Arte Soleil

Made by Hoof, Made with Love

by Robin Casey

Outside of my art life, I’m a goatherd. There are two things that make me happiest in life, and that is making art and petting goats. Why goats? Honestly — Why not? There is something truly beautiful about a goat. They are positively whimsical beings. Each of our fourteen goats has a wonderful and distinctive personality. Each has their own shape, their own markings, their own facial expressions, their own mannerisms. They are so absolutely individual.

I have loved goats since childhood. One of my favorite pictures of me is from I think summer camp where I’m holding a goat that’s about a 1:1 ratio of my size. If you’ve ever seen a baby goat, you might understand why that might bring someone joy!

I have been volunteering for The Belmont Goats for three years. When they moved into my neighborhood in Lents Town Center, I showed up immediately. I was there greeting them before they even had their collars off. I went to spend time with them most weekends the first year they were there. I would pet them through the gate most times I went to the bus stop. I learned their names, their personalities, and their little individualities. I’ve spent the last three years fielding hundreds of questions, taking thousands of pictures, and bonding with goat
lovers from all over. I’ve also trekked out in all manners of weather to see that they’re fed and watered, learned how to give shots and trim hooves, sat under a shelf in the barn with a sick goat, and taken naps.

But where does the art come in?

I’ve done plenty of goat-related art, but this time I wanted to do something *for* the goats instead. Our barns are custom-built by one of our owners, with help from some of our co-herds. I’m definitely more of an artist than a crafts-person, but I’m learning my way around some wood-working — which brings me to this project. I’m currently in the process of making some hand-made signs for our barns! We label our barns as “goats only” spaces so the goats know they have a place they can be alone, or at least out of reach when people get loud or they get overstimulated. Unfortunately, most of the signage we have for it is illegible or out of the line of sight for most people (overhead).

I offered to make us up some new signage for the main gate and the barn because I wanted to contribute something new to the herd that would last a long time. I used reclaimed wood from our discard pile, and some cedar slices I inherited during my senior portfolio show.

I got a crash course from our owner and resident wood-worker, Jay Jimenez, on properly drilling pilot holes and setting the torque on a drill. The art for me is the easy part – woodworking not so much! It took me a full three hours of swearing, splitting cedar bits, splitting planks, and re-adjusting my carefully planned layouts to get the planks and slices together. I found myself extremely glad I decided to do the lettering AFTER, or I would have been out several slices.

I still have more work to do on the lettering, but I spent a solid afternoon at Arte Soleil re-learning my way around the prography tool. It involves a careful amount of time and pressure with this 950 degree tool to get the wood to actually burn. One of the three signs is completely finished, with some filling-in detail work left to do on the other two signs.

So, what do art and goats have in common? My desire to learn more and to do things for both is high, and I can use the two to benefit each other.

OH! and what do I love about making art? Being able to make things for and about goats 😉