Totem part 3

Today I attached the handmade tiles to the form.  I use red sculpture clay so whatever leftovers I have I use for these projects.  Since this will be outdoors the tiles need to be frostproof so they are fired to cone 5.  I used thinset for attaching the tile.  I like Custom Building products and use their versabond or flexbond.  The next step will be to take the sections back to Bancroft when school starts and we will fill in the blank areas with glass tile.  Commercial glass mosaic tile or porcelain are suitable for outside projects.  I took the photo before cleaning thinset off the tiles.  There is quite a bit of clean up in cement projects!


Seeing all those smiling mouths brings me good memories.  Grayson loved to laugh and I loved making funny noises to get him laughing.  I miss that kid.


Setting tiles


Making a totem form Part Two

The next step is to put a rough coat of cement on the parts.  Many make the mistake of making this too thick especially kids!  Children love to play in cement so you need to exercise a lot of control.  You just want to cover the mesh.  Cement gets heavy so you want to keep things as light as possible.  For small pieces I mix my own sand mix.  This is 1 part portland cement and 3 parts sand.  When I am covering a large project or having many projects going a once I just buy a 60lb bag of commercial sand mix.  Sometimes it is called topping mix.  You can buy smaller amounts at a local hardware store.  The big stores like Lowes only sell 60lb bags.  I think 40lbs is the smallest amount.  This is what I used this time since I have a lot of personal projects going on.  This is basically using a typical building construction technique (a house stucco finish) for art.  Artists can learn so much from the building trades.  Something to remember with cement work is anything loose in a form will crack.  It is a very forgiving medium but you want to try to make your forms as stable as possible.  Tomorrow I will brush off the excess with a course brush or an old file I only use for this work.



How to build a totem form for outdoors Part one

I have done this so many ways depending on the situation but this is how I will build a form for the Bancroft totem.  I’m starting with a builders tube from a Lowes.  I cut it into 6 inch sections with a utility knife.  One for every child that has passed this year.  I made one section 2 ft high to bring the parts closer to eye level and protect the artwork.  I made plywood circles the size of the inside diameter of the tubes with a center hole the size of 2 inch pvc plumbing pipe and attached them top and bottom to the builders tubes with brads.  Each section has a piece of pvc pipe through the center.  These sections are then covered with either hardware cloth or stucco lath.  I attach the wire cloth or lath with rebar wire loops that I twist on the inside and pull tight with pliers.   I attach the wire to the plywood with a staple gun.IMG_20170824_090953966~2

A Totem of remembrance and Joy

My steady job for the last 4 years has been making art with medically fragile technology dependent children and staff at Bancroft Voorhees NJ.  These children are in wheelchairs and hooked to machines that beep and flash lights.  All are non verbal and few can use their hands.  When you take the time to be in the moment with them they do show joy. ….a good deal of joy!  The totem project is a way to celebrate the joys of children that passed recently.  This project is administered by

tomorow they come out of the kiln

A STEAM project! woo hoo!

In the 2016 school year I got to do a STEAM project at Mercer County Special Service School with  I had so much fun.  A big chunk of my life has been working in the trades especially things electric.  This was doing work I don’t normally do as an artist/ teaching artist and I had a blast.  The students had a great time but couldn’t possibly have had more fun than I did.  The residency was a short one about 12 days and with my favorite population of learners.  What I did was use a basic electric circuit and tweak it into many projects.  I also tried to keep the materials simple and adaptable for many lessons.  The basic materials were a mini motor, mini latching switch, craft sticks, beer pong balls, colored plastic cups, duct tape, rubber bands, batteries, battery holders and LOTS of hot glue. At least for me, Amazon is the answer to a teaching artists prayers.  Anything I needed I could order and get in days.  We started with stick bombs  which are fun and a way for me to get to know the students.  The best info out there is to google the Kinetic King.  I can’t think of ANYONE that pushed stick bombs to the limit like this guy.  His site has the best instructions for making them.  We made squigglebots(lots of examples on youtube).  Creaturebots  another take on vibration motors.   We made Ping pong ball and stick vibration motor contraptions (an improv off of you tube videos)and catapults that shot ping pong balls.   We also made small spin art contraptions.  In one class we experimented with motorized doodads.   I didn’t take enough pictures.  I hope to improve on that this school year.



a squigglebot


IMG_20170605_133711651~2a spin art contraption in progress

IMG_20170509_105349017~3my creaturebot  I simplified this for the students

How I found my icon

IMG_20170816_164511523~2This is how Chris and I look together.  Chris is a special second grader I had the privilege to meet last school year.  He got all the important bits right..the earrings,the mop of curls on the top of my head and the big grin.  I adore this drawing.