Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

Archive for the ‘Sculpting’ Category

Celebrating Joe Hill: 100th Anniversary, November 19, 1915, Part 1

Joe Hill Watercolor

Original Sculpture, I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill, K.K., 2015

Poet Laureate of the IWW

Joe Hill, a Swedish born, American labor activist and songwriter, wrote union songs for his organization, the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), popularly known as the “Wobblies.” The I.W.W., an international union, advocated direct action in the form of boycotts, strikes and sabotage. However, adversaries of the I.W.W., including some historians as well as industrialists, government officials, press and religious organizations perpetuated the idea that I.W.W. members were dangerous terrorists. Almost from the founding of the organization, their philosophy and tactics aroused intense fear and hatred by those in power. The I.W.W. garnered significant publicity during the western free speech movements of 1906-1917, resulting in hostility and fear directed toward them, unparalleled in American history.  I.W.W. positions advocating class conflict and revolution in provocative language that mocked societies’ sacred cows of patriotism and religion contributed significantly to officials’ concern about labor conflicts.

220px-The_Rebel_Girl_coverJoe Hill joined the IWW in 1910 and wrote songs to encourage his fellow workers to join in solidarity to fight for their rights. His songs were first published in the March 1916 edition of the Industrial Worker in the Little Red Songbook. During his lifetime, Joe wrote over thirty songs, including Casey Jones, The Preacher and the Slave, Dump the Bosses off Your Back, Rebel Girl and There is Power in the Union.

In a controversial trial, a jury convicted Joe Hill of murder. Despite appeals and international calls for clemency, the state of Utah executed Joe by firing square in on November 19, 1915. Professor Ron Yengich and his students have posted a website, The Joe Hill Project, on Joe’s life and the trial.

Writing in his cell, November 18, 1915, on the eve of his execution, Joe addressed his fellow workers,

My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide.
My kind don’t need to fuss and moan —
“Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”My body? Ah, If I could choose,
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow.

Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my last and final will.
Good luck to all of you.

Joe Hill, Remembered

Joe’s remains were sent to Chicago where thirty thousand people attended his funeral. Envelopes with his ashes were sent to I.W.W. chapters and supporters, and on May Day 1916, friends and members of his union scattered his ashes in every state and throughout the world. In 1988, an envelope seized by the United States Post Office turned up. Labeled as “subversive potential,” the envelop was left at the National Archives. Members of the I.W.W. in Chicago laid claim to the contents. Several stories in I.W.W. lore claim that theses ashes were then scattered. However, it seems that one bit of Joe’s ashes was not cast to the wind but rather held at the union headquarters. I was asked to make an urn to hold these last remaining ashes.  

Joe Hill Ashes.JPG

Urn for Joe Hill’s Ashes

Joe has been memorialized in folk songs, and Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Utah Phillips, Bruce Springsteen and Si Kahn have performed his songs.

Joe’s immortal words have been the rallying cry and inspiration to union and labor organizers ever since.

Don’t waste time mourning, organize!

Joe Hill’s songs can be played from this website, Songs of the Wobblies.

 

Image

Broken beyond Repair?

A good novel captures the imagination, and I attempted create a scene from a book into a sculpture project.

Working with porcelain, I carved the clay into the shape of a book and then created a scene from Herman Melville’s literary masterpiece, Moby Dick. As the piece air-dried, I had to fix and fix again the clay cracking along the sides but finally stabilized the splitting. Unfortunately, when it came out of the kiln, the book had nearly broken in two with a quarter-inch gap across the front. A corner had fallen off, and the sides had split and warped in several sections. Still, I set to work to see if I could make repairs. With glue, paint and glaze I began the patching process thinking that, in the end, this is not going to work.

Cracks on the Underside

Cracks on the Underside of Moby Dick

Perseverance prevailed and the porcelain representation returned, however imperfect, to one piece.

Moby Dick4

Weekly Photo Challenge: Broken

Beyond Redemption?

A good novel so captures the imagination that I attempted to put that idea into a sculpture project.

Working with porcelain, I carved the clay into a book and then created a scene from Herman Melville’s literary masterpiece, Moby Dick. As the piece air-dried, I had to fix and fix again the clay cracking along the sides but finally stabilized the splitting. Unfortunately, when it came out of the kiln, the book had nearly broken in two with a quarter-inch gap across the front. A corner had fallen off, and sides had split and warped in several sections. Still, I set to work to see if I could make repairs. With glue, paint and glaze I began the patching process thinking that, in the end, this is not going to work.

Cracks on the Underside

Cracks on the Underside

Well, I’ll leave the question about redemption with you, in either case, the whale and Captain Ahab–or the sculpture.

 

Moby Dick4

Transformation of Clay

How a Heap of Mud Becomes Something

I’ve been away from sculpting for a while, but now with a few new ideas, its time to get back to carving clay. I enrolled in a class at the Community Arts Center with Bob Deane, potter extraordinaire.

Down the Rabbit Hole

White Rabbit, Wikipedia

White Rabbit, Wikipedia

A tree in my front yard became the inspiration for a whimsical addition: the door to the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, the novel written by Lewis Carroll in 1865. In Chapter One of the book, the story introduces us to the rabbit wearing the iconic waistcoat and carrying a pocket watch. The rabbit’s classic line, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” reminds us of the ever-present passing of time and the immediate responsibilities we carry.

The project began with buying a 25-pound bag of sculpting clay. The clay is soft and malleable, perfect for making objects; but for creating walls for the rabbit hole and door, I needed to create slabs that would harden so that they could stand and then be attached together. That process included rolling the clay into flat pieces and allowing them to dry either by putting them under a heat lamp or letting them dry out over time. Once the slabs were solid but not completely dry, I could attach the pieces by using a paste of clay and water after roughing up the surfaces. Before attaching the pieces, I carved out the door so that it would lay flat allowing me to add the details including the hinges and door handle.

The rabbit began as a two wads of clay, one for the body and the other the head. Once I figured the right sizes, I roughly hollowed out the two, and adding feet and arms. I attached the two pieces, and added extra clay to form the waistcoat. Creating a chain for the watch is almost impossible in clay, so I’m going to use a metal chain, which I will attach when the rabbit is finished. I made openings for the chain, making sure that with a 23% shrinkage, the chain would still fit through the opening. With the clay at the right consistency, I carved out the details. I used three or four pictures as guides.

Slides reveal the transformation from slabs of clay to whimsical art for the yard . . .  with help a little help from my friends, with Jean, assisting with the painting, and Bob, who advised on the glazing technique.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Terrarium Centerpiece

Fairy House in GardenFor the next project, I carved a “wee house,” inspiration coming from Pinterest, pages which display every kind of fairy house imaginable. Years ago, I had  carved a few houses for my garden and enjoyed the project.

This house required a great deal of measuring for all the pieces to come together. Not all parts, especially the windows, are perfectly square. With clay, it is easy to add a bit here and there to make the pieces line up. I gained a new-found respect for carpenters, knowing that they could not do as much fudging with wood as I did with clay. The most difficult part was getting the roof to align with each side, especially the tall center window. Eventually, I would like to create a terrarium around the house.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Imagine, Make It So: Following my Own Advice

My last project was more abstract and larger than the other two. At one point attempting to close it up at the top, I thought I might have inadvertently caused the entire piece of fall to pieces. I quickly added extra clay on the inside to support the structure. I applied Bobby’s white glaze and sent it to the gas kiln. A little Jon Luke Pickard and a little John Lennon were the inspiring forces to this project, which will find its way into the garden.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: