Sauna is all about perfection. Not over-the-top polished perfection, but a perfect way of being: simple, pure, functional; perfect living. Harmonious. After all, you enter the sauna naked, our perfectly imperfect bodies exposed but hidden in the dim light. You sweat out the toxins of life and leave with a clean aura. Like the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi, the sauna encourages acceptance of the imperfect as natural and beautiful.
When I work on my saunas I am constantly aware of this. Too much perfection will ruin the relaxed atmosphere; too many crisp details will hold tension in the materials. I relax when I work, become one with my materials and try to imbue the building with a human inexactness.
It’s all made by hand or by nature: the pulls on the doors (hickory branches), the handle on the stove (me, wrapping stainless rod—like wrestling a snake); the benches (massaged with sand paper) and the funny round window (imperfectly round like the eye of a whale). The stone facing on the wall around the stove was pulled from a hundred-and-fifty year old barn foundation and carefully split with whacks from the hammer my great grandfather used to carve head-stones. The dressing room floor: reclaimed fir, every bit as tough as the day the trees were felled. I use some new materials but never looking like I just pulled them off the shelf in some big box store.
I’ve touched it all many times- each board, each stone, each piece of metal. I carry slivers of each project in my hands for weeks—a constant reminder of the work I do. I think of our physical world built by hands. Every brick in every building handled, touched and in the memory of some callus; everything we think of as solid and real created by someone’s toil. Even the rocks that mark the hedgerow at the back of the sauna were placed by hand almost two centuries ago; the sweat of that farmer’s labor infused with this thick clay soil.
This last project was nearly perfect- which is as close to perfect as I want it to be. Great client, perfect site, easy access, and nice new pond with a beautiful dock and deck . Ok, I did order the wrong color roof, but even the multiple drives back and forth to Mid Lakes Metal, down the spine of the ridge between the lakes, were perfect. With my windows wide open, I could taste the salt of the earth and was reminded of why I call this place home.