Sunday, June 9, 2019

Sweetgum Ball Sculpture Proposal

Last month I submitted a proposal to the town of Silverton to build a 10-foot diameter steel Sweetgum ball.  Although I did not get the commission, I thought I would post my sketches and the description from the proposal below.

"Silverton has a strong history of celebrating the health and vitality of the community’s tree canopy. Considering its history of urban forestry and its designation as a “Tree City,” I wanted to propose a sculpture that would remind viewers of that connection. I am therefore proposing to build a 10 ft. diameter Sweetgum ball that would be made of steel. The entire body of the piece would be made of sheet metal welded together. A supporting “soccer-ball” frame would be built to house each of the “arms.” The three-dimensional “arms” of the sculpture would be created using slats of sheet metal, similar to my other metal sculptures (see images here). Steel is a perfect material for this sculpture as it will turn brown as it rusts to mimic the brown color of a real Sweetgum ball."

"The Sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) 'is one of the main valuable forest trees in the southeastern United States, and is a popular ornamental tree in temperate climates' (Wikipedia). Cincinnati is at the top of its native range and it is well-known by its star-shaped leaves and hard, spiky fruits. The seeds are eaten by finches, sparrows, doves, and wild turkeys. Small mammals such as chipmunks, red squirrels and gray squirrels also enjoy the fruits and seeds ( Humans have also enjoyed sweetgums for centuries, chewing the sap as gum and also enjoying a wide variety of medicinal benefits. And although the Sweetgum balls can be a hazard when mowing the lawn or walking barefoot, the seedpod itself is quite stunning."

"Below is a rendering of how the Silverton Sweetgum ball would sit on location."

Yesterday a new friend told me that you either succeed or you learn.  It took me a minute to let that sink in, but once it did I loved the idea. A part of me was sad I didn't get the commission because I think the world would be a better place with a giant steel Sweetgum ball.  But I learned there is a joy and a power in having an idea and communicating that vision to the world.  And just working on this watercolor sketch made me weirdly happy.  I usually like to end with a quote, but there were too many good ones about this subject.  So I will leave you with three of my favorites:   

"Would you like me to give you a formula for success?
It's quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure.
You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success.
But it isn't at all.
You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it,
so go ahead and make mistakes.
Make all you can.
Because remember that's where you will find success."

-- Thomas J. Watson

"Success is not the key to happiness.
Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you are doing,
you will be successful."

-- Albert Schweitzer

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear."

-- Jack Canfield

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


Last month George and I drove to Santa Fe to pick up the fired sculpture I made last summer at Roxanne Swentzell's workshop.  The drive was 2 twelve hour days there and 2 twelve hour days back, but we got her home safe and sound.

Before we brought her home we took her out into the desert to photograph her in her natural setting.  She is not a light girl so George helped me move her all around, trying to capture the best light and angle.

The sculpture's name is "Abierta", which means "openness".  When I did the original blog post about making her, I wrote about how the hole has several meanings to me ranging from infertility to joy and abundance.  But when I sat down to write this post another interesting idea occurred to me.

Last week was a challenging week in a couple ways.  My Dad's house was hit by a tornado.  He was lucky he didn't lose his roof like most of his neighbors.  But he did lose his fence.  He had a wood fence that was completely flattened by the wind.  As we were picking up the pieces of the fence I saw his neighbor's fence two houses down was still standing.  But the fences were different in one important way.  My Dad's fence had no spaces between the vertical wood slats while his neighbor's fence had a space about the width of a slat between all the pieces.  The wind just sailed right through and his neighbor's fence was spared.

The other challenging thing that happened this week was that I had a fight with a person dear to me.  There was a stressful situation and I felt a couple of negative comments directed at me.  Afterwards I was sitting with the hurt of the words and had the thought, "Can I let these 'arrows' fly through me?'"  I had to ask myself if there was truth to the negative comments.  If there was truth to the comments then those arrows were going to hurt and I need to further examine my responsibility.  But if I honestly looked and there was no truth, then the wise thing would be to let the arrows fly right through.

As I thought about both my Dad's fence and my argument I realized that there is a great advantage to being open.  The more open I am, the less resistance I present.  The less of "me" (or my ego) there is, the more likely the wind won't knock me down, the arrows will fly right through, and maybe if I am lucky a little sunlight will come in.

Although the last paragraph was the prefect ending to the blog post I had to add an addendum.  I have been struggling this week with the question "Is it possible to be too open?"  I don't know the answer to that question, but I do know it is important to have boundaries.  "Fences" serve an important purpose.  They help keep the good things in and the bad things out.  Maybe the trick is to find just the right balance between strong boards and empty spaciousness.  I want to be spacious enough to feel the thrill of those strong winds but also to remain standing when the tornado blows through.  The truth is we will all get knocked down.  But every time we get knocked down we are reminded to find our inner spaciousness and our strength.  We are both the tornado and the calm.