Friday, December 31, 2010

A Productive and Successful Hanging

Thanks to four-and-a-half hours of continuous and skillful efforts by our intrepid climbers (Jerry McClanahan and Patrick O'Brien), all 18 panels were mounted onto the furnace frame. The weather cooperated (relatively warm, no wind), and there were no hasty trips to the emergency room, which is always a plus. The installation was covered by at least four different news organizations, and numerous Riverwalk visitors stopped in their tracks in what we like to interpret as flat-out shock and awe over what they were seeing. There were no major glitches: everything fit surprisingly well. A storm is predicted for Chattanooga tonight, and that will serve as our first practical test of The Fabric vs The Elements.

This is a visually stunning installation. See below.

All is in readiness.

Transporting the panels
Strapping up
How high are they?
High. Very, very high.
First panel goes up.
Interior view.
Making progress.
Bottom row.

The finished product, looking north from the  Riverwalk. Yes!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Almost Up

After some final color adjustments and clear-coating, all of the work is now completed and the panels are ready for transport. The studio is once more clean, bright, and bare. Hanging of the panels has been tentatively moved to Friday, December 31st while the postponed unveiling is still being decided. Zach and Frances are submitting a press release for the installation, and there is anticipated to be a media presence.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Design, Fabrication, Painting & Etc. Complete!

Thanks to a last minute push by Tanya, Meredith, and the Mark Making staff, the final panels are finished. Weather permitting, furnace riggers Jerry and  Patrick will climb the frame and hang all the panels midweek.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Final Approach

We are down to the last four panels that need painting, and they are all "short" - the end is in sight! Despite their acute fear of heights, Lindsay and Nick also climbed the dreaded scaffolding to clear-coat several finished panels.

Another task has been to collect some rusted iron flakes from the site's salamander so that Lindsay could crush it with a mortar and pestal. The resulting iron oxide dust will be mixed with the paint on the Mark Making logo (our final panel).

Since we're nearing completion of the fabrication phase, we thought it was time to photodocument the net results of our efforts. Zach and Meredith accomplished this in the studio parking lot from a third story height. This gives a sneek preview of the finished product; the Toyota Corolla provides a sense of scale.

Finally, we collectively worked up a press release as well as a script for a cell phone walking tour that will be available for the site's visitors next month; Public Art Chattanooga is sponsoring the latter.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Will Paint For Food

After Shea and Nick spent a day improving the viewscape at the site (cutting trees and pulling privet), work continued apace on panel prep/painting. Aided by recent UTC graduate Lindsey Cochran, Team BFRP (Tanya Dickenson, Lindsay Roden, Meredith Gilligan, and Frances, Nick, Zach, and Katherine) have  completed approximately half of the panels this week.
Tanya, Meredith, and Lindsay painting a section of the pictograph.
Lindsey and Nick do the same.

To enhance the artistic experience, and fuel the furnace, as it were, Nick labored many long hours in his kitchen baking two deep dish crew pizzas. They didn't last long...


A tentative hang date of December 29 is being proposed, followed by a New Year's Eve unveiling. Garnet Chapin of the Parks Foundation is coordinating this event with Mark Making, as it will also involve the Walnut Street Bridge Plaque Replacement Project kickoff event. This concatenation of Parks Foundation-sponsored projects should result in an impressive media-heavy unveiling.

Team BFRP has been considerably enhanced with the addition of some major climbing expertise in the form of Jerry McClanahan and Patrick O'Brien, pictured below. Both are veteran climbers, and both have volunteered as riggers when we hang the fabric. This is a good thing, as everyone else on the team (except possibly Zach) is terrified of climbing the frame.
Jerry McClanahan, Patrick O'Brian: Furnace Climbers.
Jerry was able to visit the site with us and inspect the frame. We also brought out a panel and suspended it from the bottom of the frame to get another reality check on the background color on-site.

Today we began working on our version of the 1856 furnace image as well as the main title panel. We finally are seeing an end to the fabrication phase, though much still needs to be done.

Zach and Katherine with the title panel.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Artistic Overdrive (In the Service of History)

Team BFRP is quickly approaching cruising altitude in the fabrication phase of our effort, and today we got into a definite Bluff Groove. But first we had to contend with a problem that (literally) surfaced on the substrate: we discovered that the black-paint block letters on the first two columns were not adhering properly after drying. This was addressed by rolling on a urethane coat over both the text and the background. And based on our visual reference trip to the site yesterday (see Dec. 6 blog) we also decided to add more more warmth to the background tint.

Once that was done we got down to brass tacks, painting the bottom half of the wordy timeline and part of a panel containing one of two silhouettes of Robert Cravens. The sequence of tasks is outlined below.

First, we darkened the background tint using sponges. Katherine and Nick apply the finishing touches.
Next, the 15 ft high panel is stapled to the studio wall.
Then we project text and images onto the fabric at the proper scale.
Finally, we paint. Tanya, Meredith, Frances, and Nick in action.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dry Run

 Today we had a visual check using some finished panels at the site, as Zach and Katherine unfurled them on the frame. We were looking at text legibility in the contrasting colors, as well as overall tone and scale.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Final Design, and Paint

Friday's work had a double purpose: to make progress on the "easy" panels (big letters) and to make final decisions on design elements, including a vastly improved locomotive image and some wording edits and scaling issues.

Meredith with a finished large-letter panel.
Tanya and Zach staple the fabric prior to painting a "busy" panel.
Two entire large-letter columns are completed ("Bluff Furnace"  "Chattanooga Industry"). Producing the time line is the next goal; after that, the images become much more complex. By starting with the easiest panels we've become acquainted and more comfortable with the brushes, paint characteristics, and our individual motor skill challenges, and these initial experiences will (theoretically) allow us to paint the remaining panels with clarity and grace.

Unfortunately, final exams begin this coming week at UTC, but Team BFRP remains undeterred! Work sessions are still being scheduled, including clearing on-site. The weather is another variable that we will have to contend with, as we normally dry newly-painted panels outdoors. Rain and high winds may prevent that luxury in the coming days.

Finally, as a great spin-off effort, Tanya and Lindsay have begun designing displays on this project that will be mounted in cases in the UTC Fine Arts Center at the end of January. Frances was able to arrange this coup with Ruth Grover, Director and Curator of the Cress Gallery, who is graciously  providing us with this opportunity.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fabrication Begins

Although minor tweaking is still occuring on some text and image sizing/placement, Team BFRP has reached a new phase in this project: fabrication. Three large (c. 90 x 166 inches) have been successfully stained, and one panel is 95% complete.  This first panel is one of the easiest to paint, as it consist of oversize text that will be facing the Tennessee River viewscape. The process used at the Mark Making Studio involves several steps. First the panels were attached to the wall. Then the panels were stained using sponges.  Finally, Illustrator images were projected onto the panel at the correct scale, the letters were traced with eraseable markers, and then they were filled in with black paint.

Zack, Frances, Tanya, and Lindsay prepare to trace the projected text.
Painting the text.
This first panel in essence constitutes our shakedown cruise for establishing painting techniques and procedures. What we have realized in starting this part of the journey is just how much more work needs to be done. It is a sobering realization.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Design nearing completion, and a minor setback

Team BFRP welcomes the addition of Lindsay Roden, who joined us last week!

The team has nearly completed its design phase, thanks largely to the concerted Illustrator efforts of Tanya. A couple of images are being finessed, and we will decide on a font (or fonts) this week. The Mark Making studio has been prepped (walls covered in plastic prior to painting, scaffolding erected), and the substrate dimensions were finalized, resulting in an order to the supplier.

Unfortunately, when it arrived the substrate fabric was found to be an "alternate" material that did not meet our specs, so it was returned. The supplier is replacing the panels with the correct material, but this puts us back one week. However, this is crunch time for Mark Making (see their homepage link below), as they are bringing another project to fruition at CSAS this weekend, so the delay is actually ok. And it gives us a chance to complete our design. Starting next week (or at least after Thanksgiving!) we'll be in the fabrication phase of this project.

Mark Making's home page
 - friend them on Facebook at Mark Making

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gearing Up

The Team is getting close: today at the Mark Making studio we finished designing the blast furnace process pictograph (definitely a group effort), and the images were photoed and loaded into Illustrator. After editing and sizing (ongoing), we will be able to project them against the wall at full scale. Then we start painting.

Shea working on a locomotive image for the pictograph.
Meredith's rendition of a traditional charcoal-fueled blast furnace.

Frances demonstrates projection painting.
The team spent considerable time peering at the background fabric shading (think "parchment"), and tried out several different paint formulas and application methods (a large sponge seems to work best). We also looked at how well the black painted lettering and images will contrast with the background at distance.

Other tasks included finalizing panel sizes and grommet placement in each panel, which is a precursor for ordering the fabric. This lead to a discussion of procedures for mounting the fabric to the frame, and safety issues in doing so. We also grappled with the Luffing Problem: seasonal temperature differences will produce more (summer) or less (winter) tension in the fabric. Minimizing luff will be an important priority.

The end of the work session was devoted to viewing the images at full scale against the wall, composing captions, and charting out a work schedule once the fabric arrives (in about a week or ten days).

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Taking Shape

After a one week hiatus occasioned by UTC's fall break, Team BFRP was back on task. Friday's studio session began with an overview of what has been accomplished to date in terms of display themes, content, scaling, colors, permits, materials, finances, etc., and what needs to be done prior to fabrication. Several hours were devoted to tweaking dimensions of various images and text, determining the ultimate size of all the panels that will be attached to the frame, finalizing (well, almost) the timeline wording, and especially to working on the iron process pictograph, which will ultimately be a central part of the display. The latter was designated as NYRFTB (Not Yet Ready For The Blog), but that will change in the next couple of weeks. The timeline will be posted separately and we invite readers of this blog to make suggestions about our first draft.

A highlight of the afternoon was a one hour meeting with several members of Public Art Chattanooga. We summarized our ideas and presented some of the mock-ups that we have developed. That was followed by a Q and A session and a productive discussion with the PAC members. We then continued to work on the pictograph and timeline.

Our immediate task is twofold: (1) finalize the pictograph, and (2) load our final images and text into Photoshop. Not only will that simplify the organization and editing of the separate panels, it will also allow us to project the images and text against the studio wall at full scale. That will be tremendously important for adjusting proportions and simply getting a sense of what works (and doesn't!).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Scaling In

Last week Team BFRP continued to work intensely on drawings of photographs, constructing the schematic of the iron-making process, and dealing with those pesky scaling issues. This week, under the direction of Frances and Zach, Tanya worked like a woman possessed in Photoshop, attempting  to scale out the visual elements that we've developed to date. Here is the result of her efforts:

Note that the oversize letters will be attached to the columns that face the Tennessee River. Note also that there will be additional text embedded in these images; this is still a work in progress. However, this scaled model represents a huge step in the development of the Furnace exhibit.

The incredibly detailed rendering of the 1886 Norris, Wellge and Company’s Bird's Eye View of Chattanooga was produced by Shea, while the intricate foundry representation was Meredith's contribution. Tanya drew the 1860 and 1864 photographs; we can't remember who drew the 1856 photo.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Measuring, Planning, and Vantage Points

Hello everybody! We're continuing to look at some pesky critical issues. The stack is huge; this fact alone creates problems re the practicality of different methods of painting and hanging the giant canvases, as well as the different points from which the stack itself will be viewed.

On October 8th, Zach, Francis, Tanya and Shea went to the furnace site to better establish how much of the stack can be seen from different vantage points and to determine how big the lettering on the finished product should be. 

Here's Zach on the stack's framework getting some feedback on letter sizes. This is higher than it seems and is crazy.

More of Zach climbing. There's nothing really vital in the shot, but it's a way cool picture. 

Tanya and Francis painting some sample canvas to see how the colours that we plan to use show up against the natural background of the site.

Here are Francis and Shea working on a scale mockup of what we're actually going to put on the furnace stack. See the blue lines? Those are those different viewscapes we referred to.

Friday, October 1, 2010

More Aesthetic/Historic/Interprative Decisions

The Bluff Furnace Posse spent an intense Friday afternoon at the Mark Making studio. The issues we wrestled with included viewscape depth-of-field parameters (angles and distances); text sizes; determining major color schemes at the site (low colors) and the complementary colors for the stack (high colors); placement of a time line in the exhibit; etc. We constructed our first scaled mock-up using acetate sketches of images.
The mock-up in all its (initial) glory.
Since the exhibit will be viewed from multiple locations, including the Hunter Museum overlook, the Walnut Street Bridge, the Pedestrian Bridge, the switchback portion of  the Riverwalk, the Tennessee River, and the Bluff Furnace interpretive "kiosk" directly adjacent to the stack, depth-of-field is a critically important (not to mention amazingly complex) factor in designing the exhibit. Before final fabrication, we plan on creating some full-scale panels to mount on the stack frame so that we have a sense of what does or does not work visually.

Zach points out one of the SIX potential viewscapes.
We also decided on an overall background color for the furnace substrate -- an appropriately archaeology-evoking earth tone (see below) -- and applied that color choice to the scale model. Then we taped on rough images and text. This allows us to evaluate how our messages/images fit in the context of the furnace stack.

Color possibilities.
The basal color sheet is applied.
Scaling out the lettering.
Acetate images are taped to the scale model.
We have now moved to a consensus about what will actually be on the Furnace, which is a huge step in this process. Check out this sneak preview:

Now it's a matter of refining some of the accompanying text and working up the smelting process schematic in more detail. Friday was a good day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Forging Ideas: What To Leave In, What To Leave Out

With the addition of Cody Dickinson and Meredith Gilligan, the Bluff Heads again met at the Mark Making studio. We were greeted by a 1 to 10 scale model of the Furnace stack that will be used for our future design mock-ups.
Frances McDonald proudly presents the scale model
Then, led by Frances McDonald, we collectively confronted the Redundancy Paradox. After an interesting discussion, a consensus eventually emerged:  the redundancy drawbacks (i.e., limits on content, possible viewer boredom) outweigh the benefits (i.e., emphasizing important information) and hence should be avoided--or at least minimized.

The next task was to create wording for an information panel or sign that would explain what the installation is. Since the finished Furnace design will likely be puzzling to many first-time visitors, this simple element is actually pretty important; it's also a requirement of PAC approval. Starting with "You are looking at...," we each finished the phrase and then we eventually merged our suggestions into the following statement:


The majority of our studio time was spent sketching, cutting, and pasting our "high priority" images and messages onto the wall to start getting a preliminary sense of the scale and balance of this thing we are making. We also worked up a rough historical timeline and a schematic of the smelting process. At this point, the Bluff Furnace design is truly a work in progress...

A macro view of our initial design ideas

Friday, September 17, 2010

Marking Out Some Ideas

This week was devoted primarily to generating content related to the history and significance of Bluff Furnace. We are also inevitably starting to deal with stylistic questions, and it makes for an interesting mix. One example: should there be redundancy in what we present? Up side: the message gets through, as important points are emphasized through repetition. Down side: there’s less information presented anytime something is repeated. We call this the Redundancy Paradox. There’s no easy answer to it…

Part of the discussion occurred at the Mark Making studio, where we presented our preliminary schematics  and received feedback from Frances and Zach. It was decided that our next meeting will be aimed at some “Art 101” basics about how we can interpret the historic photo images of the Furnace on to our “canvas.”

Team BFRP welcomes  the inclusion of Tennessee Archaeology student Meredith Gilligan, who will be volunteering her time to the fabrication of the Bluff Furnace display.  Hooray for Meredith!

Last but not least, Mark Making and UTC Archaeology made a short presentation to the Public Art Committee concerning the Bluff Furnace project. We were encouraged with the reception we received, and Frances McDonald is currently working with the PAC to formalize an agreement for this project .

At the Mark Making Studio

Monday, September 13, 2010

Generating (initial) Ideas

Team BFRP has been busy. After receiving some useful input from the UTC Tennessee Archaeology class (ANTH 3200) about what needs to be interpreted at Bluff Furnace, we worked for several hours on developing themes (content) during a brainstorming session on Sept. 9. That led to a consideration about what level of interpretation we should use (style). We decided to start with fairly simple messages, and lots of images, that would hopefully spark enough visitor interest that some might actually read the interpretive signs that are already present at various places near the site.

In our discussions it became apparent that specific information about viewscapes was needed, so we traveled to Bluff Furnace and took photos and measurements. We are now individually generating schematics of what each one of us thinks the finished product should look like. We have dubbed this first effort “Mark I.”  We plan to share our separate visions with each other next week when we start picking and choosing from our individual models to create a "Mark II" version that hopefully incorporates the best of all our ideas. Other versions will also likely follow. We plan to involve the ANTH 3200 class in assessing how effective our models are in terms of visual and historical stimulation.

Shea and Tanya measure viewscapes.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Historical Images

This woodcut from an 1858 Harper's New Monthly magazine, shows a typical charcoal fueled/steam-powered blast furnace. It produced raw iron from iron ore.The iron was then used in local foundries.
This 1860 photograph shows no trace of the earlier charcoal-fueled furnace. Instead, the innovative cupola-style stack that replaced it used coke as its fuel and was unique in the nation at that time. The tall chimney on the right was part of a massive steam engine that powered the hot blast. Approximately twenty furnace workers appear in this photograph. Can you find them?
This 1864 photograph was taken after the Union Army captured Chattanooga and converted the furnace into a lime kiln. Only foundations from the casting shed are left. The bottom of the cupola, supported by arched cast iron legs, appears in the background.
As Chattanooga's first heavy industry, Bluff Furnace contributed to the industrial development of the city in the nineteenth century. This bird's-eye view depicts the city in 1886.