Octavius Catto’s Quest For Parity

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Philadelphia unveiled its first public monument to an African-American in September 2017.  “A Quest For Parity” is located on the south apron of Philadelphia City Hall.

Who was Octavius Catto?  He was an athlete: He established the first successful African-American baseball club in Philadelphia.  He was an activist and a key figure in the protests that led to the desegregation of streetcars in Philadelphia.   He was an educator, teaching at the Philadelphia Institute for Colored Youth.  He was a soldier: when the Confederates invaded Pennsylvania in 1863, he raised a company of Black soldiers, one of the first volunteer regiments of volunteers in the Commonwealth.   He served as a  Major and raised a total of eleven regiments during the war.  

 

I ‘ve always thought of Octavius Catto as a Philadelphian even though he was born in South Carolina.  He settled in Philadelphia and met his fiance Sarah Le Count here.   The building that housed the Philadelphia Institute for Colored Youth still stands on Bainbridge  Street a few blocks from my home, as does the spot on South Street where Catto was gunned down in an election day riot in October 1871.  He was 32 years old. Too soon for his work to be done.

The statue of Catto is beautifully rendered by sculptor Branly Cadet who designed and executed the monument.  The picture at the top of this post shows the gleaming metal ball that sits in front of the statute and reflects Catto, Philadelphia, and the passers-by. 

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The twelve-foot bronze statue is imposing and lifelike; Catto seems about to tip off the pedestal.   Is he running?  Is he making an impassioned speech?  Cadet aptly portrays   Catto as a man of action, an activist, passionate and relentless.

 

If you find yourself in Philadelphia, go see the monument.    To read more about the monument and the artist, press here.  To see a documentary film about Octavius Catto, press here.

 

 

A Cure for My Wintertime Blues

I lost my hat.  I lost my favorite hat.  I suppose I should be seriously bummed but, with all the problems in the world, it’s not worth the effort it would take. Besides,  the loss of my beloved chapeau has given me the opportunity to go hat shopping. Traditionally,  I acquire my hats in one of three ways: online shopping, someone gives me a hat, or I find the hat.  Literally, find the hat.  I found my favorite hat on trash collection day a few years ago.  It was tucked into a Neiman Marcus box that was sitting on top of a pile of garbage.  I could not resist looking into the Neiman Marcus box and there was my hat.  It needed no adornment.  I could wear it right out of the box.  And wear it I did during the cold weather.  I have one more hat (given to me by a woman I hardly know) that I wear during the coldest weather.  I have an in-between hat.  I bought this hat in a store, but after I brought it home I put it away and could not find it for two years.  And then I set it on fire by accident.  Don’t ask.  It is a small hole in the brim.  I sewed it shut and no one notices it until I point it out.  Which I do.  And I have some summer hats.

So I have been auditioning new hats.  I like to decorate my hats with flowers made from cloth or felt.  Which brings me to the cure for my wintertime blues that is the title of this post.  Homemade bread and soup are good for the wintertime blues,  but they reinforce the fact that it’s winter.  Flowers, on the other hand,  even felt ones, point to the Spring and Summer that are sure to come.12.BigGroup2_1

So I have been making felt flowers.  Once I start doing something like this, I can’t stop.  (Before I got on this kick, I was making stacking rings like there was no tomorrow and only stopped because I filed holes in my thumbs and I had to let them heal. ) (And now I have thumb protectors.)

Needle felting can be tough on your fingers.  (I prefer needle felting to wet felting.)  I have gloves and finger cots and finger shields, but so far have managed to not innoculate myself with the felting needles.    I use felt sheets that I make from fulled 100% wool sweaters and scarves, and I adorn the flowers with roving, wool yarn and bits of craft felt.   I have not seen anyone who makes felt flowers in quite this way so I will post a tutorial sometime in the future.

You could use the flowers as brooches or corsages.  Each one as a pin sewn on the back.  But I prefer to use them to decorate hats,  Here are some pictures of my hats festooned with felted flowers.  Spring is just around the corner.

 

 

The Picasso Vase

I made a Picasso vase.  Or rather, the other people in the studio started calling the vase The Picasso Vase before I ever thought of it.  Probably because of the shape which would have been impossible to achieve without the tar paper technique (which I also used to make the menorah.)
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You can from the picture above see how difficult it would have been to support the vase in its wet state without the tar paper to support it.  It was three wet slabs with beveled edges, scored and pinched together.

 

    Paper covered vase on left (upside down).  Bone dry vase before bisque firing on the right.

If the vase was to be an homage to Picasso, I needed to decorate it with Picasso-style images.  I decided on a cat, a mouse, and a fish.   Here are some preliminary sketches I made for the mouse.  I started with realistic drawings and got more abstract as I went.

 

I had no problem deciding on the cat portion and the fish came to me all at once.

 

Here are the designs for the mouse and fish,  drawn on the bisque-fired vase with an underglaze pencil.

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The cat in progress.  I used underglaze chalks and liquid underglazes for color.

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        Right out of the kiln.

 

 

The finished vase.

 

New Year, New Look

I’ve given the blog a new, cleaner look.  I’m  still tweaking and plan to try CSS used CSS to make some more changes.  I’ve  designed a new logo and watermark and a new pull-down menu in the travel category.  I have added links to the tutorial category.   

And now for the tip of the week.   I needed a box for a small gift on New Year’s day and found that a toilet paper roll is a good substitute in a pinch if you have some pretty ribbon to tie it with.  The gift was a porcelain pendant on a silver chain.  I wrapped it with tissue paper and it fit nicely into the box.
 

 

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I could also see taping wrapping paper around the toilet paper roll.  You’d  tuck the paper in the sides of the roll and tie the whole thing up with a ribbon.