Three more big ladies

I’m back in Shanghai again to finish three big ladies in bronze, two of which are the first in the editions. After the first day of feeling discombobulated, I’m enjoying the swing of things here. It’s that first day with jet lag and trying to tune in to what I have going here that’s always the hardest. And the heat! A week or so ago was the hottest weather in Shanghai in 150 years, 107 in the workshop everyday. Happy to miss that heat wave but it was 100 degrees today! Everyone seems pretty comfortable with it except me. It’s great to see my buddies again.

The rest are photos out my bedroom window. The workshop moved last year to Fengxian area, south west part of Shanghai, predominately agricultural area with many small industies (like this one) cropping up. A large and light filled workshop and living place. Very good working and living conditions here.

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Texture and revealing the spirit

The shapes look wonderful to me, full and rounded. But it is very difficult to really see the surfaces now because of the newly worked shiny places next to the dark areas. The figures are cast in a number of parts which are welded together. All those seams have to be ground down and blended with the original textures. It can be difficult to make in metal a texture that is like the one we made in plaster.

My heart sinks when I see the big ladies at this point but I have been through this many times before and I know not to get freaked out about how bad the surfaces look right now! Each little issue, one by one, gets worked on until it is solved. Slowly the piece moves from being a big piece of metal (as it looks to me now!) to holding and revealing it’s spirit more and more fully. This is my challenge for the next 10 days here. After the initial shock, I’m feeling happy and excited to be here, working on these babies!

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My Chinese history

I’ve been thinking about my father a lot while I am here, here in the land of his birth. I wish I knew him then. He would have loved that I am working here, making my sculpture.

My grandparents came in 1908 and 1910 as missionaries, met here and married. My father was born in 1915 in Xuzhou, the city where my grandparents lived for about 40 years. We communicate instantly now with email and telephone. Back then it took months for a letter to arrive in the US announcing his birth.
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(2-1jpg) my father as a baby with a group of Chinese neighbors (I presume.)

Xuzhou in 1922. Now it’s a city of about 9 million people.

(Thomson sisters) my grandmother (on the right) and her sister who started a school for women in Xuzhou in 1910. It is now an outstanding high school.

(12-3) in a motor bike, said to be the first in Xuzhou. My grandfather was active in designing the road system in Xuzhou; some of the roads are still main highways now.

My father loved China and the Chinese people and returned to live in Xuzhou after medical school in the US with his young family. They left in the late 40’s when the communists took over.

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Dogs

It seems like a hard life to be a dog in this neighborhood.

There’s one small dog at the gate of our workshop with his owner the watchman (who also works in the workshop). This dog is very yappy and barks and snarls at everyone except me (and his owner). He strains with excitement on his short leash when I come in the gate and seems extremely grateful when I pet him.

We go for a walk almost every day after dinner or at lunch and have noticed all the small yappy dogs (good watch dogs). Wallace (his English is fluent) said almost all the dogs in the neighborhood are small because many big dogs have been stolen. A thief will come at night and feed the dog some food and catch the dog and take it to sell as meat.

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Meal time

Meal time is always exciting. Great food and good energy all around. Everyone eats really fast. The cook prepares lunch and dinner for everyone in the workshop. Simple and fabulous dishes. She talks loudly and sounds angry but has a smile on her face! Every time I ask Wallace what she said he says “she’s joking.” On the weekend when she is not here, one of the team cooks. Mr. Mao is a great cook and he prepared the weekend meals.

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Evolution of reclining figure

The reclining figure has come a long way since last week. Working it over and over, round and round, and eventually each problem is solved. Tanya Kukucka, an artist who has helped me in my studio often over the past several years. came last week and she is a godsend. Not only with the physical work but she gives great feedback about any issue that comes up. And we have a lot of fun!

The hands were a challenge, as usual. Trying to get them to hold the head right. I think we got it really well this time. And I love the toes! I place black paper where the eyes and mouth will go to see what it looks like. The eyes and mouth are cut out in the bronze.

It’s been rainy and cold since I got here (except for two sunny days). Inside the industrial building with no heat feels colder than outside. Either I’m getting used to it or it’s getting a little warmer.

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Moving the big lady takes a hoist now…

These guys are the best! lots of laughs and hard work. I’ve worked with all of them at one time or another. Today after lunch I was walking by the office and Liu Cheng called to me and said “tea?” and they were all gathered around to have chrysanthemum tea together during their lunch hour. Tea is made and served on a wood table that has a cut out indented area with a drain in the bottom of it. To heat the tiny cups, they pour hot water over the cups and on the table too.Then pour the steeped tea into each cup. We enjoyed rounds of tea and conversation together. Lily speaks some English but mostly I just grove on the good energy.

Moving the big lady takes a hoist now. The first rough layer of plaster, some problem areas with the legs and the popeye arms (9238). There’s always a way to make it right if I can figure it out. Everything is related to everything else. A lot more looking and thinking today.

I had a 4 word conversation in Chinese going all day with Mr. Fong. “plaster”…. “a little bit” and “add” or “reduce” and I understood him when he said “lunch” in Chinese. ( I’m surprised at how the words that i learn don’t stick in my brain!)

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