June 30, 2011

Soundforge: In Process (Update #1)

This fall, HCCC will premier Soundforge, a work two years in the making. In the fall of 2009, while he was an artist-in-residence at HCCC, metalsmith Gabriel Craig began collaborating with Houston-based music composer Michael Remson. Their project, Soundforge, will be an interactive, multimedia installation that explores forging metal as both a means of fabrication and an act of percussion. Gabriel Craig has graciously agreed to give us regular updates from his studio on the fabrication of the project.

Artist rendering of the proposed installation in HCCC’s Small Gallery, 2010.

Soundforge is physically and logistically the largest project I have ever undertaken. That, in itself, makes me anxious. However, I have heard it said that if you are comfortable in what you are doing, you are not growing. The ambitious scale of the physical work, along with the deep involvement of other collaborators, is a challenge in the truest sense. I hope, at the end of September, we can all see how this challenge was met.

After living in Houston, I moved to Savannah, Georgia, for three months to be the Artist-in-Residence at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and then returned to my native Detroit after nearly a decade away. Over the harsh, cold winter, I set up a small iron shop in my garage that is now only just equipped to handle the task at hand. I built the shop from the ground up for this project. I started by buying a welder, a 200 lb anvil (affectionately named Bernice for my deceased grandmother), and fabricating a forge. With these tools, I knew I could build the rest of the tools I would need to actually start building the project.

Left: the fabricated steel structure of a propane forge with a foam mold being prepared for insulation.
Right: the cast refractory in interior and painting completed.

Test firing the forge.

Bernice, a 200 lb. anvil from 1903,
remilled, refinished, repainted, and stenciled as
the Art Deco beauty she was. Be still, your beating heart.

The Shop, finally put together, and featuring: a Mig welder, an abrasive chop saw,
anvil, welding table, drill press, forge, shelving, hand tools, etc.

My training as a jeweler, my dedication to exploring the margins of craft, and my somewhat limited exposure to blacksmithing techniques allowed me to dream my way into this project, but I am constantly struggling to prove I am technically equal to the challenge. After 10 years as a metalsmith and several summer flings with blacksmithing, any naivety I had about the difficulty of blacksmithing has now been dispelled. Summer is here in Michigan, and I find myself every day in the shop, no longer building tools, but finally building the work. Let the pain (work) begin…

Six (of 30) hand-forged tenons.
These will eventually act as lateral braces for the armatures.

June 26, 2011

HCCC Says Goodbye and Good Luck to Randall!

Last week, we said good bye to Facilities and Operations Manager, Randall Dorn. Randall has been a force to be reckoned with at HCCC for the last seven years, doing everything from exhibit installation to website management, accounting and loads of heavy lifting.  In honor of his years of service, we screen-printed special “Randall Rocks” t-shirts, held a send-off party, and this week, we salute him by posting his farewell interview.  We’ll miss you Randall, but glad you are just down the street at the MFAH!

What is your favorite Book?
A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin, the third book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Favorite Band?
The Who

Favorite artist/Asher Gallery artist?
Lotus Bermudez.  I've known Lotus for just over eight years now and have upwards of twenty of her pieces scattered throughout the house.  Besides all that, she bought me lunch today. 

Which craft medium do you like best? Wood, Ceramic, Glass, Metal, Fibers, Mixed Media?

What exhibition was your favorite to install? Why?
My favorite exhibit to install was the most recent one, Crafting Live(s): 10 Years of Artists-in-Residence.  It was an appropriate send-off exhibit for me, as it almost acted as a retrospective of many of the people that have come through the Craft Center and touched my life in multiple ways.  It was great to see many of these familiar faces at the exhibit opening.  It was also a pleasure to share installation duties with the talented Anna Walker, Keelin Burrows and Ashley Powell.

Over the past 7 years, which HCCC event did you enjoy the most? Why?

This probably isn't the type of event that you mean, but I'm going to go with the blacksmithing workshop that Dave Koenig graciously put on for the HCCC staff members.  It was a good staff bonding experience that not only got us out of the office, but promoted the ideals of the HCCC mission statement as well.  Besides, who doesn't like swinging a hammer around and beating things with it?

What will you miss the most about HCCC?
I will miss the people that I have worked with over the years.  I have developed a fondness for more than a few of you and hope that the connections that I have made will be enduring ones. 
What is the new position that you are leaving us for?
General Accountant, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

What about this new position excites you?
I am excited to be taking the next step in my career path of accounting, as well as being able to focus my efforts in that field.

June 16, 2011

Belated Report from Renegade Craft Fair Austin

We’re sorry we neglected to post the past few weeks! We have been busy installing our two new exhibits, Arline Fisch: Creatures from the Deep and Crafting Live(s): 10 Years of Artists-in-Residence. For those of you who came out to the opening last Friday, we are so glad you joined us! If you haven’t stopped by, Arline Fisch is open through July 30 and Crafting Live(s) is open through September 3.

Besides getting our galleries ready, we have been busy promoting HCCC at different events. We were excited to have a booth at Renegade Craft Fair last month in Austin, Texas.  Renegade Craft Fairs happen all across the United States, and this is the second year they have been to Austin. It is a free public event featuring hundreds of different craft artists and vendors alike. This year, HCCC had a booth featuring work by current artists-in-residence (AIRs), demonstrations by ceramist Jessica Dupuis, and origami making with HCCC staff.

Some vessels by past AIR, Clark Kellogg.

A display of jewelry-in-progress by current AIR, Kristi Rae Wilson.

Many families and visitors stopped by to make different origami objects, including helmets, balloons and bookmarks. The activity was inspired by our current exhibit, Joan Son -- Part Geometry, Part Zen: A Personal Exploration through Paper.

A visitor works with HCCC staff to make a
helmet out of origami paper.

The fair included many vendors from across the U.S., and among the displays were a few familiar faces from Houston. Roxy, from Grrr Feisty and Etsy Houston, shared a booth with Maria, of reigrüche Studio.  Their vibrant booth featured lots of fun upcycled jewelry, fabric headbands, and other unique treasures.

Part of Grr Feisty’s display

Work from reigrüche Studio

Also sharing a booth were Lora, from b.bags, and Emile, of Emilee Rose Designs. Lora’s handcrafted bags, made from upcycled fabrics, can also be found on etsy.

b.bags eco-friendly booth design

Finally, when we thought the craft world couldn’t get any smaller, we ran into ceramist, Carole F. Smith, of McCheeks Mayhem, and Teresa O’Connor, owner of Hello-Lucky, located in the Heights. Carole was an artist-in-residence at HCCC in 2007 and currently has work featured in Crafting Live(s): 10 Years of Artists-in-Residence.

Carole Smith of McCheeks Mayhem, left, and Teresa O’Connor, owner of Hello-Lucky.

We had such a great time in Austin at Renegade, talking to people about HCCC and craft. If you missed it in May, Renegade will be coming to Austin again in the fall for a holiday sale, over the weekend of November 26 and 27, 2011. Make sure to check it out—it’s a great way to support craft and buy handmade.