What an extreemly satisfying adventure I just returned from! In the (seemingly oxymoronic) rural area of New Jersey known as Peter's Valley Craft Center, I taught a wax carving and lost wax casting class from June 10th to the 14th. Thunderstorms delayed my arrival and I got to my accommodations in the dead of night. Undaunted, I rose early to have breakfast and be given a ride to the Metals Studio. The first few days the class carved waxes with ease and quick assimilation of the information.
Artist Fellow in Metals, Bifei Cao (the recent recipiant of the Educational Endowment Scholarship through SNAG) worked tirelessly to help make the workshop welcoming, fun, and productive. His creative presence was vastly welcomed! Studio Assistant, Jennifer Jordan Park, also was a dynamo of go-to, get-it-done, energy. She not only carved a couple of waxes, but also cleaned out the terribly over filled office room of the studio and painted it before the workshop was over!!! The first project was to carve a wax (subtractive process) and sprue it up
for casting. Here is Laurie's wax.
Then we played around with additive processes and a brave, young, buck named Tim charmed us with his little skeleton dudes. Now, you maybe wondering why I would correlate this class with the Greek myth of Sisyphus or more exactly to Camus' philosophical essay "The Myth of Sisyphus" (published in 1942). Well - it would be in the philosophy of the absurd, which Camus introduced in his essay. This philosophy contends that the human mind's search for meaning, clarity, and unity in a godless existance is futile. Camus compares our existence with the struggle of Sisyphus, a character in Greek mythology who was doomed to push a boulder up a mountain side each day only to have it come rolling back down. In the comedy of errors which insued over the final 3 days of the workshop the philosophy of the absurd became my daily reality.
Top row left to right: Tim, Nanz, Bifei, Jennifer Bottom row left to right: Michelle, Laurie, Kelly and Pat
To sum up the "rolling boulder of chaos" (Tim's critique) this class became I would start with worn out torch hoses leaking out the gas from 2 tanks, many sprue bases left with plaster in them for who knows how long and losing their elasticity, having to use 3 kilns to burn out the flasks and those kilns blowing the breakers for the whole facility (3 times) and crucibles slipping out of their tongs while pouring molten silver - no one was hurt. Finally, the rosebud tip for the oxygen/acetylene torch we were to use for the brass casting grain was dangerously backflashing. Staff members at Peter's Valley did what they could to help solve each problem. While this litany of troubles could have discouraged any workshop attendee or instructor, this great group of individuals persevered, laughing, sharing, and learning with each turn of events.
Proving Camus' assertion that "The struggle itself...is enough to fill a man's [or woman's] heart."
As evidenced by these great castings, "one must imagine Sisyphus happy!" Each student (after many trials) was able to cast twice and get their waxes into metal. I want to thank Jennifer Jordan Park for her spectacular commitment to Peter's Valley and it's Metals Studio! I want to thank Befei Cao for his unflagging good nature and positive problem solving attitude. But most of all I want to thank the wonderful, sharing, exciting, enthusiasm of the students in the workshop!