Week 7: Carpe Diem!

Text and sketches by Amy Forsyth

We’re really feeling the end of this amazing residency approaching! This past week, everyone scurried around, trying to finish things. Some of the larger pieces have already been delivered to the gallery. In the midst of it all, I came down with a cold and lost a whole day trying to sleep long enough to get rid of it. I missed some fun events, too, trying to catch up. We’ll have to believe the stories we’ve been told, which I’ll pass along to you.

We started the week with 100 degree weather, and a few storms that did nothing to relieve the humidity. Fortunately, our spaces are air conditioned, recently fixed, so work continued. Per’s forest of squiggles has grown and become three-dimensional.

Per in his forest

On Tuesday, everyone stopped work in the afternoon to visit Michael Hurwitz’ shop. I hope Ellie might add some photos of this, since I missed it. Work continued at night, as has been typical this entire residency. Everyone puts in 12-14 hour days on a regular basis, which shows in the sheer quantity of work that we’ve started delivering to the Center. It’s great stuff, too. It’s true that you get good at the things you do on a daily basis. Speaking of which, here’s the next installation of Josh’s Sculpture-a-Day project. They’d gotten away from me, somehow he’d managed to make a whole bunch of these while I was busy doing other things.

Heide’s experiments are resulting in some truly gorgeous surfaces and objects. This knob really knocked my socks off. She cast crushed eggshells in black pigmented epoxy in a round ice cube tray, then turned it on the lathe, once it was dry to make a polished knob. This sketch doesn’t really do it justice, it’s really gorgeous. She’s got some other similar experiments going that look great, as well. And Ellie is making a chair! No color (actually, she bleached it today) but she carved the back to respond to the traditional Moravian chair design, turning it into something else entirely! It’s lovely.

Heide’s cast eggshell knob, Ellie’s chair back, and a favorite lunch location

Hartmut has lined all the pieces of his Diary in Wood up on oak boards in preparation for taking them to the Center, and it’s a gorgeous and impressive array. Jake’s been turning giant branches on the lathe, after sawing them up with the chainsaw. Most of our work finished, we’ve been taking some time to enjoy being in this area, in the city, with its variety of cuisines and other adventures. On Wednesday night, there was a drag show at Bob and Barbara’s, which apparently has the longest running drag show in the area. A friend of Ellie’s was one of the emcees, so off they went (I was still snuffling, so I went back to the dorm). The next night we realized would be our last chance just for the Fellows to go out by ourselves, since families were starting to arrive for visits and the opening of the show. We went out for Indian food, followed by drinks at El Vey, where, after a tequila or two, we attempted to fit all seven of us into the photo booth for commemorative photos with predictable results.

We’ve become familiar with several of the security guards at our dorm and studio, who are often friendly and enjoy an occasional chat. Kim, pictured below, who is both greeter and guard at Hamilton Hall is always fun to banter with, and plans to come to our opening at the Center.

An account of our last night out, a portrait of Kim.

Many of us are still finishing up our work, but trying to enjoy our remaining time in this part of the world. Per went to the beach, and Jake took Hartmut to a Phillies game, and Josh’s family has arrived. It’s fun to hear little feet in the dorm hallway. Hartmut’s family has landed in New York and today, he’s gone up to get them. So during our last week, we’ll finish up details and deliver the rest of the work to the Center for installation. I still have to finish my frames for my drawings, finish this sketchbook, and bind it.

We’ve had a wonderful time!

Come to our opening this Friday, August 2nd, from 5-9 at the Center! We’re excited to see you all and show you what we’ve been doing!

Week 6: More Inspiration!

Drawings and text by Amy Forsyth. Ellie Richards has added some wonderful photos to the earlier blog posts, so check them out!

The weeks are flying by so quickly! And the studios are filling with amazing objects! This week, we’ve had to write artist statements, give our lists of planned exhibition inclusions, provide images, etc, so all the folks at the Center can design the show and the catalog. It’s a little startling, but a good way to focus our attention on trying to finish what we’ve started, or at least reach a good stopping point. We’ve all really gotten into a productive groove, so it’s kind of sad to realize that we have to have at least one eye on the deadline.

In addition to trying to finish up projects, there have also been field trips we’ve been eager to take, so this week was a good time to make those happen. On Tuesday, we visited Mark Sfirri’s amazing wood shop, a miracle of organization and home of incredible experiments in off center turning, among other investigations. We took Mark to lunch, and then he took us to a chocolate shop in New Hope, owned and operated by Barbara Serratore, whom we’d all enjoyed meeting several weeks ago at Echo Lake. She and Mark spoiled us and sent us off with treats.

Our next stop was the Wharton Esherick Museum. Our guide there was Al Trapuzzano, a furniture maker who always gives a great tour. I’ve been there probably 20 times, since I take my furniture class there every year, but I always manage to find something wonderful I hadn’t noticed before. You can imagine how excited and inspired the rest of the group was to see a building so closely integrated with its furnishings and its creator. We had the additional treat of being invited into the blue house, designed by Lou Kahn and Esherick together, where Esherick’s son-in-law still lives. That is usually off limits, but Bob welcomed us graciously.

Docent extraordinaire Al Trappuzano, and some sketches of Esherick objects

We made the mistake of heading back to Philly around 5pm, so we all got to experience the joys of rush hour. Josh has been our patient driver most of the time, and he calmly guided us back to the city.

The following day, I had made an appointment for us to experience the REAL Wanamaker Organ, housed in Macy’s. A few years ago, I had given a talk at UArts, where I showed some of the musical objects I had made. A slender fellow with chiseled features came up to me afterwards and informed me that I needed to follow him to see something amazing. His name is Scott Kip, and he is a graduate of the wood program at UArts, and one of his jobs is to restore the organ. He is one of several specialists on staff, who maintain and restore the 28,000 pipes and the mechanism that keeps it playing. The organ is played twice a day, and there has been a stir recently around the restoration of the organ facade, which is basically the symbolic image of the organ, which has been painted bright gold. What most people don’t know is that those golden pipes are not the actual organ, they don’t even play. The real organ is in a maze of small wooden rooms on several floors above the department store. Scott’s tour of the organ takes you on excursions up ladders, through tiny openings and narrow pathways, ducking under bellows and around columns still painted to look like the Egyptian Hall from the 1920’s, but currently embedded within a contemporary dropped ceiling. We travelled through a surreal landscape of giant bass wooden box organ pipes, 30 feet tall, under the breathing bellows, up a narrow ladder and a narrower hatchway into rooms with arrays of pipes of varying materials, then out into the department store, where women were shopping for dresses. Back into the wooden rooms full of organ pipes, then through a long series of rooms decorated for Christmas, with clockwork figures wrapped in plastic, just waiting for a cooler season. Grand staircases that crash into drywall partitions on the way to the Wurlitzer organ, which is a small version of the building size organ housed all around us, scented by warring fragrances being tested in the elegant room below. It’s an amazing and surreal journey through a dizzying variety of spaces and materials.

My attempt to capture the experience of touring the organ

After that, we all got back to work. I spent some time seeing what Heide has been working on, since I missed her last week. Her careful testing of unusual materials results in some absolutely gorgeous surfaces and objects. She’s been working on a series of boxes with material variations for the doors, knobs, and backs, capturing denim in epoxy, turning soapstone knobs on the lathe, weaving different kinds of fibers, using natural materials such as turmeric for dyes, using eggshells as surface and pattern for a knob. It’s all such lovely stuff, especially with her perfectly lacquered black boxes as backgrounds.

And, of course, both Hartmut and Josh continue in their daily production. Per has been steam bending beautiful thickets of twisting limbs. Here’s a drawing of Josh’s most recent sculpture-a-day projects. He’s making them faster than I can draw them!

The security guards are very nice. Some of them are there at the entrance every day. This is Anthony, who usually works in the late afternoon until closing.

Jacob has been testing all kinds of things, casting concrete, turning forms (some enormous!) on the lathe.

I’ve been working on more of my train drawings.

Yes, that is Jacob at the Station, and no, he wasn’t actually there.

Just so you don’t think I’m the only one who draws, around here, let me include a few sketches by the other residents.

This is a sketch by Per, showing how his bent wood pieces should be located in the gallery

This sketch is also by Per, a sketch of his bending jigs

Sketch by Hartmut, showing how to carve a chain, and initial sketches of his tuba piece

Sketches by Hartmut, studies for his woodblock prints and his octopus tentacles

Heide’s beautiful drawing showing possible cabinet variations

Ellie’s entirely different approach to sketching, where she transforms a book using collage

Josh reveals his architectural training in these gorgeous sketches.

Josh has several books that he can mine for forms for his daily sculptures

Jacob’s chalkboard sketches in the room where he’s working.

It’s Sunday, and we get kicked out of the building at 5 pm, so there are plans to get Philly Water Ice (pronounced “wudder issss”) on this hot, hot day. Next week will be dedicated to finishing things up and framing, even delivering some work to the Center.

Week 5: Make first, think second?

Text and drawings by Amy Forsyth, 2019 Sketch Artist

This week, our scholar, John-Duane Kingsley, joined us. His arrival gave us the opportunity to pause and assess what we’ve been doing over the past few weeks and adjust our course for the last three weeks. John chatted with us informally, at first, to get a sense of who we are and what informs our work, and then he came up with a series of thoughtful and informed questions for us to answer on the record. At the end of his visit, on Saturday, we hosted an open studio session, where people could come and see what we’ve been doing for the past few weeks, listen to us talk about our research, have lunch, and finally, do demos, where we each chose a favorite tool and demonstrated it or spoke about it. After a nap, we all went out for Ethiopian food and a couple of drinks before sending John off to the airport. Here he is, with his computer in the bench room…

This past week, our student resident, Jacob, was working on making molds for casting concrete. When I stopped in to sketch him, he was working on casting some long extruded rectangular bars.


Ellie has been working on many things, one of which is a series of chains, which she’s making in a variety of ways, to make as many as possible. Here’s a sketch of her trimming edges with her great grandfather’s chisel.

IMG_9298 2

Joshua continues to make his sculpture a day series. I’m trying to keep up with them and catalog all of them. Here’s the next installment. His sketches of them are really beautiful, I’ll make a point to include some of the other residents’ sketches next time. Heide also draws beautifully, as does Hartmut.

Ellie was hand planing some legs for a bench at the bench next to Josh, so I managed to catch them in action in the same drawing.

I’ve neglected to draw Heide this week, although she’s been working away on her beautiful series of cabinets with door variations. I’ll make a point to spend some extra time with her this next week.

Hartmut has taken one of Phil Brown’s bowl blanks that his wife Barbara encouraged us to transform, and look what he’s made with it!

It sounds good, too! He spent a lot of time tweaking it to get a good sound, turning different mouthpieces with different size openings. We tested it today, and it prefers C and F in two octaves.

IMG_9289 2

As for me, in addition to my documentation of our activities, I’ve also started a series of long horizontal drawings that I’ve been calling my “Train drawings,” although I think some will be pedestrian based instead of trying to capture the higher speed of a train. I’m interested in how we perceive our surroundings as we move though space, and I’m investigating ways to represent motion, the things we see clearly and the things that just become impressions of color or shape. Here are the first two. I’m making frames for ten of these, so we’ll see where they go, next. I have two more underway that aren’t ready to be photographed, just yet.

I think at some point these might become three dimensional, but for now, I’m just drawing and building frames.

I didn’t have time to draw during the open studio, but we had a(nother!) major shop clean up and welcomed visitors to come talk with us about our work. Everyone seemed to enjoy the visit, and it gave us a chance to take a breath and see all we’ve accomplished in our weeks here. I’m impressed at the sheer quantity and quality of the work, everyone is so productive! We’ll see what emerges next week. And we’ll miss our resident scholar, John, who has returned to Detroit.

Let’s see if I can leave you with a video clip of Hartmut playing his horn.

Week 4: Work and Play

Text and sketches by Amy Forsyth, 2019 Sketch Artist

The first half of this past week we were very productive. Everyone dashed about, carved, cut, shaped, turned, painted, drew, etc. And then, there was July 4 and 5, when the entire building, including the wood shop, was closed. Many of us took this opportunity to visit with friends and family, go sight seeing, and rest for a bit.

Per creates a mountain of ash dowels using the router table

Here’s a little collection of sketches showing what Ellie has been doing. She’s taken offcuts from her other projects and created colorful assemblages of them, layering paint and textures. She’s also been doing some studies using unusual materials, such as casting dowels in straws in epoxy and turning the works on the lathe using the sander to shape it. That’s still in progress. It’s been interesting to see the contrast between her madcap explorations and Heide’s crisp and intentional, almost scientific approach to exploring materials. They sit next to one another in the room across the hall away from the woodshop. Jacob has joined them in there, and is also doing some material explorations, casting concrete.

The Drake, which looms over our dorm, and a page of Ellie and her delightful studies.

Here’s Heide, doing some investigations into paint.

In the meantime, Josh continues to work with some steam bent ash, while also continuing his sculpture-a-day project. He’s been pretty good about staying on schedule.

Hartmut has been unbelievably productive, he always has a new project at hand. Either his collection of small carvings he calls his “Diary in Wood,” or a larger piece is going at any time. He’s carved this beautiful curving fabric-like piece.

Hartmut’s wooden cloth and a consulttion between Per and Don Miller.


Through it all, our stalwart shop director, Tara, keeps it all going, from maintaining the machinery to providing advice and materials, she’s the heart of the wood shop. Here she is, lurking in her “cave.”

A catalog of Josh’s pieces to date, and a drawing of Tara

In addition to my sketches, I also have been working on some bigger, more finished drawings. I took a series of photos at one of the collectors’ magnificent houses and did a series of sketches to decide which one to turn into a finished drawing. Here are the sketches, followed by the drawing.

Since the building was closed over July 4 and 5, we all scattered. Visits from family, family reunions, trips to New York City, were on the agenda. I went back to my rural home in Berks County and took Hartmut with me. We went swimming at some friends’ house, to a July 4 party, and to a concert at a local brewery. And don’t you know, he managed to make three of his lovely little carvings for his “Diary in Wood” in those two days.



Week 3: Time to focus!

Text and sketches by “Sketch Artist,” Amy Forsyth

This past week was the first one where we really were able to start working and focus for an entire week without interruption. Our heads were full of new ideas and images from our past couple weeks’ activities and visits, but we found ourselves beginning with projects that felt comfortable and familiar.  Once we get going, I imagine that we’ll become more experimental, but at the moment, everyone seems to be working in their usual mode.  I’m finding that making drawings is taking all of my time, and haven’t really ventured into the wood shop very much, as I had intended. Everyone else is making enough dust and shavings to make up for it.  Especially Hartmut, who was working in the other room with an electric chainsaw, and Josh, who has been continuing his rigorous sculpture-a-day schedule.

Josh carving

Heide has been experimenting with turmeric dye, and has found that poplar accepts dye well, especially in sequential layers.  She’s got some beautiful and very bright yellow boards.

bird skeleton

I discovered a lending library of skeletons on the third floor, and took out a pigeon skeleton to draw.  That then led to the necessity of visiting the Museum of Natural History to draw dinosaurs.


T-rex head

It was pretty loud in there. The camp counsellors should be paid way more than they get.

Meanwhile, Hartmut was carving.

Hartmut carving


Navva stopped by for a visit, to make some plans for our upcoming Open Studio, etc.

Navva visit

…and I started a drawing of one of the amazing collectors’ houses. These are the “thumbnails,” trying to decide which of the images to turn into a finished drawing.

residence thumbnails

This week, I will be focusing on each of the residents, making drawings of them, their processes, and their work.

residents in phila

The residents in the city!

Ellie has some photos she’d like to share, so you’ll hear from her, soon.

Hi Ellie here with more pictures from our action packed days – how about some from Philadelphia’s Organic Recycling Center?!