Friday, July 24, 2015

ADA at 25 Years


I was in grad school at the University of Illinois for Landscape Architecture in the early 80’s. It would still be a few years before the Americans with Disabilities Act would pass, but some of my design classes were addressing the issue of accessibility. Another Landscape Architecture grad student, Tom, was in one of these classes and he got very agitated when one day, the discussion focused on the spatial requirements necessary for a bathroom to be made accessible for the standard wheelchair. He didn’t think that business owners should have to give up valuable square footage to accommodate people in wheelchairs.
As a 22 year old, I honestly had never focused on the fact that there are physical barriers everywhere that can severely limit the way a handicapped person engages with life. I had the fortune to live with a certain level of arrogance as an able-bodied person, ignoring the fact that a 6” curb or a set of steps that I could casually navigate might effectively be a 6’ wall covered with barbed wire to someone in a wheelchair. I began to appreciate that, as a designer, I had a responsibility to consider how an entire spectrum of people might use a space.
As Tom expressed his upset over regulations that might be forced on private property owners, I decided, “Yup….I am totally joining this discussion.” I came in swinging with my point that once a person opens their business to the public, their ‘private’ space becomes public and must be in compliance with local and national regulations. None of us lives in the wild, wild west anymore where we get to make up rules that conveniently benefit our own, limited self-interests.
Maybe Tom wasn’t used to being challenged…I don’t know, but he steadily raised his voice until he was yelling at me because I wouldn’t yield at all towards his opinions. The discussion came to an abrupt end when Tom yelled that anyone in a wheelchair should be required to have a colostomy thereby eliminating the need for wheelchair accessible bathrooms. The whole class, even those who were benignly ignoring the discussion, looked at him with expressions that said, “Whoa, dude….really?!” Yes, he really meant it, but he realized that he had crossed a line that most of the class found rather appalling and chose to be quiet.
My 22 year old self had no idea how much the Americans with Disabilities Act would eventually come to mean to future me. As a mother of twin sons, both blind and one who is also in a wheelchair with profound disabilities, a challenging life is made just a bit less challenging because of those pesky ramps, curb cuts and elevators that are sometimes present only because they were legally required to be present.
If it takes legislation to make us benevolent towards one another, that’s fine with me.
Thank you ADA!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Old Becomes New

I like knowing that I can often give new purpose to things that have outlived their use in other people's homes.
One friend saved an interesting beer can for me, correctly thinking that I could do something with it.
Discs were cut from the can and then riveted with hand forged copper rings to make fun charms.

I've taken old, silver plated servers....
and used them to texture metal for various projects.

After hearing about my recent transformation of a cigar box into a plein air easel,
a friend of a friend gifted me with a collection of beautiful cigar boxes that had been sitting in his garage for a looooong time.
This friend of a friend is also an artist and understands that you just can't throw out really cool stuff that might eventually come in handy,
even if it takes years.
The boxes will almost certainly become part of my holiday display, assuming I get into the juried show at Wallingford Community Arts Center.
( just sent in my application last week...please think good thoughts for me!)
 
The most interesting cigar boxes
were triangular shaped.
The size and shape make them challenging to be
considered for my display,
but......
they are filled with wonderful, triangular compartments that once held the cigars.
 
A little bit of drilling
and a little bit of hammering....
and I now have some wonderful earring stands
that will definitely be part of my holiday display.
(if I get into that show!)

Friday, July 17, 2015

So Much Art This Weekend!

There is so much to do this weekend
if you're the type who enjoys looking at art
and if you're the type who lives near me.
 
just opened the Annual Student Show
and there are many wonderful pieces all completed by local artists.
(like me....those 2 small paintings to the right of the yellow pears are by yours truly)
 
just opened the Annual Members Show.
Again, all work on display is by local artists.
(again, like me....that's my 'Summer Fields' top center)
 
If that's not enough,
Woodmere Art Museum
is having its first
Porch Sale.
Items on The Porch will include pieces by regional artists.
(and yes, again....that includes me)
 
Yes, I am shamelessly recommending events that include me, but I will always encourage the promotion of local artists.
It's fun and inspiring,
and sometimes surprising, 
to discover the wonderful talent in one's own community .

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Gift of Friends

Those many years ago when I went to the University of Illinois for grad school in Landscape Architecture, I was welcomed into a wonderful group of people, some of whom were technically my 'students'.
I was the Teaching Assistant for the site technology classes in the program and helped with the instruction of surveying, grading & drainage, site layout and preparation of construction documents.
Having just graduated from Rutgers, I was barely older than the students in the classes that I assisted in and becoming friends happened naturally as we spent a lot of time together with me explaining that yes, understanding and using mathematics was a required and necessary part of a degree in Landscape Architecture and that no, mathematics was not the enemy.
Some of these friendships were pivotal in my life.
I'm 2nd in from the left in the above photo and I ended up marrying the guy, Martin, standing next to me at far left.
My husband passed away ten years ago, but I'm still in touch with others in the photo, including Jeff, kneeling center front.
 
I considered Jeff to be the social hub of his class.
His high level of energy and ever-positive outlook on life drew people into his orbit.
When I found out that after graduating and working for several years as a Landscape Architect, Jeff had made a career change and became a teacher in Florida, I thought,
"Of course, that makes sense."
Jeff's enthusiasm and creativity would almost certainly make him the kind of teacher who changes the lives of his students in profound and positive ways. 
 
When I found out that Jeff won the Teacher of the Year Award for Palm Beach County, I thought,
"Of course, that makes sense."
He is the kind of person who gets results.
 
And when I found out a few years ago that Jeff made the decision to teach overseas rather than be constrained by the limitations prescribed by standardized testing, I thought,
"Of course, that makes sense."
It was no surprise that Jeff chose to make a change that would permit him to educate in an engaging and thoroughly creative way and to satisfy his need to travel the world.
He has been chronicling his adventures encountered while teaching in Mali at his blog,
 
Back in May, Jeff posted a picture of items that he had purchased from a local arts & crafts person.
The items included a long strand of textured beads which caught my attention and my imagination.
I made a comment about how I would love to work with beads as lovely as the ones in the picture, and, Jeff being Jeff....
he sent 12 of them to me!
These beautiful terra cotta beads are made by the Tuaregs in northern Mali and were originally used as spindle beads to keep lines from getting tangled when weaving cloth.
Spindle beads and other beads from Mali can be seen here.
 
Since the beads are terra cotta and are very porous,
I decided to seal the surface with a conservator's crystalline wax.
The wax was applied three times so that it could fully absorb into each bead.
With a soft cotton cloth, I then buffed the surfaces of the beads which created a subtle, lustrous sheen.
Brass discs were cut, drilled, hand textured and domed and then wire wrapped with annealed steel to create fitted bead caps.
Semi-precious, facetted gemstones dangle from sterling silver chain.
I chose to go with a simple chain, allowing each bead to be the wonderful, singular focus of each necklace.
I love how these beads are rich in texture and rich with a cultural history.
Thank you, Jeff!
 
Jeff and his husband, Jamey (also a teacher) have completed their teaching contracts in Mali and are preparing to travel to their new teaching assignments in Shanghai.
I look forward to learning about their adventures in China.
Bon Voyage!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Religious Relics

In spite of an ongoing, internal debate and conflicted feelings that I have regarding organized religion,
I continue to be somewhat obsessed with religious medallions.
A handmade ceramic bowl that sits on my workbench holds all of my medallions and crosses as well as the occasional National Honor Society charm.
It's kind of amusing that I can't seem to stop myself because it's a bit challenging to find selling opportunities for any jewelry that I make with these special relics.
The majority of my sales are through galleries and gift shops, and they tend to keep away from items that have a religious theme.
 
BUT...
we are Philadelphia and we are hosting the World Meeting of Families in September which will include Pope Francis conducting a Papal Mass on the Ben Franklin Parkway on Sunday, September 27.
I like Pope Francis.
I like how he speaks of inclusiveness and of environmental justice.
 
The whole city seems to energized by the upcoming visit,
I asked the Manager of the Museum Gift Shop if there might be interest in some jewelry featuring religious relics.
She said yes.
 
Going through my entire collection, I was able to find several pairs of charms....
perfect for earrings.
Other than some necessary drilling, I did little to the charms.
It was important to keep any existing patina intact because I consider that part of the unique story of each of these special relics.
The earrings are being delivered to Woodmere Art Museum this afternoon along with a collection of rings, bracelets and necklaces...
including this one featuring a luscious African turquoise pendant.
The new inventory will be featured, along with new inventory from the other local artists, in the
Gift Shop Porch Sale,
July 17, 18 & 19.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Framing, Framing, Framing

Last night was a late and busy night of framing.
The plan is to enter two upcoming shows....one at
and one at
Sometimes, I need to see a piece framed before I can decide how much I like it.
I've been sawing, sanding, drilling and wiring...
and still don't know what might be entered.
 
I think I might need to continue framing.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Charming Tennyson

A few years ago, I bought a collection of charms.
I was told that they were 'very old' which I don't believe unless the seller's definition of 'very old' is anything dating earlier than 2010.
It's easy to imagine that these charms are replicas of something from an earlier era, but that is fairly irrelevant to me.
If I can't verify with confidence the backstory of an item I'm selling, I describe it as honestly as I can...something lovely that I found to be irresistible.
Wherever and whenever these charms came from, I appreciated the appearance of age and the subtle texture of the featured figure.
I assumed I would eventually use the charms as pendants, but I of course had to consider the options for several years. 
 
Last week, I had a plan and the charms came out.
The back side of the charms have no texture, and I thought that presented an opportunity to do something poetic. 
I pulled out one of my thrift store finds, a 1919 book of Tennyson poems, and searched for passages that I could set in resin.
 
The size of the charms presented a challenge.
I had to find complete thoughts expressed with a minimal number of words, and each word had to be limited to 6 or 7 letters in order to fit within the confines of the charm bezel.
Each word was secured with a dab of glue.
Once the glue was completely dried, I mixed a two-part resin and coated the back of each charm.

 
Two days later, the resin was set and necklaces were made, ready to be delivered tomorrow to Woodmere Art Museum gift shop.
(and yes....Bertha is being put to use even though she is still in need of a more thorough makeover)