• New gallery sign

    I made this new hanging sign for the gallery building entrance today using wood letters from signlettersource.com
    When I figured out after making one letter out of plywood- how much time I would have to spend dinking around with cutting out 15 letters, sanding them etc., and the fact these purchased on line were a little over $4 each, it was a no-brainer, I could have spent the better part of an afternoon printing out paper letters to carbon paper trace onto plywood, then scroll cut them all out and I’d never the nice shark clear edges and corners they do with a commercial CNC router.
    It took me exactly one hour to put this together, fill the little micro pinner pin holes and call it completed.

    The letters are both glued and micro pinned to the plywood backer while solid oak finishes the edges with an attractive raised border as well.

    Once I decide on either paint or stain it will be installed over the door.
    I was thinking of the dark forest green I used on the cornice- for the background, and white for the face of the letters, but that was before I added the border framework which really needs a contrasting color.

    I used the same fonts I used in my book- Goudy Old Style, but 3″ tall, it’s a nice style font that has an old classic look to it while still being easy to read.

    Now it is installed over the doorway, I have plans to redo the entrance and replacing the single aluminum door with a pair of wood doors I already built, so this will come back down at some point this year or next year to re-do the doorway and under the display windows with something more appropriate to the 1910 style of the building.
    In the end I decided to use the dark forest green for the background and sides of the letters, and a very shiny gold leaf paint for the letters’ faces and the face of the oak border, the photo is not very good and the sun was at a bad angle leaving a shadow in the doorway but the photo gives an idea what it looks like.

    The dark green horizontal board in front is where some kind of projecting cornice once lived, it was removed back in the 70s when the entire facade was sheathed with ugly contemporary vertical redwood siding, I also have plans to re-install something appropriate there as well, for now the bare pine board has been painted to keep the weather away.

  • Copper lion

    I purchased this circa 1895 stunning 15″ x 15″ copper cornice lion this week, it arrived today in fact.
    It came from a NYC building demolished in the 1980s, probably a building that would likely have been 7-12 stories in height given the size of the lion.
    There’s not a whole of of copper cornices in the city, painted hot zinc dipped sheet metal was the most commonly used. Copper was used on more expensive buildings- hotels, municipal/city buildings, schools etc. usually the copper gets scrapped if the building is abandoend any length of time or demolished, so plenty of these fine examples of American 19th century die-pressed copper cornices have been destroyed for the few dollars worth of copper in a section of it.
    This lion weighs about 5 pounds, in today’s copper scrap terms that’s about $10 or $15, as the art it is, it’s worth more than the $850 pricetag.
    People today have no idea how much labor and time went into making something like this!

    If you notice, it was made in several pieces- I count 7 pieces plus the shaped backer it’s riveted and soldered to. With the number 7 in mind, the way these were made I shall describe:

    First, a master model had to be made, likely it was made of carved wood, undercuts have to be dealt with later by creating more mold sections, or on the wood master by eliminating or minimizing them.
    I don’t know what process they used exactly, but that wood master needs a mold made of it and then 7 molds are made of each piece, that’s 7 molds, these 7 molds were used to make 7 steel die sets, I say “sets” because when pressing sheet metal there has to be two steel dies- a positive and a negative of the design, and the sheet metal is pressed between the two in order to take the shape.
    The die sets have a small gap between them for the sheet metal.
    Each die set after all the machining they may need to work properly now has to be set up on a press, I don’t know what size machine they used, it could have been 20 or 50 tons. Each die set had to be set precisely in the press so each half mates perfectly, if they don’t one will ruin the other if they collide under the tons of pressure on them.

    It goes without saying that today you don’t do this kind of thing to make half a dozen of something like these lions, the setup costs today would be extremely expensive, and multipled by 7 setups in this case.
    Next you would have the actual stamping production costs, trimming the individual pieces to fit, soldering and riveting.

    Unlike reproducing cast-iron, terracotta, wood carvings, plaster casts and even stone carvings-all of the steps and costs makes something like this lion mask essentially impossible to replicate today due to the costs involved, yet back around 1895 these could probably have been ordered by the dozen from the maker’s list of available in-house patterns!
    I would guestimate the cost to tool and make steel dies for each of the 7 pieces comprising the lion’s face would be several thousand dollars each, it would not surprise or shock me in the least if a metal stamping outfit quoted $25,000 to $50,000 just to make the dies, and it would be a hell of a job at that.

    Now one more item about this, notice he still has his green copper patina, SMART people have left it alone and resisted “cleaning” it! too many fools out there would take acids or a polishing wheel or something and try “shining up” the copper, or removing the “dirty green stuff”

    In three words: NEVER DO THAT!

    let me repeat that:


    The copper oxide takes about 5 to 10 years to develop in the direct rain and weather, once it develops into the green patina- unlike rust on steel the patina PROTECTS the metal from further corrosion! Ancient Roman bronze and copper artifacts buried in the ground and unearthed have been preserved for centuries because of that patina.


  • The Cable building acanthus leaf frieze completed

    And today I have this model pretty much finished, other than minor touchup as the clay dries out.

    And now I will start work on the next model.

    I guess this is as good a spot as any since the other topic of this post is actually connected to this building too, I decided to make a call to a fellow named Antonio I used to work with in this building way back around 1978-1982, he got me a job in the building working night security on weekends, in fact I think this was my first real job outside of working a bit for my father. It was a union job and their contract with the building made it so that even though I was only working one night a week it was still time-and-a-half- $13.00 an hour, that’s about $45 an hour today!
    It was still tough staying awake all night midnight untill sunrise and beyond- 8:00 AM when the relief man came, especially so because the building had no heat after 5 PM and it would rocket down to about 45-50 degrees within a few hours once the heat was turned off Saturday by 1 PM.
    Other than an occasional night bell ringer who needed to be admitted, it was a desolate building, in fact the entire neighborhood there basically closed up around 5 PM and everyone was gone and I had the entire 9 story building basically to myself.

    Anyway, over the years I wondered whatever became of Antonio, he was a fun dude to work with and we always got along great, on his Saturday shift a couple of hours before mine started, he would often come to my loft to watch the fights in Madison Square Garden my little B&W TV set. Antonio was originally from Spain but could speak and read English reasonably well, though at times he didn’t know what an English word might be for a Spanish one, and it made for some interesting and hilarious dialogue at times!
    For instance, one time he wanted to know what time it was, as I had a wrist watch and he didn’t, but the only way he could think of asking me what the time was- was by asking it in a sort of oddly translated English such as exactly this: “what time you watch talka to you?” the first time I heard that question was really the first time I ever heard the question quite that way, but I came up with a great response to that: ” I dunno Antonio, I yelled at my watch last week and now it no talka to me no more!”

    Another one he did that was also just as funny, was when he was going to talk about something in the news or politics or life in general, he couldn’t come up with the proper English words for this, but the proper words may have been something like: “I read something you can give me your opinion on!” his version for that was: “I talka to you this question: what happen if…”

    So with all of that said, now we come to today’s phone call, I found Antonio in about five minutes with a Google search since he still amazingly enough still lives in Astoria Queeens in the very same house!
    I had called his number a few years ago but I think his daughter answered and there was some language difficulty and Antonio was not home. Today he was home however and we started to talk, that’s when I learned he is 84 now, wow! I still picture him much younger with black hair and slightly grey temples, but anyway, he sounded great but I was somewhat saddened that he could not remember me. I brought up details I was sure would jog his memory but didn’t, yet he remembered the building rental manager we had problems with and other things from then, hmmm, I’m not sure if maybe there was a language issue on the phone and he wasn’t quite hearing me well, or if maybe it’s some memory loss due to age, we did work together for 4 years so it wasn’t just a brief encounter.
    So I said I would send him a copy of my book, and was sure when he saw the pictures it would jog his memory and he would remember, I think it will work but wow, it’s hard to imagine how someone can forget
    but I can see now how difficult it must be for families who have a loved one with mild dementia or early alzheimers, or just old age wakes up one morning and their family member with that doesn’t even know who they are despite being family for 80 years or something!

    Oh well, we’ll see if I hear back from him or his family via mail after he gets the book, 32 years is a long time ago but I remember everything from back then to the smallest detail, that’s why this is so surprising, I really expected he would almost instantly recognize my name and then we’d reminisce about old times and talk about what we’ve been doing, but it didn’t happen that way and since he couldn’t remember I didn’t continue too far.

  • LC pool sculpture

    I am finishing my large model at this time that I had started a couple of weeks ago- the acanthus leaf frieze panel, once I finish that and it’s removed from my studio easel, I think I’ll make a reduced size mock-up of the design I had in mind and see how it “works.” When I have that started, maybe next weekend- I’ll take photos of it and post them here.

    I also had plans for quite a while to purchase a larger kiln for my larger models but with one thing or another I put it off, however, I found just the perfect size kiln and the dealer has a free shipping thing going on which makes the $2700 price even more attractive.
    I’ll probably purchase it in the spring, what will work out well is it’s large enough to fire a terracotta panel of the size I had in mind for the pool, so that could be fired here rather than taking it to the college in Ft Dodge or making arrangements with my former professor to fire it at another location.
    The biggest issue with the kiln was finding a large enough one that didn’t go into the industrial size (and price) and it seems that once you get above a certain size there’s a sudden steep ramp-up in size and price to the next available size which runs closer to $5,000.

    The kiln I’m looking at is the Olympic oval 2523-HE
    Inside dimensions: 25″ front-to-back x 37″ wide x 24-1/2″ deep, built with 3″ brick fires to cone 10/2350°F


    Since most of my original models have been no larger than that 37″ by 24-1/2″ this should be perfect.

    For those who did not see the videos I made, here’s a couple of screen photos showing some ideas for placement of the sculpture on the pool building, the red rectangle represents the panel.
    The first image is looking down the “breezeway” towards the North where the pools would be, the second image is looking towards the front of the building on the right (East) face beside the “breezeway”
    there is a similar wall on the opposite side (West) that would probably work better:



  • Stunning original purchased

    After several days of back and forth phone tag the seller of this ca 1893 terracotta plaque made by the Union Pressed Brick and Terracotta Co of S.F. Calif we came to a meeting of the minds on this and for it’s shipping.


    The panel measures 16x24x4″ and is made from red clay mined in Valejo where the factory had their brick production plant. The company history was interesting to read about, the founders happened to notice some high quality red clay by 5th street and Solano Ave in Valejo. One thing led to another and in 1889 they acquired 35 acres there and broke ground to build the new brick plant.
    They began producing machine pressed brick of the highest quality, winning awards as well. They produced 8,000 bricks a day and the 40 workers hired in 1889 soared to 160 in 1893.
    They also began making architectural elements, brackets and other decorative units, but also a series of panels depicting well known and famous people of the era. This panel is said to closely resemble a picture of Sarah Bernhardt, it certainly does bear a strong likeness of this exact picture from the August 28, 1891, Times:


    By 1894 the workforce was reduced to 40 and in january 1895 the manager vanished with some of the company funds as his creditors were after him, some workers were not paid, and in April 1896 they shut down after filing for a dissolution.
    Competitor Gladding McBean purchased the brick property for $10, they moved the equipment to their Lincoln plant and 40 workers lost their jobs.
    The kilns and all the buildings on the site were eventually demolished and the land cleared for what looks like a mostly parking and industrial area today.

    While I have not made molds of antique pieces for a number of years in favor of making my own original models, due to the fairly high cost of this artifact and the shipping, it’s difficult to justify a $1050 purchase just for something to add to my collection and have on display in the gallery, so I will probably make a mold of it to recoup the costs and put the original on public display in my gallery.

    I’d really like to make these in hand pressed terracotta and by happy coincidence it’s size would perfectly fit in my present kiln.
    One unique aspect of this piece is the fact that the maker’s name is actually stamped into the clay, of all the artifacts I salvaged in NYC not one of them had any form of identification on them.