Cottage in Houston but was in Asheville on tour with Gerry OBeirne and Rosie Shipley when we were the WIllow Band and we went to Chris Abel’s shop at the Grovewood Gallery. Chris became very supportive in helping me become an instrument maker, gave me lots of great information, and inspired me to reach for higher and higher standard through his example. On one of my first visits to Chris’s shop I happened to be there when he was scheduled to meet with a man who was making and modifying bagpipes in the Asheville area. In walked a man with a white beard, khaki shorts, a button down short-sleeve shirt, goggles, and kilt socks. He had driven there in a 1930’s MG P-type convertable painted green, looking and sounding like a character from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He spoke perfect American English with perfect diction and his blue eyes sparkled as he talked.
I had been introduced to John Kidd.
John was working on improving the Highland bagpipe with his skills as a physicist. I later visited his shop in Asheville and discovered he had not only rebuilt his vintage American lathes, painting the grey parts green, the same as his car, but he had cast his own reproduction lathe in the style of the old pipemakers from before the machine lathe era. Yes, cast his own lathe himself. It was astounding to get a glimpse of what he had done in his decades of work. Raised a family, been a loving husband, served the country as a scientist working for the government, made beautiful instruments, been a true friend to people all over the world, and passing what knowledge he could to the people who could listen.
John had been at Chris’s shop that day to find out where to get extruded silver since the task of casting his own silver ferrules was too time consuming. After I met him, John gave me one of his cast ferrules and I took it with me back to Houston Tx where I had set up my own shop and had just taken my first commission to make a bagpipe for a friend. I was so impressed with John and meeting him had been so thought-provoking, that I hung that ferrule above my own lathe in the kitchen of the Tidy Cottage to remember him and what he represented to me. A scientist-tinkerer always looking for a better way. An artist manifesting beauty in the world. An artisan serving the needs of those who called on him. Every instrument, every piece of wood or metal I’ve ever turned in the service of friend and customer was made under the light reflected off that piece of silver.
Now the world has lost John, much too soon, and he left me with another bit of silver. Something to think about for the rest of my life. Make time for the people you love; they’re only here for a short time.
I miss you John.