From the Studio: The Conductor

Conductor 2013The Conductor was the first creation ever made under the name Encore! Old Pianos with a New Song.

After spending days disassembling a hundred-year-old Lyon & Healy upright grand piano, cleaning away the dust, and storing the hundreds of screws in a container for future use, I began to move the pieces around this way and that to see what ideas would come to mind. When I held two sticker assemblies together, they seemed to form a man’s body—minus the head, of course.

So I cut the shank off a hammer, sanded it smooth, and voila! a head!

I decided to make him into a conductor because his hands were up in the air. So I gave him a baton (bridle wire).

Next, the conductor needed a music stand. The bottom of the stickers already looked like the base of a music stand with two feet sticking out on either side, so I simply (poor choice of words, I admit) constructed the platform on which to set the music. This platform was made from eleven flanges glued together,  plus one extra flange underneath to provide stability. They were then glued to the two flanges still attached to the “coat tails” of the conductor. So the entire conductor was fully assembled before being mounted onto the canvas, although he could not be a free-standing figurine like the Don Quixote I saw in the art gallery in Florida, because he was too top-heavy.

Conductor 01

As a sidebar, let me tell you my early process of freeing the flanges. If you’ll look in the photo above, you’ll see at the “feet” that they are attached by a small metal pin. There’s also a bushing around the pin to allow freedom of movement at the hinge. In the piano, the parts need to be able to move freely, but not too freely, in order for the piano to function properly. When they get too tight, you get “sticky keys.” To be honest, I’m not sure what the problem is when they are too loose. Perhaps they fall apart. But in my experience of taking them apart, being too loose is seldom a problem.

So, to get them apart, I pushed one end of the pin with the tip of a tiny pair of jeweler’s needle nose pliers until the pin was sticking out far enough on the other side to grab it with the pliers. Then I pulled the pin the rest of the way out and dropped it into a jar. I’ll probably never use the pins again, but I’m saving them and the springs for the fun of it, just to see how long it takes me to fill the jar with these tiny pieces. (For the record, at the rate I’m going, it may never be filled.)

As most of you know, there are 88 keys on a piano. That means inside the piano, in the action, there are 88 hammers, 88 whippens, 88 stickers (or the equivalent), about 78 dampers (the highest strings don’t need them), etc. But for every set of hammer, damper, whippen, and sticker, there could be 5 flanges. That’s a total of 440 flanges in a single piano! You can imagine the time it took me to push and pull that many pins out of their comfy spots! And let’s not say anything about how tired, sore, and dirty I was when I got finished.

On to the best part….

The Conductor needed a background. So I placed him on a stage with a crowd of listeners behind him and a spotlight which landed at his feet. I’ve made six of them so far, sometimes two at a time, and no two have turned out exactly alike. It’s time to make some more. In fact, the empty canvases are ready to go, and the photos will be added to Instagram as soon as they are finished.

Thank you for joining me on this tour of the studio. I look forward to seeing you on the next one. Until then, I invite you to check out photos of my other work in the gallery. Enjoy the rest of your day!

My Dear Readers

The first weekend of March I will be at my very first juried art show! That said, the next couple weeks will be dedicated to the studio, with less time given to my blogs. Some posts are scheduled, and I’ll check in from time to time to respond to comments, but please excuse me if it takes a little while. Thank you so much for reading! I’ll be back!

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