POST at Bok 1

Last month I visited the Bok Makerspace which was on the South Philly list of participants in the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours (POST).  

Bok Technical High School was a vocational school that opened in South Philadelphia in 1938.  Thousands of students passed through Bok’s doors learning trades like brick laying, plastering, plumbing, machine building, tailoring, and hairdressing until the school closed its doors in 2013.

The Bok building is massive. That’s a cardboard model in the above picture. It takes up an entire city block and the interior is 340,000 square feet.   The surrounding neighborhood is made up of  mostly residential row houses.   The  residents were understandably concerned about what would happen to the building.

They need not have worried.  In 2014, a developer named Lindsey Scannapieco proposed converting the former high school into a  space for creative entrepreneurs.  The neighborhood liked her ideas  and her efforts were lauded by Inge Saffron, the Architectural Critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.   Read more articles about the transformation of Bok here and here.    

While Bok  is thought of as a space for artists, it is really so much more as I learned on my visit for the POST tours.  All of the artists I talked to came from the surrounding neighborhood and almost all of them were business people in creative fields. 

I hope to profile some of the artists I met during the tour and show you some pictures of their spaces.

My Introduction to the Construction Junction.

My husband is a silly man who often claims, when I ask him a question, that I am “grilling him like a salmon.”  But he is a good sport.  After all, he married me, didn’t he?  So when we were in Pittsburgh last year for the opening of Into The Forest, he agreed when I told him I needed to make a stop at the Construction Junction. He even opened the door for me!

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The Construction Junction is a nonprofit used and surplus building material retailer.  It accepts all kinds of donations-construction materials, old appliances, electrical supplies, plumbing supplies, tools, lighting, building materials and many other things too numerous to mention.  This keeps stuff out of landfills and gives it a second life when it leaves in the hands of a customer to be used in a new project.

 

 

But the construction junction is also a mecca for creative types.  I found some embossed tiles there that make perfect polymer clay texture sheets.  I got some brass pipe and metal parts that I will recycle into jewelry.   If I wanted one of the vintage stoves that seem to be all the rage these days,  I could pick one up at the Construction Junction and restore it to working order.

 

 

 

The place is HUGE, the staff is friendly and there is plenty of parking.  Check it out if you find yourself in Pittsburgh.

 

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No One Creates Alone

That’s one of the conclusions reached in an article I recently read in Psychology Today. Another one is that “discovery cannot be produced by chance.” In other words, someone who has not logged sufficient time in pursuit of a given endeavor does not have the tools to recognize a significant discovery.     Read the article for yourself and see what you think, Deciding to Create.  

My creative pursuits have been proceeding by fits and starts.  I have thrown away almost all of the pottery that I have made this year because of glaze disasters and “what was I thinking?” moments.  But I am learning and trying new things.  And I am very fortunate to share studio time with some creative and generous people.

Here are some pictures of a few things I made last year.

 

We Need to Get Creative Right Now!

I have been posting on this little blog every week for almost ten years.  I rarely write about politics because the blog is supposed to be about creativity in its many forms and incarnations.  And this post will (I hope) be no different.  Not because I don’t have opinions, because I do.  Very strong opinions shaped, in large part, by an insatiable curiosity about history and a career that enabled me to witness parts of American life that many of my fellow white middle class Americans don’t ever get to see.  But I digress.

3-march4I went to Women’s March Philadelphia last week and came away with the feeling that people on both sides of the political arena are scared.  Some are scared by globalization and the instability it brings.  They want to move the clock back, but things can  never be like they were before because the world has changed.  Community has broken down, technology is racing ahead and people are migrating throughout the world on planes, boats and the Internet.  The frightened response is to circle the wagons and hunker down. But this is not as simple as it seems because every action has consequences.    The yearning for a simpler time raises the possibility of  draconian measures that will imact public health,  national security, women’s health and reproductive rights, funding for arts and eduction, and, some fear, racial relations and religious tolerance.  No one knows what is going to happen.  And prediction is hard, especially when it is about the future.   Where does that leave us?    I came away from the march with the feeling that it will be a long time before things settle down.  Probably not in my lifetime.

My proposal: let’s get creative.  In the future, all kinds of organizations are going to need help if  funding  is cut for health care, legal services for the poor, education, the arts, mental health and drug rehab, community groups, child care and similar things.

Right now, people are fired up to volunteer,  give money and to get involved.  That momentum must not be lost.    Organizations that need help will have to be able to draw from beyond their traditional volunteer pool. People who want to volunteer need the ability to connect with  the right organization for their skills and passions.  Some organizations will be flooded and others will go begging unless there is a means by which they can make their needs known.

This also applies to fund raising.  Groups must be able to raise money to serve their communities and clients.  They need a way to reach beyond their  traditional pool of donors.  

We need something new.  I envision a kind of Craig List to do the job.  Why the Craig’s List model?  It is local and it is national.  It contains an abundance of categories to  facilitate the exchange of goods and services and to connect people with one another.  It is constantly updated by the people who use it.  It is organized and  easy to navigate.

A tool based on the Craig’s List model could also pair volunteers with programs, solicit donations of items like clothing, books and school supplies, publicize  community events, and alert the public  to vital issues related to the community, the nation and the world.

It goes without saying that there also has to be a way to maintain contact and to reach out to groups and individuals that are marginalized or feel uncomfortable getting involved or don’t use the internet.

Developing a tool like this is a huge undertaking that would need the expertise of programmers, tech companies, charitable foundations, libraries, designers and more.  But things have changed drastically in the past year and new tools are called for.  I ask everyone reading this post spread the word and get people thinking about how my proposal could be improved and implemented.  There is no way that I could do it but I hope someone takes this idea or another one like it and runs with it.  Maybe someone has already started!

And now, some creative posts about the past few weeks from around the Internet.

Sign making and the Boston Women’s March from the Be Creative Mary blog

For us visual thinkers,  A guide to Trump care from economixcomix

From The Economist, a Visual Guide to the Trump Administration

What you can do now,  10 Actions for the First 100 Days

And finally, let me point out that this is not the first time in world history that existing societies could not address the challenges of rapid change.  For those interested in looking at the past to see how other societies reacted to turbulent change, check out  The Axial Ages of World History: Lessons for the 21st Century  by Ken Baskin, Dmitri M. Bondarenko.  [Disclaimer:  I am married to Ken Baskin.]  This is the short version of a longer book they plan to write.  

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Sculpting a Cat Figurine

Boris was not the inspiration for this figurine although I have been taking a figure drawing class and drawing Boris for practice. No, he does not pose for me. What cat would? But he is good for ten nanosecond poses and gesture drawing.  Sculpting a cat figurine sounded like a a fun idea.  I have sculpted two cats before, but  both were in polymer.  Now that I have access to a pottery studio, I decided to try my hand at making a terra cotta cat which is a horse of a totally different hue.

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Here are the preliminary stages of the figurine.   You have to be careful not to leave any air bubbles in the clay.  Small ones will probably dry closed but big ones can explode in the kiln.  And unless all the clay is thoroughly dry inside and out, there is a danger of explosion in the kiln.

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Here is where I started adding character.  You will note that the cat looks well fed.  In fact, I had to make his tummy hollow to insure that the clay would dry and that the figurine would not weigh a ton.  I made an air hole  underneath the figurine, wrapped it in plastic, and when the clay was hard enough, I put the puss on two sticks so air would reach the hole and dry inside.  I put the figurine aside and forgot about it for a few weeks as it dried out slowly-the best way to prevent cracking.  I did some painting with underglaze before putting the cat in the kiln.  When he came out in one piece, the hard part was over,

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I glazed the cat with matte clear glaze for the final firing.  the white, orange, blue and other colors you see are the underglaze.

And here is the finished cat!  His I.D tag, which is hard to see, says “Tiny.”

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The resident art critic seems to approve.

Sculpture For Your Ears

A few years ago, I wrote a post about an intriguing  sculpture in the courtyard of Jefferson University a few blocks from my house called Ars Medendi.  

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At the time I wrote the post, there was a dearth of information on the Internet about the Ars Medeni cylinder or the screen, which is a shame.  As I was  reading the Philadelphia Inquirer this weekend,   I was delighted t come upon a short mention  of  music composed specifically for these sculptures. by King Britt  called Copper Speaks to Flesh, which you can download here.

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As King Britt explains  on his web site

“So I was commissioned by Bowerbird of Philadelphia to create a sonic re-interpretation of the Ars Medendi sculpture by Jim Sanborn. The sculpture is comprised of many medical terms cut into copper. The sound art can be listened thru your phone by QR Code while looking at it in person or download here. I wanted to incorporate the words in my piece, so I got Ursula Rucker to say sequences of words from the piece. I then processed them through pedals and such. I also asked two people that were standing around the piece, what it meant to them and put that at the end of my piece as a perfect ending….”

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Read my post on the  Philadelphia Percent for Art program,  here.

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I hope you enjoy this marriage of music and metal.

Pancakes for Breakfast Made With Love

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Happy Holidays from South Philadelphia!  We decided to make  plates for two little boys  for their weekly pancake breakfasts with their parents. Dad makes chocolate chip pancakes for the family every Sunday.   Yum, Yum!

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imageSo, where did we go ?  Why The Expressive Hand a charming paint your own pottery shop in the heart of Bella Vista.   That’s owner Marcie Ziskind showing Bubbie how to do lettering on the rim of the plate.

wpid-img_20141214_143135blog_wm.jpgBubbie is working hard on Connor’s plate.

imageHere’s my plate with the rim painted and the pancake design drawn out.

imageDon’t Connor’s pancakes look good?  Great job Bubbie!!

imageAnd here’s Nathan’s plate, done by yours truly.

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IMG_20141214_155236blog_wmBoy we had a good time!    Wait until the little guys see their dishes, made with lots of love and some help from Marcie.

Read more about the Expressive hand in this  Blog Post.