Friday, September 27, 2013


For the second year in a row, I will be participating in the Buzzards Bay Coalition's "Watershed Ride." I will ride 75 miles around the perimeter of the bay.

The goal of the ride is to raise money for The Buzzards Bay Coalition. To show my appreciation for the Work of The Buzzards Bay Coalition, I am donating a number of a print edition (pictured below). Anyone who donates $50 or more to my fundraising page by October 6 will get one of these prints. The prints will sell for more than $50, so there's motivation to give to this cause now. I believe in their work. I hope you will do so as well.

January 31, 1827. 2013, pigment print on Mylar. 13cm x 13cm, ed. 100 + 1AP, 1PP, 1BAT.

Please note: Getting your print is a two part process. You can pay for postage and/or framing of the print by clicking the "Add to Cart" buttons below. But you will also need to donate on my fundraising page at the Buzzards Bay Coalition.

To donate to my fundraising ride and qualify for a print, follow this link

And select the buttons below if you wish to pay for postage or postage with framing.

Postage Only ->  
($6.00 for any number of unframed prints to a US address)
Framing and Postage ->  
($50.00 for each print to be framed and posted to a US address)
Please note that paying for framing or postage does not include a print.

This print, showing the image of a snow crystal is composed of the entire newspaper account of the death of Gideon Dexter (the text of which I posted on the first entry of this blog). The image of the snowflake is significant because the text recounts Dexter's death by freezing during a winter storm. But the form is also evocative of lace. Images of lace and knot-making make up most of the imagery that I'm working on in the next series of drawings related to this project. In a way, this little piece is a key into understanding one aspect of those drawings.

I, also, can't say enough about the Buzzards Bay Coalition. The coalition does an amazing job of monitoring the water quality of the bay. They provide data about the water quality to the towns in the watershed so that they have the facts that they need when deciding on policy.

The coalition also has a top notch education department. I worked as a docent for them this summer, and I saw first hand the value of experiences that the coalition is providing for kids in the New Bedford area.

I also helped with water testing, going out on the coalition's boat and taking down the numbers that the science department uses to evaluate the impact of development in the area.

I was glad to help as a docent and as a water quality tester. But my time at the coalition was also invaluable for my current artwork -- which centers around my great-great-great-great grandfather, who was a shipbuilder -- and who froze to death during a winter storm in the middle of Buzzards Bay.

The efforts of the Buzzards Bay Coalition have been crucial in reversing and slowing decades of declining water quality. And I want to raise money for the organization so that this important work can continue. But I also want to raise money for them as a thank you for educating me about Buzzards Bay and for giving me the chance to go out on the coalition's boat and experience the body of water that figures so prominently in my family's history and my current work.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Boat Comes Together

As the summer progressed and the daylight decreased, my work hours increased. I was spending up to 14 hours a day with the wood-burning pen clutched in my hand, copying text onto the wood that would become my boat. I couldn't work fewer hours because I was scheduled to go up to Brooklin, Maine and work with master boatbuilder Geoff Kerr and my next opportunity to work with him wouldn't be until April. I finished burning the text with one day to spare (which I used to ride in the Transportation Alternatives NYC Century -- I really know how to relax).

The boat that I'm building for my voyage across Buzzards Bay is an Annapolis Wherry. Its design calls for planks of okoume plywood. It's lighter and stronger than using traditional planks. And part of my decision making process for this project is to use all the technical innovations available to ensure that I don't share the fate of my great-great-great-great grandfather, who died in a rowboat in the middle of the bay.

Plywood is not the most receptive of surfaces for wood-burning. In all, I spent four and a half months copying text onto the wood. As the hours of labor added up, my anxiety mounted as well. I knew that the boat's design called for sections of the hull to be reinforced with fiberglass. In other words, I would be covering my tiny, handwritten text. Before I started the project, I spoke with Geoff, who assured me that the layer of fiberglass would be absolutely transparent. But my text is so small that it's barely readable to begin with. Even the slightest blurring of the text could ruin the effect, my efforts, and the boat as a conceptual object.

I arrived in Brooklin on Sunday, September 15. I was able to afford working with Geoff because he was simultaneously helping ten other people who were also building Annapolis Wherries at the Wooden Boat School. And the entire process of building the boat was squeezed into a single week. On Sunday, Geoff got a head start on the undertaking, by doing the first step on everybody else's boats -- which was to glue the shorter lengths of planks together into the seventeen and a half foot lenghts necessary for the boat. I met him there and watched him glue together the first couple of planks -- and then glued mine together. Here's a picture of the building where we worked.
On Monday, I drilled holes in my planks at six inch intervals (nobody else working with Geoff had to do this because their planks had been pre-drilled), and then I tied the planks together with copper wire.

On Tuesday, I was really grateful to have ten other people in the shop. We all paired up and had a partner gather together the front of our boat, wiring the bow together. I drilled holes in the transom (the board across the back of the boat, and I was again grateful to have help holding the springy, unwieldy boards together while I wired it into place too. What's interesting is that all the wire is just there temporarily. It holds everything in place wile the boat is glued together with epoxy. The rest of the day was spent mixing small batches of epoxy and using a pastry bag to squeeze it in between the planks.
Wednesday, we removed all the wires and cleaned up some of the epoxy that dripped and squeezed out to places where it didn't belong. Then came the moment I'd been dreading: The fiberglass. Fiberglass comes in sheets that look like heavy white cloth. It is opaque. But once saturated with epoxy, it disappears. Imagine a microscopic glass fiber suspended in clear plastic. This is what my boat looked like by the end of the day wednesday:

You can still see the white edges of the fiberglass cloth that needed to be trimmed. But the text was visually unhindered. I had been worrying about this moment since I had decided to use the design for the Annapolis Wherry in the Spring of 2012. I left the shop giddy with relief. Though I did sneak back in right before going to bed to check that it really did look okay.

On Thursday we trimmed the edges of the cloth, continued to epoxy, and glued the rails onto the boat -- another job for which I was grateful to have help. I suppose one could rig up some system of clips to get the rails on with just one other person helping, But, really, three people are necessary to avoid unreasonable stress. With so many people in the shop, we used five people to carefully glue, hold, and clamp the rails into place. And five people did not feel excessive for the job -- especially when the epoxy started to cure mid-install and we had to put twice as many clamps (and a few strategic c-clamps) on my boat.

On Friday, we installed the decks over the air-chambers (which prevent the boat from sinking if it over-turns) and continued to epoxy. A lot of the work we did on Thursday and Friday would have been best spread out over four or five days so that epoxy could have cured between steps. And I was often dragging through gummy, partially-cured epoxy. The epoxy job is really rough as a result. But by the end of the day Friday, the boat was assembled. If I'd tried to build this boat without Geoff's expertise, I would have taken months. It will take me months to sand, re-sand, re-sand, and re-sand the ten coats of epoxy, paint, and varnish that I need for the finished boat. But I have a boat. And my months of labor putting text onto the wood worked just as I'd hoped. I am still experiencing aftershocks of relief and joy.