I Finished The Coin Pendant!

I started the story of my attempts to make a coin pendant  with a post a couple of weeks ago.   I am happy to say that I have finally made a respectable pendant which I intend to give to a friend whose story is much more interesting my story:  Friend got married and started a family soon after high school.  She got divorced and worked at several kinds of jobs before remarrying.  When she was down sized from a job, her current husband reminded her that she had always wanted to go to college and thought that if they looked hard enough, they could find some scholarship money.   She did, they did, they did and she enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania.   And emerged with a Ph.D in Anthropology in 2015.   Since her dissertation was in the field of Irish Studies,  I came up with the idea of setting an older (pre-Euro) Republic of Ireland coin into a pendant  for a graduation present, and I begged some coins from her obliging husband who is a little fanatical about Irish culture himself.   I am only 2 1/2 years late.  But after I got my brilliant idea, I had to learn how to execute it.  I could not find any new instructions (not that they would have helped.)  I finally got inspiration from two YouTube videos by Online Jewelry Academy on how to make a gallery prong setting.  You can watch the videos here and here.   And I got the basic instructions on how to make the bail from a Soham Harrison video you can watch here.

 

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I milled some 14 gauge square sterling silver wire, measured and cut it and soldered it and formed it into a circle.  I wanted it to be the exact diameter as the coin so you didn’t see it from the front, and for there to be a frame on the back of the coin that did not obscure any coin markings.  I decided to have three prongs hold the coin in place and to make the prongs from 14 gauge half-round wire.  The picture above shows a notch I filed for one of the prongs.

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Checking the fit of the wire.

 

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Here is the assembly laid on the soft brick before soldering.  The ring is already soldered. The prong bottoms are pushed into the brick to steady them.  I had a few soldering failures until I made some changes that I think helped.  First, I laid out everything and then made holes for the prongs so I could get them right into the notches and up against the circle.  Secondly, I put a pallion of solder between the prong and the circle right in the notch.  Third, I bent the prongs inward slightly to be sure they were really hugging the circle. I also soldered the ring, quenched and pickled and then tackled the prongs with a softer solder.  I didn’t try to solder all four elements at once like I had done before.  It worked! I had total soldering success! 

05.4a before trimming

Here’s the assembly before I cut the bottom of the prongs flush with the bottom of the circle. 

 

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The cleaned assembly with the prongs trimmed.  They still have to be filed and sanded so they look good and don’t catch on clothing.  

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The coin sits on the circle and the prongs are folded over, trimmed, filed and sanded.  But the inside of the prongs have to be filed to allow the coin to sit perfectly flat on the circle.  So I had to mark the thickness of the coin on the inside of the prongs and then file-very carefully-so the coin fits in without a gap. It’s fiddly work; if you file too much you’ll weaken the prongs.  Too little and the coin will sit askew.   But it’s not really difficult.  

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Still need to file a bit more.

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A perfect fit!  I start to bend the prongs over gradually.

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The bail has a prong soldered on the inside front which feeds through a hole in the back.  I altered the bail a bit so it wouldn’t open.

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01.10 Back

 

And here’s the finished pendant!  Still learning, but I like the way it came out.  Finally!

Return to Thorpe Abbotts

My Father served in the 100th Bomb Group during the Second World War and was stationed at an airfield in Thorpe Abbotts, England.   After he completed 35 missions, the Army shipped him to a hospital where he learned how to talk again.   Then he started his life over.

He never wanted to return to Thorpe Abbotts and I can’t say I blame him. But I had always wanted to visit the place that must have changed him so much.  I finally got to visit Thorpe Abbotts on my last trip to England.  And I felt closer to him than I have ever been.  Strange that it took a visit to such a far away place to feel this way.  I made the  journey for me, but I had returned for him.

 I caught a train from London at Liverpool Street Station on the Norfolk line and traveled to Diss, the station closest to Thorpe Abbotts.  A few years ago, I found a stub a train ticket stub for a London to Diss journey in my Father’s old wallet among some family papers.  He had taken the same route from Liverpool Street Station when he returned to Thorpe Abbotts after a leave in London in March of 1944.  

Thorpe Abbotts is a country village surrounded by millions of acres of farmland near the east coast of England.  A perfect place for an airbase and there were many  of them up and down the English coast.  Before World War Two, Thorpe Abbots had a population of about 40.  When the airbase opened,  the Americans station there increased the population  to 3,500.

Now it is a quiet village again and the rich and valuable farmland  has been given back to the farmers to grow crops.  

Here are some pictures:

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The tall structure on the left side of the road is All Saint’s Church.  Some members of the 100th Bomb Group were married there.  Many more had funeral services there.

If you are in the area, try to visit Thorpe Abbotts and the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum,  started in 1977 by the locals.

 

Dubliners for a Few Days

Here are some of the sights we took in on our wanderings around Dublin recently.

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The Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square near the Dublin Writers Museum

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O’Connell Monument

2.GPODublinGeneral Post Office known as the headquarters for the Easter uprising in 1916

5.InsideRestoredGPODublinThe Interior of the GPO as it appears today.  It was virtually destroyed during the Easter uprising and restored in the 1920s.  The GPO now houses the GPO Witness History Museum, a chronicle of the 1916 uprising.   You should not visit Dublin without seeing this remarkable exhibit.

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Christ Church Cathedral

6.Leprechaun MuseumSignDublinLooks like the Leprechauns have gone and started their own museum.   (We skipped this one.)

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The Old Library at Trinity College

Holiday Time in Fairmount Park

It’s holiday time and if you are trolling the Internet, it is probably to do last minute shopping or find recipes.  If you want to take a break, I invite you to have a look at some pictures I took on a tour of three of the Fairmont Park Mansions.

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Lemon Hill Mansion

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Woodford Mansion

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A couple of years ago,  Liberty Place hosted a delightful holiday exhibit of the Fairmount Park Mansions interpreted in gingerbread.  If you would like to read about the exhibit, click here.  And if you want to compare the gingerbread mansions with the real mansions, click on the links below.

Strawberry Mansion in Gingerbread

Lemon Hill in Gingerbread

Woodford Mansion in Gingerbread

Learn more about the Fairmont Park Mansions here.

Thank you to  the East Passyunk Community Recreation Center  and Councilperson Mark Squilla for organizing and sponsoring the tour.

 

 

 

Rembrandt Huis

Rembrandt bought a house on Jodenbreestraat  in Amsterdam in 1639 and lived there until he went bankrupt in 1656 and lost everything.  There is a debate over whether Rembrandt’s  lavish taste caused his financial problems or whether he was a victim of  a shift in the art market.

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Rembrandt made his fortune as a portrait painter (and-this was a surprise to me-an art dealer!)  Prior to Rembrandt’s time, only the nobility could afford to sit for portraits. But social, technological and economic changes changed that.  By the early the 17th century,  the social fabric that had carried Europe through the last 1000 years was starting to fray at the edges. Holland was a Protestant country where to profit by one’s hard work was considered a virtue. Amsterdam was a commercial town with a wealthy merchant class. Then as now, the existence of a group of people with disposable income  was  good for business and a boon for artists.  Rembrandt did so well that he was able to buy his  grand house  on Jodenbreestraatin.   The house  is still there  and it’s open to the public

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Rembrandt Huis was a must-see for me because I have always loved his work. Rembrandt’s paintings make an impression on the viewer  because they do more than reproduce people and scenes in pictures: the tell stories. When you look at one of his Biblical paintings, or example,  you think about the people in it and what they must be doing and thinking. They look like they are engaged in something  rather assuming poses for a painting. Their engagement, in turn, engages us because on a fundamental level, we humans are story telling beings.

Rembrandt is also known as the master of light and his skills were unmatched.  He could make the paint look like lace, gold, sunlight, or gossamer layered fabric. He did not use gold paint, but he could paint gold so convincingly that it is hard to believe he did not use gold in his paint.

Rembrandt  was an art dealer as well as an artist, and sold the work of other artists that he displayed in   a showroom in the main room of his house.

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He also ran an art school on the top floor of his  house and taught several students at a time.

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Rembrandt  had a well-stocked room full of costumes and props that he used in his paintings. Some say that he was more of a shopaholic, buying anything that caught his fancy.  His profligate collecting  did not do his pocketbook any good and when he was forced to declare bankruptcy, all his belongings and his house  were sold at auction to cover his debts.

I learned about how Rembrandt’s paints were mixed  when I went to the Rembrandt Huis this past summer.  I made a short film in which a docent explains how it was done.  I hope you enjoy it.  Be sure to visit Rembrandt Huis if you are ever in Amsterdam.

 

 

 

A Detour in Corning, NY

I don’t know about you, but it has always mystified me  how ancient peoples discovered processes like glass making.  I mean, we have all heard about how Rouquefort cheese came to be-you know the Shepard leaves his goatskin of milk in the moldy cave, finds it  6 months later and voila! Quelle fromage! But that was an accident.  And in his play John and Mary Doe, playwright  Christopher Durang  speculates on how a caveman might have invented the, er-if you really must know, click here.    But glass?  Glass is basically sand that is heated to about 1700 degrees F. until it melts.  (The color and other characteristics the glass might have comes from added chemicals.)  Historians believe that glass making  started around  3500 BCE in Mesopotamia and that  the first  glass was made in coastal north Syria, Mesopotamia or ancient Egypt.   But who wakes up one day and tells his wife or his boss that he is going to the beach so he can bring back some sand and try to melt it?  I mean, seriously.  But where would we be without glass?  In the dark probably.

It was in this spirit that intrepid fellow traveller Patty and I decided to make a detour on our way home from the Morrisburg Polymer Clay Retreat and stop in Corning, NY, home to the famed Corning Museum of Glass.    We got into Corning the evening before our planned visit and got to explore the town a little.  Here’s what we saw.

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Corning is a charming town nestled into the rolling hills of Southern New York State on the Chemung River. It’s home to Corning Incorporated and to the Corning Museum of Glass.   Corning is also home to the Rockwell Museum (not to be confused with the Norman Rockwell Museum)  which specializes in American Art. The main of the town street is dotted with restaurants, art galleries and antique shops.  It really looks like it would be a nice place to spend a day or two window shopping, dining, visiting the museums and enjoying the countryside.

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We stayed in the Staybridge Suites right next to the museum so we could get an early start the next morning.  It was a good choice and I recommend it.

 

Next week: The Corning Museum of Glass.

Bohemian Style Bracelets

 

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I learn more stuff from blogging than I ever would have guessed.  Case in point: I am obsessed with the trendy bohemian style.  I know that the region known as Bohemia is in Central Europe.  I know that people labeled “bohemian” in this country are supposed to be individualistic, eccentric, artsy-fartsy and have a flamboyant sense of style.

 

BohoB (5)What I did not know is that the hippy, beatnik bohemians got the name from the French who associated with this type of personality and style with Gypsies to wit, the “roving Romani people they called “bohemians” because they were believed to have arrived from Bohemia.” (Think La boheme). We don’t know there the Romani people originated, but medieval French referred to the Romanies as Egyptiens from which we get the English word Gypsy.

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So, to recap, a real Bohemian is likely to be Czech.  An individualistic, eccentric, artsy-fartsy person with a  flamboyant sense of style is a bohemian and would have probably been known as a romani (small “r” because not referring to an ethnic group)if people had been more familiar with geography.  But hey!  There have been periods in European history where people went to bed in one country and woke up in another. (If they were lucky enough to wake up.  Watch this video to see what I mean.)

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I am fascinated with bohemian-style jewelry and the opportunities it gives for layering chains and ribbon and cloth and metal with charms, beads and Milagros.  For these bracelets I have pulled out some ceramic beads I made years ago and have combined them with lamp worked and polymer beads and other components I have had lying around waiting to be used.

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You can add as much or as little wire work as your like and make custom clasps that integrate nicely with the designs. For a tutorial on making the clasps you see in these bracelets press here.

And last but not least, two links to share:  my favorite blog for all things bohemian style, ThatBohemianGirl.  And here’s a find!  Watch Lynne Merchant demonstrate how to make a perfect wire spiral here. 

The Colorful Ways of Hilaire Hiler

Hilaire Hiler was an artist.  No, he was a jazz musician.  No, he was a psychologist.  No,  he was a color theoretician.   In fact, he was all of these things.

Hilaire Hiler was born in Minnesota and died in Paris.  He has a Philadelphia connection having studied at the University of Pennsylvania and briefly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. After living and studying in various cities around the United States, he left for Europe around 1919 and made a living playing jazz in the Montmartre district of Paris.

The old order of the 19th Century had started to crumble by the end of World War I. Life seemed all the more precious for those who had experienced the horrors of the war first hand. People were questioning  the wisdom of old values with their rigid rules of conformity.  World War I had exposed a generation of young people to places and cultures they would never have otherwise seen and it opened them to new possibilities.  What if everything they had learned was wrong?

Paris was a Mecca for creative people in search of nurturing and support for their art.  They  could not find it at home, but the bohemian and eccentric could find community and acceptance in Paris.  African American artists of the time  could live and work in  Paris  without the constant onus of the historically ingrained racism they experienced in America. Many of the expatriates  settled in Montmartre.  Press here to watch a short video of Paris at that time.   Press here to get some idea of what Montmartre was like when Hiler arrived.  Press here for an article.

Hiler had reportedly attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to make his father happy before he clarified what was important to him, embraced his artistic side and left for Paris.   I have read varying accounts of Hiler’s time in Paris:  That he played the piano with a monkey on his shoulder.  That he owned or managed a club.  That he played the saxophone.  Our guides in San Francisco told us and several web sites confirm that he painted a number of murals on the walls of nightclubs in the district.  But none of them remain today because when Hitler invaded Paris in 1940, the Nazis embarked on a program to eradicate what they termed “degenerate” art.  Hiler’s murals were among the many works they destroyed. 

Which means that the only place left to see Hiler’s  murals (recently restored) is the lobby of the  Maritime Museum in San Francisco.   It is reported that when Henry Miller first walked into the lobby and saw the murals, he asked Hiler to teach him how to paint.

Here are some pictures.

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In his later years, Hiler’s art became more abstract as you can see from his work on this site but his exploration of color and the infinite possibilities for its expression was always a central focus in his work.

As a jazz musician, Hiler used musical such as tone and harmony to describe color.    “The harmonious relations of structure and order presented in a new way, in the nature of a continuum. Relations of degree, and those of geometric progression of color-form, replace relations of simple analogy—or in turn of contrast, by opposition. As the sequential relations of Structuralism design resemble those of natural growth, it may be termed organic. In this sense, it is like certain kinds of music.” (Hiler, Structuralism, London, Heal & Son, 1955).  From Hiler, Hilaire Biography, download here.

The Prismataruim

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 This blog post only scratches the surface of  Hiler, his art and his fascinating life.  If anyone has additional information and would like to share, I invite you to leave a comment.

My Visit to Wolf Myrow or Thank You Nehemiah

Elwood: It’s a hundred and six miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.

Jake: Hit it.

The Blues Brothers

OK, maybe our trip to Wolf Myrow didn’t start off with snappy dialog, but I was game as soon as a friend suggested we take a break from Clay ConneCTion 2012 in New London and head to Wolf Myrow in neaby Providence RI.  “And don’t wear good clothes,” he added.   I had never been to Wolf Myrow before, but I’d  heard about it and was eager to go.

Some  background: The U.S. costume jewelry industry was born in Providence, Rhode Island 1794, when Nehemiah Dodge, a local goldsmith and watchmaker, developed a gold plating process that opened up the jewelry market to  mass production.   Providence became  a major player in the costume jewelry industry and, at one time,  employed thousands in its factories. In fact, New England was once filled with factories from the looms of Lowell  to the textile mills of Lawrence and the paper mills of Maine.   Hardly any factories exist anymore but one can spot the abandoned buildings with their stone walls and multi-paned windows  near the cities’ outskirts close to rivers and railroad tracks.

Wolf Myrow is a left over from those heady manufacturing days.  It buys and sells jewelry findings and beads, mostly discontinued or  old and items left over when a factory closes.   Poking around the vast  Wolf Myrow  inventory gives a feeling similar to exploring your Grandmother’s attic;  the sense of mystery and discovery is heightened by the plain paper packaging and boxes that hold  most of the items offered for sale.

We approached the ware house from hilly street on the edge of town, parked the car on a narrow gravel driveway and entered through a heavy fire door.  The air smelled musty and old.   We  made our way down a narrow hallway over ancient wood floors worn smooth from years of use.  Then I entered the main room and felt like I had walked into a store in Diagon Alley. 

It was crowded with rows of towering rusty metal shelves and every shelf was piled with  cardboard boxes bearing faded type written labels.   I saw a yellowed newspaper lying on a massive dark wooden counter next to an antique cast iron scale.  I felt like I had walked back in time.

And everywhere I turned, I saw a door to another room.  There are so many rooms that they kept the lights off to save electricity, but the light switches were clearly marked in case anyone wanted to shop there.   Each room I entered contained  rows of old metal shelves piled with dusty cardboard boxes.

I walked into a room and switched on the light.   I felt like I was the first person who had entered that room in years.   As I made my way down an aisle I stopped for no reason,  pulled a box off a shelf and opened it.  I saw scores of a brass stamping that reminded me of a brooch an aunt wore when I was a child, a memory I had forgotten.

When you open a box, you might pull out copper bracelet blanks.  Or brass chain.  Or glass pearls.  Or Swarovski crystals wrapped in crisp paper packets.

 

Customers are required to purchase items in bulk and most things are sold by weight. If you go with a few friends, you can swap  purchases with one another and come away with an assortment of products .  The staff is nice and extremely helpful.

Press here for a link to the website and catalog that will give you an idea of that Wolf Myrow sells. But take it from me, there is no substitute for a visit to the warehouse in Providence.  Thank You Nehemiah.

Ten Years On

A couple of years ago my husband and I visited friends in Montclair New Jersey. On a Saturday they took us to see the September 11 Memorial at Eagle Rock Reservation. There’s a cliff in the park on the side of a mountain and from there you can see the Manhattan skyline. It was there that one of our friends witnessed the attack on the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001.

As we walked around the memorial and looked at the names of people who died engraved in the granite wall, our friends’ six-year-old son took his father’s hand and gazed up at him with a concerned look on his face. “Why is this here, Dad?” he asked,”did something happen?” Only then did it occur to me that the attacks took place before he was born. I remembered my parents telling me about events from World War II and how I could never quite get my young mind around them. I could get a good grade on a history test but how could I comprehend the emotions my parents felt witnessing those historical events? Words were not enough for me.

View of Lower Manhattan From Eagle Rock Reservation, West Orange, NJ

View of Lower Manhattan From Eagle Rock Reservation 1999

Memorial at Eagle Rock

There are many monuments commemorating the events of September 11, 2001. But why do we create monuments? A monument memorializes an important person or event. A monument is supposed to have meaning. A well executed monument gives us an emotional connection to the person or event it is intended to commemorate. We also make monuments from sites or locations that have meaning because of a natural or historical significance. That is why feelings swept over me that were so powerful they made my knees buckle when I walked across Dealy Plaza in Dallas. The Memorial at Eagle Rock was likely the start of a little boy’s emotional connection to the events his mother witnessed from that spot before he was born, because it spoke to him like words never could.

But monuments are not the only way we hold important people and events in our memories. Ordinary things can take on significance too. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is hosting an exhibit titled Excavating Ground Zero: Fragments from 9/11 that consists of 15 items salvaged from the site: a melted computer keyboard, eyeglasses, visitors passes; mundane objects that have achieved significance because of their connection to a tragic historical event. They give a human face to the events of that day because they are things that we all use and never think about. The objects in the exhibit could have belonged to any one of us. I had a friend who was chronically late, and as he made his way into Manhattan on the morning of September 11, he and thousands of other people were turned back at the George Washington Bridge. He had been on his way to a meeting in one of the twin towers. It might have been his glasses in the exhibit.

Another friend was working on the roof of a Washington, D.C. apartment building when he heard a loud noise. He turned to look and saw smoke billowing from the Pentagon.

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These items belonged to a reporter who died covering the attack


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More wreckage

2966 civilians including fire fighters, police, the passengers on Flight 93 plus 55 military personnel died on that day. It is estimated that at least 200 people died jumping from the twin towers. People unfortunate enough to have personally witnessed the horrible events of that day carry sounds and images with them the likes of which I pray I will never see or hear. That is my prayer for everyone. I know it will not be answered but I make it nonetheless.

People will continue to commemorate the events of that day for a long time to come. Commemoration can be a way of holding onto the past, of freezing a moment in time and trying to give some kind of meaning to events that seem senseless; it can be a way of trying to gain some illusion of control. We humans tend to want to fill in the blanks whether they are in optical illusions or in cruelly random events in our lives.

But keeping memories of the past alive is key to people understanding their history and themselves. This is so important. The hope is that by remembering, such things will not be repeated. This is a huge yet noble goal. There can be another result, however, that is so subtle you will never read it in the headlines: perhaps memorializing those events will help us to become better people. Maybe. If you can’t change the world, you can tend your own garden. That counts too.

Here are some links to art inspired by the events of September 11, 2011. There is much more out there and more waiting to be created.

The Twin Towers and the City

911 Memorial Quilt

Charting Ground Zero: Ten Years After (Scientific Exhibit)

Rescue Me (Television Show)