Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Personal Memoir: Heikki Seppa

I have worked with metal nearly all of my life. The love of metal is in my family (both maternal and paternal), my blood and my spirit. I studied metalsmithing courses in college, but could not quite understand how to achieve my desired final product: a hollow, fabricated piece that made a bold statement in metal with the seeming lightness of a feather.
One day, I came across The Penland School of Crafts Book of Jewelrymaking (1975) - and there it was - the exact technique that I needed! A shell structure technique developed by one Heikki Seppa.
Heikki Seppa was pioneering a brand new vocabulary of form - literally redefining the art of metalsmithing. Heikki was from Helsinki, taught briefly in Louisville (close to my neck of the woods), and was currently heading up the metalsmithing department at Washington University in St. Louis.
The fates smiled upon me, and Heikki accepted me into the graduate metals program - although after I arrived at Washington University, there were so many talented metalsmiths! I was a small town girl (jokingly referred to as "Kentucky Woman" by Heikki) with a B.A. in Fine Arts, Art History and a minor in Political Science. Most of my peers had achieved their BFA degrees in metalsmithing.
But, I was not a fish out of water ... many of the metal students, as well as Heikki and John Baltrushunas, the undergraduate professor were Pisces.
We even had annual Pisces parties. Oh...the stories I could tell...the photographs that I treasure...
I was HOME.

Being innately shy (many will dispute this statement, but I assure you it is completely true), I recall hiding my works-in-progress ... no small feat. Critiques were nerve-wracking. This was a serious program!!! (ahh - those were the days) Heikki was in the midst of publishing Form Emphasis for Metalsmiths - a giddy time in which we all enjoyed way more than 15 minutes of fame. Everything was golden.
Heikki worked us hard! We played hard too - but that is another story.....

Below is a pin that I have watching over my workbench. The photo was taken during a two week forging session on the St. Louis campus. The image is one of my favorites of Heikki.

This period was fruitful, graced, creative, blessed. I am so grateful to have had those highly educational and challenging years! Very, very fortunate...
I received word that Heikki died last week. This was not unexpected, but I am heartbroken. Of all of his many achievements (and believe me - I cannot think of a single artist rising from the "craft" world who has achieved more honors and accolades, awards and recognition) I like to think that Heikki's best achievement was being true to himself.

What an inspiration.
I was not the perfect 'shell-structure' metalsmith. I was an odd hybrid.
Here is a complimentary note about my critical writing he sent to me not too long ago. Heikki started my writing career in 1976 when I impressed him (no small feat!) with my wordsmith ability and knowledge of metal - a rare combination.

In my letter of reference, Heikki graciously wrote that I was a master of many arts, facets and nuances - including playing the piano! His kindness, remembrance and sentiment touched me profoundly.
He was a complex, often misunderstood, fun, hard-working, hard-playing, masterful and enlightened being.
Here is an example of the type of encouragement that he freely gave me.

Heikki and I remained in touch for 35 years. I am proud to say that he was my friend.
I miss him.
Have you heard that 'thing' about when a mighty oak falls somewhere in the woods, do you hear it?
I may not have heard the felling of the master, but I certainly feel his absence.
Heikki was unique and unforgettable. Demanding, outspoken, opinionated ... and a real sweetheart!
This old weary soul and world will miss you, Heikki. But, somehow, I know there is a joyous and rowdy reunion in a sauna, replete with eucalyptus, vodka, snow outside and a waiting forge, hammer and anvil inside.
With Love, Beauty and Respect...

In Loving Memory of Heikki Seppa  March 8, 1927 - May 18, 2010

Images Courtesy of the Author

Friday, May 7, 2010

Soaps for Utopia

I just packed up a big box of custom soaps to be sold at Richard Meier's Atheneum in New Harmony, Indiana. I am so happy with these soaps that I wanted to share two of them with you.

"Red Geranium"
A light geranium soap that is swirled and topped with Aussie Red Clay and French Green Clay mixed with Chlorophyll. This soap was inspired by the "Red Geranium Inn and Restaurant" in New Harmony.

"Wabash River Valley"
This lovely landscape is dedicated to the Wabash River Valley, over which The Atheneum presides....I cannot stop looking at this soap! I scented it with mints and citronella (among other essential oils) to help shoo away all the Wabash mosquitoes! 

In addition to the above, there are four other types of handcrafted soap soon to be on sale at The Atheneum in New Harmony.
Summer is a good time to visit Utopia....
Love and Beauty....

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Beltane: a (VERY) brief synopsis

May is the month of full-flowered spring in every sense. 
May is symbolized by Mother Nature, or Female Power at her most potent...or is it the other way around?

No coincidence that the earthy, sensual, sensitive, fixed, feminine astrological sign of Taurus falls here. Take a cue from Taurus - after working hard (read: all winter), have a fabulous meal, a massage, appreciate Venusian beauty, pamper yourself. 
Your body is of the earth. Take special care of it today.
Ground yourself. 
Say a prayer for planet earth, especially The Gulf of Mexico, the earth's elements and all creatures. 
Perform a personal kindness for the earth.
According to the old ways, Beltane (or Bealtaine) was typically celebrated on April 30, or May Eve.
In the time of my childhood, May 1st was the only day dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Hmmm....many wrong things with that practice and statement) in the Roman Catholic Church. 
Even as a young girl, I rebelled against the politics of patriarchy. I always made a shrine to Mary, almost like a beautiful bird house, presented in a corner of my room. One small step for woman kind.
In my earlier post on the Merry Month of May, I wrote about the May Queen. Often considered promiscuous, she is a young, juicy maiden, bursting with vitality......like spring itself.
Curious that 'May Day, May Day' is the phrase we associate with destruction. From the view of the Wise Ones, May Day is the actual opposite of destruction.
May Day (or Beltane or Bealtaine) is the peak of life itself. 
In place of the ancient, glorious May Day, we invented Mother's Day (that Puritan ethic again, methinks).
Celebrate and revel in Life! Get down and dirty in the garden or plant some herbs. Take a long bath (ever mindful of the HUGE gift of water). Listen to beautiful music. Acknowledge every single one of your senses.
Dance around a May Pole!! (THAT would be a statement)
Beltane represents what we have waited a long, hard winter to experience.
Express love for yourself and gratitude for Mother Nature....have some fun and frolic!
With so much Love, Truth, Beauty and Pleasure.......


I have been away on a small vacation, so I have not been posting lately.
Bad news? The vacation is over and I am back from the Island. Landlocked.
Good news? It is Beltane!

Happy Beltane, Everyone!
May frivolity reign over the merry month of May, not unlike the above riot of lovely Texas wildflowers.
In Love, Truth and Beauty....