By: Christina P. Day (Instructor, CE + Pre-College)
This past June, I was awarded a month-long full fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, an internationally recognized art residency that offers writers, painters and sculptors four to eight week stays. During the residency, I planned to complete a double “twin” window frame wall-hung sculpture, a piece that I started while on residency at Sculpture Space in Utica, NY in 2008. I received a Continuing Studies Faculty Enrichment Grant this year to help with the financial costs of materials and tools needed to create the piece. With this grant I was able to purchase lumber and materials as well as a Dewalt router and router table necessary to complete the construction of the piece. The VSC full fellowship and supplemental grant from Continuing Studies at UArts allowed me to focus on articulating this piece to its best effect during my stay at VSC.
I teach Fiber both in the undergraduate Crafts Department and in Pre-College programs at the University, and I am still learning in the woodshop. I am taken with heavy construction whether it be in cloth or wood, and revel in good craftsmanship. Learning to build this piece took the work through many different phases of construction. Each stage had it’s own maquette, diagram, and test which helped me further visualize the evolution of the piece. I’ve always felt that woodworking and sewing have a lot in common, with the “measure twice, cut once” saying.
Though I planned to make the final piece out of poplar, I created a mock-up of the piece in disposable materials, starting with a rough cardboard “foot print” to see the piece in space before I began making real cuts to the wood:
The piece is constructed as a mirror image of itself with a trim “split” running down the center. At its final size it will be roughly 55” inches tall, about 6” deep and 66” wide. There is a forced perspective that was built into the piece to create the illusion of a reflection and to mask the physical construction. As a result, all of the parts are tilted slightly on an angle where they join. Negotiating these angles became the central challenge to the piece’s construction.
A series of tracing paper drawings followed to serve as blueprints for the inner trim details. I constructed small wooden jigs to help individually support the pieces during the sanding stage of finishing the parts. The construction of the sills above and below sit on a two-degree pitch from the center of the piece out – which each of the adjoining parts needed to match. Many an hour was mulled over creating the right jig to properly hold the pieces in place while they were sanded. Working out how to safely make a repeatable process (as there are two sides that mirror each other) was an important learning experience for me.
Here is my pile of poplar which I very excitedly purchased with my Faculty Enrichment Grant! It is laid out in the order of the parts neighboring one another just before cutting and shaping the wood down:
I made a to-scale tape drawing on the floor of the woodshop to help me align the pieces on a completely flat surface as I sanded them. I was able to align my parts and check angles as I worked. Maintaining a high level of specificity was essential for success at this stage:
Happily figuring things out and cutting lots of small pieces of wood in the process:
For a final showing at the Residency, I rested the unconnected pieces on top of one another on the floor to outline the joinery involved with the parts, much in the same way it had been built in the woodshop on my tape template. The piece, however, when completed, will be mounted flush to the wall. I intend to fully encase the whole piece in many layers of high gloss house paint to finally “lock” all of the pieces together.
Though I was unable to fully complete the piece while at the residency, I have continued to work on it here in my studio in Philadelphia. I plan to exhibit the work on the University grounds once it is finished. Stay tuned to see the finished piece!
I consider myself very lucky to have gotten the Continuing Studies grant this year. The uninterrupted time and financial freedom I had at VSC, as well as the other opportunities the residency provided me including visiting artists and writers as well as public slide and reading nights, helped me review and clarify my construction process. My studio mates in the Schultz building were an industrious group and the community at VSC in June was thoughtful, respectful, challenging and smart. I found my pace again and have properly reset my studio goals. I learned a ton in the process and got a lot of work done that otherwise may not have been possible. In short, the Faculty Enrichment grant from Continuing Studies helped me get back to work!