The objective of this post is to provide some insight into the entire fabrication process of my latest work. In this post, a series of photos track my fabrication of the menorah that is featured on PBS as additional content for the JEWELRY program of Craft In America. I was very fortunate to finish this menorah two weeks before the six-person video crew arrived at my studio.
This is a brief post with only a few of the images. All of the questions are from Nona, my new studio assistant. If you want to look at some more detailed information with step-by-step fabrication shots, click here, to go to my website.
The photo below shows the preliminary layout of the frame. This shows the general dimensions and allows me to visualize the structure before I start working with the materials. I usually don't draw out my ideas in advance. Instead, I usually let them percolate in my head and adapt as I choose materials for a new piece. Taking photos helps me double-check if it looks "right." Studio shots are also useful for social media, or occasionally, books or exhibition catalogs that publish studio shots. I've had this happen on many occasions.
Nona asks a few questions for this post:
Nona asks: "What are you thinking about when you sketch out the frame?"
"Is it all about the measurements and physical support?"
Harriete's answer: At first I am only thinking about the overall proportions, checking the actual dimensions so that I cut and bend enough tins to fabricate the entire frame plus some extras for a back-up plan if needed. At this stage, it is too early to worry about the physical support, but I knew that the materials selected for the back were going to be cut and folded from an old steel folding table, which would be really strong.
Nona asks: "What is your process for picking tins?"
Harriete's answer: For the front of the window frame, the metallic gold tins were picked from my extensive collection of recycled post-consumer tin cans. You may recognize some of the tins but I tried to use a variety of common tins in a similar color range and with recognizable images related to the kitchen. A tin for Grape-Nuts and some nutrition labels were perfect for this objective. I love using humble materials to make something beautiful. Trying different arrangements with the tin cans often helps to generate new ideas and allows me to experience how the tin can colors work together. I wanted the tins to have a golden glow and be similar in color.
Nona asks: How do you shape the tins for the frame?
Harriete's answer: When I receive tin cans, they are all opened and pounded flat for storage. After picking tins from my raw material inventory, I bend or roll the tins for the frame shapes, I use a bending brake and other forming tools in my studio. I've been working with tins for 33 years....and have developed a lot of techniques and skills from years of experimenting.
Nona asks: How do you problem solve if you don't have the colors or textures that you want?
Harriete answers: Using a range of blues for this piece, I started to compose the turbulent San Francisco night sky. Layers and layers of carefully cut tins allowed me to get the painterly effect I was looking for.
If I don't have the colors or textures that I want, I keep looking through my thousands of stored tins. I may spend hours and hours and hours looking for the right color or pattern. I am convinced that something is there in my studio ...I just need to find it.
Nona asks: What do you use for cutting the tin?
Harriete answers: I buy every pair of metal cutting shears that I can find, but most of my tins are cut with a jewelers' saw. (Watch the JEWELRY video to see me cut tins with a jeweler's saw.)
Nona asks: How do you attach the tins together?
Harriete answers: The pieces in the sky are riveted together with small rivets made from sterling silver or 10k gold wire. If you look super closely at the next photo you may see the rivets in this close-up. The metallic sparkle from the rivets is mirrored in the starry sky and gives the cityscape a night feel.
Nona asks: Did you use a reference image for the tower and the hill or for the sky?
Harriete answers: For Sutro Tower and the hill (Twin Peaks), I found a small photo. But also, every night in early 2021, my husband and I would go for a walk and we could see Sutro Tower and San Francisco. During Covid, the sky was amazingly clear without pollution. The sky in tins was totally from my imagination, other than looking at the sky, night after night....mostly, I tried to make it up from what I was seeing on our walks looking at San Francisco in the distance.
Nona asks: At what point did you attach the menorah and what was the process of constructing the menorah like?
Harriete answers: I started working on the brass Menorah components very early so I knew how deep I could make the frame and window sill. (There was a requirement from the exhibition sponsor that the artwork could not extend more than 3 inches from the wall.)
Though I constructed the Menorah early in the whole fabrication process, it was not polished until the very end so that I didn't have to worry about it getting scratched. The construction of the window sill and the structure that holds the Menorah consumed the final two or three weeks. There is a hidden structure that holds the Menorah in place, but the Menorah is not attached to the window sill.
The whole piece took four intensive months to fabricate.
Just like Nona, you can ask your questions, and I will add them to this blog post or a new post.