Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Creative Cup of Tea PARTII

FPAC catches up with Lizanne Jensen from West Coast Weathervanes to talk shop about the craft of copper weather vanes.    She shares the process that created the teapot weathervane now perched on the new Tea Part Ships & Museum in Fort Point.

FPAC: As an artist located in Santa Cruz, California, how did you and Ken get involved with the Tea Party Museum here in New England for this Teapot weathervane project?

LAJ: We have had a web presence for about ten years now and most of our customers, both domestic and international, find us through our West Coast Weather Vanes website. Probably 90% of our orders come to us via our website. Mr. Belland, the CEO for Historic Tours of America, was searching the internet for a suitable weathervane for the new museum and came across our Teapot and Teacups weathervane. He gave us a call, we exchanged several emails and he then placed his order with us.

FPAC: How did West Coast Weather Vanes begin?

LAJ: During the autumn  of 1988, Ken and I were on our honeymoon in New England where we had gone to see the fall colors. While we were admiring the beautiful scenery, we spotted a roadside shop selling copper weather vanes. We had always admired weather vanes but had been unable to find one in California. They had a nice selection so we ordered one and arranged to have it shipped back home to us. We mentioned how much trouble we had finding an interesting weather vane and the fellow casually mentioned that there was no one in the western half of the country making handmade copper weather vanes. Ninety miles down the road, we had a brainstorm. Why not create these fine examples of American folk art ourselves? 

In the ensuing twelve months, we saved our money, did extensive research on weathervanes and experimented on the best techniques for making them. As soon as we felt confident enough to give it a go, I quit my job and our weathervane business was off and running.

FPAC: Can you take us through the artistic process of how these weathervanes are created?  How long is this process?

LAJ: The process of making a weathervane can take anywhere from a couple of days to three months, depending on the size of the weathervane and the complexity of the design. You can pretty much tell by our prices which are the most time consuming weathervanes to make!

FPAC: As I understand, you put pennies in each of the weathervanes as a Victorian weathervane maker tradition of good luck.  The pennies are dated for the year the weathervane was created and/or a special occasion. What what the significance of the penny (s) put in the Teapot weathervane?

LAJ: In addition to the inclusion of the traditional penny representing the year the weathervane was made, our customer asked to include a 1773 penny (to honor the original date of the Boston Tea Party). They also sent us an 1873 penny (in honor of the centennial of the Boston Tea Party) and a 1973 penny (in honor of the bi-centennial of the Boston Tea Party). All of these pennies were placed inside the tea pot for good luck.

FPAC: Folks here in the Fort Point area of Boston think that the teapot was a perfect touch for this Museum, but what is the most unique weathervane you have created?

LAJ: The one we made for the Boston Tea Party Museum was definitely among the most unique weathervanes we’ve ever made. The museum will have such a presence in the city of Boston and explores a very important part of our country’s history. It makes us proud to be a part of it. Other special weathervanes that come to mind are those we have made as memorials for people who have passed away. As an example, we made one Eagle Weathervane for a family that wanted to honor his service as a Screaming Eagle in World War II. Since each weathervane is made to order, I could probably tell you a special story about each one. Knowing the stories that accompany each weathervane and what they mean to the person who has ordered it from us is one of the best parts of having this business!

All photos courtesy of West Coast Weather Vanes

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Creative Cup of Tea - PART I

The neighborhood is growing by the second and beginning this summer the Fort Point community will be the new home of the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.  Over that last several months the Museum was constructed on the Channel waterway connected to Congress Street Bridge.  This carefully crafted building came to life with the help of barges to unload building supplies,  maritime ship builders,  artists,  historians,  and workers that seamlessly assembled a house of history.  This summer, the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum will tell the story of the American colonists that rebelled against the British rule in 1773 through re-enactments, artifacts, and more!  As you walk across the bridge in anticipation for its grand opening on June 25th, you may notice a shiny copper weathervane perched on the top of the Museum.  A teapot - simple and sweet.

Courtesy of the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

The Teapot & Cups weather vane was handmade in the central California studio of LizAnne and Ken Jensen, owners and artists of West Coast Weather Vanes. (Boston Tea Party Ships & Museums)  The Jensens studio has been operating for over twenty years using free form techniques to create these creative models of American craftsmanship.

Courtesy of Jodie Baehre

The process begins with a paper pattern traced onto a sheet of copper. The individual design pieces are cut out by hand with metal shears. Various hammers are used to give texture to the metal and the 3-dimensional shaping is done with rawhide hammers on leather sand pillows, anvils and custom-shaped oak blocks.  The two opposite halves of each section of the design are soldered together to form a hollow body and then joined.  Before the closing of the last seam, a penny from the year the weathervane is made is placed inside as a symbol of good luck. The completed work is signed by the artist who created it from start to finish. (Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum)

Courtesy of West Coast Weather Vanes

A good bit of trivia and great conversation starter, the Teapot & Cups weather vane perched on the Museum has three pennies, each with its own story - A 1773 British copper halfpence that bears the image of George III, marks the year the Boston Tea Party occurred. The other two, an 1873 Indian Head copper penny that depicts Lady Liberty wearing a feathered headdress, and a 1973 Lincoln Head copper penny acknowledge the two centuries that have passed. (The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum). Chris Belland, CEO of Historic Tours of America, the company creating the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, is a man of historic accuracy and detail.  It was Belland’s idea for the three pennies that rest inside the weather vane to be a silent symbol of American History.

1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier - The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor.
  Contrary to Currier's depiction, few of the men dumping the tea were actually disguised as Indians

The simple and sweet Teapot & Cups weathervane already has an artist’s touch and creative story.  It has found its home at the doorway of Fort Point where residents can watch it gracefully age over time into a perfectly patined public artwork.

Part II of this post will introduce you to the artists of West Coast Weather Vanes with an interview from LizAnne Jensen.  Check back with us soon to get the inside scoop!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Call for Good!

Call for Good! - Campaign for Good is intended to be "a movement inciting thoughtfulness and kindful action.” Send ideas for positive slogans, messages, thoughts, or quotes that you feel convey an expression of kindness, generosity and all things good! Submit them online and your thoughts will be transformed into art for the show.

More details on the exhibit:
March 8th to April 27th, 2012
300 Summer Street M1
Boston, MA 02210

Opening Reception: Thursday March 15th, 5:30-8pm
Artists' Talk: Thursday March 22nd, 7pm
Performance Evening: Thursday April 12th, 7pm  - Performance of a work called "For You I Feel Lucky."  RSVP event.  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Positively Gaga

Artists are going gaga about the idea of kindness. Lady Gaga recently came to Cambridge to launch her ‘Born This Way’ Foundation.  The non-profit helps children who have been bullied and are in need of self-confidence.  It is getting a big lift from local businesses in Cambridge and around the nation.  This week the ‘Campaign for Good’ sets up headquarters at the gallery on 300 summer street.

Last year building on the ‘Stir a Memory’ project, ‘Remember Kindness’ was launched as a project around the simple idea that everyone is kind. The ‘Remember Kindness’ project encourages people to remember a kind act. In remembering we recognize. In recognizing we acknowledge. In acknowledging we come to a new understanding of everyday actions. And so it goes.

Conversations with people about the idea of kindness can be liberating and enlightening. When Fort Point neighborhood artist David Palmer’s son was asked, what is kindness?  His thoughtful response was “Kindness is listening.” Another response from the public was, “Kindness is beautiful.”

Image: Courtesy Nathan Evans, Fort Point Artist
Check out more responses at:

Please email Krina Patel if you would like to participate in the ‘Remember Kindness’ project or want to learn more.   The project includes programs for artists, art students as well as a separate program for K-12 schools.  Here is a young child's drawing of kindness done at a school workshop on kindness. The sweetness of a childs innocence and compassion are admirable. 

Child’s expression of kindness

Krina Patel is a Fort Point artist and educator who started the 'Stir a Memory' community art project in 2010.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March Photo of the Month

Photo by: Robert Siegelman

Robert Siegelman works in printmaking, photography, installation, and artists books. He teaches at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and at the Eliot School in Jamaica Plain. He also teaches workshops regularly throughout New England. He is the Co-Director of Art In Amsterdam, a studio program for artists held each summer in the Netherlands.
The work and imagery that I pursue in photography uses sexuality as a metaphor. I am making photographs that are autobiographical, yet which many viewers find meaningful. I am seeking to express the need gay men often feel to create a sense of identity, within one’s self and culture. Many find their lives reflected in this work in ways that are generally not shown in artwork or the media.