The rest of the story- Scotland

What happened? It’s August!
So last we heard from our heroine, we had just spent a day outside London visiting the ancient sites in Bath, Avebury and Stonehenge in June. Then what happened?

You see unlike my 2013 semester abroad in Rome, the UK Metals Workshop was a non-stop immersion into my discipline. No time to blog, no time to breath. I felt lucky to fall asleep before midnight most nights and many of my photos didn’t get posted until I made it home at the end of June. The last couple of days in London were spent at museums and galleries. Our final night was a treat at the Globe Theatre for Anthony and Cleopatra.

We boarded the train for the ride to Glasgow and the real work began. It was time to start working on the project. Yes, sadly it may look like this trip is just an informative jaunt through England and Scotland, but actually we were being graded. The project was to talk about place and our travels. We were to use a photo etching process along with designing a laser cut and engraved stand for the piece.

The Glasgow School of Art was one of the first places to see in Scotland. Sadly, a major fire devastated much of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building and we could only gaze sadly from the newer building across the street. I vow to return one day to see it restored. But fortunately the degree shows were still up and much discussion ensued, both about the work of the Glasgow graduates and the work we hope to make.

A highlight of being in Glasgow was spending the day driving out to Hill House, a Mackintosh designed home and then the rest of the day with artist blacksmith, John Creed. It was a blast to work in his studio barn. I also enjoyed spending some time taking photos of my classmates working.

We also spent an afternoon and evening with Roger Millar at his home studio learning how to spin metal on a lathe. It’s a different kind of technique than how we usually form metal, but with Roger’s help, we all came away with a small aluminum bowl.

But the time in Glasgow went by quickly. Just as we were getting settled in, it was time to pack again and head to Plockton in the Highlands. Packed into two vans, we drove the scenic highways along Loch Lomond, across the Great Glen fault and up towards the Isle of Skye. Plockton’s location on the coast was planned as a relocation point for many of the crofters who were put off their homes and livelihood by the clearances in the 18th and 19th centuries in an effort to stem the tide of emigration.

Plockton is built around its harbor and I enjoyed seeing the boats on their sides waiting for the 6 meter tide to come in. We were in Plockton over the Summer equinox and were able to enjoy the long days were the sky remained light until midnight. It was, however, a tough situation to try to go to sleep with the bright sky.

The Plockton Inn where we stayed is a highly rated hotel, but most especially notable is the restaurant and pub. The seafood was unbelievable and my mouth waters at the memory of the sweet fresh scallops in a creamy sauce. The pub was a perfect opportunity to try single malt Scotch whiskey as they kept about 25 of them handy. The bartender was very helpful in explaining the difference in each. I only tried about three of them, so I’ll have to return sometime to check out more of the rest.

Plockton itself is a notable destination, but it was only our entrance to the Highlands. The rest of the Highlands deserve a post all its own.

Bath, Avebury & Stonehenge

Tuesday June 10 was the day I’ve been waiting for a long time.

The morning started slow. I went to Starbucks in the morning to update my Flickr feed and maybe work on the blog. Then I headed back to the hotel and packed for our day out to Bath, Avebury and Stonehenge.
The bus was a little late, we left around 12:30 or so when we were told to meet at 11:30 for the bus. It was a bit of a long drive and along the way, Victoria (the same guide who met us at the airport) gave us information about the places along the way and as we approached Bath, she gave us information about the city, the hot springs there (which is the only one in the UK) and how it was discovered in the early 1900s that there were Roman era ruins on the site.

Bath was lovely. We got off the bus in one place to pose near what used to be governmental buildings for a group shot. We then went on and were dropped off to go to the Roman Baths which are located near the Bath Abbey.

The Roman baths were very interesting there used to be a temple to Sulis Minerva (the Roman version of Athena) and one of the most fascinating things found at Bath is the Carved face on the pediment above the entrance to her temple.

There are some interesting facts about it on the Bath website.

After Bath we all met up at about 5pm and headed towards Avebury.

Avebury is the remains of a large prehistoric stone circle complex. There are several stone formations, and a henge (a large embankment and ditch built around the circle area.) It’s much more accessible than it’s famous neighbor, Stonehenge, as long as you don’t mind walking among the grazing sheep.

We spent about 45 minutes or so walking around Avebury and stopped in the little pub that is part of the small village that is actually overtop of the circle remains. I decided to skip the pub because, given the choice of an ancient stone circle or a pub, the stone circle wins out every time. I spent some more time with the stones and called Patty from the circle. It seemed a good time strengthen that psychic bond that we have. I reluctantly left Avebury and boarded the bus to head for our appointment at Stonehenge.

We arrived and the complex was definitely closed, but the driver showed the guard our paperwork and we were waved through the gate. We parked and walked to the new visitor center which is nowhere in site of the actual stone circle. The new complex is actually kind of ugly. We looked at the outside displays and waited for the shuttle that would take us the last half mile or so. The sun was certainly getting lower and our appointment was supposed to coincide with the sunset. We were just starting to get anxious when the bus came down the road from the circle and dropped off a small group that had reserved ahead of us.

Our group of 16 was joined on the bus by a family of 7 and one gentlemen who was by himself with a bunch of photography equipment. The driver looked at the paperwork, counted heads and closed the doors. A few short minutes later we drove up the road and there it was. The sun was beginning to set. The clear skies weren’t very dramatic, but at least it wasn’t raining and the light itself was beautiful.

It was amazing to walk among these stones. We laughed and took photos. Group photos and posed photos. I took a couple of ghosted photos with my tripod. As the sun set the already chilly weather got colder. Many people wandered back to the bus as the moon rose higher and brighter. A few of us were determined to stay for every last minute of our allotted hour. I found myself too distracted to really concentrate on creating lovely images, but felt more like just walking around and in the stones. I found myself basking in the same wonder I felt in the temples of Malta. We built these. We humans built these. And they still stand. The magical hour passed, the guards counted the final minutes for us and then it was back to the bus.

We chatted on the bus, too pumped to quietly rest right away and as we drove away, the bus drove down one of the roads that rides past the circle, with the stones now silhouetted in what was left of the light in the sky. It was a lovely moment and one in which I decided that I must return to do this again.

London- (Part 2)

The first week in London was so packed, I need to split it into two posts.

Saturday June 7.

We got up and headed to Portobello Road Market which is an open air market that runs for blocks and is only open on the weekend. It reminded me of Porta Portese in Rome, but this was the first market I’ve ever been to where the vendors didn’t completely open before 11am.

For someone who loves antiques, this is a real destination. The antique dealers are mostly in the buildings on either side of the street as well as a few who set up stalls in the middle of the street with the food vendors.

I browsed a lot, but didn’t buy anything. I had some great pizza on the way back to the tube station. It felt very familiar not only because it was advertised as Napoli style, but because it was sold the same was as in Italy, by weight. It also helped that the staff spoke Italians and other customers walking in started right in speaking Italiano. It felt like comfort food to me.

The class met at the British Museum after lunch. It is only a few blocks from our hotel and this was the first of two scheduled visits. Vickie took us to see the highlights of the Egyptian galleries before moving onto the metalwork. We broke up after a few hours to go our own way, but since we still had almost an hour before closing, I stuck around and went through a few more galleries and managed to see the Rosetta stone and some amazing relief sculpture walls from the Assyrians.

A bunch of us went out Saturday night with Vickie to try some fish and chips. She knew a place near Paddington station that was inexpensive and pretty good. It was my first time with fish and chips. It was good, perhaps not something I would eat all the time, but it was quite enjoyable.

Sunday June 8, 2014

We left about 10:30 Sunday morning to head to the Cockpit Arts building for an open studio event that happens there twice a year. It is a cooperative building where individual artists can rent studio space. We had a specific appointment with Jane Adam, who works in dyed anodized aluminum and silver and gold bi-metal. She was very generous with her time and answered our questions.

After Jane Adam, we wandered the studios of the rest of the artists. I bought a tiny ceramic bowl and spoke to several of the artists about their work. There was a lovely café with tasty, fresh food.
We also spent time looking at the pieces that were removed from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin. It was inspiring to see what is left of the greek gods that were depicted there.

We had tickets to see the special exhibit at the British Museum on the Vikings.
Wow, was this an amazing exhibit, especially in terms of metalwork. It was thrilling to see how the Vikings interacted with other cultures. Some of the gold pieces ffrom the Viking hoards were jaw dropping in scale and workmanship. I looked at the catalog, but none of the pictures could do justice to these amazing pieces.

I also found myself very interested in and inspired by the religious aspects of Viking culture. A volur was a magic woman and the volua were sorceresses. They believed in shape shifting abilitie of some people to turn into animals as well as in the Viking pantheon, Odin, his wife Sifa, Loki, Thor, the Valkyrie. Etc. I found the magic Staffs that were on display to have a significance that carried a lot of meaning for these women.

I spent the rest of the hour remaining wandering the ancient Greek, Roman and Assyrian rooms before stoping at the gift shop on my way out.

There was enough time for a very short nap, then we were out the door to the Tower of London again to meet the guide for the Jack the Ripper tour.

The tour itself was quite interesting, but we had a very large group so it was sometimes tricky to hear and fully see what was going on. However it was fascinating to learn about these murders and the horrendous conditions that existed then in the East End of London.

Monday June 9, 2014

It was an early morning on the tube on our way to Goldsmiths Hall. This is one of the livery companies that operate in the City of London. The City of London is surrounded by London itself and it’s quite an interesting situation. There’s a great video about it by CGP Grey that is worth looking at if you are interested in more.

Goldsmith’s hall is where the term Hallmarking came from. In order to sell a precious metal item it must go through a testing and marking process at the hall to be sure it is up to the standard at which it is sold. The maker registers their mark with the Hall and sends any items that are to be sold in the UK to the hall so they can be marked. The makers are charged for this process, but it is relatively inexpensive and required on any item of precious metal that is sold in the UK.

The Goldsmith’s Centre nearby is affiliated with the Goldsmith’s company, but more in an educational role. There is a program where students learn and get a leg up in the business role and by learning as apprentices to established gold and silversmiths. There was also an amazing display of silver work on exhibit there while we were there.

A short break and we headed to the Barbican centre to see an exhibit of fashions by John Paul Gaultier. It was a very well done exhibit and quite inspiring for any artist to see the themes of Gaultier’s life and how they played out in his work.

I finally had dinner at pub. I enjoyed a bottle of hard cider and tasted a pale ale. Bangers and mash were as delicious as I thought they would be. It’s been a quick week and we still have two and half more to go. Later today, Bath, Avebury and Stonehenge.

London- the first week (Pt 1)

As of tomorrow, I’ll have been here in London for a week. Time has really flown. I’ve barely had time to process my photos every night, let alone put together a blog post, but tonight we didn’t have anything going on in the evening and tomorrow’s itinerary starts a little later.

June 4, 2014
We arrived Wednesday morning in the rain. We were met at Heathrow by our guide, Victoria and were whisked away to the Tower of London with commentary about the sites along the way. We had only a few hours there but it was enough to fully take in the splendor of the Crown Jewels. We did miss the Imperial State crown since we happened to arrive on the day of the State opening of Parliament, which meant that the crown was in use by the Queen. I spent a little time walking along the wall around the tower, but there was only time to cover about a quarter of the way around.

From the Tower we drove back through London to our hotel in the area of Soho near Covent Garden. We settled into our rooms, ran a few errands and then headed to a local Asian Fusion restaurant for dinner.

After dinner, I went for a walk on my own to see the Thames and the houses of Parliament. I got soaked in a rainstorm along the way, but it cleared in time to go through Trafaglar Square. I made it across the Thames around sunset and walked back by Big Ben,which is now known as the Elizabeth Tower in honor of the Queen’s Jubilee a couple of years ago. I decided to head home and realized that my phone didn’t make it and I forgot to get a paper map. I wandered back in the direction of our hotel, but was still a bit out of the area a couple hours later and flagged a taxi. It was quite an adventure for the first day.
Elizabeth Tower

June 5, 2014
On Thursday, we headed to the National Portrait Gallery which is in Trafaglar Square. It was amazing how many famous paintings are housed there. I explored the area for a while over our lunch break and wandered into St. Martin in the Field Church. I happened in just as a sacred music concert was beginning. I sat entranced for the next 30 minutes and stood with the rest of the spectators for the finale, The Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

I found a Persian restaurant for lunch and headed back to meet the rest of the class for our next destination, the Leslie Craze gallery, to see the current exhibition by Wendy Ramshaw. All of the work in the Gallery was inspiring and there were many different designs. We walked through the jewelry district and took a bus back to the area near our hotel. I went in search of Indian and found a lovely place in Covent Garden and enjoyed some malai kofta which I’ve been craving for about a week. It did not disappoint.

June 6, 2014
Friday was a day of contrasts with our two destinations. Beginning at Harrod’s we explored all four floors of this famous high end department store. I rode the Egyptian Elevator to each floor and made a quick round. Each department was meticulously merchandised with displays were engaging and unique. Their food area encompassed about eight large rooms.

I bought a sandwich for lunch at Harrod’s and we walked as a group through the neighborhood towards the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is one museum I’ve been hoping to visit for several years and it was a thrill to finally arrive. The middle of the museum has a lovely courtyard and pond where our group picnicked and discussed our project. Then it was upstairs to view the extensive display in the jewelry department.

I was blown away. Several of us walked around entire display with Roger Millar. Roger is a retired silversmith who taught at the Glasgow School of Art. He is joining my Tyler professor, Vickie Sedman, in teaching this course during our time in the U.K. His knowledge of nearly every piece in the V&A’s collection is quite extensive.

There were three pieces by Lalique, one of which was “woodland Evening, which I really enjoyed when I was researching the paper on his work in the Fall.

Then we spent some time going through the rest of the collection upstairs in drawers. The V&A’s mourning jewelry collection is known the world over and it was a privilege to be able to spend time looking at it in person. But it was making me crazy that I wasn’t able to take photos for reference later. Oh well, there’s always the internet. We went through more of the V&A’s collection of metalwork and realized it was getting late. We headed to the ironwork area and managed to see about half of it before it closed. Although the museum was open until 10pm, many parts closed at 5:30. It was about at this point that we started to split up. I stayed with a group for a while, but eventually my stomach won out and I headed to the café for a lovely dinner. Then I went in search of the Indian jewelery I had read about during the spring semester.

I was not disappointed. I also spent some time with the many statues and medieval metalwork. I found number of very lovely reliquaries that once held relics of St Catherine of Siena, St Sebastian and even a reliquary of St Christopher that appeared to still contain the relic. I also enjoyed the Merode Cup which is the best example of Plique -a-jour enamel from the medieval period.

It was a late night at the V&A, although my feet hurt, I would have stayed all night if I could, but all museums must close sometime. I hopped on the Tube back to the hotel.

Ragas and Airs

When Shaily Dadiala first started working on Ragas and Airs about three years ago, I was delighted to find out that there is a connection between the Celtic people and the people of Southeast Asia. For those of us who tend to think of the United States as the melting pot, it is a surprise to find out the Irish people emigrated to other parts of the world as well to escape persecution and hunger. The Irish confluence with India is rich with culture, music and poetry. Shaily’s work in creating Ragas and Airs helps to bring greater understanding and appreciation for the influence and beauty of Irish culture while challenging the stereotypes of this often persecuted minority.

Usiloquy Dance Designs is a Bharatanatyam dance group in Philadelphia. Bharatanatyam is a classical Indian dance which evolved in the Temples of Southern India.

From their website:

Usiloquy Dance Designs creates traditional and cross-cultural productions of Indian classical dance Bharatanatyam and conducts educational programs.

Usiloquy is dictated by the ancient vocabulary of Bharatanatyam to synthesize works based upon cross cultural content, pushing the confines of traditional Bharatanatyam with universal influences in music, narration and costumes.

Founded in 2008 by Artistic Director Shaily Dadiala to supplement the Greater Philadelphia area’s need for an Indian Classical dance platform, Usiloquy Dance Designs is the only contemporary Bharatanatyam organization of its kind in the region, creating unique works that cross cultural boundaries and builds bridges between diverse audience communities. Usiloquy works to create a conduit between the age old dance form that originated in the temples of Southern India to schools and concert halls serving over 15,000 audience members till date.

The language of dance needs no interpreter. The cross cultural works created by Shaily and Usiloquy are accessible to all demographics and every performance has been well received. Shaily’s work touches the struggles of immigrant minorities using dance.

The Irish Memorial in Philadelphia commemorates the great hunger that drove the Irish to leave their homes. This is the location of Usiloquy Dance Design’s next performance, Ragas and Airs. It is the perfect venue to witness a work of art that speaks to the connection between Ireland and India. There are only two performances scheduled on July 26, 2014 and these are the only times this work is scheduled. DON’T MISS IT!

The performances, scheduled at 4pm and 7pm, include a short educational session and music free of charge to anyone who wishes to attend. However as a professional dance company there are many expenses associated with a performance like this and we need your help to support this important, original work. Check out the Indiegogo link below and donate. Please share the link as well.

Junior Year at Tyler- Part II

The Spring semester was all metals all the time for my studio classes. Junior Metals, Advanced CAD and Production Processes were enough to keep me very busy as well as two other classes, part of an art history class on Modern Craft and a Race Gen-ed.

We received both projects in metals in the first week, so most of the semester was spent multi tasking between the two projects. The linkage project involved designing a repeating link for a necklace and creating an additional element of some kind. I was very inspired by the neck bones of a goose that I cooked at Christmas. The bone design and the way they linked together got me moving right along in that project. I was also interested in experimenting with making my own silicone cord that would resemble blood vessels. The other project involved using a mechanism as the central design element or clasp in a piece. Here’s where I really stumbled. Because of the heavy winter weather and many snow days, we got all the way to spring break before I put together a CAD designed hook for this project that was also bone inspired. I began learning about dyeing parts that are 3D printed.

My professor pointed out to me that mechanism for this piece was actually too simple, though. I agreed with her and especially after the successes of the Fall semester mechanisms, I felt I needed to continue to work. I pulled out the original goose neck bones and found that they would be perfect for a bracelet. So I squeezed in one more project, making molds of the end pieces, casting them in wax and creating a box clasp in silver to connect to the ends of the actual bones. I then created some more silicon cord. It still needs some work, but I’m pretty happy with what I managed in the time I had left.

Advanced CAD picked up right where CAD II left off. With a ring. I played with the final CAD II design and created a few more. I sent it to be printed in silver and didn’t like what I got. I played with the ring design for most of the semester and received the final print in silver a week before crit. The second project was a two part ring and I created a spinner ring with different inter-changeable outer parts. The inner ring was printed in sterling silver and the outer parts were printed in nylon. I think I was inspired by my production work. The 3rd project was to disassemble a commercially available USB thumb drive and design our own. I embedded my USB in the rudder of a ship that was based on a lute. I’m still deciding how I want to dye this piece, but I’m quite happy with it.

Production Processes was one class that absorbed much time and energy, but I feel like I’m really getting somewhere with what I hope to do after graduation. The goal in this class is to design a production line, create the pieces, price the work and finally, market the work at a weekend sale at the end of the semester. Our sale took place the end of April and was a great success for the class overall. Although I’ve done some of this before with my own work, it was really great to get the additional feedback from the class and my teachers. My line was based on sawing sheet metal, bending and expanding it to create dimensional shapes, then using a powder coating process to color the metal. I also found some variations on my pierced work for my statement pieces. I feel like my work really progressed by leaps and bounds in this class and I’m working on expanding on some of these ideas already.

Junior Year at Tyler- Part I

Junior year at Tyler has whizzed by and there was not much time for updating here during the semester. My last exam was the other day and now I have a few short weeks to get ready for the next big adventure: The Tyler Metals Summer program in the UK. So as to not be rambling too much, I’m going to break the past two semesters into a couple of posts.

This past Fall I took three studio courses, Junior Metals, CAD II and Computers for Design along with an online writing intensive, gen-ed requirement on education and and art history course on the history of modern craft.
Our first project in Junior Metals was to utilize a ball bearing in a piece. I chose to create a ratcheting mechanism in a pendant connected to a cord around the neck for an adjustable length neckpiece.

I used brass and bronze for the pendant itself and fastened a delrin carving on the front to wind up the ratchet. The cord was made from fishing line covered in a light fabric that would bunch up as the cord was shortened. A lever on the side of the pendant released the ratchet to unwind or loosen the cord. I really enjoyed making a prototype of the ratchet and then the final piece.

Our second project in metals was to create something with an O Ring. I decided to create a vessel of some sort to hold some of Jack’s ashes while I traveled. Naturally it because a kind of camera. The opening and closing diaphragm mechanism was another mechanism I enjoyed researching and designing. The back cap with the O rings became a lens to peer through the vessel. The vessel shape and mechanism were created using Rhino CAD software to help me layout the patterns and then I used traditional metal fabrication techniques. The materials are sterling silver and clear Plexiglas.

CAD II is the class where we get to make our designs in real life using the Z-Corp gypsum printer. The pieces can be made in full color and come out as very fragile objects that have to be stabilized with infiltration of either epoxy resin or a thin cyanoacralate (super glue) It was a challenging class, I’m sure this isn’t my best work, but I learned so much. Printing full color pieces allowed for a sense of whimsy that I usually don’t have in my work, one of my CAD II pieces was based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail and another was my idea of St Basil’s Catherdral in Moscow with spinning towers. Our final project was to create a ring which I sent out to be printed with an online service bureau over the Christmas break.

For my 3rd studio class I still needed to fill one more sophomore level elective, so I took Computers for Design. This class covers basic Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign. I learned so much in this class that I began using in my other work almost as soon as the semester ended and I’ve been using ever since. But one lesson that this class really drove home had nothing to do with graphic design. It was that I need to communicate better when I am feeling behind and make sure to reach out for help. I tend to be stoic and think I’ll figure it out. This certainly didn’t help me and I’m hoping that I’ve learned this important lesson.

Farewell to Hanusey’s

A few years ago, my dear friend Pat had an idea for wax modeling for lost wax casting. She suggested a kistka.

What’s a kistka? I had no idea.

Turns out it’s a tool for putting wax in delicate patterns onto eggs as part of the art of Pskanky, Ukrainian Easter egg decoration. It’s a process of sequential masking and dying to create colorful details on eggs.

Wow. Who knew? Well I didn’t know where to get a kistka so I didn’t pursue it any further.

Several years pass. I was working on some precise waxwork and remembered the kistka idea. A quick check online and it turns out there is a Psanky shop right here in Philadelphia. Why order something online when I can drive there and look at what I want to buy before purchase.

And that’s why I found Hanusey’s on the 200 block of Girard Ave.

But once I visited this shop and purchased the items I needed, which worked very well for my purposes, I was hooked. I tried out the art of Psanky myself and even used it for a project in my Foundation classes at Tyler. Together with Pat’s family, we have gathered as a group with our children to enjoy this traditional art.

Subtle Gestures

I was there last Summer sometime and asked the elderly woman who ran the shop if she was the only one. She told me she was. She had a stroke at some point and walked very slowly. She kept the door locked during business hours and would open it remotely from the back when you rang the bell. This way you could browse the few minutes it took her to hobble to the front of the store.

She sold finished Ukrainian decorated eggs and kits. All the dyes, supplies and wax, everything you need for art of psanky. She would patiently answer your questions. The parts of the store that didn’t have psanky supplies were filled with Ukrainian music and books. It was all Ukraine, all the time.

Pat is Ukrainian on her mother’s side. I mentioned this and we ended up in a discussion of family and connections worthy of any hobbit of the shire. And I’m not even Ukrainian.

We talked about the history of the store, I believe she said it had been there for about 80 years and was in another location before that run by her family.

I asked her what would happen to the store when she is gone. She said “I don’t know. There isn’t anyone else to run the it.”

I drove by last week and there was a sale sign on the building. The once colorful windows were empty. Even the website is down.

Sadly, Philadelphia has lost a brightly colored easter egg shaped jewel.

Etched Copper Disk Party Gifts

When Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter closed last May (2012) I was the proud holder of one the most awesome rewards ever- a house party with Amanda Palmer-exact date to be determined later. It was with the faith and trust of 22 other people that chipped in as well to make this happen. I felt that I needed to make them a gift. I even wrote publicly that I would give everyone who attended a piece of jewelry.

At that point, I figured I had at least a couple months, possibly even a year or so to think of something. In my mind I kicked around designs, a variation on my pierced pennies, a glass and silver trout heart (That idea may still come to fruition at some point, I’m working it out.) Then in April we were offered the date of May 13, 2013 for the party.
A mere 3 weeks notice was all I had. And two of those weeks I was still in Rome, Italy. With no tools.

I racked my brain. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to follow through with the jewelry gift after all.

I cleaned and thought.
And experimented with gluten free pizza recipes. (Successfully!)
And thought.
And cleaned the house some more and rearranged furniture.
And thought.

Finally sometime about when I was falling asleep the night before the party, I had it.

Etched copper disks. Everyone could make their own. I had done it before with children and with adults. It was easy. Draw on a copper disk with a marker. Anything in marker comes out raised.

Sharpie marker on copper acts as a resist. Which means when you put the copper in the etching mordant, everything that isn’t sharpied (or masked in some other way, for instance the backs were masked with packing tape) starts to be eaten away, leaving the part that was sharpied raised.

The day of the party dawned. I was up for an early morning run to jewelers row for more copper disks. We spent an hour or so getting them prepped and we were ready.

The party was a huge success, as I wrote in my previous post, but without any time for people to work on their disks. Finally about 10 minutes before Amanda had to leave, we went to plan B. I asked her to sign them for me. Of course she gracious agreed and in less than 3 minutes all of disks were sporting an original Amanda Fucking Palmer signature.

The next day I started the etching. The disks were stuck onto pieces of duct tape which was then suspended into the etching fluid. Since such a large surface of the disks was being etched, the mordant became ineffective quickly. I had to replenish my supply, so the etching took a couple of days longer than I expected.

Once etched, they had to be finished. I annealed them with my torch, heating them to cherry red to soften the metal for working.
Then each one was lightly hand engraved by me with “Philadelphia Amanda Palmer K.S. Houseparty May 13, 2013”.

Hand Engraving the back of the disks

I didn’t like the flat disks. I decided to dome them. Doming is where the disk is placed on a doming block and tapped until it has a curvature or dome instead of being flat. Here’s a video of me doming a few of the disks.

I corresponded with the attendees to see what form they preferred, a pendant, a plain disk or a pin. A couple of people requested theirs with just a hole to put on their key chains.

Drilling the disks

I made some bronze jump rings that were soldered closed on the pendants. I didn’t want them in copper because it is notoriously soft for a ring like that. All that was left was polishing.

A few more days to finish them all, type up some care instructions and I mailed them out in a batch this morning. Now I feel like the party is truly over.
But I am very glad that I had this project to get me back in the swing of things in my shop. Four months away from my tools is unheard of for me in the last 16 years or so.

While I was finishing these pieces, I received several more projects. I also started on a summer art history writing intensive course. It’s going to be a busy summer.
Amanda Palmer Party disk gifts

The Amanda Palmer Party at our house

After the incredible experience of study abroad in Rome for sixteen weeks, I came home and had a week to put together the Amanda Palmer Kickstarter party at our house.

(If you are unfamiliar with Amanda Palmer and her music: FIRST download Theatre is Evil, listen to it…. read the lyrics…… bathe in this album, it’s an experience. THEN go read about her on the internets. I recommend that order.)

I don’t have very many pictures. This was a conscious choice on my part. I wanted to be in the moment and not behind a camera. I’m not sure I know how to do both. There were others who shot some great photos, like this one from Nick Hollup.
AFP014 Check his Flickr for many more like it.

I’ve been thinking about the house party for several days now and I know I cannot convey exactly what it was like. There were many amazing moments. Moments of connection. Moments of laughter. Moments of delicious warm hugs.

There were conversations about art. About how we choose which music to listen to. About how we feed bad journalism by linking to it and at the same time people who do great work and write well, but don’t have the “page views” can lose their jobs. I will be keeping that in mind when I link to things.

Jon Ronson came with Amanda Palmer, he’d been following her for a few days. He’s a British journalist/author who wrote “Men Who Stare at Goats” and “The Psychopath Test” He read from his work and had the room riveted and giggling.

And of course there was music. A box of harmonicas in 5 different keys that were Jack’s were sitting on the shelf, right next to “The 5 Keys to Stress Reduction.” Amanda saw a joke there somewhere. Nick gracious agreed to be her human harmonica holder as she played Werewolves of London.

My daughter Gwen, who is usually very shy about playing music, was convinced with Coriander to play Ukelele Anthem along with Amanda Palmer. I believe “Shanghaied” is the word Gwen used. I’ll cherish the video forever.

Awesome photographer and writer Kyle Cassidy also joined us with his talented wife, actress Jennifer Summerfield. He set up a corner of the living room to take photos of each person with Amanda Palmer. Then he showed young photo artist Coriander how the set up worked and let her do it instead.

We told the story of our house, the 1941 rowhouse which belonged to my friend Jack. How he lived here for his entire life, except for the 2 year exile in a nursing home after his stroke which brought me here as caregiver. And about his obsession: the ever expanding camera collection. We spoke about the serendipity of keeping this house accessible after he passed, especially fortuitous for this event.

Amanda’s husband, author Neil Gaiman hoped to attend as well, but was delayed in transit. He arrived for the last thirty minutes of the party and graciously signed books and posed for pictures while eating pizza and being his charming self.

So that’s a short version of what happened, but it was so much more. I believe I am going to be processing this event for a long time and it will become part of who I am. I have an idea where it is going, though.

Each and every person was encouraging with one another. Both the names you might recognize and the ones you don’t.

Creating is what I do. I believe we are all creative in some way, even if it is just the choices we make in our life. Each of us had stories to tell about our paths. The things we have accomplished and the things we are in the process of accomplishing.

It is the generous, encouraging spirit that I felt from every single person in our house that night that still I feel glowing right now. It was like a huge supernova of positive energy that I can still feel buzzing around me. Not just a meeting of famous people with a group of fans, but the convergence of many loving, caring, trusting, talented people with one another.