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.

 

The Story Behind the Art

Lyon & Healy upright grand piano

In 2010 my children and I drove to Lakeland, Florida, for my grandmother’s funeral. The trip took us directly past my birthplace. At the time of my birth, my dad was in a Navy school. We left that place when I was one week old, and I had not been back since. So I decided that on the way home from the funeral, we would stop in this little town and see the place where I was born.

As it turns out, a typical Florida rainstorm slowed our travel down to a crawl, and most of the places of business were closed by the time we got there, including the museum of history. But the art gallery was still open. My sons were not interested, so I left them in the parking lot to play in the remnants of the rainstorm (now a drizzle) while my daughter and I checked out the art gallery. In the gallery we saw some amazing things, but the most pertinent part to this story is the figurine of Don Quixote mounted on his trusty steed Rocinante. Why? Because it was made from piano parts. I was intrigued, but I couldn’t afford to buy it, so I took a photo of it. I have no idea what happened to that photo, but I logged it in the back of my mind somewhere…..

About a year later our church burned down. We lost the entire sanctuary, and all the rest of the building was destroyed by smoke and water. Someone kindly donated a very old Lyon & Healy upright grand piano to the church, but it would have cost thousands to restore it, and the pastor preferred to put that money toward a new piano. So he announced, “Whoever can take it can have it.” Suddenly I remembered the figurine made of piano parts, and I knew this old piano had a purpose, and that I held the key to unlock it. Thus it was that our family became the happy owners of that beautiful Lyon & Healy.

The Lyon & Healy manufacturing company was established in 1864, and by tracing the serial number, I’ve been able to determine that this piano was made in 1906. We spent several days disassembling it, then cleaning, separating, and sorting the pieces. Right away ideas began to flow of things I could make from them. I would hold the pieces in various positions and let my imagination soar. Like finding shapes in the clouds, I saw people, giraffes, and chickens in the piano. I also saw circles—lots of them… and flowers, and music….

As the business continued to grow, I realized that I needed a logo. I had a vision for it, and I called on my children to help me bring the vision to light. My daughter Mary Beth drew out the first sketch. Then Matthew embellished Mary’s original idea, and I took what the two of them had formulated and put the finishing touches on it. (Bobby’s field of expertise is in moving the pianos. That boy has the strength of Samson, and I thank God for him.)

 

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Click on the circles for captions…

 

“Harnessing the Energy”

The story continues, as I have used nearly every piece from that first piano and have reclaimed twelve other old pianos besides… and counting. Truly there are still a few songs to be played from these old pianos. It has been a rewarding and enjoyable task to find them and deliver them to you. I make creations of my own imagining, and I do commissioned work as well. If you have an idea for something unique for yourself or a loved one, let me know, and I’ll see if I can make it happen for you.

To view examples of my art, please visit the Gallery of Piano Art on this site.

And by all means, please stop by my Etsy shop. You are more than welcome!

 

 

The Story Behind the Artist

Pentax film camera with flash

As a teen I had a sketchbook in which I would draw with ordinary Number 2 pencils. I drew pictures of stuffed animals belonging to my sisters and me, of the Tennessee mountains as we traveled through on family vacations, and of my friends. I also copied pictures from magazines…. I still have that sketchbook.

In high school I continued to draw a little, but photography became much more important to me. A dear friend gave me my first “grown up” camera, a Pentax ME Super. I read the manual from cover to cover and took hundreds of photos, keeping track of my settings in a spiral notebook so that when the film was developed, I could see the impact the settings made on the shots…. I still have that camera.

While photography was my passion, I did not necessarily see it as my calling. Several teachers greatly influenced my life, most of them English teachers, so I went to college to prepare to join their ranks. In 1992 I graduated with a BA in English and began teaching right away. As I mentioned yesterday, most of my teaching career was invested in the teaching of Spanish, algebra, and music. Spanish was my minor, algebra my hobby, and music my other passion. 🙂 Oddly enough, I taught English only one year—my final year in formal education—and I must say that eighth grade class was my crowning joy.

In 1994 I married a handsome sailor whom I had met at church, and by 2001 we had three precious children. I loved teaching—pouring my life into the lives of my students—but there wasn’t enough of me to go around, so in 2006 I left the traditional setting for good to teach my own children at home.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine offered art classes to the homeschoolers at our church. My children all signed up, and my friend let me audit the class as well. In Art I, she introduced us to drawing in 2-point perspective, charcoal, pen and ink, 2D and 3D wire sculpture, clay sculpture, color pencil, acrylic, and watercolor. My fascination with art was reawakened. I was drawing again, and painting now too. And I learned that color pencils are not just for children!

color pencil drawing of a bunch of peppers
My first color pencil study, “One of a Kind,” on red Canson paper

That same year our church hosted its first craft fair to raise funds for teen mission trips, and my teacher/friend and I rented a table together to sell her paintings and my photographs. I created a line called Scenic Scriptures, in which I combined original photographs with Scripture verses. I presented them in a variety of sizes as prints—mounted, matted, or framed—as well as trinket boxes, trays, greeting cards, and refrigerator magnets. I made a small profit, but more importantly, I made a big impression on many friends who encouraged me to continue learning and developing in the area of art.

2Cor 4v7, 4x6
Many of my photos come from the gorgeous mountains of North Carolina and Virginia.

For four years I sold my art at craft fairs, and slowly a vision grew within me of doing this full-time. At the time, I was spread pretty thin, with my time and attention divided among several responsibilities and ambitions. But I had a burning desire to paint and make piano art, so I took steps toward that end. Slowly I phased out the Scenic Scriptures and devoted all my time to making piano art. This was not because I didn’t like the work with photography, but because that field is already saturated, and precious few people are making art with pianos.

Conductor 2013
“The Conductor” was the first piece I ever created from piano parts.

All my plans and dreams came to a screeching halt, it seemed, when in August 2016 my husband received a job transfer. After 35 years in Virginia, we were moving 900 miles away to a place where we knew almost no one. I was sad to leave my dear friends and church family, but happy for the chance to make a clean break from my other endeavors so I could focus more fully on art. The first few months were dedicated to settling in so the feeling of transition would not hang around indefinitely, and then I got busy with my dream of having a prosperous art business.

The transition proved to be more difficult than any of us could have imagined, and the dream nearly died. Between confusing state regulations, insufficient workspace, and tuition payments for three college students in private schools, the demands seemed more than I could handle. But it was not too much for my Abba. The Lord graciously showed both my husband and me that it was He who gave me this vision and the ability to draw, paint, and create things. I can do nothing less than give it all back to Him with a heart full of gratitude and faith to believe that He will meet all our needs according to His riches in Glory. In spite of many obstacles and setbacks…. by God’s grace I still have the vision!