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(For those who do not know me, I make wooden instruments - lap dulcimers & bowed psalteries)

WELL, IT FINALLY HAPPENED!  After working with wood and making instruments since the mid 1970’s, last Friday, Aug, 23, it finally happened.  I was cutting some pieces on the table saw when, in a split second, I was staring down at four bloody fingers dangling by thin strips of flesh from my right hand.  It happened so fast that I really don’t know how it happened.  I do distinctly recall thinking, and perhaps uttering, some pointedly unkind thoughts regarding the specific circumstances which had befallen me.

I wound up in Charlotte in the care of a group hand specialist surgeons who told me candidly that I might very well lose all four fingers, but under the best case scenario I was facing a long, frustrating path of surgeries, skin grafts, physical therapy and that he and I were going to become very familiar with each other.

On Tuesday, the 28th I emerged from a medicinally induced haze in the ICU.  The surgeons had operated on my hand for 5 hours.  They were not able to save one of my fingers – which will somewhat limit my ability to communicate effectively, if you know what I mean- but were able, at least so far, to fuse bone, shorten and save three fingers.  So the journey of recuperation has begun.

I do not yet know what is going to happen to my art fair schedule for the rest of the year, but – “Oh, the unkindest cut of all,” I did have to drop out of Long’s Park.  However, to quote the indomitable Gen. MacArthur, “I SHALL RETURN”.  I have NOT lost my skill, nor my experience, and I WILL adapt my muscle and eye coordination.

This “down time” is giving me time for serious reflection on the future.  I have just reached my 69th birthday and, while I have been blessed/cursed with a true love for this business, I know that I cannot go on indefinitely.  So, here’s the deal, at present I have a good supply of bowed psalteries already in stock.  For the future, I am going to create fewer, but higher end psalteries.  There are psaltery makers out there who make very nice functional instruments.  With the materials, inlays etc. that I use, I cannot compete with them pricewise, nor do I wish to.  I am going to concentrate on building truly unique, one-of-a-kind, heirloom instruments that are not just functional instruments, but are functional pieces of art.  This will allow me to grow, be able to “spread my creative wings” and concentrate more on the creation of these truly unique, one-of-a-kind pieces of musical art.   This will also create a niche, which, to the best of my knowledge, is virgin territory.

I would appreciate any kind, “healing” thoughts which you may feel inclined to send my way.

Archie Smith

Archie Smith Instruments  

Views: 2284

Comment by Sam Hufman on September 3, 2012 at 11:24pm

I do not know you, and have not had the opportunity to see yoiur work first hand; but I do send you good thoughts and prayers for strangth to endure healing and physical therapy. I am indeed sorry you have to go through this experience. My husband went through having fingers re-attached only to lose them a couple of months later; that was not his "finest hour." Hopefully, your healing will go better.


I am glad you can plan what you want to do with your art; and I have every confidence that you can and will achieve your goals.


Please keep us updated on your progress.

Comment by Larry Berman on September 3, 2012 at 11:50pm

Hi Archie,

Sorry to hear about your hand. Let us know how you're doing.

Larry Berman

Comment by Melanie Rolfes on September 4, 2012 at 12:28am

Hey Archie,  that sounds very traumatic.  Thank you for sharing  your experience.  It sounds like you have a great attitude and I am sure you will find an amazing new path  with your art.  We all can't wait to see your new work.  Keep the faith. 

Comment by Marina Terauds on September 4, 2012 at 12:57am

 I am so sorry this happened to you, Archie. I don’t know you, but I remember  your  beautiful  instruments at Bellevue, Park City, Sun Valley and other shows. I love mood and spirit of your post and your future plans.  Best wishes for a fast recovery!

Comment by Peggy Whitson on September 4, 2012 at 1:14am

And here I was , just feeling bad ,cause I have arthritis in my foot & will have a lousy time in the race I'm to run,,,,and then to read your unfortunate accident , puts things in  perspective ! When one door closes, another opens....isn't that the truth . I like your positive attitude & your idea to specialize. Who knows where this new journey will take you , and all that you may discover about yourself & your abilities.

I wish you a speedy recovery . Take care , and keep us up to date.

Comment by Jillian Cori Lippert on September 4, 2012 at 1:17am

Good luck in your recovery.  DO YOUR PT.  That will be incredibly important in your recovery.

Comment by Steph Mader on September 4, 2012 at 1:18am

Archie, I know it must be a big challenge right now. A few years ago my husband, while working on our boat (also our home) slipped with the band saw and ended his viola playing days. It seemed to open another door, and he's now happily writing, photographing and running his own small press. Flexibility is one of the great blessings that comes with being wired as an artist, and I'll be the first to cheer you on as you use this challenge to move on to bigger and better things. I know you can do it.

Comment by mary johnston on September 4, 2012 at 7:26am

Dear Archie, I wish you well on your journey.....first of recovery and then of re-newel! 

I too suffered from major hand trauma 13 years ago.  The extremely handsome hand surgeon put my two (thankfully only two) fingers back together with a series of pins after an unpleasant encounter with a large dog.  Ouch.  My occupational therapist became my BFF.  I spent a year with her multiple times a week.  At the time of the 'accident' I had a two-year old whose shoes I could not tie anymore and a fledgling faux painting business.  Jillian is correct those therapy exercises!  I took up practicing the piano again because it seemed to help me learn how to move my fingers.  Well here it is 15 years later and I am out on the show circuit 'living the dream' as a painter.  You will find your way...your writing is wonderful: a new venue for you?  Author? Could you write the novel about art fairs?  Could you mentor/teach young artists to make those beautiful instruments?  The possibilities are endless.   The artist in you is still there. 

Comment by Nelda Ream on September 4, 2012 at 8:00am

Archie, I remember seeing your beautiful work at the Winter Park show in Florida.  With a great attitude like yours you can't help but recover and go on to better things.  My thoughts and prayers are with you.  Please keep posting about your progress.

Comment by Anne Nelson on September 4, 2012 at 8:35am

Archie, your attitude is amazing! But your story reminds me to be mindful of what I am doing, something we all get lax about. Hoping you have a good and speedy recovery.


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