Ten Years Old—And As Meaningful As Ever

It was a blustery, early November day, not unusual for the Pacific Northwest. But that November day in 2009 (I’ve since forgotten the exact date), the wind and sideways rain posed some extra challenges. Photographer Summer Moon Scriver and I had taken the first ferry of the day from our homes on Lopez Island to the mainland to pick up a rental truck.

H@W Cover LG (2)

We were bound for a shipping terminal in South Seattle to pick up 300 boxes of the book we’d spent four years producing, Hands at Work: Portraits and Profiles of People Who Work With Their Hands. That day, we learned one more lesson on our adventure in self-publishing—3000 hardcover books weigh more than a cargo van can carry.

We ended up with a 17-foot truck to maneuver from Anacortes, through Seattle, and into the terminal parking lot. Then back to Anacortes through a wind-blown rainstorm to catch the last ferry to Lopez.

uhaul-17footNeither Summer nor I had large enough dry spaces at our homes to stockpile this many stacks of books (another challenge of self-publishing), so we rented a storage unit on the island. Fortunately, a crew of family and friends, wearing headlamps and rain gear, met us there, formed a chain, and transferred the 300 cartons from the truck to the rental garage.

A few days later, Summer and I began introducing readers to the book through a slide show of some of Summer’s 126 black-and-white images and excerpts from the 23 profiles and 3 collages I wrote. In the following months, the book received half a dozen awards, including a Nautilus Book Award, and over the years we’ve shared its stories in bookstores, radio and print interviews, history museums, and art galleries.


Washington State History Museum
Sedge interviews Iris
Sedge Thomson interviews Iris for  “West Coast Live”

We still hear from readers how they’re moved and inspired by the photographs and the profiles of people who are not only willing to labor with their hands, but are nourished by that work. Many comment about how tactile methods are more important than ever in this high-tech age.

“I love the act of carving, the feel of the stone. The end result is not as important as the process.”
                        ~ Stone Sculptor, Tamara Buchanan
“I’m a laborer. I use my hands. I like the doing part—the hands are what do it.”
                        ~ Boat Builder, Steven Brouwer
“What I like most is sitting in that place between both worlds where that veil is really thin, where life is coming and going.”
                        ~ Midwife, Ali Tromblay
“I really love to play music, I like history, and there’s also a part of me that needs to get my hands dirty.”
                        ~ Oboe Maker, Sand Dalton

book stack (1)Ten years later, the stacks of cartons have dwindled, and we emptied out the storage unit years ago. Still, a good number of copies remain at Summer’s house and mine. We’d love to get them into the hands and onto the coffee tables and bookshelves of more people.

To help with that, we’re offering a tenth-anniversary sale if you purchase Hands at Work through my website. Regularly priced at $34/copy, the anniversary price is $20. I’ll also include free shipping plus a frame-quality notecard of an image from the book. It could be just the gift you’re looking for—for yourself or others.


Hands at Work notecards – 1 included with each book

Now that you’ve looked at these images of hands, study your own. What story do they tell?



  1. Who knew how hungry people would be for this celebration of hand work? But they clearly are. This book is such a gift. (Literally and figuratively–I’ve given several!)

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