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.
Saturday October 14: Catch up on writing this blog in the early morning and then an all-day Sacred and Profane choir practice for me. We've heard that friends Steve and Justine Ashton have also lost their home to the fire, so I sing with our four friends in mind.
I arrive home to two newly hatched leaves – we tie in all five and admire.
After a much needed snooze, I make a top for the corn where the neon ”silk” will come out. I have a glass version of the top, but it would be better matched by a tan colour and I don’t have time to paint again. So I use the diamond saw to cut up a small vessel I’d made as a sample for a cremation urn. This serves as a structure which I cover with magic sculpt. It looks plain, so I add some odd tiny kernels and affix the tip to round 17. I'll paint it tomorrow.
Katey and Craig don’t show up, so Barry and I meet Jessica and Bruce at Paulista (a new restaurant in the ‘hood) for a quick meal and then back to the studio to look at lighting the grapes which I’ve got to work on tomorrow…. I pile into bed while Barry watches late-night tv in the company of the partially decapitated corn and its shiny new leaves... Tomorrow we'll bend them. Fingers crossed.
Tuesday Oct 10: I’m getting fun responses to my email newsletter about the corn caper. My favourite is “aw, shucks” from Tim Mason (the owner of “Primo”, my first glass agave and fellow adventurer on the Nahanni River), and another comment noting that my corn kernels had been in the silo until now!
This morning, to stay ahead of Barry’s ambition to cut into the copper, I cut out paper leaves from a roll of photo background paper at the back of our guestroom closet. I want to see the leaves in paper before committing to copper and to learn what we could about how to get the tapered shape at the bottom of the cob. Barry cuts out the first copper leaf and we decide it needs darts like in sewing to achieve the necessary bends and curves. We try it in the paper and then Barry performs the darts in copper. The solder joints look messy, but the shaping works. I’m impressed (once again) by Barry’s tenacity. I remember my friend John Ezell had once shown me a resist to paint on areas where you don’t want solder to run. You Tube shows us about yellow ochre.
We get news that our friends Pat and Patti Matthews have lost their home in Glen Ellen. Our hearts go out to you both.
Wednesday October 11: We say good-bye to Leon and then split forces. I go to Otto Frei for yellow ochre and copper rivets (too small) while Barry travels in a AAA tow truck with the electric Fiat to the repair shop (just what we need). He rents a car and picks up clamps to hold the seams while he solders the leaves. We move the stand into our living room (here goes our time of gracious living…) stack up the rounds of kernels, and try out the leaf. I’m encouraged to think we might actually get this done on time. But as I look at it from afar, the dark green of the newly painted interstices makes it look like a stove-pipe runs up through the centre of the cob. Can I live with it? Maybe.
Thursday morning (a week to opening night). We wake up wondering how to secure the leaves mid-way up the cob. The bottom of the leaves fit into a little cup on the shaft, and then what? Magnets maybe? Barry figures out a screen-door type hook and loop that can run from just above layer 2 on the inside of the leaves if we pin the styrofoam layers together to avoid any risk of shifting. Now another unexpected bit of paraphernalia creeps into the “cheated” area – this time a thin vertical rod of aluminum. (“Aluminum Rod, meet Steel Wedge.”) But it works! I go off to blow glass (one last cluster of grapes and a bunch of grape leaves) and Barry completes copper leaves 2 and 3 while I’m gone. The evening discussion is what kind of curve can we get at the top of the leaves – or should it be a more acute bend? We consult our real if slightly dry cob of corn which seems to favour the bend – but that will be difficult in copper. The body of the leaf needs to curl around the glass and to bend it the opposite way at the top results in a flat area. Barry tries it on our little test leaf…
Friday October 13. I spend the morning fretting about paint colors and testing my growing supply of paint samples. I meet my friend and blowing partner Patty Garrett at the hot shop (Berkeley Bohemian Glass) to pick up our pieces from Thursday. We stop at “the Bowl” for lunch while I obsess about my colour dilemma and we head home for Patty to give me her expert opinion. Bolstered by Patty’s confidence, we choose a creamy colour and start to re-paint. Patty suggests adding sand to the paint to fill in the crevices of the hand-built resin. I open a neighbour's sand bag for a tablespoon of sand but then decide to use some glass frit, as I have lots of that. It is clean and it seems mildy nobler! We paint meticulously for 5 hours trying to conceal all the green. Patty leaves with my copious thanks. I continue to paint and clean up the over-painted spots with an exacto knife. Suddenly it is 10:30 when Barry arrives home from a film shoot! He and his assistant Bruce Mitchell approve of the more neutral core. At 11 pm, our neighbour’s daughter Katie Howe and her partner Craig Hollow arrive at the back door to check out the proceedings. They love it and offer to come over tomorrow evening to stuff the kernels with lights.
Friday October 6: My friends must know that my eyes are bigger than my stomach – and that my creative ambition is way bigger than my two little hands. (Barry has known this all along). Michele Dennis comes over to help me clean off the resin residue on the kernels (acetone and rubber gloves required.) Within minutes, the acetone eats through our delicate vinyl gloves so I don gardening gloves and give Michelle the Rubbermaids from the kitchen. 100 clean kernels and 4 hours later we stop and admire all the shiny glass parts, having caught up on each of our news…
Sat Oct 7: Barry and I almost forgot that we’d arranged ages ago (before our corn craze) to meet friends Connie Kronlokken and Don Starnes for breakfast in Larkspur and then to see the Live from the Met broadcast of Bellini’s Norma at the Lark. I was reluctant to leave the corn but was so glad I did! To watch Sondra Radnovsky and Joyce DiDonato sing together brought me to tears on several occasions and it was fun to think that my brother Bill was watching up in Toronto at the same time. I love the Live in HD performances and it was actually good to take a break. (Unable to resist the yummy smell, I ordered popcorn at intermission and we snickered to think that corn is everywhere around us!) We got home to a delicious lunch prepared by our house-guest from Spain – actor and translator of classical literature, Leon Stevens. (Poor Leon arrived in the midst of our creative upheaval, so he does his best to keep us fed with delicious veggie meals!)
We bike over to the garden to figure out where to hang the grapes and imagine the corn cob in position.
We start to pile the glass parts onto the stand. It seems very unstable and lists forward due to the uneven distribution of weight toward the front where we “cheated” several layers of kernels with Styrofoam at the back. We decide we need a counterweight…. I weigh the faked sections – 4.25 pounds and 7 pounds respectively. Barry calculates we need only counter-balance the bottom section and we discover a steel wood-splitting wedge that weighs exactly 4.25 pounds. In it goes at the back of the styrofoam. I cringe at this kitchen sink solution, but desperate times require desperate measures!
Next, Barry reinforces the plate on the stand with 3 copper pipes bent and soldered underneath. Much sturdier.
Lisa Haage, my friend from Sacred and Profane arrives with apple cake and some wiling hands to paint the interstitial areas of cob. I had tested acrylic paint, but wasn’t sure it would adhere to the cured Magic Sculpt, so we set up at the picnic table to use little pots of model lacquer to turn the grey parts green. Lisa and I chatted as we painted and Leon served up another nutritious lunch.
At 4:30 Barry rushes off to meet patina artist Dan Romo to see if he has a better tool to cut the copper leaves than our metal sheers. He comes back with the 10x3’ copper sheet still intact because Dan figures the sheers on our test have done a neater job than his power tools would. We rush to gather Barry’s film lights and the watermelon I’d prepared and blast over to the Glenview Dance Center to host an impromptu gathering. Leon performed a 40-minute one-hander he’d adapted from a prose piece by William Blake called “An Island in the Moon”. What with the late notice and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass to compete with, there were just 5 of us in the audience – but it was fabulous!
In the night I wander the streets and our garden sure something is on fire. The smoke smell is everywhere. At 4 am I consult the Glenview neighbourhood site and read about a fire in Sonoma/Napa. Horrifying.
October 3, 2017 (15 days to set-up): We wake up to examine our handiwork from the night before where we'd stacked layers 4 and 5 on the structure. We discover a crack in one of the pieces. Rats! Kernel Stone, brave as can be swings into action. He gets out the vibrating saw and a drill to begin excavation on the cracked kernel. Once I start breathing again, I can replace it.
This is what you call a close shave:
I am reminded of a short but pithy poem my beloved glass teacher Dan Crichton used to cite:
"Glass, glass. Pain in the ass."
In the meantime, after many days of investigation at metal suppliers’ and plumbing stores, Barry (Kernel Stone) gets to work on a test leaf using roofing copper from Alco hammered around a wooden log. He also makes a horizontal plate to hold the kernels inside the leaves so we can “cheat’ on the number of glass kernels required and give the illusion of a full cob of corn. We decide (much to my environmental chagrin) that rounds of inch thick styrofoam insulation boards can work to help build up from a few single exposed kernels to the point where a full ring of kernels would first be visible. The styrofoam won’t add weight.
iSept 29, 2017: How many leaves and how tall? I have my imaginings of corn as high as an elephant's eye, but today we look at photos of corn cobs and take serious measurements. Most real corn cobs have a ratio of 4" high to 1" diameter. My 8-kernel rings are just over 12” in diameter, so that calculates to a 4’ high cob… not tall enough in my mind's eye, but when we add leaves to the base and a happy set of el-wire corn silk to the top, I think we can get close to 6 feet tall. Happy me. And the copper sheet has arrived, thanks to Barry and our stalwart house guest Robert Gardiner who took the trip to Sequoia Copper and Brass in Hayward yesterday.
Sept 30, 2017: We set up and secure the first “fake” rounds of corn on the internal structure. We go to the garden (at Lake Merritt) to measure for the grapes I want to hang from the Brugmansia and I imagine the cob of corn in situ I’ve now attached all the full rounds of corn with Magic Sculpt and Barry has competed the wiring. My studio is in chaos! Sixteen days to go til set up. I sure hope this works!
October 1 2017: Kim gets word that the pot of glass at the studio will be charged with white glass tomorrow instead of clear. Kim races to the studio to blow a few more small kernels for the top layer and will return tomorrow to blow the very top piece before the glass gets changed.
We work in the studio in the evening and decide on the actual stacking order of the glass. Kim will need to mold more Magic Sculpt into the interstitial areas to block the light and give the “cob” behind the glass kernels a continuous look.