Monday, May 7, 2012

Putting the Art in the Artesian Well

That's me in the silly hat, with Darla, who drove from South of Portland to help out.
On Friday, I got to the well early and set up my canopy.  It didn't rain as hard as on Thursday, but the canopy really helped to keep the area dry.  My first visitor that day was a man who was convinced that all of the small mirror pieces contained video surveillance units.  He accused the next visitor of following him, then asked me a lot of questions about my religious beliefs before commenting that I was wielding a sharp implement and moving on.  In fact, I was using a carving tool to get thinset from between tesserae.  This process is pretty easy the morning after I adhere the fish, but I have learned the hard way that it is nearly impossible by the next afternoon.

It was cold on Friday, though not as nippy as Wednesday and not as wet as Thursday.  Darla Lynn arrived at about 10am and it was great to have company all day, and the extra help filling in the space between fish.  At one point, a very sweet woman came along and asked if she could put some pieces on.  Darla helped butter the backs and let her place them.  She put a cluster of green glass tiles on, with some backwards, but she was so happy it made me want to open the whole process up and make it more participatory.  Considering I have only a few weeks to complete the project, inviting the community could help me to meet the deadline.  What I lose in consistent spacing, I gain in speed and connection to the people who use the well.  I told her she can help me again when she finds me there.

The sun came out in the afternoon, so I kept working until 6:45.  I had worked over 9 hours.  I was incredibly sore and drained from interacting with people all day.  I took Saturday off to be with my family, but I returned to the well on Sunday because I was worried about the thinset that had squished up between the fish on Friday.  This is when I discovered that it is vital that I do not apply new fish unless I am able to return the following morning.  (I also discovered that someone had urinated on the plastic covering over the pillar.)  I spent 2 hours carving out very hard thinset, until my hands were aching and a little bit bloody.  By the last fish, the thinset was like concrete and I gave up.  I'm thinking of using a lighter shade of grout so that it won't be too obvious.

Today (Monday), Alan came down to do some filming.  He has been documenting the whole process.  Later, I had two volunteers show up to help fill in the background, plus Lisandro!  We didn't have quite enough tools and containers for everyone to work at once, but I was being whisked away by a photographer from a local magazine, so it was wonderful that I had helpers to continue working in my absence.  I think, with planning, I could accommodate more volunteers and that we could get this project finished very quickly.  Today, it felt like all I could do to keep people supplied with thinset, tools, and materials.  From now on, I'll apply new fish first and start the grouting process while others fill in the negative space.  It is wonderful to have help, and it really increases the fun factor.

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