Weekly Photo Challenge: Less Is More

This week’s challenge comes from Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #43: Less Is More. I hope I’ve linked back to the correct blog. Anyway, I love what this photographer had to say on the subject. Allow me to share two quotes from her post, and I invite you to click over to her site to read the rest….

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

 

 

 

Quartet (03)

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”   – Leonardo da Vinci


Thanks again to Cee Neuner for her amazing directory, “For the Love of Challenges.” For the record, Cee’s directory lists not only photo challenges, but also writing and music challenges as well, and they are grouped by category. It’s very well organized.

From the Studio: Coming Home to You

 

Christmas was approaching, and we put our names in the hat for the gift exchange. I drew my brother-in-law’s name, but had no idea what to get for him. He is a cross-country truck driver, home only on the weekends. I’m an artist, specializing in things made from piano parts. I decided to make something for him from the materials at hand that he could carry with him in the truck.

First, I went to social media and downloaded a nice photo of my sister, and cropped it to 5×7. Then I went out to the garage, to my supply of piano wood, and taking the footboard from the 1915 Kohler & Campbell upright piano, cut two pieces from it, trimmed to approximately 6×8, and sanded the edges nice and smooth.

The veneer was loose on one side of the wood, so I removed it completely on that side, then stained the cut edges of the wood and the exposed wood where the veneer had been removed, and set it aside to dry while I worked on the photos.

The original photo I kept pretty much as it was, with the exception that I applied a sepia filter to it in Photoshop. Then I copied and reversed it on the vertical axis, forming a mirror image of the original. I then made the reversed image transparent (like a watermark) and added over the top of it the words, “Happiness is having someone to come home to.” I ordered the prints through Sam’s Club and picked them up an hour later.

Back home, I used a spray adhesive to apply the photos to the inside panels of the wood, then let them sit several hours to dry. The next day I attached the two pieces of wood with two store-bought hinges and applied two coats of a clear polyurethane varnish to all surfaces, allowing time to dry between coats. Finally, I let it rest a few more days to cure.

When Christmas came, I was a bit apprehensive, wondering if Richard would like his gift. I didn’t need to worry—he loved it!

I can make one for you as well. Simply send me a photo and payment, and I will do the rest. The finished product may look slightly different from what you see in the photos here, depending on which piano gives you its wood, but the end result will be a unique and beautiful keepsake—made from the wood of an old piano—that you and your loved one will treasure for years to come.

Happiness is coming home to you!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vanishing Point

This week’s challenge is Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Vanishing Point hosted by Cee Neuner from Cee N Photography.

Kohler & Campbell (9bw)

This was an old piano before it came home. My son and I were just deciding how to extricate it from its place in the back of a garage. While he summed up the situation, I lifted the fallboard a bit to examine the keys.

Ivory Ornaments bw

A bunch of keys have been cleaned, cut, sanded, and are now ready to be painted, lettered, and made into Christmas ornaments.

Key Tiles bw

Many small letter tiles have been cut from piano key extensions, sanded, painted, sanded again for a distressed look, and hand lettered. They will be added to a large Keyed Up, a set of piano keys used to store none other than keys!

 

Action bw

This last photo is an action waiting to be removed, disassembled, cleaned, and put to use.


Thanks again to Cee Neuner for her amazing directory, “For the Love of Challenges.” For the record, Cee’s directory lists not only photo challenges, but also writing and music challenges as well, and they are grouped by category. It’s very well organized.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Worship

This week’s challenge is “Worship” hosted by Frank from Dutch Goes the Photo. My photos for this week’s challenge would not win any contests or strike awe in the viewer, but they do capture true worship in action, not the shadow of a place where worship once took place, however romantic that haunting scene may now appear.

You know, the funny thing is, I’ve been involved in church music for most of my life, but I’ve been hard pressed to find a photo of someone seated at the piano during an actual worship service. I have a growing collection of photos of church buildings, but almost no representatives of the worship that takes place on the inside, and particularly at the piano bench. I suppose that’s because it’s hard to take pictures while worshiping, and especially while playing. 🙂 But here’s one that someone else took and gave to me, taken from close to the back of the sanctuary. It’s rather small, I know, but this tiny frame holds some huge memories for yours truly.

music ministry

Nearly 1,000 miles separate me from that congregation now, but as I look at the photo, I can hear the music coming from the baby grand piano, blending nicely with the crisp tones of Jimmy’s trumpet. As the song of praise draws to its dramatic conclusion, a chorus of amens echoes throughout the pews, then the pastor rises to the pulpit to continue the service with a message from God’s Word.

Below is another example of piano worship. This one was taken just last summer, when my daughter and I went to Mexico to visit some dear, sweet missionary friends, Tom and Jean Zartman, in Monterrey. Mary and I sang a duet, and she played a piano solo in the Sunday morning service, which meets in the lower floor of a dance studio. As you see, it’s not the building that matters, but the people. This church—this congregation—meets three times throughout the week, in three different places. But they are the same church. This serves to remind me that the church is not a building, but a body of believers who join together to worship the Lord Jesus Christ and sing His praises.

Where will you worship this coming Sunday?

Young lady playing solo on keyboard

 

Thanks again to Cee Neuner for her amazing directory, “For the Love of Challenges.” For the record, Cee’s directory lists not only photo challenges, but also writing and music challenges as well, and they are grouped by category. It’s very well organized.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pull Up a Seat

This week’s challenge is “Pull Up a Seat, Week 14” hosted by XingfuMama. I just “happen” to have a few photos of people—and a fur baby—seated at the piano. What a coincidence! 🙂

These two handsome prodigies are soon to be 21 and 22 years old. And yes, they are none other than my piano movers, whom you’ve seen featured in other stories.

two young boys sitting at the piano

The cat looks like I feel sometimes: “That’s too hard. I think I’ll go sip a cup of tea and enjoy a good book instead.”

Cat at Piano

In this third photo is yours truly, back when I had the privilege of playing the piano at a nursing home in Virginia.

06 Chesapeake Place

Thanks again to Cee Neuner for her amazing directory, “For the Love of Challenges.” For the record, Cee’s directory lists not only photo challenges, but also writing and music challenges as well, and they are grouped by category. It’s very well organized.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vertical

What I like most about things vertical is that they remind me to look up.

Luke 21:28b  Look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near.

piano key extensions in an arrow formation
Fermata

This week’s challenge is hosted by Travel with Intent, and the theme is VERTICAL. This is another no-brainer in the realm of old pianos, as an alternate way to describe upright pianos is to call them verticals.

However, since I’ve used a good many photos of my pianos already, I decided this week to show other examples of “vertical,” such as the arrangement of key extensions above. It’s been given a name, “Fermata,” although it only slightly bears a resemblance to the musical symbol. The only trouble with this piece is that it has yet to be finished. It’s only in the planning stage. Maybe someday…. One day I arranged the pieces on the table and took a picture of them, trying to decide if I actually wanted to create a work with this design. What do you think? Feel free to leave your comments or suggestions below.

This next photo is my piano moving team: Matthew, Bobby, and Dolly. Dolly does most of the heavy lifting, but she and I couldn’t do anything without Matthew and Bobby.

two young men standing on a piano dolly
workers at play

Thanks again to Cee Neuner for her amazing directory, “For the Love of Challenges.” For the record, Cee’s directory lists not only photo challenges, but also writing and music challenges as well, and they are grouped by category. It’s very well organized.

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #38: Weathered and Worn

1866 Steinway (4)
1866 Steinway

This week’s challenge was easy, as nearly every piano I’ve ever brought into the family has fit the description of “weathered and worn.”

Hughes 03
1902 Kohler & Campbell

While I love my mission of helping old pianos sing a new song, sometimes it can be quite a challenge due to the conditions from which they have been rescued. People “retire” their pianos to the garage or to a non-climate-controlled storage unit when they no longer have a use for them. Sometimes they move out of the family home, or pass away, and the piano, too heavy to move, is abandoned in the home. If the home sits vacant for any length of time, then both weather and critters take their toll on this once beautiful and fine instrument. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort was put into creating a piano. The highest quality piano ever produced is humbled to the level of the most affordable instrument fashioned for the humblest of homes when it is neglected for decades on end. But even these have a certain charm, you’ll have to admit.

pedals (2)
1895 Chas. M. Stieff

This week I am responding to the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #38 — Weathered or Worn, hosted by Ann-Christine a.k.a Leya of lagottocattleya.wordpress.com. I found this challenge on Cee Neuner’s website

Thanks, Cee, for this wonderful directory you’ve created: “For the Love of Challenges.” For the record, Cee’s directory lists not only photo challenges, but also writing and music challenges as well, and they are grouped by category. It’s very well organized.

 

Lyon & Healy Didn’t Just Make Pianos

Lyon & Healy upright grand piano

The piano that started me on my art journey was a Lyon & Healy upright grand, built in 1906. In addition to studying the parts themselves to figure out what I could do with them, I also wanted to learn all I could about who made this fine musical instrument. While I do not claim to know enough to even call myself an amateur, I will gladly share with you the snippets I have learned.

George W. Lyon and Patrick J. Healy came from Boston to Chicago in 1864 to open a store selling sheet music. Their venture proved to be extremely successful, and within a year they expanded the business and began carrying musical instruments as well. They survived the Great Fire of 1871 because they had excellent insurance coverage. While rebuilding, they acquired the piano business of another firm and became the sole representative in the Chicago area of Steinway & Sons. This was the start of a meaningful relationship with the piano icons from Germany.

Harping on Excellence

Healy noticed that his repair shops were filled with harps that needed a great deal of work, so he set about to design “the finest harp the world has ever seen.” It took years of research, but in 1889, the first Lyon & Healy harp was produced, and it was played daily at Morgan Park High School in Chicago for 90 years, until it was returned to the company to be put on display in the Museo Dell’Arpa Victor Salvi in Italy. Healy’s hard work paid off, and his company became known as the world’s leading manufacturer for concert harps.

In the late 1800s Lyon and Healy further expanded their business. They were already carrying pianos made by other manufacturers, but now they began to produce their own: uprights, players, and grands. They also produced a line of upright pianos under the name of “Washburn” as an affordable alternative to the more elite Lyon & Healy brand.

Pianos and harps were not the only instruments produced by Lyon & Healy. For a while they also built pipe organs for both home and church use, as well as a variety of brass and woodwind instruments. And they did not forget their humble beginnings, for by 1930 they were the largest distributor of sheet music. In fact, they were advertised as being “the world’s largest music house.” New upright pianos sold at that time for $125 to $290. Bear in mind that the average house sold for $4,700, you could buy a car for $1,450, and a loaf of bread cost 4 cents. Many professionals had an annual salary of $1,500 to $4,000.

The Great Pruning

During the Great Depression, the Everett Piano Company bought Lyon & Healy’s piano division, but they continued making pianos under the Lyon & Healy brand until the 1970s, when Steinway & Sons purchased all rights to the name. Steinway closed all Lyon & Healy retail stores and discontinued production of all instruments and sheet music so that the company could focus on the production of harps. It sounds harsh, but sometimes a farmer has to prune branches that are producing fruit so that the remaining branches will produce more and better fruit. After this pruning, Lyon & Healy regained their focus, and their harp industry continues to this day. If not for the hard decision that Steinway made back in the 1970s, Lyon & Healy may well have closed their doors completely by now.

After reading about the humble beginnings, the amazing accomplishments, the harsh pruning, and the incredible longevity of this great company, I have even more respect for the makers of the fine instrument that started me down the path of creating piano art.

Does It Hurt?

At craft shows I have the pleasure of meeting and conversing with a good many folk who stop by my table. Often they ask, “Does it hurt you to take the pianos apart?” My answer has always been: “No. It’s my pleasure because I am keeping them out of the landfill; I’m giving them a new purpose.” But today, after researching to write this article, I must admit that my heart is pained some—okay, more than a little—for this piano in particular. If I had known its history before we started to take it apart, I would have found the $5,000, or whatever it would have taken, to restore it. Because this one would have been worth the cost. And yes, I’m writing this through tears. It’s just a bunch of wood and metal, you say. But that hunk of wood and metal was assembled by a master craftsman, better than most of the others I’ve come across. I can only hope that the people who have purchased items made from the gorgeous tiger oak cabinet and all the action pieces within will appreciate the love that went into creating the piano in the first place, and then the love that went into creating the art.

Here are a few photos of my 1906 Lyon & Healy, as well as some of the works of art I made from it:

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Bibliography

Pierce, W. Robert. Pierce Piano Atlas. 12th Edition. Larry E. Ashley Publishing: Albuquerque, NM, 2008

antiquepianoshop.com

lyonhealy.com

answers.com

 


Riverwalk Arts Festival Update

I promised you an update on the arts festival from this past weekend. In a word, it was tremendous! My daughter and I picked up my packet Friday afternoon, and we set up the tent and tables that evening. Due to the inclement weather, and the sensitivity of the piano parts to humidity (especially the felt), I decided not to set out my merchandise until Saturday morning. We also helped one of our neighbors with her tent, as it was similar to ours and new to her. One of the joys of doing shows is getting to meet the neighbors.
My daughter had things to do on campus, so I took her back Friday night and went alone to the festival early Saturday morning to set up. I had made a good call, for it rained during the night. Nothing was wet except the ground, and everything was off the ground. So I pushed the puddled water off the roof of my tent, opened up the walls, and got everything in its place just in time, about fifteen minutes before time for judging.
When the judge came by, she blended herself in with the crowd, and I never knew she was there. So when she and another lady stopped by my table in the early afternoon with a blue ribbon, I was completely astounded and elated. This was my first juried event, so needless to say, I was on Cloud Nine.
I had been wondering whether or not to stay for Sunday. The Lord held off the rain for most of Saturday, with the exception of just a light sprinkle, but Sunday we were expecting a downpour. Not only that, but my family would be in church and unavailable to help me take things down. So I prayed for a particular amount in sales on Saturday as a guide to whether I should return, and the Lord gave me those sales. My husband came after work Saturday and helped me break down my tent. I had been busy helping my neighbor break hers down, so I wasn’t ready when he got there, but he was very patient with me. We went out to eat afterwards, rejoicing in the Lord and in the good day.
As it turns out, the storm did not come until after 2 p.m. Sunday, but it’s just as well that we packed up when we did. I attended the awards breakfast Sunday morning and got to meet our mayor and a few more fellow artists, including another artist who has some of her work in a gift shop in Navarre, the Sand Dollar Cottage. I’ve seen her work there and admired it, so it was a pleasure to meet her. At the breakfast, the spokeswoman said that in 31 years of hosting the Riverwalk Arts Festival, this is only the second time they’ve had rain. That’s a pretty good track record. Will I be back next year? You bet!

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dogs of Blogs

 

Riverwalk 2019
Guess who came to visit me at the show?

Duke, a 6-year-old German shepherd, is a relatively new addition to our family. My son adopted him a year ago in Virginia, and he just came to live with us last month. When Bobby found him, Duke was malnourished, sick, and severely underweight. With the help of a family friend, who also happens to be a veterinarian assistant, Duke got the care he needed, and now he is healthy and happy.

Duke loves to shadow me around the house. I don’t allow him in the studio because there isn’t enough room in there for the two of us, but he is right by my side in the living room and kitchen.

Duke did not go with me to the art show, but Bobby stopped by for a visit, and I asked him to take a photo of my display, with me in it. Naturally, I had to hold Duke so Bobby could hold the camera.

Getting ready (4)
Isn’t he a handsome fella?

This week I am responding to the photo challenge, Dogs of Blogs, hosted by Jessica of Sorting Life’s Issues with Jess. She has chosen a dog theme for the month of March to celebrate the birthday of her dog Oreo. I do hope you’ll hop over to her page and take a look. Her photos are absolutely adorable.

I discovered Jessica, her blog, and her challenge, on Cee Neuner’s list of challenges, so I wish to give her credit as well. Thanks, Cee, for this wonderful directory you’ve created: “For the Love of Challenges.” For the record, Cee’s directory lists not only photo challenges, but also writing and music challenges as well, and they are grouped by category. It’s very well organized.

Getting ready (1)
Duke waited for some attention while I worked on preparing my display.

Tomorrow I’ll give you more details about the show.

 

FOTD: Piano Bouquet

Yellow Hammers (5)

Each week I intend to participate in a photo challenge, just for the fun of it. I’ll spread my horizons, not sticking to any one challenge in particular, and soon I’ll create an album to collect the photos.

For my very first photo challenge, I’ve decided to do Cee’s Flower of the Day (FOTD) challenge. However, I’ve chosen a very special flower for the first photo from this blog: the Yellow Hammer. There actually is a variety of rhododendron called the yellow hammer, but this bunch was “grown” in my studio. 🙂

The green part in the center of the felt came to me that way, but I colored the remainder of the felt with a yellow color wash, and then had to carefully prevent it from shrinking as it dried. If they look dirty, it’s because they are about 100 years old, and at the beginning I was cleaning hammers with a nylon brush. Now I clean them with a wire brush, which works much more effectively.

This particular bouquet has found a happy home overseas, but I will make more as soon as I can find the right vases in which to put them.