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Burhop, Gregory Douglas

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Emerald Den Games, 836 W. Cullerton Apt. 1

Starting early on in middle school, I was lucky enough to have a woodworking arts elective every year I spent there. Making real things for my friends and family to use was the highlight of every school year. Clip boards, napkin holders, jewelry boxes and clocks were just a few of the projects I remember being the most worthwhile hours I would spend in school.

Four years ago, a moment of philosophical discussion changed the path of my life. After building a tower out of dominoes my friends and I knocked it down by throwing what ever we had lying around at it. Looking at the ruins of our tower I wondered what it really meant to be knocked down completely and inversely what it meant to still be built. My friend Sam and I couldn't agree on an answer, so he took some dominoes and I took some dominoes, he built something and I built something and we knocked each other down. For weeks I worked on the rules and the end result was a game called 'Knock Down Bones'.

I knew the game was fun and challenging but that it needed a material to have it become real. I looked up my friend Brian in Asheville North Carolina and we discussed the best way to transform the game into barn wood. We took down a few barns and worked in his basement creating the first 6 sets of 'Knock Down Barns'. I was rusty at first but the lessons I had from my middle school shop class came back to help guide the design of the final product. Over three years I have made over 50 prototypes of Knock Down Barns, and with the positive feedback I received, I have now decided to try to produce a larger run of the games. I hope that those that play 'Knock Down Barns' are smiling and shake hands after every match. Remember, you can always build again!

My favorite artistic medium is utilizing reclaimed barn wood. Old growth forests all over the East Coast of the United States were cut down and transformed by years of weather and use on farms and homesteads. I go to these places and find the barns that are in need of repair and repurpose this beautiful material into games that will last for ages.

Each board that I take off of a barn and analyze the grain of its wood opens a door into the history of the life of a more than 100 year old tree. This is an essential practice to use the material efficiently, because there are very few straight pieces of wood that have been a barn for so long. A meditative practice in the workshop I use is to talk to the wood and see what it wants to become.

I have developed my own board game that I now produce by hand here in Chicago. Each cut I make on the table saw turns another part of history into the future fun for someone's family game night.
My hope is that the care I take in producing the game 'Knock Down Barns' is seen as a delicate craft. Finding the barns, taking them down, prepping the wood and finishing them in the shop has now been 4 years of my life. I hope that my love for the material shows up in every little domino sized block!
Click thumbnails to enlarge.

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