Grad school finished – check!

It’s been a whirlwind semester as usual and because this was the last one, it was even more intense. My thesis exhibit, Journey By Water took place in the end of March. The rest of the semester was spent finalizing the rest of my graduation requirements. One of the things we’ve realized over my last twelve semesters of school is that when I’m in the midst of classes and projects, I’m not a lot of good for anything else.

David has been joking for months that after graduation he “gets his wife back” I really can’t argue. He also insisted that my transition from six years of school should be followed by a period of restfully doing nothing or as he refers to it “Sit on the couch for a month and eat bon-bons.”

Anyone who knows me knows that isn’t going to happen. So we took a short trip to Florida, part business for David to attend a conference, after classes ended but before graduation. We flew back the night before, and on Friday May 11, I graduated.

Less than two weeks later I was off to New Orleans for the annual conference of the Society of North American Goldsmiths. (SNAG) It was a great time for me to commune with other jewelry artists, look at work and talk about the field.

Now that I’m back, I’m digging into ramping up my jewelry business, creating a new brand with collections that are based on the work I developed in school. The business has been mostly dormant while I’ve been in school. I am also starting on some personal projects and teaching some workshops with the Mayfair Arts Initiative and the Tacony LAB. All this is happening in between another a project that is turning out to be a lot of fun- creating 13 Egyptian pectoral collars! But more on that in another post.

Art History

My art history course this semester is Elite Objects from the Bronze age. I’m doing a presentation on gold and silver vessels from the Royal Cemetary at Ur. This was an incredible archeological dig that happened in Southern Iraq between 1922 and 1934 and was a joint project between the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archeology. The findings were split three ways between the two museums and the Museum in Iraq. The ones in Iraq are not on display currently as you might imagine based on current events in that country.

I spent an hour at the museum yesterday morning and took about 170 photos in Ur Cemetary Gallery. I spent a lot of time looking at the vessels on display as well as the museum labels and signage.

Back home, I found a way on the Penn Museum’s website to save a collection and then in trying to find a similar feature on the British Museum’s website only to realize that their collection is better searched on Google Arts and Culture. (and another hour gone browsing through artworks from museums around the world…)

Anyway, if you would like to see it, here is the list of items from the Penn Museum that I am studying for my presentation:

Devastation/Development/Disruption on Philadelphia’s Jewelers Row


 Photo- Amanda Stockwell


If you haven’t heard about this yet, check out the following links:


After finding out about this project yesterday, I can’t sit idle and hope for the best. The Hidden City article above mentions that the Mayor and Council could find a way to delay or alter the plans. I am taking that as a call to action and have decided to send the following email to City Councilman Mark Squilla, Mayor James Kenney and all of the At-Large Council Members. Feel free to do the same. My email can be found at the bottom of this post and anyone is welcome to copy, paste and edit the text to use, or write your own, but I encourage something.


You can also sign the petition at

Signing and sharing a petition is a good thing, but continued constituent pressure on elected officials is always a strong tool for change.


Barbara Baur, Jeweler
P.O. Box 22116
Philadelphia, PA 19136

Councilman Mark Squilla

Office of the Mayor

cc: At-Large City Council Members:
Blondell Reynolds Brown
Allan Domb
Derek S. Green
William K Greenlee
Helen Gym
David Oh
Al Taubenberger

Via email

August 13, 2016

Mayor Kenney and Councilman Squilla,
I am appalled to read about the impending demolition on Jewelers Row. It is a travesty to allow development to destroy the fabric of the oldest Jewelry District in the United States.

It is beyond understanding why a major change to a historic district was done secretly with the knowledge of both of your offices, only becoming public in the last two days. Now that the plans are made public, it is your responsibility to address public outcry and correct this situation, no matter how “legal” or “by-right” the arrangement may be. Legality should not be the only standard by which decisions are made in our city.

As a city, Philadelphia recently received the World Heritage City designation. Is this any way to respect our heritage? This is not just a heritage in the past, but a heritage that is continuing today! This short-sighted developer will not be respecting this heritage by having “jewelers on the ground floor” and “keeping the cornice line” as stated by the Mayors Spokesperson.

Allowing this project to move forward is not about just the buildings, it will destroy the rare community of entrepreneurs that exist in these buildings. The occupants of these buildings are a community of jewelers, artists and crafts people that could rival any small business incubator project, no matter how well funded. There are many other properties nearby that would not cause the kind of disruption caused by this project.

I call upon Councilman Squilla to exercise his “Councilmanic privilege”  and find a way to block this demolition. Additionally I request for Mayor James Kenney and At-Large Councilmen to support preserving not just these buildings, but just as importantly, the small business community of Philadelphia’s Jewelers Row.



Barbara Baur

I am the water

I am the water,

Gently falling on the leaves and bubbling through the soil 

Gathering myself into a lively stream

Babbling over rocks

Running down the hillside becoming deeper.
I am the water on which others float

Buoyant upon my surface I help them towards their destination

Safely bouncing on my currents

Playful and dancing in the sun and shade

To grounding on a soft sandy bank.
I am the water growing swifter and deeper

Cutting though the mud to bedrock

Carrying away the broken branches of the storm

My surface is for treacherous navigation

Power changing the landscape racing to join with the sea.
I am the blood of the world

Breathing twice a day in rhythm to the moon

Home to creatures great and tiny

Embracing the planet

In unfathomable strength.

Exploring Cocoon

I first heard about Cocoon last fall from my Rapid Prototyping professor, Stanley Lechtzin. He mentioned this spray on coating that was developed locally for the preservation of the ships from World War II at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. At that time, I was looking at 3D printing structures and perhaps using fabric to cover the forms. It sounded very interesting, but I couldn’t find much about it online and my project at the time moved in a different direction anyway. It culminated in a neckpiece made with paper-reinforced fabric bellows and two lighted “camera eyes” on either end.

Early in the Spring 2015 semester, however, my lamp project was headed in a different direction. Recently my work has been following the idea of creating lightweight structures using unusual techniques  Stanley again mentioned Cocoon and sent me some website links he had found. With a little more digging I was able to make a phone call to Andek Corporation where I spoke with Harvey Liss about my idea of using Cocoon over a 3D printed form. He put me in touch with their customer service folks, the Doyle brothers. He also pointed out about a company in Canada producing lamps using Cocoon, Nelson and Garrett.

But first of all what is Cocoon? The following is from the Andek website:

Cocoon is an extraordinary, liquid polymer coating that sprays cobweb-like filaments that form a tough, waterproof, flexible, monolithic membrane that will conform to any surface. Cocoon can be applied as a waterproofing coating on new installations as well as over traditional existing systems. The polymer coating will adhere to most common construction materials. Sunlight, rain, wind and marine atmospheres have little or no effect on Cocoon. These coatings are resistant to water and water vapor and possess a low water absorption rate. Cocoon is relatively non-chalking, available in a wide range of colors and has excellent color retention. Cocoon coatings can be applied to interior and exterior structures to protect against the penetration of water, dust, gas and oil. The tough, flexible web structure ensures the efficient and effective sealing of walls, including wall penetrations, regardless of changes in substrate. Cocoon resists all forms of corrosion and prevents surface deterioration caused by acids, fats, greases and fungi, as well as by chemical laden fumes and vapors.

In my conversations with Keiran and Sean Doyle, visualizations of Spiderman came up several times. The idea of spraying these filaments at a framework and eventually forming a waterproof membrane is an idea right out of science fiction. But it is real and there are plenty of possible applications for this product. The technology is often used in architectural applications, like clean rooms or waterproofing.

Of course my idea was a much smaller scale. My 3D modeled lamp wasn’t quite ready to be printed and we set a time for a demo at school. I made a few test pieces out of wire and boxes, along with some laser cut acrylic based on one of my “Ripples” jewelry designs. Stanley saw this as an opportunity for students to experience a new material, so he allowed the entire RP class and other MJCC students to observe the demo.

We took over the plastics fume hood in the main studio. Kieran and Sean set up the compressed air system to the Cocoon application equipment. The application system uses very a specific high volume low pressure air bypass gun and Kieran made the necessary adjustments and soon was spraying away in the fume hood. The Cocoon comes out of the nozzle in threadlike filaments that stick to the frame work and also to each other. As the spraying continues it builds up to become a textured sheet. I was particularly interested in the light transmitting properties of the completed sheet. The test pieces went well and I planned to use at least one on a finished light. Here is an album of images from the Cocoon Demo as well as in progress images of these two lamps.

I modeled a base for the cut acrylic piece in Rhino and submitted it for printing on our ZCorp gypsum printer. Although the ZCorp printer has the capability of full color printing, I decided on just white to match the Cocoon. I finished it with a 110v LED light with a white cloth cord.


Meanwhile I finished the 3D modeling work on my original idea and submitting the file for printing in ABS plastic from the Dimension printer in Tyler’s digital fabrication service downstairs. I wanted the lamp to look as if some aggressive plant was growing inside and about to puncture through the surface. It had a small round seat designed to hold another 110v LED like on the one I used in the first lamp. I planned the LED to sit below the surface of where I estimated the Cocoon surface would be. I made an appointment and met up with Sean Doyle in April to spray in my garage. We suspended the 3D printed framework from a string and Sean sprayed away. The Cocoon material began to stick in a way I wasn’t expecting and soon the entire piece was coated. It looked really interesting, but the area where I had planned for the LED light was completely covered. Since the piece was so small, it was a quick installation. Sean cleaned up his tools and went on his way. I let the piece hang in the garage until it was cured and then started to work on my design issue.

Testing the #3dprinted #cocoon light. A little more maneuvering and it's all done. It's my 3rd light object this semester.  #mjcc #rapidprototyping

After looking at how the Cocoon had formed over my strange alien-like structure, I had to reconsider how I was going to light it. There were three open spaces that were perfect for some kind of small LED lighting, but I was going to have to create a back on which to anchor them. Using the Rhino software and measurements from online lighting vendors, I was able to determine what I needed as well as how to power it and submitted another file to print the back in ABS plastic. The final assembly was, thankfully, straightforward.

When lit, the small lamp exhibits an otherworldly presence as the LED light projects through the mottled material. Last week, I had the opportunity to exhibit “The Moment Before” at a pop-up exhibit in Boston for the Society of North American Goldsmiths annual conference. As the day darkened into night, the small strange glowing object attracted a number of people interested in this interesting material.


I think both of these lamps were successful pieces. I am very grateful to Andek, Kieran and Sean Doyle for the opportunity to explore this material in my work as well as to Stanley Lechtzin, for not only his suggestion, but his encouragement of using different materials in my work.

Roman Experience

Two years ago, at this time in 2013, I was a week away from leaving for the adventure of a lifetime, a semester abroad in Rome. Since my return, there has been a lot of reflection on the experience and how it continues to affect me as a person as well as my work as an artist.

In the last few weeks several people who are doing the semester or just planning time in Rome asked me for a list of things to see and tips about Rome. Here we go…

First thing to remember, you won’t see it all. Can’t, won’t, don’t try. You’ll hear it a million times: Roma, non basta una vita. It means- Rome, a lifetime is not enough.

So prioritize. Make a list of what you want to see. Make the list before you go. It can be revised as you learn about more things while you are there, but keep this list handy and check it weekly. In fact, hang it on the fridge or on your door. Put things on the calendar and check the calendar. It often happens that people make a list and forget about it by going out of town almost every weekend until the last few weeks, then rush around Rome trying to see “everything.”

The seasons are important. The weather is typically Mediterranean in that it’s a mild climate in the winter, very wet and occasionally pretty cold, but snow is rare. As the weather warms up, Rome begins to get very congested as the tourist season kicks in. Save the not very popular, off the beaten path destinations for the later part of the semester when the city is crowded and get the blockbuster visits done early, when the city is still cold and less crowded. St Peter’s in February is very different than St Peter’s the week before Holy Week. The Sistine Chapel is always crowded, so try to get it out of the way first. If you have no choice about your dates, at the very least book your timed tickets early in the day.

For Catholics, the Wednesday audience with the Pope is worth trying to attend, but this will require planning and timing since the tickets need to be picked up the day before or the morning of the audience. There are details about how to do this here remember that tickets are first come, first served. If you do not have a reservation, there is no guarantee. You can make reservations through the link.

The Forum and the Coliseum are very tiring, but a must see for those who want to really experience the ancient history of the city. Just walking through the Centro Storico (the historical center) of Rome, allows one to see the many layers of this city. Don’t forget to check out the Coliseum at night. It’s beautifully lit.

If you want to experience art history, then make a priority to spend a day at the Capitoline Museum on Capitoline Hill, a bonus is that you can get a great view of the forum from inside. Then spend another day at the Borghese Gallery. If you have ever admired the work of Bernini, his most legendary pieces found here must be experienced in person.

Maybe you prefer the macabre, head to the Capuchin Crypt at the Santa Maria della Concezione near the Barberini station. There are a series of chapels decorated with the bones of Capuchin monks. Believe it or not, it’s quite tasteful. Unlike most of the churches, it’s not free though.

Many of the churches in Rome address the theme of mortality in their altars and sculpture. Smiling skulls, depictions of martyred saints and displays of odd relics can be found in nearly all of the 900 churches in the city. If this is your thing, set aside some time to just wander into the churches and look around. From the sponge of St Apollonia to the foot of Mary Magdalene, it’s like a game to see what you can find in the many churches.

But it’s not just mortality and relics in the churches, you will also find ancient mosaics, sculpture and architecture. The churches of Rome are full of amazing artifacts that are worth seeing. Most churches in Rome allow photography without flash, but the light is often low. If you use an SLR try to pack a lens with a big f-stop(2.8 or below if possible) to use in churches and museums. Bring a tripod if you have one, to keep the camera still for long exposures in dark churches and taking photos of the city at night.

And while you’re taking pictures, walk around the city at the “golden hour” that time around sunset or sunrise. The light in the city bouncing off the domes and fountains is the perfect opportunity for really lovely photos. And keep your camera handy in the rain, too. The puddles and wet cobblestones can create amazing reflections.

Do you prefer modern design? Italian design is the envy of the world and although most of the big names are based in Milan, you can walk from Piazza del Popolo down Via Del Corso and work your way West towards the Spanish Steps. High end retailers and designers make this area of Rome a shopper’s destination.

One of my interests as a jeweler was to see the metal work of the Etruscans. There is a museum devoted entirely to the artifacts of this ancient culture that lived in the region North of Rome. It is housed in a former palace called Villa Guilia in the area North of Piazza del Popolo. It is a short tram ride from Temple Rome.

Then there is the food. Enjoy the pizza, but make sure you cook for yourself, too. Supplied daily by the surrounding farms of the area, you want to shop in the open air markets. It’s a great way to get to know the Italian words for fruit and vegetables. The vendors are happy to take your money even if you just point and tell them how many you want with your fingers. We got to know the bread lady really well at our local market and would practice our Italian and she would practice her English.

I must not forget to point out the 24 hour bakery Dolce Maniera. It’s about a block from the Ottaviano stop and the food is not only reasonable priced and available at all times, it’s amazing. Have a tiramisu for me….or three.

There are so many layers to Rome. Take as big a bite as you can. If you want to read more details about what I experienced in Rome, check out my posts from January 2013 to May 2013.

Dancing the Immigrant Experience

I previously posted about Ragas and Airs in anticipation of its premiere on July 26, 2014. It was such an inspiring performance that I need to share more about the event itself.

The Philadelphia Irish Memorial was created in 2003 at Front and Chestnut Streets. The centerpiece, An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger) is a large sculpture by Glenna Goodacre. It features thirty five life size figures depicting the immigrant experience of the Irish who came to the United States about 150 years ago. It’s a moving piece which engages the viewer in an emotional narrative of sadness and hope.

Shaily Dadiala, the Artistic Director of Usiloquy Dance Designs, is someone who understands this immigrant experience. As an immigrant herself, when Shaily first came upon Goodacre’s sculpture, she identified so strongly with its message that she vowed to perform here one day.

Since that time, Shaily has researched extensively about the cultural connections between the Irish and India. This research culminated in a performance that riveted audiences at two performances on July 26.

As a Board member of Usiloquy, I don’t get to as many performances as I would like and often I am occupied with tasks to help oversee an event and unable to witness the best parts of the dance. For me personally, I was thrilled to be able to not only participate in the oversight of this event, but to watch the performance in its entirety.

The costumes were created by artist Michelle Yeager, who sometimes dances with Usiloquy. Each outfit blended the style of a traditional bharatanatyam costume, its pleats and skirting with a plaid Celtic influence. I loved the costumes so much that I would love to have one for myself.

You may think that it’s natural that I would be thrilled since I am part of this organization, but others’ opinions echoed my own impressions.

Denise Foley of Irish Philadelphia wrote about the event.

“The rhythms of the Celtic folk song harkened to the ancient beat of Indian music. Ragas, as it turns out, are a lot like airs.”

Read her full post here.

Additionally, Global Philadelphia wrote about the cultural impact of Usiloquy’s work.

“Ragas and Airs” brings one of the oldest immigrant communities in the Americas to the modern generation. This work is a platform exploring the intersection of diverse genres and cultures.”

Read the full post here.

This was the premiere of Ragas and Airs, but it is still a work in progress. Shaily is continuing to add to the work, so stay turned for upcoming performances of Ragas and Airs.

Prehistory, Time & Space and/or How I Feel Connected to the Past and the Future

After a weeks break between our return from Scotland at the end of June, we were in the Tyler studio all week to complete our projects. I love it when a plan comes together and it was refreshing to be able to just stay in the studio all day without the distraction of other classes.

I feel like the construction of my piece progressed according to the plan I made in Scotland. At some point, I would like to expand the piece with an additional ring or two if possible.

I actually had more of an issue wrangling with the laser cutter for the stand than the metal and I had an idea of having the stand rock back and forth to create movement of the rotating rings, but that really fell flat.
The piece is about the passage of time and the persistence of the prehistoric structures I experienced. The lat/lon of several of these places are etched onto the rotating rings which also depict gears as if in a watch movement. The center ring is set with a small stone I collected from the henge around Avebury. The stand is laser engraved and cut acrylic depicting four of the sites as intersecting planes.

Each time I visit a prehistoric site, from the temples of Malta, the circles of Avebury and Stonehenge and even the brochs at Glen Elg, I am struck by an overwhelming connection with the humanity of the people who went to such efforts to build these structures. Impressive structures that have lasted thousands of years. I find myself saying “Humans did this. Humans built this. People just like me.”

Maybe it’s my long association with the construction of the stone circle at Four Quarters Farm that strikes me so strongly. I’ve been visiting there and participating in the annual Stones Rising on and off since 1997. It’s a spiritual home for me in many ways and I identify those who join me there as my tribe. This coming Labor Day, 2014 is the twentieth year of raising stones. I plan to be there, stand in the circle and help raise the stones again.

Even though the circle at Four Quarters will probably not be complete for another ten or fifteen years, this is a task worth doing. We are building something as a community, something that will stand for a long time. It will stand long after our names are forgotten. I feel a strong connection with those now nameless people who built the ancient sites that have moved me. I also feel a connection with generations not yet born who will stand in the circle. I feel optimism that they will echo my feelings. “Humans built this. People just like me.”

Edinburgh- Up Close and Personal

Our time in the enchanted highlands was certainly beautiful, but it was soon time to move on to the final leg of our UK odyssey, Edinburgh. We piled into the vans and spent most of the day returning to Glasgow, collected the rest of our luggage and hopped on a bus for the hour or so ride to Edinburgh.

The character of the city began to be apparent on the bus ride. Light brown stone buildings with a distinctive air of respectability about their design. A short cab ride from the bus station and then a slight delay while Vickie went off to get us checked into the University of Edinburgh dorms which we rented for the rest of the week. It was a long travel day.

Although the pace in Edinburgh wasn’t as quick as in London, our time was filled, especially as our final critique loomed. Spare time was spent refining our models, working on the computer in Photoshop and Rhino and completing our plans on exactly how to make our piece during our week back at Tyler in Philadelphia.

Edinburgh goldsmith Andrew Lamb gave very generously of his time (and limited space) for a studio visit. His work, all made with hand fabrication techniques, is considered some of the most innovative new work anywhere. He talked about his process, showed us his models and tools, talked about how he made his materials and we were even permitted to handle (carefully!) some of his pieces.

Andrew spoke about studying in Italy with Giovanni Corvaja. When I looked up Corvaja later, I realized that his was one of the pieces in the Victoria and Albert that really captured my attention. What I realized even later that Corvaja lives and works in Todi, a medieval town I visited when I was at Temple Rome. I wanted to scream. So close and I had no idea! One more reason to go back to Italy sometime.

We visited Edinburgh Castle and also rode one of the double decker tour buses to get oriented to the City. The National Museum of Scotland was another enjoyable location with a large variety of art and artifacts. It was the first place I was able to take photos of some of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Edinburgh Castle
For me though, along with meeting Andrew Lamb, the highlight of Edinburgh was our visit to the collection repository of the National Museum. Here we were permitted to see the Museums collection not currently on display, shown to us by the curator. I was thrilled when she told us we were permitted to take photos, but even more so, when she pointed out that if we wore rubber gloves we may hold individual pieces.

What a thrill to examine and hold these works of art and be able to have discussions with the piece right in front of us. We talked about techniques, documentation, individual artists and even collectors. The highlight for me was probably the kinetic bracelet by Friedrich Becker. Created with multiple ball bearings, this piece gives the illusion of two balls spinning around each other on a rotating plate. Check out more of his work in this video. It’s mesmerizing.

Our final day with Roger and Helen culminated with a goodbye group dinner at a pub, watching the World cup as the US lost to Germany. Many pints and haggis disappeared during our last dinner together.

One last free day in the UK and I found myself out shopping for last minute gifts. Vickie took me on the “sweater tour” through the Grassmarket area, checking out the lovely cashmere and designer knitwear available. I was thrilled to be able to find a perfect Harris Tweed vest for Gwen. The next day we were out bright and early for a shuttle van to Glasgow where most of the group flew back to Philadelphia. It was good to be home.

The Scottish Highlands

I started reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon about 2002 on the recommendation of one of my friends. I was completely immersed and now along with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, the Outlander books are my go-to books to re-read at the end of the day when I don’t have the brain space to absorb something new.

My familiarity with Gabaldon’s impeccable research into the world she describes prepared me for much of what I was to see in the highlands, but only in an intellectual way. Kind of in the same way that pictures will never do justice when standing in the mountains towering over picturesque lochs, reflecting the sky and the rocky shoreline. I didn’t expect to be so moved by “mere” landscape.

We spent most of the time in the highlands on the Isle of Skye, a short drive from Plockton. First stop was the tourist town of Portree, where I tasted haggis for the first time. Much to my surprise, I liked it very much. Later that same day came another first for me. We hiked down a steep valley to arrive at an amazing waterfall. I brought my bathing suit, but was undecided about going in until we arrived. But how often does one get the chance to swim at the base of a waterfall? It was cold, but refreshing and certainly warm enough to swim once the initial shock wore off.

We took our time climbing back out of the valley and I stopped often to take more photos of my classmates who were romping like billy goats along with the sheep on the other side. The valley opened to another wide, sparkling body of water. If felt as if the coasts along Skye were convincing me that I need to return. And return with a sailboat. Maybe someday.

The sites at Avebury and Stonehenge weren’t the only prehistoric places we were to visit this month. The two brochs at Glen Elg, Dun Telve and Dun Troddan were a real treat for me. A broch is a prehistoric dwelling. Two outer walls rise in a circle that meets near the top. Wooden roofs and inner framework completed the inside with stone stairs that rose between the outer walls to ascend the upper levels. I had read about brochs in Outlander, but I didn’t visualize them very well until I was actually standing in one.

The tour of the Talisker distillery was something I had been anticipating. It’s the only distillery on the Isle of Skye and on that day it was a pleasant way to get out of the rain. Unfortunately, right after the distillery we headed to climb the Old Man of Stor in the drizzle. This was about a three mile hike up to an amazing rock formation on the top of a mountain. It was as if a giant had set up a standing stone for all to see for miles around. The views looking down on the loch from the heights were breathtaking. As we reached the top, the clouds were actually below us. It was a strenuous climb and the rain seemed to worsen the closer we were to the top. My pictures have mostly a misty atmosphere that doesn’t convey by half the eerie isolated feel.

Our last day in the highlands was spent on critiques of our project and a wonderful seal tour from Plockton Harbor. I was very glad to to finally get out on the water. It felt so natural to cruise the moored boats in the harbor on our way back from sighting the seals, along with some new babies, out on the rocks further out. I talked to the crew members about the water depth and the local sailing. There was no opportunity to sail in the highlands on this trip, but I will make sure that happens in future.