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w e b d e s i g n

I began as a hopeless computer illiterate. At the turn of the new millennium, it was time to overcome my disdain of anything digital and create my own website. And so on January 2, 2000, I "bit the bullet" and bought myself a Macintosh Powerbook.

For the next nine months I worked day and night teaching myself the Macintosh Operating System, Microsoft Word, HTML, Photoshop, Image Ready, Quark XPress and Dreamweaver. I soon became convinced that these complicated programs were all designed to drive me quite mad. The enormity of what I had to learn was paralyzing. Each night before I slept I repeated the words, "that which I do not know today, I shall know tomorrow." That proved to work and to get me through some extremely rough spots. Yet, at times I felt as if my brain was being stretched over a mediaeval torture rack. Being a visual artist, I was entirely right-brain oriented. The left brain, being the logical and reasoning center, was clearly atrophied.

Initially I wrote all of the copy in Microsoft Word. The layout was then done in Quark XPress. I photographed, scanned and adjusted all of my paintings and drawings using Photoshop 5. All of the graphics were done in Image Ready. Finally, I authored and uploaded all 180 pages along with 290 separate images in Dreamweaver 4.

The toughest challenges arose in the "cross-platform" design. What seemed to have worked in Internet Explorer did not translate well in Netscape and visa versa. I also had to contend with monitor differences, varied screen sizes and Macintosh versus Windows incompatibilities. I designed minimalistically - intentionally avoiding all flash, tricks, bells and whistles. I strove for an understated look aimed at highlighting the artwork alone. Quality needs no enhancements - for less is always more.

Upon completion in the fall of 2000, when the entire site was finally online, I recall walking down 5th Avenue in New York while thinking to myself, "I deserve a gold medal for what I've just done." One week later I received the highest honor from Scotland - The Médaille d’Or Award of Excellence.


w o o d c a r v i n g

If one was ever to ask me what it was I couldn't do, I would undoubtedly reply "carve wood." Perhaps it was the reductive process that intimidated me as I was used to frequently changing my mind when I worked creatively. Always adding and subtracting. In the woodcarving process, once it's gone, it's gone.

I also grew up surrounded by scores of master woodcarvings my grandfather imported from Italy. Many were life size or larger and their craftsmanship and intricacies were breathtaking - especially to the eyes of a child. I actually began my life as an artist drawing from some of these marvelous statues. Yet, in the depths of my being, I felt I could never carve one - not ever!

After moving out to New Mexico, I had a friend who was studying woodcarving with a well known Santero (saint maker.) Here the carvings, or bultos, were traditionally fashioned to have more of a primitive look. So once again, I confronted an immense fear and committed to "trying to carve a saint." I chose as my first subject, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, otherwise known as The Little Flower. I decided to depict her as a young girl because of her "little way." There were many challenges and learning curves along the way as the carving progressed - yet somehow there was also a familiarity to it as well. At times some sort of far off memory would be accessed when i was using a certain tool in a certain way.

The piece was carved in Aspen wood, with the arms, feet and base carved separately in Jelutong. I then doweled and glued them into place towards the end of the carving. I hollowed out a cavity in her chest, as a reliquary, which i then gold leafed. Its cover is an old-fashioned rose which was her favorite flower. Behind her feet lay a single rose, symbolizing a prayer being answered.

The finish was done with oil glazes and antiqued. For the final stage I applied a coat of Briwax. In four months time, the carving was finally complete and I was elated to have accomplished something that throughout my entire life i believed to be an impossibility! Praise be - The Little Flower.

b r o n z e

I had always wondered why bronze sculpture was so costly to have made - so I decided to embark upon the process of making a bronze myself.

I began with the sculpting out of plastiline, a non-hardening clay, the figure of a Zen Monk. I chose this subject in hopes that its simplicity would prove to lessen some of the complexities in the casting process. The sculpting itself was done in only a matter of a couple of weeks - which in comparison to a woodcarving would normally take months.

When the sculpture was completed, I began the process of making a rubber mold. I painted on several layers of a silicone rubber to the clay itself until I had the proper thickness for a mold. A mother mold, made out of plaster, was then applied to the rubber mold in order to keep it in place when the wax was poured. The next step was to pour some very hot, melted wax down into the mold, and when cooled, break away the mold and obtain a wax positive of the work.

Dressing the wax was the next process where all seams were smoothed. The wax was then fitted with a spruing system. Wax rods, known as sprues, were attached to the wax itself in order to allow an even flow of molten metal when cast - and to provide a way for air and gas to escape. The wax was then coated with several layers of silica forming a hard and stable ceramic shell known as the investment. The ceramic shell would then be ready for the burn-out where it would be fired in a kiln so that all the wax is eliminated. This leaves a cavity where the molten metal is to be poured. Hence the term "lost wax process."

Molten bronze is then poured into the ceramic shell at a temperature of 2100° fahrenheit. After the cooling down period of a few hours, the ceramic shell is then broken away, revealing the cast bronze sculpture. The bronze is then degated, which is the cutting away of sprue rods and gates, so that the bronze pieces can be welded together. The final assembly and finishing is known as chasing - where metal grinding, sanding, polishing and sand blasting are done in order to match the artist's original sculpture.

The final step is called the patina in which chemicals are brushed onto the bronze and heated with blow torches until the desired color is attained. The patina is then sealed with a protective layer of wax. The ancient formula was called a buried patina achieved by burying the bronze in the earth which has been saturated with various solutions such as ammonia, vinegar, salt and cow urine. When the desired coloration is achieved, the bronze is unburied and left to cure before a protective sealant is applied.

After two solid months of grueling work, and quite a few calls to a prayer line, the piece was completed. My knowledge as to why the bronze process was so costly was finally realized - thus birthing Zen Monk.


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