With the show all set up at Filoli (save for the peacock), I breathe a sigh of relief... but not for long! I've got to get cracking on the peacock! Tired all day after yesterday's installation and a late night in the studio making a structure for the feathers, I have a late afternoon nap and then wake up with a start! If I'm going to get the fibre glass skin on in time to do the mosaic, then I have to tackle attaching the feather structure tonight! It is cold and darkening. And then, just as I think I'll go out and work under the floodlight in the back of our house, I feel the sprinkling of rain! Rain! It never rains at this time of the year here! Alas though, now there's nothing for it but to move the mighty bird inside! Barry rolls back the living room rug, we put down a drop cloth and set the bird on its newly rusting feet right in front of the couch. Barry secures the feather structure to the back of the bird with a furniture clamp that is just barely big enough, and away I go with Magic Sculpt hoping that all the joins will hold. (They will. They have to!) The resin material (Magic Sculpt) will harden overnight, so I can test it tomorrow. Good thing all the glass parts are blown and ready to go, because this structure is taking forever! I still haven't gotten to the fibre glass.
After trips to Ace Hardware and Douglas and Sturgess Sculpture supply, I feel today is the day to get the structure covered in wire in preparation to get a fiberglass coating on the bird and then on to the mosaic. But the chicken wire is awkward and man, can it dig into your skin. I don my gardening gloves and work all morning, but progress is slow. My blowing partner Patty comes over in the afternoon to lend a hand (thank goodness), but Barry gets news about having to work on Wednesday so we have to switch the big installation day to Monday (that's tomorrow). Eeek! I put Patty on painting the tops of the grapes that I still need to finish and Barry and I start to load the van with all of the pots, mounds and boxes of glass; brushing by the peacock structure on our patio as we go... Eventually, Barry leaves to watch the Warriors over dinner with our friends on Alameda, and Patty and I get to work on the peacock. We get half the bird covered - but my dreams of accomplishing the fiber-glass skin any time soon are thwarted. At dusk, I too feel the call of the Warriors, so Patty and I knock off for the day and I get to see our beloved Dubs (taped) womp Houston with a 40-point lead! As for the peacock, there's always another day (but just 11 days to the Filoli opening... yikes!)
?Well... a peacock can't stand up without some hefty feet, so I call up my friend (and metal artist) Melissa MacDonald to see if she can help. "A peacock? ... come on over tomorrow" says Melissa cheerfully. At 10 am I take an antihistamine (I've been sick for weeks with a respiratory thing), pack up the "structure" and set off for Berkeley and a Saturday morning with Melissa. In a couple of hours, two gnarly feet emerge from Melissa's welding table and they fit right into the hollow legs! I also ask for a collar to stabilize the neck and produce Barry's drawing on the back of an envelope. With all the right drill presses and metal saws at hand, Melissa makes this piece in a matter of 15 minutes. After a quick lunch at Tomate Cafe where we catch up on each other's news, I'm set (I think), to begin covering the structure with chicken wire (sorry, Percy) and eventually fiberglass (which I've never really worked with). And also, I'll need to make some sort of structure for the tail feathers to hover over the back of the erstwhile tomato-cage peacock body. Hmmm....
I met Percy the Peacock at Filoli in March. It was a windy, rainy day when only a few stalwart visitors to the garden were to be seen. (And a few artists ... our scout was scheduled that day, so there we were, wellies and raincoats - collars held against the wind, prepared to envision our art in better climes and more verdant too.) As I was preparing to leave, having gone back for one more look at where some glass grapes might best be dangled from copper vines yet to be fashioned, I came upon Percy. He was, for all his jewel-toned feathers, a bit bedraggled, and I was told the story about how Percy the peacock had moved up the road of his own volition, bringing with him his peahen, to make a home at Filoli. A fine choice for a wondrous creature such as he! Unfortunately his mate has disappeared, so Percy lives there alone (but among so many admirers, perhaps he doesn't notice!). After allowing me a few photos, Percy took his leave and I gasped as his tail dragged heavily through the puddles and muck. It was then that I started to imagine a "Pal for Percy."
Now blown glass peacock feathers are much different from the real thing. And if they are to light at night, even more so! Patty and I spent several days in the hot shop in April trying out different techniques and colours to get something that would be glorious enough, but also manageable on the end of a copper tube not meant for blowing glass, but necessary for me to use my tried and true techniques for lighting. Barry and I had just been to see the Bouquets to Art at the deYoung Museum, so I was inspired to make my peacock of modified glass flowers - this would give me some leeway on replicating a stunningly elegant bird and bring the project into my own sphere of garden worship. Or so I thought...
The feathers and head (also glass) were one thing, but the structure to hold them quite another! I was prepared to make a mosaic body but the weight of all the glass was going to require a reasonably strong inner structure - and that might require welding - and that might require some planning and drawings and measurements. But then I saw an old tomato cage behind my shed and the idea dawned... Two tomato cages joined at the wide end would make a torso and taper off at one end to be the tail and the other end the neck and voila! Our friends Jessica and Bruce were taking off on a year-long bike tour and Barry and I were to film their take-off from San Francisco and then meet them for breakfast (which ended up being lunch) in Half Moon Bay. We got up at 5 am that day and I threw the tomato cages and a bag full of bolt cutters, thin wire, pliers and duct tape into the back of the van - just in case we'd have some idle time to start on the structure. While Bruce and Jess pedaled southward, we swung by Filoli to measure an arbor for the grapes and by the time we got to Half Moon Bay, Bruce and Jess were just minutes away! So after lunch, while Jess and Bruce off-loaded half their gear into our car (they had to get much more realistic about how much weight they could carry), Barry and I got busy with the structure... right in the parking lot of our lunch rendez-vous! You just never know when or where the creative urge (and the urgency of an upcoming show) will strike! Here is the inner peacock so far ...
I got up early to finish cutting out pajamas for my great nephew Emmett, in anticipation of a big day in the kitchen cooking for 10 guests who will arrive in about 2 hours! I just had to write about today's project though, so crazy enough, while Barry is up a ladder getting the Pilgrim hats down from the attic, here is my account.
Since our Pilgrim numbers are down this year, I decided to make veggie turkey drumsticks instead of the whole tofu turkey. As I researched making a veggie turkey roll (presumably dressed with stuffing) which I could adapt to make drumsticks, I saw a video of a woman in what looked like Amish attire adding tofu drumsticks to the top of her tofu turkey. Inventively, she stuck a parsnip in her tofu thighs to resemble the bone!
But the seitan/tofu roll recipe I decided upon calls for one hour of steaming, and I worried that the parsnip bones would soften too much. As with all things technical, I consulted with Barry and after a breakfast of oatmeal to ward off potential grumpiness, he went off to his studio to make temporary bones out of a wooden dowel which we could use to preserve a hole on the tofu thighs while they steamed. As I made the tofu/gluten "dough", Barry got to work on carving the parsnip bones for insertion later. Fabulous!
We coated the "bones" with the seitan mixture and a bit of wild rice/hazelnut stuffing I'd made yesterday. Then we wrapped them in moistened cheesecloth and tin foil and set them in the steamer for 45 minutes.
Barry made us a quick lunch with the parsnip shavings and beaten egg, fried up like pancakes... we named them "Flapnips" and enjoyed them with a nutritional yeast and miso mayonnaise!
Now that the drumsticks were steamed and cooled enough to handle, Barry twisted out the dowels and replaced them with the parsnip bones (which I decided to chill in the freezer to help ward off the oven heat so they'll stay stiff enough to (maybe) hold like King Henry the 8th or Fred Flintstone meets Thanksgiving.
Bones inserted, next is the beancurd skin (Yuba) to resemble crispy skin. But how to affix the skin? Here Barry and I diverged.... I choose to wrap the beancurd skin around the drumstick and then tie it with black linen thread I have from the days my Mom used it to truss the Christmas goose. Barry decides to try tapering the bean curd to make "darts" around the drumstick so that the skin is more form-fitting. We tried gluten and water to make the darts stick, but then I remembered the old kindergarten glue we used to make from flour, salt and water. It worked! A little oil-tamari-orange juice marinade swiped on top of the skin and those babies are ready for the oven! I'd better go.... 1 hour and 45 minutes to show time and I'm still in my pajamas!
Happy Thanksgiving!!! We have so much to be grateful for...
As we left home last night to go the the Festival, I suddenly remember that I have some new neon wire and a controller that I had intended to use to update Barry's fairy wings. Knowing that he doesn't really like wearing wings, I decide to make him a it-up tie instead. I quickly get a hanger out of the closet and begin to bend it into an approximate tie shape. At the garden, assured that all the pieces are lit, I continue in my endeavor to make the tie. I wrap neon wire around the tie shape and even cross it over about 2" down from the top to resemble a knot. I attach a piece of elastic for around Barry's neck, light it up and pull it over Barry's head. Voila!
Less than a minute later, a woman walks by, looks at Barry's chest and says "What is it?" "It's at tie!" I say somewhat peevishly, but she looks at me quizzically and says, "No it's not." Suddenly I see flashing on Barry's chest, a glowing blue phallus rising up from his waist to his chin. Barry whips it off so fast I don't have time to take a picture, but we're still laughing about it this morning! Back to fairy wings for you, Mr. Stone...
The corn is assembled and we get to admire it for the very first time right in the Garden at Lake Merritt. I looks even better outside - where it is supposed to be! We've got 14 other pieces to install for the Autumn Lights Festival which opens tomorrow night, so not too much time to admire our handiwork-work. I can hardly wait to see it at night! (And I can't take credit for the A-maize--ing title on this post - that came today in an email from fellow chorister and composer James Tecuatl-Lee.) The puns just keep on coming!
I paint the corn tassle and the new join between sections 12 and 13, touch up the paint and give the glass one more cleaning. Patty Garrett comes over in the afternoon to help with the hanging mechanism for the grapes and grape leaves (thank you, Patty!). We pack up the glass parts into plastic tubs for transportation to the garden tomorrow. Around 6:30 pm Dan calls for us to pick up the patinated leaves. Barry and I hop in the car. The leaves look fabulous! We wrap them with care so we don’t scratch the waxed finish. We’ll buff the wax at the garden as we assemble. We rush home to watch the Warriors' opening game and I stuff lights onto layers 16 and 17 now that the paint is dry. We retire our faithful real cob of corn ...
Tomorrow is the big day for set up. We'll get to see the completed project for the first time in just a few hours. I go to bed realizing that I haven't even thought of all the rest of the pieces (glass plants and birdhouses) we're going to set up. Fingers crossed!
I arrange with patina artist Dan Romo to get the leaves over to him by 2:00. We finalize the shape of the stalk (using a bit of poetic licence) and Barry gets to work on it. By 1:55, right on schedule we’re in the car on the way to Dan’s. He does a test on the inside of leaf 1 so we can approve the colour. It’s going to be great! We celebrate with a snack at Kamakazi Dog on the way home (Japanese style tater tots for Barry and fried cauliflower with jalapeños for me!)
The evening is spent introducing the LED lights into the corn kernels. We re-stack the layers and connect each set of lights to test the connections. Once we get to layer 13 though, the lights start flickering in an odd way. It appears there are too many on one controller. We decide to add another controller for the top 50 lights and this seems to solve the problem. Phewff! I think we may actually pull this off.
Today’s adventure is to curl the leaves and figure out a stalk. We use our black paper leaves to visualize the amount of the turn-back for each leaf and Barry goes at the copper with the ballpeen hammer and anvil. They look great!
I’m concerned with the gap between sections 12 and 13, so we carve some of the magic sculpt away and I reset the join. I also make the top just a tiny bit taller and add a few more nascent kernels.
Tim Mason comes over to check out the progress so we re-stack all the kernels for him to see. I stuff the top with the “silk” while we chat. After Tim leaves, we cut out a stalk in paper, but agree to sleep on it before committing to copper.