Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day Twenty Six

No progress to report. Spent the day singing this song:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day Twenty Five

Okay, I'll eat my words and wipe that smirk off of my face. This Ice Storm is REAL! I'm so sorry to have mocked Southern Weather. Memphis is CLOSED and everything is covered with a 3/4" layer of frozen sleet. We're out of dishwasher detergent, cigarettes, and milk and we're running low on coffee and tp. This is HORRIBLE!
Yesterday, dizzily continuing my pattern of having great studio days when all of the rest of the world  is safely and sanely tucked in warmly at home, I managed to forge all day and make the beginnings of a very nice piece. I'll call it FLOW for now, but I'm sure that will change once I've started finalizing the design.

The only trip I made outside during the day was to go for coal. Once.

My Companion for the day, The Metal Museum's Hallmark power hammer. Yes, you did see correctly, the top sticker reads "I have been had by a Redneck" the middle sticker is Tatu and states emphatically that he is a "Love Machine" (a reference to the hammer as well, of course) and the lowest on the pole does indeed state, "Don't tip me over you freakin' hillbilly".This was the entirety of information that flowed into my head yesterday. Where is that redneck? Do I look like a hillbilly? I don't feel like one! The Plane! The Plane!

Parts is parts. FLOW in process.

And finally, for the cherry on today's utterly giganomous blog entry (can you tell I really am not excited about venturing forth unto the world today?) I made a little video with my friend Bill in mind. His last name starts with a K. Bill K. is a discerning character and is not impressed with blogs and silly talk. I'm almost sure he hasn't visited my blog yet, but I'm hoping one of you will let Bill K. know that I made a special video just to impress him (and now I'm doubting he'll be impressed) and prove that I am working and just not playing on the computer all day. This one's for you Bill!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Day Twenty Four

"Three Characters" in process. Notice Phil is overseeing.
New terminus discovered while making "Three Characters"
"Three Characters" complete and delivered.

 Today we are having an "Ice Storm". I am trying to keep an open mind, because in Michigan this constitutes a beautiful day.
I am getting a really good perspective on how much harsh weather we really live with in Michigan. From a southern viewpoint, Michiganders are a crazy brand of super tough people.
The whole of Memphis is shut down and I may be the only person on the grounds today. Acting as sole Museum Blacksmith, I will continue my forging. After completeing "Three Characters" I have not yet had enough of the "funny little shapes on the ends of the skinny sticks." (my fine art training is really paying off!). Its great to be back at the forge, working with ferrous metal, something within my realm of experience. I will not linger long, however, as I am not here to function within my comfort zone. I am planning on forging a few pieces, but then taking those ideas and translating them to forged fine silver in a drastically smaller scale. Then the fun really begins (and the muttering and cursing and pacing and heavy sighs).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day Twenty Three...

I'm sure most of you already know that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated here in Memphis. There are several folks here who remember that day.  Their stories are as painful to hear as to recount. The profound affects of MLK's work still touch our lives today. His message lives on and there is still work to do.

A visit to the Civil Rights Museum is a must do here in Memphis.


The National Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Motel, the assassination site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., chronicles key episodes of the American civil rights movement  and the legacy of this movement to inspire participation in civil and human rights efforts globally, through our collections, exhibitions, and educational programs. 

Visit : 


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day Twenty Two.

Photo: Last night's sunset. Glorious!

I have been fully and completely consumed with forging a piece for a client here in Memphis. Yesterday seemed like it ended before it started. I worked at  the front forge and hammered for the whole day away, concentrating on making tiny controlled shapes on the end of long skinny bars. Today's entry is short and sweet because I am excited to get to work again today and hopefully finish the piece - its called "Three Characters".

If you're reading this, please feel free to leave a comment. I love it when folks leave comments, its encouraging. We all need a little encouragement once in awhile, okay, maybe all of the time!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day Twenty One

I've always thought this would be great for the South facing exterior wall of the 516 East North (SmartShop) building. Its sappy and sweet and beautiful.

"Horse and Buggy Days" by Paul Detlefsen

Monday, January 25, 2010

Day Twenty!

Wax! wax! wax!
After completing and sprueing up my little horses I've begun to work on the "real" work of 3 dimensionally illustrating water movements. Just last night, at the end of the day, my back aching and my eyeballs throbbing, I made three "Rivulets" and two "Eddys". These will be cast sterling silver pendants, and they are very very very good to look upon!
I have begun my research for my "Reflection Paper", choosing to focus on the Mississippi River and it history, geography and idiosyncrasies as the main impetus for my work. A river is a magnificent thing!
Did you know? The Mississippi River is the largest river system in the United States and also the largest of North America, it is the fourth longest river in the world and the tenth most powerful river in the world.
Johnny Cash was referring to the Mississippi when he wrote and sang "Big River".

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day Ninteen...

1. Amazing artist and teacher, Richard Prillaman visits the Metal Museum to teach Jeannie and Holly how to use RTV silicone rubber to cast coins.
2. Jeannie's magnesium Mardi Gras coin patterns!
3. Jake and Phil take a little break

Saturday (yesterday) was a very productive day. Richard Prillaman came into teach Jeannie and I how to cast coins with RTV silicone rubber. It was delightful to spend some time with such an accomplished artist and wonderful teacher. Richard Prillaman has exhibited nationally and internationally. In 1989 the state of Tennessee commissioned him through the National Ornamental Metals Museum to design and construct a sterling silver tea service for the U.S.S. Tennessee. The following images are pictures of several of Richard Prillaman's pieces. Richard also spent a lot of his life as a Fine Arts Professor at the Memphis College of Art. If you'd like to know more about Richard and see some of his work, click this link:

Richard will be back next saturday to help us complete the coin casting process as well as get us started on last wax investment. I love being in a place where its almost effortless to learn new information. So many great great metalsmiths show up here to teach, exchange ideas and get refreshed. Wow!

Look for some very cool coins from me when I get back. Guaranteed!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day Eighteen..

Flummi in the cross ties at Mid South Dressage Academy.
Two Holly horses sprued up and ready to invest.

Big Thanks goes to Stephen Engelhardt who sent 5 oz. of fine silver for my project. Thanks so much Steve! you're for sure going to get a piece from the project, couldn't have done it without you! Plus, its so nice to get mail from home.

If you see some American made cast silver work and wonder why its so expensive, I can tell you. This process takes so much time and patience and effort. Just the waxes alone have consumed massive amounts of time. But I'm making headway and once I get it just right then I can make many. However, just for fun check the current price of Silver, its very high. So, you might not be able to get a silver piece, but I will make white bronze, bronze and pewter for you less than fabulously wealthy patrons. Notice, I did not even approach the issue of gold... the ole AU is astronomical!.. good thing I don't really think its that pretty of a metal anyway..

Last night at The Mid South Dressage Academy I worked with 4 horses. Worked means, I'd hurry to find their stalls, put their halters on, lead them to the cross ties, take their blankets off, brush them down, pick their hooves, put on their leggings, scramble to find their saddle and bridle, figure out which goes where, since each is slightly different, put on their saddles, bridle them, and lead them to the arena to hand them off to Nick, THEN take the horse he was riding and reverse the tasks, all the while making sure I had yet ANOTHER horse ready to go when Nick was done.. WHEW! I sure am earning my riding lessons!  The horses I hassled last night are: Flummi, Wendy, Belle, and Julie. Of all of the horses, I took a liking to Flummi best. If Phil the dog were a horse, he's be like Flummi. Flummi would nudge me with his nose if I hadn't petted him enough and took to looking at me right in the eye and nuzzling my face. PRICELESS! It took all of 4 hours, but it was fun and fantastic and I came home dusty, smelling of horses, with dirt under my nails - always a good sign.

P.S. Memphis has the best tap water in the WORLD. I am sure of it, Its all because of the aquifer that runs parallel to the Mississippi. Its ok to drink out of the tap here. In fact, the tap water is cleaner than most bottled water you can buy. YEAH!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Day Seventeen

Photo: Jeff Fetty's Daffodil on the Metal Museum grounds. BIG flower!

Aside from my friends, here are some of the things I'm realizing I miss about Kalamazoo:
WIDR - Martini's Pizza - short drives to work or play - knowing the person behind the counter wherever I go - my sense of belonging - my bed - being able to do laundry whenever I want - smartshop - ....

there's more I'ms ure and its such a nice feeling to re-appreciate home!

WARNING: BLOG MAY SUDDENLY DISCONTINUE.. but never fear, if I miss a few days, its ony because Its hard to blog when your computer keeps shutting itself down. Yep, that's right, the computer is on the fritz again. But seeing as how I'm in a no-panic zone, I'm working to find a solution. Its funny how I really never appreciate something until it is no longer available for use, then it feels like my right arm has been ripped off.

Today is a full day in the studio. I will start the long process of casting those little waxes. Mid South Dressage academy tonight to tack up horses for Nick.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day Sixteen...

Greetings for The Mid South!

Tonight, after our day is done, we're all trooping to the Dixon Gallery and Gardens ( for a show featuring the artists from the Metal Museum.
Metal in Memphis Print E-mail

ImageJanuary 24 – March 18, 2010

On view in the Mallory and Wurtzburger Galleries

Metal in Memphis features the work of the artists in residence at the National Ornamental Metal Museum in downtown Memphis, including Mary Catherine Floyd, Jacob Brown, Jim Masterson, Kevin Burge, Andy Dohner and Jeannie Tomlinson Saltmarsh.  With work ranging from the conceptual to the practical, the artists in this exhibition attest to metal's versatility as an art medium and as a means of expression. Organized by Assistant Curator Julie Pierotti.

Opening Reception + Art After Dark: Thursday, January 21, 6 - 9 pm





















Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day Fifteen

 One of my most favorite pieces on the museum grounds, "Out of Chaos, Let Reason Prevail". It was made in 1998 by Greg Elliot from Baton Rouge, LA.

Ms. Judy Davis and I are headed to Denver Elementary for our second day of helping the 4, 5 and 6 grade students make tiles for an installation to be displayed permanently at their school. There were A LOT of kids with us yesterday. One group held almost 40 students. we didn't have enough scissors, the kids didn't have their own pencils and they had to bring their chairs into the room that we were using. Its a fabulous learning opportunity to see how once again, you can make something, something beautiful, out of almost nothing. I think that's what learning about art really has to offer to people of all ages, that its doesn't take much more than human creativity to make something lovely. Beauty will exist regardless of budget. I'm looking forward to taking what i've learned and investing it back into Kalamazoo's Schools.

Tonight, Bob Rogers and I will go to The Cove for oysters and lots of hearty planning for a cast iron pour. Am working up models of riverbeds for cast iron sculptures, and I will delight in learning how to effectively run the cupola from Bob.

Tommorrow is our last day at Denver Elementary and I am looking forward to having all of Friday to work in the smithy and get going on casting the little horses. After the casting job is through, I'll concentrate on forging silver. Big list, lots of plans, lots of goals. I'll get there.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day Fourteen...

photo: Wally instructing..

Yesterday, I went to Hernando, Mississippi for my very first Dressage lesson with trainer Nick Handy. Nick is a great trainer and an all around fabulous person. I rode a very lovely horse named Harley and had an all around magical experience. the facility is amazing, big, beautiful, drenched in natural light and very well designed. You just can't call it a barn, its a palace for horses. The riding arena is more than two full size dressage arenas, again, drenched in natural light. The footing is white, consisting of small pieces of felt and silica sand, making for very soft sounds when the horse's feet touch the ground. There are huge mirrors on the far end of the arena, which I try to avoid looking at (am feeling very fat these days), but are very helpful when trying to perfect the dressage seat. The riding arean is more like a dancer's studio, inspiring, airy, and the perfect canvas for a lovely horse.
Why not click on the link and check it out?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day Thirteen...

Phillip enjoys his sunbath on the museum overlook. The Mississippi river provides an excellent backdrop for his contemplative pose.

Last night, after class and a great dinner at Colleta's, Jake, Wally and I stood on the overlook facing Arkansas over the great and mighty Mississippi and drank champagne. We toasted the river, we toasted Scott Lankton, we toasted each other. It was a peaceful and fulfilling experience. Wally launched into several very exciting stories about barge crashes, river mishaps, historical reroutings and strange occurences he had witnessed during his 30 years of looking over the bluff, across the river and onto Arkansas. He lives in Arkansas now. I wonder if he chose that state because he's gazed at it for so many years. If the grass is always greenr on the other side of the fence, then does that apply for rivers too?

Wally's class is great. I would suggest it to anyone. Even though he couldn't quite understand what he might have to teach me, I found lots of opportunity to learn. I learned alot oabout blacksmithing, forge welding, coal, religion, the history of metallurgy, and so much more. He even told me what the circumference of the earth was. But I forgot, so I can't tell you. Anyways, its a secret. I did successfully finish my grille project, but I was so exhausted by the end of the project, that I neglected to photograph it. Yep, just threw my hammers down. took off my apron and headed to the house. Done.  Lucky for me it will be around for the next 80-100 years, so I can probably manage to get it photographed.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day Twelve

Working on the waxes for the silver charms, coins, pins and pendants.. yes.. the scope has expanded. nice glasses eh? i like to call these pictures "wax dork".

Almost didn't get this post up becasue I have been forging like a maniac all day. Its great to have gobs of uninterrupted time to work on something.. anything..
Yesterday in the smithy, I re-learned ( you can never learn from too many teachers, well good teachers that is) the basic composition of a coal fire, the three steps in heat treating and how to hold my hammer. We're making a grille.
I made a square punch from some tools steel we found out under a bush in back of the shop. I oil hardened and tempered it. It didn't work. It bent. I then water hardened and tempered. Its works. All of this was done with Wally watching over and directing. Hands-on learning with a great teacher is the best!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day Eleven..

Forgin' with Wally today!

Thinkin' about other stuff including money and the lack thereof..I've applied for a KADI Grant from The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. I applied for funding to support my project here at the Metal Museum. As you might have guessed, there's no pay involved with this project and i need to buy some silver and some tools (and some groceries!). I should be hearing sometime soon if I was awarded funding. If you're reading this, please cross your fingers and say "Please! Please! Please!", because that will surely affect the outcome in a positive way!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Day Ten

Photo: A mural we found during our cruise through Memphis. Some folks might call it graffiti, but I really hardly think so... and since when do gangsters use the creatures from "Where the Wild Things Are" to get their point across?

I'm planning on being in the studio all day today, making lots of little waxes to cast. The horses are beginning to be a little easier and i've started my " Currency" project, which are coins with water symbols on them - get it? Currency - current -cy?
Wally will show up sometime this evening. He is teaching the Intermediate Blacksmithing class this weekend. I am enrolled. It will be great learning under his watchful eye. So waxes today, blacksmithing all weekend. Look for the results on Monday!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day Nine

Another fabulous piece on the museum grounds. MOLLUSK by Stuart Hill of Claydon England. Torch cut corten steel, forged.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day Eight

The fountain at The Metal Museum. Designed by Doug Hendrickson - aka Dr. Iron.

Today is our last day at Coro Lake Elementary. Its been tons of fun. The kids are great and so are their projects. One of the girls asked me, "Are you from a farm?" I asked when she might think so and she said "You just look like you're from a farm." I'll take that as a compliment.

The sun is shining, the snow has melted and its feeling like springtime in Michigan. However, it is still winter in the Mid-South and folks around here are groaning like we do. Its all about what you're used to.

Time is flying by and I am worried I will not get enough of this place before it is time to leave. That's quite probable, as I am still struck with the magic and wonder of the Metal Museum, its Staff, its Mission and its Clients. Know that I am talking a lot of mental notes in order to bring that magic back to SmartShop and recreate it. Oh, yes, I know SmartShop has a magic all of its own, but its been running in short supply and we need another sprinkle or two of fairy dust to make it sparkle again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day Seven

A little about the Metal Museum from Duff's perspective (you'll remember him, he's the one with Wally and the horse).

Essay for the "I Used to Work Here, A Work In Progress: 25 Years" exhibition catalogue commemorating the Metal Museum's 25th anniversary, February 8-May 9, 2004

We called it the Natural Oatmeal Museum. There were only three of us on the staff, Director Jim Wallace, (Wally) Judy (now Mrs. Wallace) and myself, at the time, a 19-year-old art student. We had excessive optimism, a handful of dedicated volunteers, resources were few to slim, Ronald Reagan was President and phones still had dials when I started working at the National Ornamental Museum. I was drawn to the Museum by my desire to know everything that I could about forging iron. Upon leaving to attend graduate School at Southern Illinois University three years later I had become a reasonably skilled blacksmith. Better yet, I had had the experience of a lifetime, being a participant in the early days of an institution that in the next two decades would enrich the cultural life of Memphis, contribute to the growth of the artist metalsmithing field, and impact the lives of thousands through education and inspiration.

The idea of a museum dedicated to ornamental ironwork originated within the trade organization, the National Ornamental & Miscellaneous Metal Association, in the 1970's. Among the founders were several Memphians who were especially enthusiastic about the concept and worked hard to find a location. The fledgling museum was established as a separate entity from NOMMA but was intended to highlight the products and services of the industry. Over the years it has done that, but its mission expanded to exhibit all forms of metal arts both historic and contemporary. Additionally the Museum has become a repository of information and artifacts as well as a working shop for the education of visitors and professional metalsmiths alike.

When visiting the National Ornamental Metal Museum today, it might be hard to imagine the Museum's humble and hard scrabble beginnings. The grounds are now beautifully landscaped and the artists working in the Schering-Plough Smithy and the new Lawler Foundry are busy with interesting projects. Inside the Museum's galleries are stunning exhibitions of art and metalwork. The Museum Library contains a wealth of information available for historic research and the ongoing documentation of the work of contemporary metalsmiths. Also, among the many changes, Jim Wallace's staff is now about five times larger. The one thing that has not changed since the beginning is the Museum's make something out of nothing culture. An underlying enthusiasm for accomplishing seemingly impossible goals, infused with old fashion blacksmith ingenuity, is the force that propels the Museum forward.

In this 25th Anniversary year, the primary goal is restoring the "White Building" to create a new home for the Museum's expanding library. Twenty years ago the goal of keeping the doors open through tomorrow was just as daunting. I credit much of the Museum's survival to the vision and relentless persistence of Jim Wallace. Looking at the place then--three acres and three deteriorated abandoned buildings--who would have imagined it as a credible and even internationally recognized center of education, research, and professional interaction? If there was a wall, it needed paint. Leaves, a foot deep in the basement, were home to every creepy crawly thing imaginable. Mowing was not necessary because there was no grass in the yard. It was cause for celebration when there were more than four visitors in a single day.

During the summer of 1982, there was a tremendous effort to spruce up the forlorn grounds and buildings. The exteriors of the Museum and Duplex were painted. Lighting intended to be temporary was installed on the grounds. I think some of it is still in use today. It had always been dark and spooky if not downright dangerous to walk across the yard at night. We also refinished all of the floors in the upstairs galleries, the "hovel" (a small apartment adjacent to the upstairs gallery which has served as residence for the Intern since Mike Weeks, the first of Wally's assistants, moved in 1979), and two rooms that became the new office. Up to that point, the office was an old door heaped high with papers and supported by two empty file cabinets in the hovel. During that summer I had to live in the basement, sleeping at night on the old door, formerly the office, supported by sawhorses. The twenty years worth of accumulated compost on the floor provided my tropical fish with live food and once I nearly stepped on a snake while getting off of my door/bed. From all that floor sanding, I still find sawdust in some of my books.

Looking back it astounds me that the Museum ever survived those first years. None of us was ever really paid in the normal sense. I was compensated with rent-free residence in the hovel and as a raise received a bag of M&Ms every week. I survived on cornbread and molasses, and perfected the art of showing up at people's homes around dinnertime. I supplemented this by doing small commissions and repair jobs in the smithy. The real reward was the excitement and satisfaction of creating something completely new. The word "moil" means drudgery and endless churning. We called ourselves the Moilers and gradually transformed a forgotten corner of the city into the beginnings of a real museum.

The old blacksmith shop was a cramped little shed with several additions and multiple rooflines that we called the "Ode to Arkansas Architecture." In the evenings, Wally and I would work at the forge while listening over and over to the same Terry Allen cassette tape (Lubbock On Everything) until Larry King came on the radio at midnight. There was rarely a day off. Life generally revolved around a six-week changing exhibition schedule. We never had enough of anything. Once the phone was cut off and Wally's idea of heating was keeping the pipes from freezing. Exhibition changes were all out efforts, building pedestals and exhibit props down to the very last minute before the openings. Long Hardware gave us old paint and bags of odd screws spilled by customers and swept up off the floor at the end of the day. We traded donated cases of dog food for steel at the junkyard and bought old cases of natural oatmeal soap at the salvage store.

In September 1982 the international exhibition "Towards a New Iron Age" opened at the Museum. The show, curated by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and its American tour organized by the Metal Museum presented the work of artist blacksmiths from Asia, Europe, North America and even the then isolated Communist Eastern European countries. This spectacular show raised the profile of the Metal Museum not only in Memphis, but also internationally among metalsmiths and established Museums across the country. The press was great and the visitor count grew exponentially. In the years to follow, participation in Memphis community events, Repair Days, fund raising auctions, hosting of workshops and conferences, and curating major exhibitions set the standard of what could be achieved and lifted the veil of obscurity. Numerous awards, grants and various accolades serve as a reflection of the Metal Museum's increasing cultural value. In 1985 I finished my internship at the Museum. My last responsibility was the demolition of the Ode to Arkansas Architecture. I was given, as assistants, twenty inmates from the Department of Corrections who had volunteered for community service in exchange for reduced jail time. At the end of the day they traded sledgehammers for brooms and I knew that this represented the dawn of a new chapter in the life of the Museum. The old shop, partially built with lumber salvaged from trans-Atlantic shipping crates once containing the "Towards A New Iron Age" exhibition, filled two dump trucks, and the ground was swept clear for construction of the new Schering-Plough Smithy.

I moved to Illinois well prepared to continue my education and ultimately to start my own studio. To this day, many of my experiences at the Museum function as guiding principles in my approach to building and operating my own studio business. I internalized the notion that if you can think of it, it can be done. Once a moiler, always a moiler. In that spirit, in 1997, after working nine years in an ancient shoe factory building, I moved a 37 ft. tall; 2800 sq. ft. metal building from a coal mine 60 miles away to the Murphysboro IL Industrial Park. The "new" building has been transformed into a studio for the construction of public art sculptures larger than anything that I could have ever imagined creating twenty years ago. I also strive to foster the same type of professional growth for my employees that I received at the Museum. In the winter, just like Wally, I try to keep the pipes from freezing.

In retrospect, I think of my years at the Museum as a defining period of my life. I still see the Museum and many of the people associated with it as my second home and family. I know I am not alone in holding these sentiments. Every October, returning to Memphis for Repair Days feels more like a class reunion than a fundraising event. Dozens of us trace our career paths and many friendships back to the Metal Museum. The improvements in facilities and the continuing growth of the numbers of individual and corporate supporters suggest to me that these are still the early days of the National Ornamental Metal Museum. Undoubtedly, in the next quarter century, another generation of metalsmiths will learn and launch careers from association with the Museum, scholars will find their way to the new Library, great exhibitions will be seen, and of course there will be plenty of tasty Bar-B-Que.

John Medwedeff

Monday, January 11, 2010


Wally wonders while Holly ponders. Photographed during Repair Days 2008 by Sharon Bicks at The Metal Museum.

Wally, large fiberglass horse, John "Duff" Medwedeff. 1984.

Who Is Wally?
James A. Wallace "Wally"
Founding Director of The National Ornamental Metal Museum "Metal Museum"
Creator of the Museum's make something out of nothing culture. An underlying enthusiasm for accomplishing seemingly impossible goals.
Retired happily after 30 years of dedicated service.
Admired by most all.
Held in high esteem by many.
Master Blacksmith. Goldsmith. Silversmith. Whitesmith. Smithsmith.
Part Border Collie, part fisherman, part cowboy, part playwright.

Thanks Wally for making this place, where we've all enjoyed so many wonderful things. Thanks for making sure the buildings stayed intact, dry and warm.
Thanks for building a smithy, a foundry, and a library.
Thanks for caring when you shouldn't have.
Thanks for working too hard.
Thanks for sharing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day Five..

Ms. Judy Davis, Outreach and Education Coordinator at The National Ornamental Metal Museum, makes things happen everyday! Judy is teaching me how to be a better teacher and how to write effective lesson plans for onsite elementary school programs. She will be dragging me along to several Memphis area elementary schools, where i'll be assisting her to administer several of her already tried and true metal arts activities. In addition, Judy has agreed to let me bug her while I am designing both in school and after programs for Kalamazoo Public Schools. I'm looking forward to our time together, as we have never had enough in the past. Judy is an incredibly hard worker, a talented teacher, a fantastic coordinator and she is certainly a Ringmaster extraordinare!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Wait until the very end and watch that gal with the torch!

Day Four

I am proud to report that progress has been made.
Perhaps some of the horses will be enameled Fine Silver.
Some of them will be Pewter.
Some of them will be Bronze.
Some of them will be Sterling Silver.

Phillip is happy and likes Jake Brown the best.
Very productive and joyous day today.
Cheesy Potato Soup For Lunch.
Need better chair.
11 degrees is no southern vacation.

All is Well!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Day Three....

I'll bet some of you are wondering what exactly I am doing here at The Metal Museum. Here is the proposal I submitted to the SmartShop Board of Directors and the Metal Museum. This is my mission:


Who:  Holly Fisher
What:  Artist Residency
Where:  National Ornamental Metal Museum, Memphis, TN
When:  January 1, 2010 – March 30, 2010

Artist-In-Residence Details: The Metal Museum's Resident Artist Program affords artists the opportunity to live and work in a stimulating, supportive museum environment. With full access to the on-site smithy and foundry, artists are able to focus on their art and create a new body of work over the course of three, six, or twelve months. The program welcomes self-motivated, focused individuals working in various forms of metal arts including foundry, conservation/small metals and blacksmithing work. Housing, studio space, and some materials are provided.

Accommodations: The Museum is located on 3.2 acres on the Mississippi River in a former merchant marine hospital. Artists are housed in the east side of a duplex that once served as the Junior Officer's Quarters. The residence can accommodate up to four people at a time - three rooms for extended stay residencies and one room for guests. There is basement room with private bath and living area, the second floor south room with private bath and the second floor north room with shared bath and private porch. Rooms are assigned as available.

Expectations: Artists are expected to dedicate at least 36 hours per week to creating a body of work as outlined in their statement of intent. In addition, artists are expected to commit 2 - 4 hours per week assisting with shop maintenance (i.e. cleaning, repair, upgrading). Artists are also asked to donate one artwork to the Museum for the permanent collection, to be mutually agreed upon by Museum and artist. The residency does not include a living stipend. Opportunities to do limited, contractual work, such as assisting the Museum with educational programs, are available.

Proposed Project: During this three month period of residence, I will complete a entirely new body of work (9-12 "Reflection" pieces) as I study reflective surfaces, their inherently interactive nature, and the metal forming techniques required to produce the work. The pieces will be made from cast silver, sheet formed stainless steel and chrome plated cast iron. The forms will be inspired by the scientific principles surrounding water and air movement. A "Reflection Paper" will document in words, my creative and technical processes, my experiences and resulting theories. The new body of work will be shown at SmartShop's Gallery during the month of April, 2010, with an artist's reception during April's Art hop and a specially scheduled "Welcome Home" party with a slide lecture documenting my adventure.

Direct Benefits:
•    Exceptional opportunity to study under several recognized masters in the field including James A. Wallace, Jim Masterson, Bob Rogers and Richard Prillaman. Their instruction and guidance will culminate in my building knowledge, experience and skills in the following areas: Cast iron mold making, cupola operation and finishing techniques. Silver forging, casting, soldering and finishing. Advanced methods for sheet forming and polishing stainless steel. Jewelry design and fabrication techniques.
•    Develop new relationships with skilled artisans who could then be invited to SmartShop to share their specific skills through guest programs.
•    Uninterrupted creative based time for SmartShop grant, organizational and programmatic planning and writing.
•    Collaborate with Metal Museum Director Carissa Hussong and Metal Museum to gain new perspectives about organizational development and directives. 
•    Collaborate with Metal Museum Outreach and Education Coordinator Judy Davis to develop strong programs for Kalamazoo Arts Integration Initiative, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and other Kalamazoo Public School venues.
•    Allow the SmartShop staff to practice and perform their specific duties without the direct influence of the founder, resulting in increased staff ownership over the daily operations of the organization, thereby making the organization stronger and more autonomous.
•    Rest, rejuvenation and reflection time for the Program Director who, for all intents and purposes has not had a break for focused creative endeavors for the past 7 years.

Minding the Store at Smartshop During the Residency: Even though I would be physically absent, I will continue to perform my duties as Program Director for SmartShop  (15 hours per week) for grant research, writing, and development, as well as organizational and programmatic planning and writing. I will also be available via phone and email for communications and planning with community partners, scheduling, problem solving and staff assistance. Attached you will find a breakdown of staff costs associated with absence. Operations manager Pamela Gallina, Part Time Instructor, Jon Reeves, Administrative Support (Special Operations) Lisa Verwys, Book Keeper Lisa Colgren and Shop Manager / Lead Intern Kara Oberg have enthusiastically expressed support for the project and feel confident in their ability to manage shop and gallery operations in my absence. I too, feel confident in their abilities.
Why a Residency? This residency opportunity is similar to practice in the field of education for scholars and college professors who need time off to complete research projects, to revamp course curriculums, to reflect and re-energize. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that 66 percent of employers in the educational community offer paid professional leave.  But the term is not reserved for academics alone.  Many corporations use professional leave as a way to recognize exemplary employees especially when increased compensation increases are not practical.

In the article The Key to Sharpening our Professional skills as Educators, Scientists, and Clinicians , the authors cite a passage that sums it up nicely,  "If your ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed; but skill will bring us success". 

  Sabbaticals: The Key to Sharpening our Professional Skills as Educators, Scientists, and Clinicians
Gayle A. Brazeau, PhDab and Jeanne Hawkins Van Tyle, PharmD, MSc
aAssociate Editor, American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education
bSchool of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, The University at Buffalo
cCollege of Pharmacy, Butler University

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Day Two.

Forge notes from Day One:
Inspired by my friend David's photos of his recent trip to Japan, and by the small very wonderful horse shaped gifts he brought back for me, I've set my first project sights on Small silver horse charms. Getting started with the wax work today, i discovered that carving tiny horses out of hard purple wax can be difficult. Used a small alcohol fueled wick candle to heat various metal tools to shape a gob of wax into a myriad of everchanging awkward shapes intended to look like a leaping horse. I often times throughout the process re-realized I was doing it all wrong, but had to keep going to discover how to do it right. Said horse looked like a llama for awhile, then a headless dog, but in the end, its kind of horsey. Tommorrow, having hatched a theory, I'll drip wax onto steel sheets to make muscle groups which, after they cool, I will affix to the main body and build up the horse. Perhaps I'll achieve a better result by adding rather than subtracting. When finally I have created a sound horse, which is lovely and in proportion, the wax will be cast in silver and then that silver horse, cast again in wax multiples. The multiples will form a tree, which will be invested in refractory, then the wax inside the refractory will be melted out. Molten silver will be flung into the resulting hollow form, thereby making many silver horses. Horse Charms anyone?

It snowed last night. it very rarely snows in Memphis. The whole town is practically shut down. They do not have salt trucks in Memphis. They do not have sand trucks in Memphis. They do not understand ice and snow. Compared to what we Michiganders are used to, this is nothing, but it has crippled this city. The weather has been blamed on me and I am now responsible for all of the driving tasks because I have experience.