Winterthur: Through the Eyes of Charles Hummel

There is no doubt that Winterthur is one of the finest and most fascinating collections of American heritage from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.  If not carefully collected by Henry Francis du Pont, this wonderful collection of Americana may have slipped into forgotten history, or perhaps at best, it would have been scattered into public and private collections throughout the country and the world.

H. F. du Pont and his father, Henry Algernon du Pont, designed Winterthur in the early 1900’s in the spirit of 18th and 19th century European country houses.  In 1951, the younger H.F. du Pont realized the dream and founded The Winterthur Museum. With more than 85,000 objects from 1640 through 1860, one can glimpse back into the past and imagine the early beginnings of America through art, craft and design unlike anywhere else.

Today, Winterthur features beautiful gardens, magnificent period rooms, a library, a conservatory and a dedicated staff of professionals that continue Henry Francis du Pont’s dream of preserving this legacy.  Charles Hummel is one of those dedicated professionals who bridges the history of Winterthur as a museum, and he gave the ITE residents a private tour with as much passion as the du Ponts had for preserving history.

So, what was the main attraction for a small group of artists working with wood?  The Dominy family’s wood working studio from New York – circa 1745.  This exhibit features about 1100 tools and templates, along with the original fixtures and benches, which generations of Dominy’s worked with up until about 1940, when the shop was measured by the Historic American Building Survey and afterward preserved at Winterthur.  Charles gave us a brief history of the Dominy family’s importance to wood working in early America, as we peered through the preservation glass that enclosed the exhibit.  With a knowing smile, he then unlocked the door to the exhibit and we went inside.

Charles Hummel tells us about the Dominy family wood shop. The collection and furniture made by the Dominy's is further explained in his book 'With Hammer in Hand' (1968)

Charles Hummel explains the importance of the Dominy exhibit at Winterthur

A view into a wood shop that may have been seen several hundred years ago

As I took a closer look into the Dominy wood shop, Stefano's silhouette could be seen reflected in the glass.

Inside the Dominy wood shop

A colonial lathe

Back in the day, before there was a Home Depot, an artisan made - and signed - their own tools. This plane was inscribed 'Nathaniel Dominy 1766'

One of the oldest objects in the entire Winterthur collection - A broken dress sword that was re-purposed into a gouge. Inscribed upon the blade: 1660

Stefano Catalani: Scholar in Residence

I was lining up a shot of some current work in progress at the studio when I heard Wonjoo’s voice call my name.  Standing next to her was a spirited gentleman with salt and pepper hair, a well-groomed beard and covered in wood chips and shavings.  When he introduced himself, his eyes shown brightly with an energy about him that exuded excitement.  Meet Stefano Catalani, an Italian American artist, curator at the Bellevue Museum in Seattle Washington, (U.S.) and this years Scholar in Residence at the ITE.

Stefano is a dual citizen of Italy and the US, currently living in Seattle Washington.  His roots reach half way around the world to Rome, where hints of his youth can still be heard in the accent of his voice. Indeed, like a child, his excitement reflected his current discovery and fascination with the process of woodturning.  Having never turned before, he had been incessantly working on the lathe all week – making bowls and practicing the new skills he had learned from the residents.

As we got acquainted, he looked and acted more like a working artist than a scholar.  Admittedly, I had expected a more studious looking type, probably someone quiet in nature – while being observant of the activity in the ITE studio.  Isn’t that what a scholar looks like when they do what they do?  My assumptions revealed a stereotypical view – and Stefano Catalani is anything but stereotypical.

Stefano explained more about the intent behind his participation in this years program.  I learned his process of study is inclusive of tactile, hands on experience in addition to observation.  His methods were driven by immense curiosity, complimented by intellect, innate creative skills and a supreme sense of self.  Pride and identity began to emerge from Stefano’s worktable and I asked him what we was working on.

“I am making pasta!”, he said.  “I am Italian, I love food – it is what I am supposed to do – right?”  He distinctly looked at me for a reaction.  Perhaps a bit slow on the uptake, I was waiting for more information.  “You Americans are too gullible”, he said with a laugh – his wry smile accentuated by his twisty mustache.  He resumed mixing from piles of wood shavings, flour and egg yokes and continued to flash glances at me as he explained how he loves to challenge stereotypes.  “The piece I am working on addresses a stereotypical view of Italians.  “We love food and we love to eat – I am no exception.”   But Stefano IS an exception – an exceptional thinker and practitioner of the humanities through making art.

Stefano Catalani

The ingredients of challenging sterotypes

Stefano re-purposes a gouge to roll the pasta.

Noodles

Another re-purposed object: A Maxwell House coffee jar lid makes for perfectly sized raviolis.

Work in progress.

The scholar at work.

A sneak peek at Stefano's collaborative challenge.

This project was to be the last of Stefano’s week long visit; a work in progress and a study of one of the tenants of The ITE program – Collaboration.  Purposely left unfinished, he has asked each resident to contribute to the effort.  Come to the opening exhibition – Friday, Aug 6th, 2010 at The Wood Turning Center – to see Stefano’s piece we all will have had a hand in – together.

TURNing up the heat!

I have come to the realization that it simply is not possible to experience life to this degree AND record each newsworthy happening in the virtual world simultaneously.  Its been over a week since my last update and there’s a lot to catch you up on.  Stefano Catalani, this years ITE scholar, was in residence for a week.  We took a tour at Winterthur with Charles Hummel and visited David Ellsworth’s studio.  On Saturday, the residents wrapped up the week with a stellar demonstrations on Open Studio Day at UArts.  In addition, we are getting down to the wire in preparation for the opening night exhibition of allTURNatives: Form + Spirit 2010.  Mark your calendars and join us for a spectacular event on August 6th, 2010 at the Wood Turning Center.  Amidst all this flurry of activity  – Luc and Derek and Dave have written wonderful entries about their experiences also.  You can read more on Derek’s page, Luc’s page. and Dave’s page.

On a personal note, I have been ‘learning the turning’ myself and produced my first piece in poplar and oak!  So while we are all quite busy – fear not!  Each event mentioned above will be featured in its own chapter coming soon to a virtual world near you!

Work In Progress

There is a process that every artist employs when creating works of art.  It is a method that is uniquely ones own, and that method is revealed during the progress of creation – from concept to signature.  To be inside the artists studio while they create their work is nothing short of inspiring.

The ITE residents are now in high gear at The University of the Arts studios.  Drawings, rough cut concepts, tools and shavings – lots of shavings – all lay strewn about the place.  Amongst the flurry of evidence, one can see several curious objects emerging from the fray.  Many of these will wind up being exhibited at The allTurnatives: form + spirit opening on August 6th at the Wood Turning Center.  Download the August 6th press release or directions to the Center.

Luc & Wonjoo are planning something very special.

Jay Heryet

Derek Weidman

Luc DeRoo

Wonjoo Park

Join us next weekend – Saturday, July 17th 2010 – when the studio will be open to the public for a rare glimpse into the world of creating wood art. 

OPEN STUDIO DAY

2010 International Turning Exchange (ITE) Residency Program
Saturday, July 17 | 10 AM – 4 PM

University of the Arts Wood Studios

333 South Broad Street, 4th Floor, Philadelphia, PA

Open Studio Day is when the public is invited into the ITE Residents’ shop for demonstrations and discussion. This event takes place at the UArts Wood Working Department in Anderson Hall, 333 South Broad Street. The residents will share their skills and talk about their evolving work. Visitors can arrive any time after 10 am and stay until 4 pm or as long as they want. Lunch with the group will be available. Please RSVP to the Center, the donation for Open Studio Day is $10, payable to the Wood Turning Center.

Please RSVP at 215-923-8000

Conversations with Collectors: The Bernstein-Chernoff Collection

After our morning tour with Fleur, she gave us a map and told us all about how to navigate DC during a large scale civic event.  Her life long experience as a Washingtonian gave us the quickest shortcut of all.  It was Pride day in the District, and when we realized the potential for traffic, we were happy to be headed out to the ‘burbs to visit Dr. Jeffery Bernstein & Dr. Judy Chernoff.

Judy answered the door with a smile and we walked into a world of art and love.  Everyone seemed excited for the moment – especially our hosts – who promptly gave us two choices – ‘Are you hungry?  …Or do you want to talk about art?’  To a resounding, “Lets talk about Art!”, we headed into the den.  Wood sculptures large and small were tastefully placed on, and amongst the furnishings.  Sky lights above brought natural light into the rooms and there was a sense of appreciation and comfort all about the place.  We wandered about & Jeff and Judy told of their personal stories behind every piece.  I found myself happy that i had started this adventure off with the EX-1 in my hands.  Being primarily a ‘stills guy’, i was so excited to be filming – if nothing else, because I was capturing audio too.  For the stories i heard that day, audio was key, to say the least.

Jeff enjoys sharing.

To be able to touch and feel master works, is the kind of direct exposure we have enjoyed along the way.

After a while, we sat down for a break at the kitchen table.  Not just any kitchen table; rather  – a giant painters pallet.  Over a great meal, we each shared a little bit about ourselves and in turn, everyone got to learn more about one another.  Sharing a meal is perhaps one of the greatest ways to get to know each other…  Judy is a photographer, Jane is a teacher, Luc had never been on an airplane before, Dereks father was an artist also, Wonjoo visualizes wood in very different ways and Jeff is the current president of The Collectors of Wood Art.

Jeff & Judy showed us works in wood that were extremely fragile. Paper thin works... pieces intricately, thinly designed. I was grateful to know the Bernsteins were taking good care of them.

Wonjoo observes 'a monster' being set back on the table.

Wonjoo Park

If not for organizations like The Wood Turning Center and The Collectors for Wood Art, these stories may never have been told.