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Explanation to a Friend-of-Peace-Poles

A woman promoting peace poles was trying to arrange for children in elementary schools to paint their own, and arrange for a couple of larger poles elsewhere in her community. Someone local criticized the effort saying that to passersby the posts do not ring out “Peace” and thought the artist helping them was just trying to make a quick buck. She was meeting him for coffee to talk about it. So I wrote this for her.

A vocabulary for peace

When we place a peace pole at a school we are teaching a visual vocabulary that communicates the thought Peace. We especially are doing that when we plant poles substantial enough to be considered monuments. All those monuments in Washington, DC are there for a reason. They communicate the legitimacy of the stories they tell about the intentions and goals of our founders and our government, about democracy and freedom. As there are monuments to war, there also should be monuments to peace.

Why is it a pole?

It started in Japan where they have a tradition that predates messages about peace on poles. Long before that they had poles all over their country with text aligned vertically to commemorate everything from school graduations to tsunami disasters. In about 1955, when Hiroshima still was a devastated landscape, Masahisa Goi wrote “May peace prevail on earth” on such a pole. He had it translated into a different language on each side. Somebody saw it and wanted one. Now there are a couple hundred thousand of them around the world.

Sculptors and non-sculptors have tried many times to make sculptures that represent peace. I have searched them out and tried myself. None of them communicate peace to people passing by. But the people who know about peace poles get that message every time they see one. It is a humble, visual vocabulary more and more people are getting to know.

Why the Excitement?

For years I, myself, did not understand why people were so excited to receive even the cheapest peace poles I made. Finally, a friend explained that they see this movement. They want to be part of it. And I send them the ticket – even when it is only a cheap, vinyl pole.

I do not make the vinyl ones anymore, or the wooden ones. But for people who want those, I have an extensive page on how to make your own: https://peace-pole.com/make-your-own/ The vast majority of the people who go to my site go there for that.

Why I still make them

As an artist, I find it frustrating never to be able to make anything but a pole (except off season when I do). I also dislike the fact that 85% of my time is spent at the computer, either creating the artwork necessary to make a peace pole, or communicating with the people who ask about them, or working on the translations. None of that is creative and I do not get paid for any of that. A number of times I have considered retiring from making peace poles, but no one else makes stone or stainless ones. If you are a university wanting to put one in front of the main entrance to your biggest building, a wooden post doesn’t do it. Aluminum isn’t much better.

I have had people call me for stone peace poles saying that quotes they got from people in other industries that make things from stone were in the $25,000 range. Financially, mine should be too, but few people would spend that. That is why no one does it. It does not pay.

Someday when there is more awareness about them, perhaps people will be willing to pay realistic prices. I will be gone by then. I predict a gap during which fewer substantial peace poles will be made. I have seen some created by local artists who were given a grant to make their first ones. It’s part of why I have not retired yet. My first ones were not much good either. But that was twenty years ago. I would get an apprentice to carry on what I have learned, but the apprentice would have to be independently wealthy to survive. My house is paid for. I have no dependents. I live cheap and work hard.

Stature Speaks

I would like to see the day when all peace poles were 14 feet tall and with enough girth to be right for that height. No one is going to pay for that at this time. I make the biggest stone ones that people can plant without a crane or a contractor. Most people interested in them have enough on their plates without having to deal with logistics beyond a post hole digger and some volunteers.

Most peace poles are 6 feet tall after planting. Those cost what people can imagine paying at this time. For the few people who can imagine paying a little more there is my work. I am hoping what will come of my work is an expanded awareness of the value of bigger and better. Stature speaks. Deeply. The bigger and better ones still need to be poles to be part of the vocabulary. And they still need to have text on them. They need to be instantly recognizable as Peace Poles. But there need to be more that are 14 feet tall and big enough around to hug.

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7-Sided Peace Pole

On Pinterest is a photo of one of my 7-Sided Peace Poles, but linked to someone else’s site. So I put this here so someone could find it with a search if they really wanted to.

7-Sided Peace Pole
7-sided copper peace pole back-lit by rising sun

Above is a 7-sided copper peace pole with the single word “Peace” etched into it many times, rather than the traditional phrase “May peace prevail on earth.” The one of mine like it on Pinterest had phrases, but some of them were like “Be the change” because that is what the customer requested. The one on Pinterest appears on a number of pages including the one at this link: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/514325219946360596/

Currently the 7-sided peace poles that I offer on this site are made of stone.

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Blog – Peace Poles of Stone and Stainless

Why not set peace poles in cement?

A tree near my front door finally grew too large and was crowding a copper peace pole I had put near my front door seventeen or eighteen years ago. There still is room for the stainless peace pole, but not the copper one. I took it out and carried it across the lawn and leaned it on a tree. Now I can see it out my window as I type this. I rather like it leaning on the tree where I can see it. I wonder how long I can get away with leaving it there. Passersby probably would regard it as an unfinished project needing attention.

Copper peace pole temporarily leaning on a tree
Pre-spring, no leaves on the tree the copper peace pole temporarily leans on.

There still is a stainless peace pole closer to my front door right in front of my kitchen window where I see it everyday. One by one fewer and fewer have remained around my front door over the years as landscaping matured or was altered leaving less room for them. Five different ones was excessive anyway. Now that I’m looking at it where it is I would like to put this copper one closer to being in front of the office window I’m looking out of now as I type this.

But first I think I’d like to take it to my art studio downtown and let it be seen there for a while. Normally, when there is a peace pole there for anyone to see, it is one I just finished making and am getting ready to ship, if the deadline for it is not too close. At the moment no one is going to art studios anyway though, not even me. The Covid-19 plague has most of us self-quarantining. Where the copper peace pole is now will be in the way of lawn mowing when it becomes time for that. I guess I’ll leave it where it is until that becomes the issue.

Copper Peace Poles

The title of this post is peace poles of stone and stainless and here I am talking about a copper one. Why I don’t make these anymore is covered at Copper Peace Poles.

Copper Peace Pole with vines and peace messages etched into its patina

Patina

The blueness of the patina is temporary. This photo was from when it was brand new. A little age will temper it to greens and darker shades with streaks of blue like the copper peace pole higher on this page and another one on this site at this link.

Forever

I like making things that last forever anyway. Consider your having a peace pole that lasted longer than stone henge or the sphinx. Peace poles of stone and stainless will. I like that.