Archive for the ‘Brooms’ Category

The Witch is Free

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Sweeping Changes Series
Glass, Acrylic

The Witch is Free, the glass broom, was the culmination of many trials, many failures and restarts, to make a broom from Glass.  Rae loved the Glass studio, and was particularly drawn to sandcasting and slumping.  She wanted to make a glass broom, and tried many times unsuccessfully to do one in a sand mold.  She learned a lot about the technique in the process, and did make some other glass pieces in the mold, but what she tried to do for a broom just never worked out.  The process she was trying involved taking wet olivine sand and 2 boxes.  sand was put in one box, a cut off broom was pushed down most of the way into the sand, more sand and the other box placed over that, with waxed paper along the seam so that after tamping down the sand, the two boxes should have been able to separate, so the broom could be removed, leaving the sand forming a negative impression of the broom, and a hole to pour the molten class through.

Every attempt ended up with the sand collapsing, refusing to hold its form, possibly because of the size of the broom, or the fact that the individual broom straws would mingle with the sand, pulling it apart as the mold opened.  In any case, she gave up that attempt.

While in class, she learned of the “Witches Ball”  often found in glass factories, and also sometimes in breweries and other places.  The idea was that witches sometimes spoiled the work in the annealing kiln or vats, and that the shiny glass globe would capture her interest.  In the version Rae found the Witches Ball had a hole in the bottom that the witch’s spirit would fly into, and not be able to find its way back out of.

So the only time Rae actually did work with molten glass was to make the top of the broom you see here, tantalizingly shaped so that no witch could resist it.  Attached to a 1 1/4″ thick stem of class for the handle, all that remained was to attach the skirt.

The skirt, since it could not be a cast of a real broom, posed some problems.  She tried taking glass rods and heating and drawing them out.  Too tedious, and too regular.

Steve Feran demonstrated how to create glass tubes and rods, by grabbing the end of a ball of glass fresh out of the oven, and running out the door with it, getting as far as possible before the glass cooled, and began to break into sections.

For the Sweeping Changes show, Rae did a combination.  She had some irregular glass rods made in this way, some glass tubes and pipettes from a lab supply house.  She heated the ends and made them curl at the top, and curve like broomstraw would.  Held piece by piece in place with a dab of silicone caulk, and clear nylon cord wrapped around the bundle.  The whole thing was beautiful, and fragile.  Many rods broke in transport, and the whole skirt was eventually replaced with acrylic rods, which still sparkle, but do not shatter and cut.

The piece is now in the collection of Casey Heinzel.

In Honor of Cinderella

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Click for larger image

Porcelain, Lace

This piece was inspired by the Cinderella story, and many other tales of with a female protagonist.  Rae saw many of them with a common element, the story was told always from another’s point of view.  The protagonist herself is silent, even silenced.  Hence the woman with the long neck in this piece has no mouth.  Her neck might even be elongated from the pressure of the things she wants to say but cannot.

This was one of the few pieces Rae tried in clay, though she used clay for the molds for some of her glass pieces.  It is fired porcelain, with an iridescent glaze.  The skirt is many, many yards of lace, which she was delighted to find in a bargain bin at a local fabric store just in time.  This piece was claimed shortly after the Sweeping Changes show by Beverly Gordon, in whose collection it now resides.

From an interview by Amy Bethel, Rae had this to say about the piece:

…”

Yeah. um, from a lot of the things that were a challenge or traumatic about my early life. And I decided to make a broom that was called “In Honor of Cinderella.” And it’s a broom that’s made out of ceramic with over 500 yards of lace as the skirt. And it has a head at the top that’s very realistic, that Deb Trent helped me make. And it has a really long neck. The neck is about 3 feet long. And there’s no mouth. And the skirt–the lace skirt comes up and there are these seven little ribbons tied around the neck, as well as being [], and it’s done in a real light colored pearlescent fashion–I mean, glaze. And it’s real pretty, you know? In this sort of bizarre way. And what it is is–it is about the heroine that so many of us grew up with is this woman who never complains or shares her pain or talks about the abuse that’s been heaped upon her. She just holds it all in. So her neck just keeps getting longer and longer because there’s more and more stuff tangled up down there. And it never comes out because she has no way to speak it. And in essence that’s me, because in my early years there was a lot of pain and there were things that happened, and I was never allowed to speak them. You’d be told it didn’t happen, it isn’t true, you know , etc., etc., etc.  And everything looks really pretty. You know, everything has that sort of white bread feel to it. That everything is chintz and lace and roses and it just wasn’t. You know? It just wasn’t. It was just swallowing it. It was just swallowing your pride, it was just holding back the words, it was just biting your tongue. And that piece was acknowledging that that is an experience that I had and that stories and media and Walt Disney and our parents and society as a whole really wanted me and everybody else to respect, love, cherish and buy the video of that victim. You know? And that was about healing. And that was about articulating that that’s what that piece was about. That culturally women are, you know, supposed to live these froufrou lives, but we don’t. That’s what we’re supposed to present to the world. And we don’t–you know, we don’t have that option to suddenly find a voice.”

And from her Master’s Thesis, Master Sweepings:

# 9  IN HONOR OF CINDERELLA

(ceramics, ribbons, lace)

Little voiceless victim, sweeping cinders.  Dancing the ball with silent broom princes.  Homage to voiceless women who survived.  To loosening the silken bindings.

This piece was very problematic for me.   I knew what I wanted to say and portray.  I wanted to place Cinderella on a pedestal  not as a princess, a woman (girl) worthy of attention by a prince and a fairy godmother.   No, I wanted to honor and expose what I see as the secret truth of Cinderella  Cinderella as victim.

For that is what she is.  She is not just the victim of an “evil” stepmother and step sisters, but also of the brothers Grimm and of our culture.  The brothers Grimm set down a version of a fairy tale in which a young girl seldom talks.  She does not try to defend herself or even attempt to escape the abuse/situation.  She is a “good” girl, who stoically waits for rescue, or relief or what  death?

And our culture has picked up on this idea  of the good girl waiting to be rescued.  We’ve made myths, stories, movies of this archetype: whole theories regarding women’s powerlessness have been named for her.  This is really interesting considering that the story theme in Cinderella is universal.  Many countries and cultures have story themes of young women left alone and abused, but many of these stories reflect young women who run away, speak out about their abuse or refuse to be abused.  Characters such a Caporushes and Tatergood are good examples of this alternative view.  (need references here, further explanation) It has become apparent to me how much Cinderella’s voicelessness is like my own voicelessness as an incest survivor.  The voice that could have let me save myself was cut off.  The words that could have revealed the secrets were silenced.  The challenge for me with this piece was how to make Cinderella recognizable and still portray her as a victim.  The plan was to create a head on a stick   a kind of puppet figure.  This would symbolize the collection of unspoken words.  The skirt would be made up of layers of lace fabric and bound with ribbons, symbolic of femininity, layers, tangled webs, Cinderella’s rags and her ball gown.  The skirt would be wrapped with rings of ribbon to represent the acts and circumstances that had “caught” the words in her throat.  Culture, life, abuse had all left their mark upon the victim.

I decided to make the stick out of clay.  Not only is clay incredibly pliable, but it is both fragile and durable (fired clay can last for thousands of years).  The surface of the clay is not smooth, it is banged up, it shows life experiences  like a survivor.  A clay face, the head of a woman who had survived, a tribute to survivors.

I made many heads that did not work.  What I wanted to create was a face that had no mouth, to further represent the voiceless quality of Cinderella, and for this to be successful, it needed to be a realistic face.  I wasn’t able to create a face/head that “read” well and that looked believable without a mouth; after three heads I was appalled at my creations, which ranged from abstract aliens to mouthless death masks.   About this time the hand of fate stepped in.  First a friend with skill to help me with ceramic realism moved to town, and second, all three of the heads in my studio were broken, probably by a tremor from the street.

I sought technical assistance from two ceramicists, Deb Trent, the friend, and Elaine Shear, Professor at the UWMadison.  We discussed exactly what I needed, the symbology of the final piece and why I wanted things a specific way.  Deb and Elaine were concerned by my desire to have the stick be one piece, and how would it survive the firing.  With the input and work of the three of us,three new heads/handles began to materialize.  The first head took on a coloring book appearance, with a long braid down the back becoming the broom stick.  Another seemed too young, and did not have the eyes of a survivor.  The third was very simple and smaller in scale, more like a fireplace broom.  At first I was drawn to the coloring book piece, which I thought might be the most recognizable.  But the third really gave me the sense of victim.

I designed and directed the faces, but Deb was instrumental in shaping them.  I joined the faces to the stick, and then worked closely with Elaine on firing processes and glazes.  The head needed to be very stable, and we created a number of sample tiles.   I also had to create a specialized stand for this piece, one which had to be created while the clay was still wet and pliable.  A stand of steel and wood was developed and the ceramic neck had a hole that allowed a long dowel to fit into the head.

I decided on lace ribbons rather than fabric for the skirt.  Ribbons would allow for a closer association with broom, as well as reflect the tattered quality of Cinderella’s life and world.  I wanted to portray the aspect of a spider web, the sense of trapped-ness.  But lace has other qualities, it can also draw one in,  people are fascinated and intrigued by it and how it was made.  It can look soft and inviting and yet be scratchy.  It has a tactile quality, in both feel and sound.  The lace skirt in my broom thus draws the viewer in, and like a survivor, invites one into her space, shows her wish to be touched  nicely, while at the same time the expresses her retreat due to fear and memory.

I used over 500 yards of lace, and over 100 yards of ribbon in the skirt.  With the assistance of Melanie Herzog it was wrapped in five layers that got systematically higher and smaller.

The whole piece was a catharsis for me on many levels.  This was an act of making something that honored me, my past, and the pain that many of us had experienced and survived.  It also came at a time when I found out that my sister (a woman who lived Cinderella’s life fromsociety’s point of view) had been a victim of the same abuse I had experienced.  And finally, the piece allowed me to experience my belief in art as a collective creative process.

I had worked with Judy Chicago on the Birth Project and, like many, experienced a great deal of disappointment and even loss.  I loved the idea of women coming together, and I came into the project with a romanticized idea of a feminist art “quilting bee”, complete with process, political correctness and consciousness raising.  For the most part I was disappointed, for it was not really a collective process.

Now I had the opportunity to work with women on my own piece, to thoroughly discuss the process, the piece, the motivation behind it, etc.  I was not disappointed by the support and graciousness of my advisors.  Each gave freely of advice, help, skills, knowledge, and talent.  Each seemed clear on the collective process, yet aware of the integrity of the piece as mine, growing from my creativity.  This experience allowed me to better understand the Judy Chicago experience, though I still had personal issues with Chicago’s style.  Working with the Deb, Elaine, and Melanie was also not a feminist quilting bee, which is itself a romantic notion.  It became one of those proverbial growing experiences, in which I learned more about the collective process of creativity, about art not being made in a vacuum, and about trust and generosity.”

Witches Broom Borealis

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Found wood, painted honeysuckle vine.

This broom started as a beautiful piece of wood with a natural spiraL created by growing together with a vine.  The skirt is honeysuckle, like that in Honeysuckle Dreams, but with each piece painted with pearelescent paints.  
The  stick was also painted,first black, then with subtle highlights of sparkling color.  The inspiration for both was an astronomy picture of a nebula called the Witches Broom.
Nothing hidden, no subtle symbology in this one, just a cosmic flying broom.

Wi5ches Broom Nebula

Spiritus Muliebris: volutum per aspicio paternus: Totem Series

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

(Divine Female: Evolution of the Patriarchal Gaze)patriarchal_web

basswood, ash, bronze, stone, broomcorn

Spiritus is one of Rae’s Totem series, which started with Celtic Totem, and also includes the Jumping Knot Broom.  Like Celtic Totem, it tells a story.  But not a folktale, rather the story of the historical record of how the female figure was represented in art, and in spirituality.
I remember Rae asking me what the Latin word for “gaze” was.  She tended to think I could answer any question immediately, and I had, after all, taken 2 semesters of Latin in High School…  So I looked up a variety of words for her, and she crafted the title of this piece from those words and definitions, taking no more liberties than is common in pseudo-latin for scientific names, and certainly few Latin grammar purists to complain.  The name is permanent now in any case, and fits the meaning intended.  The broom represents the evolution over time of the representation of the female form, specifically the sacred feminine form, the evolution of the gaze of the patriarchy.
The broom comes apart for storage and transport, like the Celtic Totem, with the stick part forming a tenon at its base, fitting into the base of the broom.  So I will start the description of the broom from the bottom, which is the beginning of the timeline represented, as well.
SPIRITUS_BASEThe very bottom is a block of Ash, with some beautiful grain in it, supporting a block of limestone, to protect both the stone and any floor it would have to sit on.  The Ash wood was sculpted to fit the irregularities of the stone underneath, and two holes were bored through the wood and the stone.  The stone itself then represents the Earth, the oldest (non)representation of the sacred female.
Above the stone is Rae’s representation of one of the oldest female figures found by archaeologists, on the Isle of Malta.  Several of thesefertility_Goddess_low statues, all without heads, dating to ~3500BCE were found.  Called by Marija Gimbutas the Giantess, she was obviously important to the people then, and her size, like those of the Willendorf and other figurines, implied that slimness was not a valued attribute in representation of the sacred female.  Rae added a head, I don’t remember what it was modeled from.  The broom makes up Her skirt and legs, with bolts connecting the base below, through the two broomcorn “legs” and into the body of the Goddess, who was carved into two large pieces of Basswood glued into one block.  A cavity in the body accepts the “neck” of the head of the goddess, who’s hare curls into a bun which becomes a snake, coiling up and around the rest of the sculpture.
spiritus_lionsspiritus_lions_backThe next figure is also very old, a curvaceous female with large breasts and buttocks, flanked by two lions, indicating her power and status.  Also very much not a modern pinup. The snake crosses her belly and continues up, she stands with her feet together on the head of the Malta goddess.  Some archaeologists have stated that since there is no head, and all the Maltese figures are “obese”, there is no way to state that it is indeed female.  But ther is definitely no doubt of the gender of this figure.
spiritus_top_frontStanding on her shoulders, with the snake curling around an ankle and between her legs, is a figure from Hindu temple walls, a Lakshmi, perhaps.  Hand on outthrust hip, large but not pendulous bosom, she appears confident and unashamed, but perhaps a little flirtatious, too…
Next is a highly decorated bust of an Egyptian goddess.  More aloof, regal.  More obviously decorative, her power from her rank and position, a beauty to be observed from a distance, with awe and respect.  Rae painted some of the neckpiece with opalescent colors, also used on the earrings of the Indian goddess.
Atop the whole is a bronze statuette, the Virgin Mary, which Rae began with a small statuette, added wax to create a halo with 3 small sand-dollars in it, and added a snake curling around the base of her robe (not under her foot), and 3 starfish on the rock at the base.
It was a lot of carving, a lot of sanding.  There was more wood removed than remaining in the end, and she faced lots of challenges with leaving enough for strength.

Ancient Wisdom Strikes

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
Ancient Wisdom Strikes

Ancient Wisdom Strikes

Maple, Koa, silver, grass fibers

Ancient Wisdom Strikes was one of the most time-consuming of the Sweeping Changes brooms.  The stick was a solid piece of hard Maple, carved into two intertwining snakes, in a sort of Caduceus.  The snakes have little forked tongues made of silver, looking like lightning striking the outstretched arms of the priestess between them.

The priestess figure will be familiar to students of history, or religion, or religion.  Priestess or Goddess, with a snake in each hand, found in Knossos, Crete, by Arthur Evans around the beginning of the 20th century, dating to 4000 years ago or so.

Rae carved the figure from a piece of Koa, a dark, rich tropical wood that carved well and took a great satin finish.  The Goddess/Priestess has an owl sitting on her head, symbol of wisdom and spiritual power, and holds the two snakes with are touched by the silver tongues of the snakes, like lightning bolts striking and imparting energy to her through them.

Cretan Snake Priestess

Cretan Snake Priestess

Prestess/Goddess at top of broom.  Detail

Priestess/Goddess at top of broom. Detail

The skirt for this one is an antique-looking broadleaf grass, looking somewhat like corn sheaves, slightly thinner.

The symbology here is not subtle, the name of the piece tells the story.  Wisdom, sought after or not, can come with a blinding clarity and immense power.

Cosmic Sequence: Sky Broom

Monday, October 26th, 2009
Sky Sweeper in Sweeping Changes

Sky Sweeper in Sweeping Changes

Available! $500

… and back to the Brooms.  This week’s entry is a monumental broom, the tallest from Sweeping changes, titled “Sky Sweeper”.  Made of found wood, ting-ting, silver solder and glitter.  It soars over 8 feet tall, with a crown I always thought looked like a dragon’s head.  (I love the shadow it makes as well, with a strategically placed light)

The stick is a piece of ironwood, (Ostrya virginiana, hophornbeam), with another piece the rootball from I believe a willow, with the ironwood cleverly inserted into a hole and filled with a mix of sawdust and glue to make it disappear.  The hornbeam cracked as it dried, revealing its spiral grain, and Rae worked solder into these cracks, tappisky-stickdetailng lightly with a hammer.  a tiny bit of glue and a few sprinklings of glitter…

head_only

Detail of “head”

The skirt came from a florist supply house, they called it tingting.  Some of it is natural, some dark dyed, some gold and some silver with glitter.  About 1/4 inch at a time was wrapped around the stick, then another layer, then another, and the final layer with a few turns of silver cord.

skySweeperbase3

Skirt with base visible

You may have noticed by now I describe the process a lot.  I watched, held, and helped, as well as consulted and opined on the process a lot more than the design and symbology.  So I know more and remember more about those things, and am more comfortable relaying them.  Anything I say about the inspiration or meaning is mostly my own interpretation, or my imperfect memory of what I heard Rae describe at a show.

I have not yet described for any of the brooms what went into making them stand up.  Rae went through quite a process to try to figure something out in time for her Sweeping Changes show.  The totems were not really a problem.  The Celtic Totem actually has an iron I-beam under the skirt.  The bronze broom is welded to a circular plate with bolts through it.  But for the ones with fiber or broom or twig skirts, she consulted with several of her instructors, and tried to come up with something that would not get in the way of the broom’s lines. For this and several of the others, she ended up with two small iron rings welded to 3 soft iron bars 1/8″ by 3/4″, the rings surround the end of the stick, the bars go down and flare outward, and have small hold used to screw them down to platforms.  (we were not  very good about documenting process, so I can’t show you under the skirts, sorry.)

Sky Sweeper was inspired by Chinese Dragons, and stories/folklore Rae found concerning storms being caused by gods sweeping out their domiciles.  Sand and dust storms from the dry stuff, and rain and wind from the cleaning.

Women, Domesticity and Objects of Power

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

So, a special treat today:  Context.

I have collected some info and images from Rae’s MFA show, titled above.  The show was November 6-23, 1994 at the Gallery of Design, 1300 Linden Drive.  At that time it was Family Resources and Consumer Sciences, now the School of Human Ecology.

Her Artist’s Statement:

Women, particularly cultural feminists, have often considered the possibility, questioned the probability, and even a romanticized the concept of a women’s culture. When I explore the concept of women’s culture, as a feminist, a storyteller, and an artist, I am drawn again and again to the concept of common objects. Common objects fascinate me — the careful consideration to function (its domestic roots) mars our perception of its grace and beauty, for, to be special something must be rare.

In a women’s culture, what might be different in the perception and the value of common objects?

I began to envision what common objects would be like from an intact, continuous women’s culture. If such a culture existd through the ages, what would those ages have been called? We have the “Golden Age” for mainstream culture, and the Renaissance, and the “Middle Ages”. Would it be different if there had been a dominant Women’s culture or even a valuation of women? I know they would be different for me. Using as my starting point stories such as the magic mirror of Snow White’s evil stepmother, or myths such as Cerridwen’s Cauldron of regeneration ( how did a cooking pot becomes a source of reincarnation and knowledge )?, I began to construct any exhibition of found objects from this “mythical” women’s culture.

I not only wanted to explore the concept of a women’s culture, I choose to layer it with the shadowed influences of existing culture – its legends, stories and processes and my own life experience and concerns. What resulted is my manifestation of Objects of Power.

This statement was posted in the show and on a brochure which was handed out.  What few people have seen is her first draft of the statement:

I am working from 3 premises:

•      There is a perceived division between art and craft, functional and non-functional, which does not exist in all cultures and in all times.  It does not exist in my reality.  I like to push this culturally oriented imaginary line around and see what I can come up with when I explore common objects, traditional and non-traditional materials and layered symbology.

•      Certain “Common Objects” fascinate me — they can be graceful and powerful, as well as functional.  We usually miss this grace and beauty, because we assume to be special something must be rare.  Many objects live with us in the mundane-but they also live with us in the world of dreams, mystery and legend.  My work seeks to delve these mysteries and reveal how common objects can become the icons of mysteries we all recognize if we care to look — if we dare to know.

•      Objects that are a common part of our culture often have rich associations with legends, histories, fables, folk-tales and folk customs.  I explore these associations by researching references to each object in mythic, poetic, and cultural literature.  I use interactive and multifaceted meshed layers that reflect this history and hidden meanings found in the research, with concepts from my own life experiences and response to the stories.

This process manifests pieces that are powerful, unique, and sophisticated.  These simultaneously simple and sophisticated pieces reflect the mundane perspectives of our society, but reveal a connection to the power of objects through their secrets, stories, mysteries, and innate grace.

Also from the brochure:

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS AND APPRECIATIONS

COMMITTEE MEMBERS:
Truman Lowe – Art Department
Leslee Nelson- Art Dapartment
Elaine Shear – Art Department
Diane Sheehan – ETD Department
And Larry Junkins–
he touched my heart & my art, Blessings.

SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Valerie Weihman – MATC
Tom Loeser – UW
Martha Glowicki – UW
Steve Feren – UW
Fred Fenster – UW
Brian Painter – UW
George Cramer – UW

SPECIAL FRIENDS
Those who helped make this show possible
Helen Klebasadel    Jini Kai
Amy Bethel    Mary Walker
Barb Westfall    Mary Bennett
Ari-Asha Castalia    Ann Schaffer
Leslee Nelson    Sara Killian
Suzann Hart    Val Weihamn
Casey Heinzel    Ethan Heinzel
Deb Trent    Bev Gordon
Betsy Tuttle and the folks of the Gallery.

And All My Love To,
MATH HEINZEL
Who suffered so gracefully for my art …

The pieces that were included in that show, some renamed:

BROOMS

From the Age of Mystery:  SWEEP OF THE MILKY WAY  Wildwood, Broom Corn
From the Age of Community: COOPERATION    Bronze, Bronze Wire
From Sweeping Changes: INSPIRATIONAL SIMPLICITY Quilted maple, Broom Corn

CAULDRONS

From the Age of Water: CONTINUITY    Bronze
From the Age of Fire: TRANSFORMATION Bronze
From the Age of Earth: REGENERATION Bronze

CHAIR

From the Age of Consideration: FAT GIRLS LIKE TO ROCK TOO Ash and Pecan

CUPBOARDS

From the Age of Confusion: ANCIENT MOTHER/MODERN LIES Walnut, fabric, mirror, bronze, clay, glass
From the Age of Consciousness: CAGED HEAT    maple, copper, cotton, silk, satin
From the Age of Control: WITH RESPECT TO THE WHORE OF BABYLON copper, lace, walnut, silk

MIRRORS

From the Age of Knowledge: CLASSICAL PROPORTIONS/NARROW PERSPECTIVES    Bronze, Wood, Mirror
From the Age of Acceptance: MIRROR OF DEATH/MIRROR OF LIFE     Bronze

——————–

I have not found any photos from that exhibition, though I will continue to look.  We do have photos of all the pieces, some in previous posts here, others yet to come.  For now, foryour gazing pleasure, the Ricking Chair that she made to fit a large woman, and which sits now in our living room.  Made of Ash and Hickory.  Fat Girls Like to Rock, Too:

Proportioned for the goddess in each of us.

Proportioned for the Goddess in each of us.

Celtic Totem

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

OK, so one more Broom, then perhaps I’ll turn to some of Rae’s other  themes, especially if I start getting more feedback.  Any requests?  Cabinets, Cauldrons, Mirrors, Weavings, Copper Electroforms?  Eventually I’ll get them all.

Celtic Totem

Celtic Totem

The Celtic Totem, I think, was the first piece Rae did in Basswood.   She also used broomcorn that we grew in our garden plot at Eagle heights.  (The poor raccoons, who usually got most of the sweetcorn folks planted there, were so confused, it just kept growing taller, and never had any ears to steal!)

It was the most complex carving she did to that date, too, because it was to tell a story.  One that she related many times, unlike most of her other pieces, where if she told the story, it was to an individual or small group, and seldom repeated.

The story is a retelling of one she heard as a child, from her Irish ancestry.  As I recall it:

“Long ago, Ireland was a cold and rock island.  The cold, the poor soil, and the weather made it hard to live there.  The women cried because their children went hungry.  “

Base to Celtic Totem

Base to Celtic Totem

The base, with the homegrown broomcorn, carved to represent a rocky, mountainous island.

“Their tears fell through cracks in the earth and woke a Dragon sleeping there, who then heard their cries.   Out of compassion, she used her fiery breath to warm the land from beneath, making the island lush and green.”

“The women learned the power in their bodies,  had many children, and learned from the island.  They learned to grow food, to raise families.  They grew numerous.dragon-woman

From the wolf, they learned about community, about sharing and protecting each other.  And so they lived their lives well till they died, when the Raven took their souls back to the Earth.”

Celtic Totem top

Celtic Totem top

The broom “stick” is one large piece of basswood.  Rae drew the design on a large strip of paper, transfered it using carbon paper t the front, then flipped both wood and paper to do the same on the back, (just the outline), then sketched in the things that would be viewed on the back.  on each side she did similar sketches, then started removing large chunks of wood.

The carving process

The carving process

At some point, I remember coming up with the idea to mount the piece vertically, so we created a set of braces with “lazy-susan” bearings, and used a small pneumatic jack to tighten the whole thing up against a ceiling joist in the garage.

totem_carving

Rae was very proud of this piece.  She liked her Irish heritage, the symbols all had special power for her, and she wanted to do a Sheela-na-gig ever since she first came on them in her research.  A review of her show by a reporter from a Madison newspaper, I think, called it a “broom for a god”.