The Art of Steel in Kensington

I wrote last week about Wayne Cambern’s show at the Boston Street Gallery.   While I was there,  I got a tour of the building that houses the gallery and met the owners, Jeff Harris and his wife Maria who are artists themselves.

Jeff works in  wood and steel stock.  His massive sculptures fill half the gallery and his studio and workshop are in the rear.    The building itself has an interesting history.   Built in the 1880’s, it housed a coffee roasting factory that supplied the US armed forces during both world wars.  Kensington used to be full of factories  Now, many of those former factories are finding new lives as art galleries and artist studios.

Jeff started out as a photographer but soon moved on to other mediums.    He told me that his first love was wood and he still works with the material.  But he found it too limiting for what he wanted to do, so  he started working with steel stock.

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Steel Stock

When I saw Jeff’s work I assumed that I’d find torches in his workshop.  How else could he get those bends and shapes?

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The answer?  A big vise and some simple tools.  No heat except to weld pieces together.

 

Vise
Jeff’s vise

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Jeff and Maria also give painting classes on the second floor of the building although they are more for fun that for “serious” art.  For more information, go to the web site, to http://www.artwithspirits.com.

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Take some time to visit the Boston Street Gallery And for updates, follow the Twitter Feed

Wayne Cambern at the Boston Street Gallery

Two weeks ago, I hopped the Market-Frankford El to the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia in search of the Boston Street Gallery.  The Boston Street Gallery is about a mile from the York-Dauphin El stop.  I had occasion to visit this neighborhood on a regular basis in another life, but I had not back for many years.  It certainly has changed.

 

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I went to the Boston Street Gallery to attend the opening of a show called Lyrical Perceptions which includes work by Wayne Cambern.   I met Wayne at the open pottery studio at Fleisher Art Memorial.   Like me, he was getting back into pottery after a multi-year hiatus.  But his primary interests are drawing and painting.   So I jumped at the chance to see his other work when he told me about the show.

 

The urge to make art has been with me for as long as I can remember.   I love color, design and craftsmanship in its many manifestations.  I hope this quest to make something that qualifies as art speaks to the viewer. –Wayne Cambern

My big regret in writing this post is that my pictures simply cannot convey the mastery of Wayne’s drawings and portraits.   In order to get the full effect, you will have to visit the show which runs until December 1, 2018.  In the meantime, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Haunting in South Philly

This week, I started watching the new Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. I read the book when I was barely into my teens  and it made quite an impression on me.  Later on, I saw a film adaptation, The Haunting, which is one of the scariest movies I have ever seen.  Black and white and not a bit of gore or violence in it.  I wasn’t as fond of the remake which seemed  formulaic, and more funny than scary.

South Philadelphia has some haunted history too, although you won’t find a lot of information on tourist sites.  Serial killer H.H. Holmes met his demise at Moyamensing Prison which is now the site of the Acme Market at 10th and Reed Streets.   I don’t know whether he wanders the store after it closes for the night, nor do I want to know.

On the brighter side, South Philadelphians take any occasion as an excuse to decorate their front windows and Halloween is no exception.  From pumpkin painting festivals to pots of chrysanthemums sprouting up in curbside planters, South Philly is ablaze with the colors of  Autumn this time of year- just in time for Halloween.  Here are some pictures.

 

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This Week

A bunch of pictures from this week

Wind Challenge Matthew
Matthew Borgen

Caught the  Wind Challenge Exhibition at Fleisher Art Memorial

Took pictures of the many mushrooms that have popped up in my neighborhood after last week’s rain.

Flowers are beautiful even when they’re dying

Helped kids paint pumpkins at Palumbo Recreation Center

Some Pottery in Progress

Saw some new (to me) Murals

And met some incredible artists and makers at Philadelphia Open Studio Tours at the Bok Building.  This deserves its own post.  Stay tuned,

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Last week, a reader warned about the application of a  toxic herbicide called glyphosate to wheat crops rendering all but organically grown wheat safe to eat.  I decided to read up on glyphosate.  The Food Babe blog  pointed out the dangers posed by this chemical, citing a report by a group called Food Democracy Now.  (Read the report here.) But the Snopes.Com site argues that the report’s information is false.  I am not a chemist and cannot do my own tests.  I will say that the discussion of the scientific methodology used in the report seems vague, (compare the testing done to determine the link between smoking and lung cancer), but I do not know whether this comes from an intent to deceive,  poor writing, or an editorial decision that the reader would not understand a more thorough discussion of the testing procedures used.    I have not come to a conclusion.  I am presenting this information so readers can draw their own conclusions.    

Boris
Boris does not care about any of this apparently, 

The Atlas of Tomorrow

The Atlas of Tomorrow is an interactive art installation located on South Street between Broad and Thirteenth Streets in Philadelphia.   I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

This is how it works:

Instructions
The Instructions
Wheel
The Dial
StreetView
Numbered Stories Posted on the Wall

 

TheWish
The Story the Pointer Selected for Me After I Spun It.

Mural

Credits

 

 

Consider Contemplate

 

To learn more about The Atlas of Tomorrow, press here.  To learn more about Candy Chang, press here.  To learn more about the Philadelphia Mural Art Program, press here.

October is Mural Arts Month

 

Try Something New

Autumn is upon us (although we keep regressing back to Summer in Philadelphia).  Time to try something new!  I sold my beloved kiln and controller that I used for bead annealing, fusing glass and, most recently, metal clay.  I want to upgrade to a kiln that can handle cone 6 firing so I can work with porcelain on a regular basis.  Here are some new baubles I’m currently working on.  Cone 6 white porcelain and Mason stains, unglazed.

YouTube videos

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The same, with a cold finish
Five Star Bronze Clay Torch Fired

I wrote a  review of Prometheus Clay while back.  This time I tried Five Star Bronze Clay which is also torch fireable.  And I can say that Prometheus clay wins hands down, at least for torch firing.  I find Prometheus easier to condition, easier to work with and I got more consistent results with the torch.  I have not tried kiln firing with 5 Star Bronze yet.  I’ll let you know the results when I do.   But the BIG story is that I am now making my own bronze clay.  I saw Alan Wiggens’ YouTube videos on the subject and decided to give it a try.  I read about metallurgy to get an understanding of the sintering process so I could find the best deal on a powdered bronze that would work.  Preliminary torch fire tests have been successful!  Not in making a finished product, but in making metal that I can pound out with a hammer.    I am eager to test my homemade clay in a kiln which is how Alan Wiggens recommends firing it.    Stay tuned.

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Bronze clay ready for my future kiln.  The lighter clay is my homemade clay.  The darker clay is Five Star Bronze.

My mother made bread every week when I was growing up so the process is no mystery to me.   I generally throw flour into a bowl,  add yeast and some honey and sugar to feed the yeast and park it under the kitchen tap and turn on the water.  No measuring, no recipe.  And no salt.

I have a friend who says that the flour and bread we buy in the United States is stale and a bit moldy and that is the reason most (not all) people have a problem with gluten.  (I have another friend who gets sick every time she eats pasta in the U.S. but can eat all the bread an pasta she wants when she goes to Italy).   So I decided to grind my own flour.  I got a grinding mill and 40 lbs of wheat berries.  Grinding your own flour is not cheaper than buying it, although there are wheat berry bargains to be had.  And the process is labor intensive.  First, you have to drag the 40 lb bucket into the house.  Then you have an argument with your husband about where to set up the mill.   Then you and your husband have to watch an [expletive deleted] video to figure out how to get the [expletive deleted]  lid off of the [expletive deleted] bucket of [expletive deleted] wheat berries.

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Next comes the grinding.  After hand cranking the wheat berries,  we learned why we refer to arduous tasks as a “grind.” (Or maybe he knew already.  He has a Ph.D. in English Literature).

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Here is the flour.  What you don’t see is all the[expletive deleted] flour around my kitchen.

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Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven,. Well, almost nothing.

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And in the spirit of trying something new,  let me introduce you to our new motor for the grain mill.  It makes a sound like squealing pigs on steroids, but it does the job.  And the towel is to keep down the flour dust.

Now, on to trying the autolyze process.

On a final note, even Boris is trying something new.  He is off the Prescription Diet and is now eating a new, almost as expensive Hills Science cat food.  And he likes it!

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Say It with Beaded Flowers

This week, more work from Beading Yoda.  Lovely beaded flowers.

 

Colorful Herringbone

 

And bracelets inspired by Contemporary Geometric Beadwork.

 

I’ve started beading again after a long absence.  I dug out my Delicas and treated myself to copies of  Kate McKinnon’s Contemporary Geometric Beadwork, Vol. I and II.  Then a friend gave me a copy of Jean Power’s  Contemporary Geometric Beadwork Volume 2.  I’ll have plenty to keep me busy.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

Dear Fleisher 2018

Dear Fleisher, 4×6 Inches of Art is a biennial fundraising exhibition showcasing the work of hundreds of artists from Philadelphia and beyond. Artists submit original postcard-size works in a wide range of media and styles, each of which is exhibited anonymously and sold on a first-come, first served basis for $50.

DearFleisher2018

My contribution this year was all about repurposing.  The screen-printed fabric is an old shopping tote turned inside out.  I made the dangle from a silver candelabra I found in the trash.   I sawed off off the drip pans and milled the round metal arms into square wire that I forged into the dangle hanging from the porcelain pendant.  I added a chain and jump rings.

 

I couldn’t make it to the sale this year.  There was one piece in particular that I really wanted to buy.  Can you guess which one it was from the pictures below?

So many outstanding works of art by so many talented people.  And a great way to raise money for a wonderful institution.

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Say it with Flowers

I had intended to write this week’s post about Beading Yoda’s lovely beaded flowers.   But that will have to wait.

What a week this has been.   Boris is almost recovered from the Benjimonster and is much less stressed.  I cannot say the same for myself.  It all started so innocently.  My health insurance company decided to give its customers a discount on their premiums if they enrolled in a program called Active Health to learn about healthy habits,  adiet, exercise, and so on.  You get points for each module you complete. Collect 100 points and you get your discount.   Easy, right?  Wrongo Bongo!

I logged onto the program’s website and managed to enroll after numerous calls to customer service to learn how to navigate a website obviously designed by Dr. Mengels.

In the weeks that followed, I duly entered my blood pressure, my cholesterol,  completed questionnaires, and studied health topics.  As I completed each module, I was awarded a certain number of points.  I was on my way to my discount.

Nor so fast.

Yesterday, I foolishly downloaded the Active Health iPad app for the program and completed more tasks.  As I tracked my progress, I noted the app was not saving anything.  And there was no option for me to save. I tried to contact customer service online.  There was a place to write a message but no way to send the message.  So, I called customer service.

I was referred to another number.  Then a third number.  Then I spent almost an hour  with a service rep who tried to guide me through the website.  But, as I repeatedly reminded her, I was using the app, not the website.   Alas,  she could neither help me nor refer me to someone who could.  “And yet,” as the saying goes, “she  persisted.”  As I hung up I wondered where she got her stamina.

Later that evening, I decided to try again on the website instead of the app.  I ran into the same problem.   I called customer service again.  As the conversation with a different rep wore on, I realized that he knew that the website did not work,and that tech support was non existant. But the rep was  creative-I’ll give him that-he suggested that I abandon the online health education module altogether and opt for phone counseling in order to get my points  So I agreed. We scheduled an appointment with a health counselor.  Then the rep started to rattle on about the Philadelphia Eagles.  Time to say goodbye.

The health counselor called the next day at the appointed time.   “What health issues would you like to work on? ” she asked.

“Stress,” I replied, “I really need to work on my stress.”

“What gives you stress? ” she queried.

“I was doing pretty good before I enrolled in the Active Health program,” I admitted, “but broken website coupled with service reps who don’t have the resources they need to do their job  has caused me a great deal of stress.”

“Oh.”

The counselor suggested that I meditate and gave me a number I to call if the stress became overwhelming.  “There are counselors there to help you,” she informed me.

“Is this covered by my insurance?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she responded.  “Let’s schedule another session.”

“How’d it go?” my husband asked me later that day.  “Not as bad as I thought it would be,” I admitted.  “In fact, I’ve decided to start smoking again so at our next session she can give me advice on how to quit.”

Only two more counseling sessions to go.

And now, to keep myself honest, here are pictures of flowers taken on my walks around Philadelphia.

 

Benji, Boris, and Boston

This week was quite a week.  I drove up to Boston to pick up a friend and her dog Benji to bring them to Philadelphia for a visit.   Benji is a Yorkshire Terrier who has a thing for stealing glasses and chasing cats.

Benji                                                      Benji the terror and cat chaser

BenjiwithGlasses copy                                                            Benji the glasses thief.

Boris spent the week in the basement with his toys and food.  An attempted meeting betwen Benji and Boris was a disaster.  Only then did we learn that Benji is a cat chaser.

I got lost in the Big Dig tunnel in Boston after I dropped Benji and his human companion back at their apartment.  So I got a tour of downtown Boston which has changed immensely since Benji’s human companion and I were students at Emerson College.

Boston

 

We were able to get together with a third friend from Emerson before I drove back.   We were so young when we first met.  Now we are grandmothers.

Boris      Boris has reclaimed his house now that Benji the cat chaser is gone.