From the Studio: Middle C

Welcome back to my piano art studio. Today I’d like to share with you a piece that has come to mean a lot of things to a lot of people.

A new backdrop

Years ago I decided to create some pieces mounted on wood from the piano case rather than a stretched canvas. After all, I had lots of wood at my disposal. To begin with, I took a footboard (the panel at the bottom front of the piano, which conceals the strings and the workings for the pedals). I measured the board to see how it could be equally divided, and the result was a stack of smaller pieces measuring 7″ x 10″. I’ve used these measurements ever since.

Also in good supply, at the time, were keys I had taken from off the pianos. In particular, I had several sets of C, D, E, and the sharps between them.

The surplus was due to the fact that I had made quite a few pieces called “Keyed Up,” each of which incorporates two groupings of F-A and only one grouping of C-E. So I decided to showcase these small sets of keys by framing them in the extensions I had cut off of them.

A slight problem

What I didn’t realize was that piano keys are not a uniform thickness from one end to the other. Most of them appear to be, but when placed end to end, I could see the differences. That meant that could almost never have a clean corner on my frames. So I fixed the problem by adding embellishments to each corner, namely, a flange and a let-off button. They covered the imperfections nicely and added a bit of interest in the process. The felt on the letoff buttons can vary in color. In fact, I have found various hues of green, gold, red, and white. I usually incorporate the felts, to add a tiny splash of color; but sometimes I use letoff buttons that have lost their felts, and I think it looks good that way too.

A fitting name

Because this key display always incorporates and begins with the C note, I decided to call it “Middle C.”

A personal touch

The idea to turn “Middle C” into a commemorative plaque started with a custom order. The long-time organist at a particular church was getting ready to retire, and the congregation wanted to recognize his many years of service. Together my customer and I came up with a way to do this.

Since then, many other Middle C’s have been graced with a personal touch to commemorate an anniversary, retirement, or other special occasion.

To repair keys that had lost their ivories, I had purchased several recycled ivory keytop tails (the long skinny part of the ivory key) and heads (the shorter, fatter portion of the key). As it turns out, the tail fit perfectly on the bottom of the frame.

Since ivory is translucent, I paint the back with white so the wood won’t show through. And before adding the inscription, I trace the shape of the ivory tail onto a paper sack and practice writing in that space so I’ll know exactly how I want it laid out. When I’m satisfied with my draft, I then do it again on the ivory keytop tail. I first write in pencil, then go over it in ink. When the ink has dried, I seal it with two coats of varnish. Then when the varnish has cured, I glue it down to the frame.

Whether the “Middle C” is personalized or not, on the back I add a half-sheet “Story behind the art,” a sawtooth hanger, and two felt bumpers on the bottom corners (a.k.a. key rail punchings), and with that the piece is finished.

How can I make it mine?

It’s hard to keep these in stock, as they are one of my best sellers. But as long as I have one available for sale, you’ll find the “Middle C” here in my shop. When you get there, select the option that works best for you, whether standard or customized. Because of their popularity, I always keep this listing active, whether I have any completed Middle C’s in stock or not. When made to order, they usually take me a week to build; but if you find one in stock, you can have it in just a few days. In fact, I’m working on three of them right now: one to fill an order, and two more for you to choose from.

♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬

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!

Published by Angela Umphers Rueger

Hello. I am a joyful wife and mother of three, just turned loose the last of my little chicks, and getting ready to spread my own writing wings. Twenty-six years ago I earned a B.A. in English because my heart's desire was to write. Since that time I've worked as a teacher, musician, cleaning lady, tax professional, and artist, but never as a writer. In the past year, several friends have encouraged me to pick up the baton and run with it. By creating this blog, I took the first baby step toward becoming a published author. The journey will likely be longer than I can imagine, but it has finally begun, and that's all that matters.

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