February 29, 2012

AIR Interviews: Paula Haymond

This week, we’re sharing the third in a series of interviews featuring our current artists-in-residence. Paula Haymond is a woodturner who combines many different woodworking techniques, as well as acrylic paints and metal, to create three-dimensional works of art.  Haymond is often inspired by the natural world, and she seeks to explore the relationships among color, imagination, form and texture to express the wonder she so often found in the woods, lakes and open pastoral scenes of her native Indiana. She is a member of the Gulf Coast Woodturners Association and has taught classes in wood turning, piercing and embellishing at local workshops and regional symposia. Haymond has been accepted to be a mentor for the Virginia Symposium of Woodturners in 2012 and is the vice president elect of the Southwest Association of Turners. She will be with HCCC through May of 2012, so please feel free to stop by her studio, chat with her, and witness how she’s transforming her media to create fantastic and often whimsical story-telling pieces. 

Paula Haymond. Texas Wetlands, 2012. Mesquite, turned, carved,
pierced and wood burned. Photo by HCCC.

Paula Haymond. Sea Creatures, 2012. Texas ebony, turned, carved,
pierced and textured. Photo by HCCC.
Tell us a little about the current body of work.
I find myself going in multiple directions with a focus on altering the wood, which is initially turned on the lathe, into forms using texture, pyrography, piercing and air brushed paints to create either pictures or creatures.  My pictures often involve garden scenes with butterflies, hummingbirds and dragonflies, with floral designs pulling the story together.  My creatures appear somewhat alien or anthropological with carved appendages.  I like using the wood as a canvas but try to create a relationship between the piece and the viewer so that their natural curiosity draws them in closer to find hidden surprises in the pieces.

What drew you to wood as your medium of choice?
I have always been drawn to wood as a property for building objects, but it was the lathe that changed my relationship from hobbyist to artist.  I like the wide variety of woods that are available to turn, as well as the many possibilities that I find inspiring in the grain and figure of each piece of wood.  Even when I intend to cover the surface with my designs, I first take into consideration what that piece of wood will support and how I will work with it to create something new.

How would you describe your work?
I see my work as dynamic and changing.  I love variety and am, for better or worse, always looking for a new angle on creating images which have an impact on the viewer.  I like to create the illusion of the wood being some other type of material, such as metal or ceramic.  When the viewer says “wow,” or “that really looks like ceramic,” I think I have captured their imagination and they are intrigued by what I have created.  I like to encourage them to pick up pieces and really relate to them.

What are the woodworking techniques you use?
Every piece I create starts on the lathe.  If the wood is light colored, then I am more likely to want to use acrylic transparent airbrush paints along with creating a background of textures, lace work, and pyrography.  I use a high-speed dental drill to accomplish the lace work and then a variety of burs to create textures.  I often either draw or transfer images onto frisket or directly to the wood to cover the piece in a revolving set of images to pull the images together.  When I carve, I use an NSK micro motor with burs, sandpaper, and cutters to remove wood quickly.  Most of my pieces have hours of hand work involved in them to reach the final three-dimensional objects.

Many of your pieces include color pigment designs. Have you always used color in your work?

No, I started out as a purist, calling on the natural beauty of the wood to be the only dimension I was interested in showing off.  I think most wood turners start with the idea that the beautiful wood is all one needs to create enjoyment.  Although that can be true, for me, I needed to become more involved in what was happening to the wood beyond the lathe. I have a vivid imagination, and I was able to see characters in the grain of the wood, which I wanted to accent, and that lead to carving away the parts of grain that clouded the images I saw.  Carving away wood just lead down a path of further exploration, and I still seek out new ways to add to the character of wooden objects.

Paula Haymond. Butterfly Garden, 2012. Silver maple, turned,
pierced, air brushed and textured. Photo by HCCC.

Woodturner Paula Haymond in her studio at HCCC. Photo by HCCC.

What types of wood do you work with? Is there a particular kind you prefer, and why?
Currently I am turning more green wood than kiln-dried wood.  In the Houston area, I really find silver maple, magnolia and hackberry to be great woods for turning thin-wall vessels.  By thin, I mean less than 1/16th of an inch in thickness.  This allows for piercing with the dental burs, which are the same burs the dentist uses to take out cavities.  Much thicker walls on the vessels and the bur is not able to cut all the way through the wood at once.  I am also exploring turning green mesquite and Texas ebony, which are very dense hardwoods.  They are very easy to carve and texture, despite their hardness.  They also hold up to the thin-wall turning I do.  Because of their strong grain patterns, they do not lend themselves to coloring.

What are you doing when you’re not creating works of art from wood?

I am a licensed psychologist and am still running a practice in Katy.  We focus on carrying out psychological and neuropsychological assessments for the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, as well as for Social Security Disability.  Currently, I am working seven days per week while in the AIR program.  It continues to be a fabulous opportunity for me.

February 22, 2012

Transference and the Glass Armonica

We are incredibly lucky to be showing the multimedia exhibition, Transference, by glass artist Andy Paiko and experimental sound artist Ethan Rose, in the small gallery at HCCC.

Their piece is based on the idea of the singing wine glass—the amazing ability of glass vessels to produce sound when rubbed with a wet finger along their top edge. This phenomenon has fascinated people since at least the 16th century (and personally I’ve been fascinated by it since I discovered it for myself at a bar mitzvah at age 13), but it was never more popular than in the mid 1700s. At that time, Benjamin Franklin, the statesman and inventor, took it upon himself to make the singing wine glasses easier to play.

Benjamin Franklin’s glass armonica.
Source: pbs.org.

Using the same ingenuity and focus that brought the world electricity, bifocals and the urinary catheter, Franklin set about improving this curious instrument. First, he had glassblowers create 38 vessels of graduating sizes. Then, he nested them on a spindle that rotated by pressing peddles—much like those on a piano [image of armonica]. In fact, the whole instrument, which he called the glass armonica took the shape of a piano (an interesting side note on naming: Franklin said he named the instrument for the “musical country” of Italy because it seemed particularly well suited for “soft and plaintive” Italian music. Read it in his words here.

Players could sit in front of this instrument and place both hands on the rotating spindle of glasses before them. Whereas the horizontal layout of the singing wine glasses meant a player could only make two notes at a time, one with each hand, on the armonica, each finger could hit a separate note. The invention opened a world of possibilities and became an instant success.  Mozart and Beethoven composed for the instrument and several well-to-do families purchased armonicas for home use.

Thomas Bloch plays his glass harmonica made by Gerhard Finkenbeiner.
But the armonica’s fame was short lived. Just 20 years after its illustrious debut, there was widespread concern that the instrument’s ethereal notes had a serious negative effect on players’ moods, causing depression and neurological disorders. Though there were likely many reasons for this precipitous downfall, one of the most convincing (and certainly the most juicy) is that the armonica’s bad reputation came from its association with Franz Mesmer, the inventor of hypnotism and from whom we get the word “mesmerization.”

As legend has it, Mesmer would use the instrument to lull his patients (his work was considered more or less “medical”) into an entranced state where they could not be held responsible for their actions. This loss of decorum, so out of line with late-eighteenth-century social morays, caused the instrument to be seen as suspect.

Whether this was the main reason the armonica went out of fashion or not, within decades the instrument was hardly known and by the turn of the 20th century, it had all but disappeared, a lost footnote in the history books. That is, until Ethan and Andy unearthed it.

Ethan Rose and Andy Paiko were introduced by mutual friends while both were living in Portland, Oregon. Recognizing a shared interest in recovering and repurposing antiquated objects and technologies, Ethan and Andy worked to find a subject for a collaborative installation. On a camping trip, they visited the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention. It was there that they got the idea for this exhibition.

Using the armonica as their source, Ethan and Andy have created an exquisite installation showcasing the possibilities of the material—specifically glass vessels--to create sound. By removing the player from the installation (glass mechanisms, like record arms with fabric tips, meet the surface to create sound), the artists have placed the attention on the objects themselves; they have created a perfect environment for contemplating the properties of glass, the capabilities of material, the processes of creating and hearing sound, and the legacies of history.

Installation view of Transference: Andy Paiko & Ethan Rose
at Houston Center for Contermporary Craft
Photo by Kim Coffman

Installation view of Transference: Andy Paiko & Ethan Rose
at Houston Center for Contermporary Craft
Photo by Kim Coffman

But don’t take my word for it—hear Andy Paiko and Ethan Rose speak about the piece themselves in these incredible videos below. And come on in to see the show—it’s up until May 13, and it’s worth seeing multiple times.

-- Susie Silbert, HCCC Curatorial Fellow