Charles Wisseman, Mixed Media Artist



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Smile politely

Posted on May 28, 2016 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Smile Politely, the local online magazine about happenings in our town, did an article on me in my workspace.

Random music box

Posted on July 6, 2014 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (9)

I got excited about circles, and decided to do something with pi  and music.  Music is becoming a bigger part of my life, and I have been meaning for a while to do some kind of a musical instrument.

I stamped the first six hundred digits of pi on paper slips and mounted them radially around a rotor from a VCR tape player, which has a very smooth rotation.  These can be selected with a small mirrored metal paddle inserted from the side.  These random numbers then generate notes on various musical instruments in the box.

The strings are patterened after the tenor ukulele I made a couple of years ago, which made figuring out the fret placement much easier than starting from scratch.

This instrument is playable, although some of the modes are more conceptual than others.  I was thinking of John Cage's music-- interesting, but not very listenable.

This box is music game--as follows:

  (A rule book and a printout of the first 10,00 digits of pi are in a booklet in the front-right compartment)

Random Music Box ( June/July 2014) – A music/math game

How to play:

1. Use the pi wheel (first 600 digits of pi stamped on paper stubs which are mounted on a rotor from a VCR player) to choose a set of random numbers. Spin the wheel, let it stop, then insert the mirror between paper tabs to reveal each consecutive number. Record the number sequence on the chalk board on top of the accessory drawer on the right hand side of the box. These numbers will determine the notes to be played.

(Default for the unmotivated is to play the wind-up music box, center front, to hear the theme from the “Sound of Music”)

2. Roll the die to determine the mode to be played:

 Drum : Rawhide drum on the bottom of the box is partitioned into spaces in a golden rectangle pattern using Fibonacci numbers for the side of each larger square in the sequence1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21. The initial “1” is replaced by a bell ringer. The pencil in the drawer can be used as a drum stick.

 Pan pipe: A pan pipe of PVC pipe pulls from the side. This is tuned to a C major pentatonic scale: C,D,E,G,A,C.

 Strings: G and C strings with a tenor ukulele tuning. (A,B,C,D,E,F,G diatonic scale is marked at appropriate frets.) Electronic tuner in front-right compartment. Pick notes with fingers, or strike string with the drum stick.

 Turntable clacker -- Mounted on pi wheel is a wheel with 24 radial frets and 7 concentric rings. An arm with a metal stud can be moved over the wheel as it spins to produce slightly different sounds at each concentric ring, as speed is varied.

 Rotary phone dial-- each number on the dialer is a different sound pattern.

 Sing – Note sequence of beginning to Amazing Grace is inlaid on right hand surface compartment (red for quarter note, yellow for sixteenth note, brown for half note).

(This is from Shape Note songbook, so you can choose your range to determine pitch of notes.)

3. Roll die again, if desired, to determine the tempo. (Electronic metronome in front-right compartment.) This is only appropriate for some of the modes.

4. Map random notes to the appropriate mode and play. Extra points for doing it from memory.

(Children who did not do their math homework can be punished in this manner).

5. Curse John Cage , if so inspired by this experience.

 The musical possibilities are endless, and some may even be listenable!  


pbi 2014

Posted on May 24, 2014 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

PBI 2014  at Ox-Bow.

Gold tooling with Sam Feinstein-- much harder than it looks.

Reduction wood block printing with Ryan O'Malley---  need some sharper tools and better graphic sense.

Anabaptist book with Chela Metzger and Erin Hammeke--  lots of fun with lots of materials.  I feel better about leather now.

Art Urn 2014

Posted on April 18, 2014 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

My ART URN -- April 2014

This project could seem creepy, but I want to convince you otherwise. The background is a hard winter, sick cat, Sarah’s hip replacement tying me down and reminding us of inevitable decline, my 65th birthday with medicare application pending. Late at night in the basement surveying my boxes of collected art materials, found objects, and remnants of past workshops, projects and experiments. Knowing that much of this will end up in the dump-- my kids won’t have space or interest, and I would also discard this stuff if I were in their place (as I did with much of my parents belongings—the detritus of someone else’s life). I decided to make some of the better art fragments into a box which my kids might want to preserve for a while. I thought first of creating a cubic foot of art, then decided I wanted to include a space for my ashes—so that this box could be used as an urn, surrounded by a personal art retrospective-in-a-box, designed to be a sacred space with a celebration of art and making. I would like to be remembered as a maker of things.

Limitations I set were to only use already-made objects, and to use up as much of my old photographic materials as possible before they deteriorated.

The design evolved into a plain-looking hexagonal box, revealing very little externally, except for a glass bottle lid poking up through the top. Larger art pieces are hidden by flaps inside the six sides. Removing the top and then folding down the sides forms a flower-petal-like platform covered with handmade papers having a graded intensity of reddish speckling. Folding down the outer sides exposes an inner tube, decorated around the side with labels from beers I have consumed. On the top of the tube are insets for four candles, in case anyone wants to contact or worship their ancestor. Between the candles are rows of messages from Chinese fortune cookies I have eaten. This whole tube rotates on a lazy-susan gear, which I imagine as similar to turning a Tibetan prayer wheel.

Lifting off the tube reveals an accordion-folded structure arranged in a star pattern around a smaller central tube. This accordion can be unfolded and pulled out onto the petal platform to view the front and back of the 32 separate panels.

On one side of the accordion panels are solid objects in many of the materials I have experimented with ---- forge-welded steel tiles, copper, wood, ceramic raku eye forms, fused glass, epoxy, containers of objects, found objects, metal castings, sculpey clay, cast paper etc.

On the other side of the accordion panels are flat pieces—photos of textures and street patterns from the years I carried a black and white film camera on lunch-break walks, rorschah patterns, handmade papers, prints, photograms, flowers embedded onto paper, etc.

Inside the central tube is another removable tube. This contains a glass apothecary jar, which can be used as an urn or a flower-holder. An apothecary jar seemed appropriate for a doctor. Some black sand-blasting sand and some Michigan beach sand in the jar could be used as the bottom layer of a sand painting, with white ashes overlaid. I was also thinking of sand in an hour glass, and of my Unitarian church’s summer-end ritual of bringing back stone or water from places we visited to combine in a communal vessel.

Beneath the jar is a plastic medicine bottle, from my age before the ashes. This contains matches and a candle, extra retaining pins for the outer flaps, some Chinese joss papers, a small Buddha, good luck pieces and bits of memorabilia. (My Unitarian impulse is to propitiate all of the spirits.) Wrapped around the bottle is a scroll with a list of all the art pieces in the box, describing their composition and which project or workshop they were left over from (for those I could remember).

I expect to keep adding bits to this project, so that it is never really considered finished. Completing this would be bad luck, I think. This project may also end my religion-inspired series of boxes for now (Luther box, squirrel-saint reliquary, Dante Inferno globe). Using some of my accumulated art fragments helps me to mentally let go of the accumulated mass of art materials in my house, to feel less like a hoarder, and to move on to new directions without feeling owned by all of the unfinished projects and unused material around me.

Hopefully you like the idea of this box as a celebration of the beauty and joy of materials and making.




Dante globe 2014

Posted on February 10, 2014 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (0)

“Midway on life’s journey I found myself in dark woods, the right road lost.”—Dante’s Inferno.


January in the north can be a dark and introspective time for me. My wife was off travelling with a friend, and I needed a new project to lift my spirits. I only really feel good when I am making something, but ideas can be elusive when I am feeling down. Realizing that mid-winter light deprivation might be part of the problem, I sat in my shop and played with light. In my collection of art materials I found a glass deck prism, designed to be embedded in the top deck of wooden sailing ships to scatter natural light into the level below. This gave me the idea of an inner contemplative space with a light as the focal point. I chose as my space a cheap 12-inch world globe, found at a garage sale, which conveniently split apart into north and south hemispheres along a seam. I was remembering a book I recently read (“Why Hell Stinks of Sulfur”, by Stanley Kroonenberg), which reviews the history of ideas about the underworld and the rich literature about worlds existing inside the earth—such as the Jules Verne classic about journeying to the center of the earth. I mounted the hexagonal deck prism in the north pole with a ring held in by twelve brass bolts, to give a suggestion of bulkheads and windows in an undersea submersible. This globe is meant as a vessel to journey to dark interior spaces.

I painted the inside of the north half a deep night sky blue-black, and scattered glow-in-dark stick-on stars to suggest a planetarium. I remember putting stars like this on my bedroom ceiling as a kid. I cut a hole around the north pole along the 80th parallel to admit light. This cap piece of the globe became a removable element with retaining clips, a central knob for manipulation, a ring with the 24 hour time marks, and an inside layer of glow-in-dark material. When the cap is removed, a small LED flashlight with wooden stabilizing ring can be placed on the prism to illuminate the interior. When the light is turned off, the glow-in-dark elements are visible through the viewer when the surrounding room light is off.

I was feeling in a dark place, and remembered the Dante quote from a recent lecture a on the history of illustrations created for the famous medieval poem, The Inferno, in which Dante imagines being led on a tour of hell by the Roman poet, Virgil. I took an old classic pathology text on malignancy, discarded from the library of the hospital where I saw many tumors as a staff pathologist, and cut (excised) a hexagonal inverted cone with nine steps through the pages of cancers (a modern metaphor for hell). This geometry inverts the shape of the deck prism above. The carved book was molded and glued into the bottom of the lower hemisphere, with each step labelled as one of Dante’s nine circles of hell. Starting from the top, the levels are: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, Treachery. (Interesting that in those violent times, violence was a lesser sin than breaches of trust). Below the lowest level of hell is a hole draining out the south pole. A threaded knob screws in from below to seal the drain, and a cork can be inserted from above. Fine glass blasting beads can be poured into the pit of hell. When the cork is pulled up, the beads drain out like an hourglass as the viewer contemplates his sins in the deepening pit of hell emerging from this. The sand can be either a desert waste or a Zen garden, depending on frame of mind.


Covering the pit is a removable wooden platform, held down by magnets, which represents our middle earth existing between the celestial light and stars above and the pit of hell below. The wood is a slice of a tree burl with a complex, map-like pattern and irregular knobby edges to represent the land of the world. On the underside is a gold stamped pattern of a labyrinth, a traditional symbol of the journey into the deeper self and back out again. In the center of the platform is a movable, magnetically-attached diamond of walnut wood with a compass image stamped in silver on a black paper surface. The words of Dante’s quote run around the sides of this wooden piece, whose direction is changeable and indeterminate, as if adrift with bearings lost. In the center of the compass block is a hole to mount a world tree, which in many mythologies connects the upper and lower worlds. A fir tree made for model railroad landscaping is a default choice of tree, but this can be exchanged for others, depending on mood or season. A small cocktail umbrella with smiley faces is a more defiantly darkness-denying choice; a weathervane is for days when feeling buffeted and directionless.

The wooden land platform is surrounded by a ring of medium-blue painted wood, representing the old idea of a flat earth with an ocean circling the land. A lighter blue tubular wall surrounds this ocean and rises to about an inch above the equator. This represents the sky and horizon, with drawings of the four winds at N-E-S-W (clip art from antique maps). At the upper inner edge of the blue sky-ring is an inch-wide strip of blotter, soaked with yellowish glow-in-the-dark paint, and decorated in black ink around the circumference with the 12 symbols of the zodiac, to represent the ecliptic (Ideally this would be tilted with respect to the equator, but that did not work well here). Around the outer edge of the sky-ring is a strip of oak veneer with a snake shape and a line-drawn snake-head pattern, swallowing its tail. This is the ancient image of the ouroboros, a representation of the creation/destruction cycle of eternal return, encircling the world.

The two hemispheres of the world are joined at the equator with a cut-down 12 inch lazy susan gear on the southern half engaging a metal ring (cut from an old light fixture) lining the lower edge of the northern half. An observation port part way up the northern half (formed from a cut down fisheye door security viewer). Two brass knobs mounted at 120 degrees east and west can be used to turn the northern half on the lazy susan gear to change the vantage point on the interior, or to use as handles to pull open the globe.

The base is a walnut box with a sliding top. Contained inside is a copy of Dante’s Inferno (Robert Pinsky translation), a container of glass beads for the hour glass, the LED flashlight with wooden stabilizing ring, and extra interchangeable world trees. The world globe sits in a stainless steel bowl which can catch draining sand. To allow the sand to drain smoothly, and to more easily watch it drain, this can be raised up on three removable legs topped with wooden balls. The bowl rests in a hole in a mahogany ring centered on the sliding top. I was trying to evoke the idea of the world resting on an architectural and geometric pedestal. Under the bowl is an image of a turtle I made in a moku hanga Japanese printmaking class at Paper and Book Intensive a few years ago, with Martin Vinaver of Mexico. This references the Hindu idea of the world resting on the back of an infinite stack on turtles.


Sacred geometry is one of the themes here: zero is the snake, 1 is the globe, 2 is the north and south hemispheres, 3 legs to raise the globe and 3 protrusions on the upper half, 4 winds and compass points, 5 and 7 in the circles of hell, 6 in hexagonal prism and hexagonal hell, 8 bolts hold the sky ring, 9 circles in hell, (10 and 11 could be levels of hell plus drain flushing from hell and/or world platform), 12 zodiac figures and bolts holding in the deck prism, 24 time zones, 90 degrees of latitude, 360 degrees of longitude, infinite turtles.

At the end of the project I felt better, passed a dark month closer to spring ( it is snowing hard as I type this, though), used up some of my large collection of found objects and miscellaneous hoarded materials, and tried some new techniques with tools (and damaged at least one tool).

This piece can be used as a meditation environment/personal space/altar/confessional. There is a ritual to setting up: choosing orientation for the compass, the zodiac sign viewpoint, the central world tree, pouring sand and raising the globe to allow sand to drain. The sand sets a time-frame for meditation as it drains down through deeper levels of hell, so you can choose a level of sin to contemplate for this moment.

February 2014


Monkey box video

Posted on December 19, 2013 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

The Youtube link for a short video is

Monkey box-- The curious case of george

Posted on December 19, 2013 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (0)

THE CURIOUS CASE OF GEORGE December 2013 (the primate papers)

I first thought of this box while taking a class on Automata (mechanical toys) at Arrowmont Craft School in summer of 2013, taught by Michael Croft. He taught a fun introduction to the type of mechanical toys which had a revival in Britain, starting in the 1960’s. These are simpler than classical automata (think the movie “Hugo”), are often humorous, and have an open structure to show the mechanics. There was not really time in this one- week class, without my usual tools and materials, to make a complex box.


I just made as many models of mechanisms as I could to get a feel for how these simple subcomponents worked, left me with a set of models for inspiration and study, made me guilty for not making more, and expanded my artistic working vocabulary. If I haven’t physically made something, I tend not to think of using it again. I decided to make this box before I forgot what I had learned, and to be able to show the instructor that I really can do something original instead of just copying models. I have been putting more movement and interaction into my projects recently, which is why I chose to take the class.



This three-monkey “See no evil, hear no evil, say no evil” is an old image that I like, and I have bought some small carved versions of this in tourist shops in the past. Making a moving version of this seemed like a moderately challenging, but doable, project. Influences on designing this box include:




1. Curious George, the children’s story. Everyone loves monkeys (except for people who have to live closely with them. Monkeys in places in Asia are becoming disruptive as they are displaced from the wild into cities). Monkey gods feature in some religions. Animal rights groups recently sued to give captive chimpanzees full human rights. One description of the mammalian mind is the lower reptilian brain overlaid and constrained by the monkey brain. I have always been interested in primate behavior, human development and evolution.



When did we as a species cross the threshold into moral reasoning? Some primates appear to have a well-developed sense of fair-play. Julian Jaynes’ theory of the bicameral mind is unlikely, but it is fascinating to consider that full development of the human mind took place only in historical times. I decided that this box would be about the everyman (or everyprimate), because I believe the line between man and animal is closer than most people would like to believe.










2. I took a course on the nature of evil at the local Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (retirement is wonderful for having time to do new things.) Evil comes in various types—existential (we all die), natural (bad things befall good people), and moral (people chose to do bad things). I think a lot about these things as I read the news. The NSA sees and hears too much; privacy is becoming elusive in the internet electronic age ,so lying and cheating are now both easier and harder to get away with.



Psychology and neuroscience document how slippery memory can be and how people at different ends of the conservative-liberal spectrum actually perceive reality quite differently; politicians want plausible deniability; many people don’t seem to share the same reality that I perceive; churches and priests take a moral high ground, but behave badly and cause great harm. Does human nature favor war or cooperation? Psychology experiments show that ordinary people can become moral monsters when given dominance over others.











3. I decided to use the three monkey theme to play with the idea of our dual nature:

inner vs outer man, public vs private, conscious vs unconscious.

The outer box is the everyman “George”, named after the monkey, but also all the other Georges—kings, presidents, playwrights, authors, comedians. The external case shows a face. Eyebrows and ears are hand-forged steel hinges. The ear holes have orange foam ear plugs— “Hear No Evil”.




The eyes have patterned red enameled copper discs eyes raised up on walnut wood discs, with fish-eye door security viewers through central holes. On the reverse side are small accordion-folded Tyvek curtains, which can be raised by pulling on a cord at the top of each door (concealed by the fringe of frayed canvas “hair”)—

“See No Evil”.







Wooden strips and a cloth fringe “mustache” define the nose and central face. Nostrils are steel bushings (found at a blacksmith meeting last summer). The mouth is formed by thirteen pairs of purpleheart wood sticks which are connected by springs at the back, and move in a coupled “wave” pattern when the small wooden sticks on a dowel shaft between rows turn in sequence. (Everyone in the class loved this simple mechanism). As these small inner sticks turn, they spell out-- “Say No Evil” .


A green cord hangs from one nostril—pulling this cord allows the upper two panels on each side to swing open to reveal the inner mechanisms. (I could not pass up the juvenile humor of this “booger-pull” mechanism).










The middle level on the inside contains the three cams on a shaft which operate the monkeys in the upper inside compartment. The cams raise three shafts in sequence through the floor of the upper compartment. There are identical simple monkey face graphics (found on the web) on the top of each shaft. These move up and down in sequence from left to right. The shafts also operate sliders to cause arms to swivel apart and together on the walnut wood blocks which suggest monkey torsos.




On top of each arm are red-on-white hand images (bottle caps from the left hand brewing company-- I like their milk stout—so all of the hands are left hands). These move to the middle to cover eyes, ears or mouth in sequence, and then move apart. Simple fixed legs and feet are made from plumbing pipe straps.







Behind the monkeys is a simple cloud-in-blue-sky watercolor image-- kindly painted to order by my wife. Between each monkey is a bit of beige paper made from prairie plants in my yard, with simple vertical greenish strokes suggesting foreground grass. The background for the upper level can fold down to allow in light for viewing the monkeys through the fish-eye viewers when the front panels are closed, and to allow inspection and adjustment of the mechanism.





External cranks on the mouth shaft extending from the lower level and the cam shaft from the middle level can be operated independently, or joined by a removable pulley belt. The crank handles and pulley are stored in a small compartment in the lower level, accessible from the rear. Also hidden in the lower level is a music box mechanism which plays a Scott Joplin rag, with a winding key coming out the back of the box.




I like projects which require viewer interaction, have movement, and engage multiple senses. The danger is to make something too busy or complex, but I hope every part of this box makes sense and contributes to the whole. All these things are very fiddly, and easy to throw out of adjustment—I now have huge respect for artisans who design and build these mechanisms.





Squirrel Reliquary (September 2013)

Posted on September 30, 2013 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Squirrel reliquary-- done during September 2013

My wife found a skeletonized squirrel in our backyard this summer.

I took an OLLI senior learning class on small mammals last year, and I think they deserve more respect.

I decided to make a reliquary for the squirrel saint “Rodentia”, which sounded good and is actually the taxonomic order to which squirrels belong. I removed the remaining fur, soaked the skeleton in bleach for a few days, and was left with clean white fragile bones. The spine pieces were sewn through the spinal canal into a circle , then sewn and glued along with the skull and leg bones inside a robin’s nest.

This nest had been built on a light fixture next to the back door of my shop, then abandoned when the bird discovered how often the door was used. Lightly used, but I mothballed it to kill any vermin.

The container was made from an ash log which came from a tree which I planted when I moved in here 30 years ago, but had to be removed for structural problems. These had been drying for about 3 years, but were still not fully dry, so I had to treat cut surfaces with polyethylene glycol—messy, but effective

treatment for green wood. The box length is about 10 inches, which is the maximum I can cut in my bandsaw. The construction style is a nested bandsaw boxes, a technique I learned in a workshop at the CU woodshop. I split the log lengthwise into two portions, the larger making the bottom of the box. The inner portion of each portion was shelled out. End caps were cut off and replaced to close the ends of the lower box. The larger endcap was cut open to create passageways and a spring loaded mechanism that requires insertion of an acorn to allow retraction of a locking pin which keeps the box closed. The first attempt at the mechanism was not good enough, and fortunately there was enough wood for a second try. The acorn has to be fairly round and of medium size. In case of a jam, there is a wire included with a hole to manually pull back the spring. If things get really stuck, the last resort is to unscrew the hinges to gain entry. A walnut is attached the rod which pushes the acorn. Entering the box requires donating an acorn to the “sacred stash”.

The nest with the bones rests in the remaining cavity in the lower portion of the box. Grey wool left over from a felting class is packed around the nest. The four “sacred nuts of the eastern US” are at the corners of the nest (walnut , acorn hickory, buckeye). A sheet of clear amber mica covers the nest assembly.

The surfaces next to the mica are covered in copper foil to add protection and give an upscale appearance fitting to a saint. An oak leaf is glued on the copper over the entry mechanism. Copper also covers the acorn retrieval chamber and lines the acorn entry hole.

The undersurface of the top has cherry wood labels with the text “Rodentia” “Rody” “patron Saint of Small Mammals” burned in. An inlaid medallion of walnut shell and sticks in a black epoxy matrix form a portrait of the saint, or maybe the squirrel god, looking a little deranged. A brass catch for the closure mechanism and a spring-loaded retainer for the upper sliding bandsaw box is also on this surface.

The top of the box contains a second bandsaw box cut from the inner portion of the top. This can slide out either side , using acorn pulls, once the larger box is opened to release the retaining spring. Inside the upper small box are two compartments. The smaller contains some small loose bones, claws and teeth held under a hemispherical plastic lens for closer scrutiny. The larger chamber contains a slat-style box with four leaves cut from the inner portion of this portion of the box, drilled and strung on a string in the style of traditional Indonesian palm leaf books. An acorn is embedded on the top for decoration. The cut surfaces of the wood are covered with pale yellow paper I made from my prairie patch plants a few years ago. I tried to print directly on this with my inkjet printer ,but it was too rough, even after calendaring in an etching press to flatten the surface. Letterpress would have been a better aesthetic, but I don’t have a selection of smaller fonts.

Text in the book is :

Page 1: Rodentia’s prayer---- Carpe quercum (seize or enjoy the oak)

Et nux eterna ( nuts forever, which may describe Rodentia , or me for doing this)

Deus Balanus (god the nut)

Page 2: Rodentia’s hymn – (to the tune of “Go Tell Aunt Rhody , the old gray goose is dead)

Go tell Saint Rody, the old gray squirrel is dead.

Page 3 : The martyr is believed to have died while leading her colony of squirrels to safety when their ash tree was felled.

Page4: Her pure white bones rest in a robin’s nest cradled within a log from the ash tree, surrounded by the 4 sacred nuts of the east (acorn, walnut, hickory, buckeye).

Page 5: Some believe Rodentia derives from the old Norse “Ratatoskr” (drill tooth or bore tooth)—a squirrel who runs up and down the world tree Yggdrasil, carrying messages between upper and lower worlds. (My wife found this on Wikipedia, and I couldn’t help putting this in)


The box closes with hand-forged steel hinges. Brass screws and washes give a suggestion of eyes in the front. An acorn wrapped in its shell makes a nose. Abrasion of the bark at the cut line between top and bottom gives a suggestion of a mouth, which opens.

The base is cut from walnut, with two thick dowels connecting to the log. Copper discs interrupt the dowels, referencing squirrel baffles on a bird feeder.


Mind's eye box

Posted on May 3, 2013 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

This box got a bit out of hand:

Artist statement-- Mind’s eye view box

Constructed March-April, 2013 by Charles Wisseman

Structure is an outer box with an inner panel folded up inside.

The outer box is a functional pinhole view camera. There are two film holders, which can be loaded with orthographic film or photo paper. The front covers of the film holders are pulled down through a slot in the lower rear edge of the box for exposure. Film holders are stored within side compartments of the box, along with photo paper cutting template (about 5x 5.5 inches), Black light-proof plastic bag for extra paper, and a second light-proof bag for transporting loaded film carriers. Exposure is made through a small pinhole in the front. About 1.5 minutes in full sun made a good exposure on RC photo paper.

The box is also a camera obscura, using a larger pinhole for brighter image, but lower sharpness. A black hood cloth attaches to a wooden insert which attaches to the rear after folding down a panel to reveal a frosted mylar screen onto which the image projects. This image is inverted and negative with deep depth of focus. The two pinholes can be changed by a slider in front. The pinhole is behind a ceramic eye orifice with my hand imprint on the surrounding surface. A handle screws into the base for stabilization during portable viewing. This can also accept a tripod mount for stable photography during the long exposures needed for photos.

On the fold-down rear panel is an image of a round clay object from the Mississippian Native American culture, showing a Hand/eye form surrounded by snakes. The hand with eye in the palm is thought to represent a portal which souls must transit when Orion galaxy is above the horizon to reach the afterlife. Hand/eye forms on front and back of the box create a Janus-faced reference to looking forward to future and backwards to past.

The top of the box is a combination lock, made using a pattern found in “The Complete Boy Mechanic”, a compilation of old articles from Popular Mechanics. The combination is 42, which was my draft number in 1970, and also “the answer to life, the universe, and everything” in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Also Jackie Robinson’s number, I was recently told. This numerical code gives access to the mind/soul within.

The inner panel has nine panels which fold spirally into a cube. There are images on the front and back of each panel. This represents the mind contained within folded convolutions of the brain. The outer box is the eye, which gives access to the mind within. The panels refer to ways of classifying and understanding the world. Each item has a story for me--- fragments of past projects and ideas, materials from my parents, old found objects.

One side of the unfolded panel has references to the 3-D physical world:

Animal, mineral, vegetable, synthetic are represented by cast composites of bones, sticks, plastics, and stone in epoxy and concrete.

Air, water, fire, earth are represented by hurricane image with working humidity meter, snowflake image with bubble level and water molecule construction, stainless steel sheet with flame marks and working thermometer, old blueprint map of Afghan mountains with compass.

The center panel has periodic table of elements with atomic orbital/planetary image with BB’s rolling around to suggest electrons in a metallic element.


The other side of the unfolded panel has references to the time dimension, seasons, cycles, mathematical patterns in nature, celestial cycles

Golden ratio with nautilis image and cutoff base of a pinecone

Moon paper with birth control dispenser and yin-yang image

Spider web captured on handmade paper

Uroborus snake-ring cyclic image with cross-section of Osage orange

Clock face with working timer mechanism and target

Antique image of zodiac and the spheres of the universe and magnifying lens

Handmade paper casting a labyrinth with removable color wheel spinner

Forge-welded steel spiral with melted bronze, central rock art spiral image

The center of this side contains a small book form with references to the dual nature of man—male/female, brain right and left, Rorschach pattern, Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man . This central folded structure at the center of the brain is the soul of man--- unifying the one, the dual, and the many.





New Year 2013

Posted on January 12, 2013 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Survived lots of relatives, singing with the choir, contra-dancing.

I decided to become more electronic-- joined facebook and got a smart phone.  Don't want to left behind as an aging luddite.

I finished one box-- I got the idea on the way back from Europe in September-- long plane trips put me in a state of suspended animation where thoughts at the edge suddenly come into focus unbidden. 

Here is what I posted on Facebook :


I just finished a new box-- it was inspired by a book on alchemical illustrations that I have liked for a long time. This is part of a series of boxes which incorporate a book, with assemblage components related to the book around it-- essentially a very elaborate cover/container for a book. This one repurposes an older case I made with hand-forged and bronze covered hinges. Inside are various alchemical and astrological symbols-- including samples of mercury and sulfur, which were the basis of the alchemical theory of transmutation of substances-- hopefully leading to gold (here represented by fools gold in chunk and pyrite-sun form). Lead musket balls are another base metal to transform.

A glass egg represents the philosophers stone. The alchemist is represented by facial components of ceramic and natural material, including one of Barbara Meyer's devil pods. Forge-welded steel symbols on the side panels. The left side has a working still, with an old brass alcohol lamp as power. I just tried it, and it works! I am becoming more interested in making things which do something. Would be interested to know what you think.

Also-- the hinged panel in the lower right is forged-textured steel with bronze melted and partially burned to reveal some purer copper, melted solder on top with grinder texturing, then patina.  I made this years ago, but now found a home for it.  It seemed to fit the theme of alchemical transformation.  I did a big cleanup of my space in November-December, and found lots of things I had forgotten about.  Recent health scares have made me realize that it is time to start using up special objects I have been accumulating and saving for the right purpose.  Time is no longer open-ended.

Photos in the gallery.