In the Studio

"I've got a friend" Dawn Kiilani Hoffmann tells us, "who says he has an M.A.L. degree--that's a Master of Arts in Living. I'm working on one of those myself."

If anybody deserves an M.A.L., Hoffmann does. Her one-room, handmade home near Hagerstown, Maryland serves as a testament to simple, thoughtful living, and to the marriage of form and function. Every square inch is put to use. The entire space is a "living room" in the literal sense of the word.

VIDEO (1.8 MB) || AUDIO (RA:30)

Entering the house, we're greeted by a refreshing blast of cedar. There's wood everywhere, and it's all been chosen with a particular quality in mind--grain, strength, aroma, color. The handmade hinges take their direction from the shapes in the house and outside. Some seem to grow from the wood and sprout leaves.

The orderliness of Hoffmann's small shop isn't really surprising. There would hardly be any other choice. But the absolute necessity for cleanliness, and smooth, shiny surfaces on all the tools were something we hadn't expected.

VIDEO (1.8 MB) || AUDIO (RA:14)

VIDEO (1.8 MB) || AUDIO (RA:28)

We keep probing for a spiritual connection. The devotion of Hoffmann and her family to the usefulness and beauty of the objects around them seems almost otherworldly. But again and again she returns to this very down-to-earth thought:

"There is no space in the shop, or in our small house for anything extra. So why shouldn't everything we use be beautiful and complex, and reveal itself to us as we use it."

We eat lunch with handmade silverware, on pots thrown by a local potter, every morsel hand-crafted, for nourishment, with love.

"There's no need to polish the silver," Hoffmann says. "We use it every day."

Dawn Hoffmann Robyn Horn