Thursday, August 04, 2011

US Visit Part Two

As discussed in the previous post, the recent break took us to New York City as well as other places. I'm probably going to annoy a good number of people with this comment, but both Dingo and I much preferred Pittsburgh to NYC!

In NYC, we met up with Stevie B and his partner Tabitha and spent a lovely day with them at the Museum of Arts and Design, followed by lunch and a walk in Central Park. The exhibition at MAD was the highly engaging "Otherworldly", which is an exhibition of miniature artworks:

Museum of Art and Design 1

I especially liked the miniature Jackson Pollock:

Museum of Art and Design

We also spent ages looking through the jewellery collection in the museum. I was especially pleased to see a piece which I have previously only seen in photographs and which was very influential on me in my own development, Richard Mawdsley's belt buckle:

Museum of Art and Design 10

The rest of our New York visit was largely taken up by three - yes, three! - visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to look at the armour, the mediaeval collection and the Alexander McQueen show, all of which were brilliant and which I could have spent hours more looking over.

Metropolitan Museum Of Art - Second Visit 14

We were also taken by my friend, Michael - who is not a jeweller - to the Brooklyn Flea Market. Here is Dingo with Michael's son, Patrick and a vintage, talking Bugs Bunny!

Talking Bugs

We also visited Evolution in SoHo, where I bought some oddities to incorporate in future works. A marvellous place, with lovely staff - a change from the usual corporate polite disinterest we encountered in most of NYC - and loads of fascinating "stuff":

Evolution 2

There are more photographs of the New York visit on Flickr, including the touristy snaps, such as those from the top of the Empire State Building!

As mentioned before, Pittsburgh was by far the more appealing of the two cities we visited. This may have been to do with the fact that I knew more people there but the place seemed much friendlier and much more relaxed (and also far less busy) than New York. It seemed that everywhere we went, people stopped to talk to us; from the couple on the bus who randomly asked me to fix their camera on the grounds that I had a camera and therefore "knew about cameras" to the two lovely older ladies whom we met in a lift and ended up talking to for half-an-hour, our experiences in Pittsburgh were wholly positive. In fact, the only thing I could complain about in Pittsburgh is the less-than-ideal public transport system...

Pittsburgh, being an old steel-producing town, is the sort of place I love. Like Sheffield in the UK, it is a lovely combination of run-down old buildings, ultra-modern buildings, down-to-earth people, university students and artists, unpretentious and open and I am delighted at the prospect of returning next year to work at the SCC again.

Highlights of Pittsburgh included a visit to the marvellous architectural salvage centre, Construction Junction:

Construction Junction 4

Where I bought a box of Formica samples and some rusty nails, though could easily have bought MUCH more if I could have thought on a way of getting it home! I'm hoping that one of the projects I will do next year at the SCC will involve taking the participants to Construction Junction.

Also, we spent a day at the audacious "Catherdral Of Learning" at Pittsburgh University:

University of Pittsburgh 1

A whole day was spent in the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History (we were thrown out at 5pm!):

Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History 46

Also worth seeing is the largest collection of holy relics in the world at the very beautiful St. Anthony's Chapel. It is quite hard to get to this place and it is only open for a few hours per week, but is absolutely remarkable:

St Anthony's Chapel, Pittsburgh 3

This was where we went in, followed by a family. The family spent about 10 minutes looking round and left. We spent another three-quarters of an hour there and left. I wanted to get a book about the place, so we crossed the road to the gift-shop... the family were still there, having spent more of the visit in the gift shop than in the church!
The gift shop was, unfortunately, hilarious:

St Anthony's Chapel, Pittsburgh 15

I say "unfortunately" because it was very small, so we couldn't laugh. The family were still there after I bought the book, unable to decide on what "Car Visor Clip" they wanted to buy.

One of the things I really wanted to do was to look around some of the derelict industrial sites surrounding the city. This didn't happen as planned, but my friend Elizabeth - another of the few non-jewellers I know in the USA - took us to the derelict care-home for the widows of veterans:

Ladies GAR Home, Pittsburgh 7

I have to thank Elizabeth, her partner, Kirk, and their family for their support and hospitality: indeed, without their support, I wouldn't have been in Pittsburgh at all. It was a connection through Kirk to the director of the SCC, Janet McCall, that got me my engagement to teach there.
Thanks also go out to everyone else who made our visit so excellent, including the people who turned up to hear my talk - Adrienne and Sharon especially - and our host, Julie, who went out of her way to make our stay at her B&B  pleasurable experience. I can recommend her accommodations at Briarwood Manor to anyone!

One last image. My favourite shot of the whole trip:

Summer Fun

Children playing in the fountains at the Philip Johnson-designed Pittsburgh Plate Glass Plaza.