Sunday, April 3, 2011

Monochromes Project on NBC

*click picture to watch video

Green Monochrome

The Green Monochrome for 3rd Federal Bank is a triptych of American flags. It represents a three-act story of our nation. The first act is Besty Ross with 15 stars. The second act is the wild-west/or the frontier, and has 28 stars for when Texas was added. The third act is our current flag, which was designed by high school student, Robert Haft, for a school project. He got a B- until Congress accepted his design. Then his teacher changed his grade to an A.

The piece was framed with an old green picket fence. The panels are connected by hinges so the green monochrome can fold up into a chest or “vault,” which can be carried around like a suitcase. Inside the frames are pieces of broken glass from various donations and sources, including the Wissahickon river and the “Glassphemy” installation at the Crane Arts Building. The pieces were tumbled with water and sand to re-create the effect of sea-glass, referring to the early settlers sailing over to America, and also to the sea and buried treasures. The glass pieces are like green coins. Some have also been cut to have five points for the five-pointed star Betsy Ross designed.

The Monochromes Project has rules. Everything of a designated color has to be found or second-hand. The exception to the rule is the adhesive (like glue or nails—anything to piece it together can be neutral in color). That said, we used copper wire, which can be oxidized to turn green. Making a patina formula, we turned some of the copper wire green, mostly in the third panel, similar to how the Statue of Liberty started out copper in color and then over time became its present oxidized color. The first and second panels have thirteen wires for the thirteen stripes of the flag and the original colonies. The second panel’s horizontal stripes—tied together with barbed-wire knots—signify a fence and also function as an abacus with glass pieces that slide across for counting and calculating.

SSEWARD’s approach to art making in general is about incorporating a social contribution and making work that functions and serves a purpose. With that goal in mind, we reached out to The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush and figured out a way to incorporate The Monochromes Project into their curriculum. Scott Bickmore, founder of SSEWARD and The Monochromes Project, mentored a class of 15 students for a month on how to make their own monochromes. While he organized his “mamachrome,” the main piece for the bank, each student organized his or her “babychrome” to accompany Bickmore’s piece. As a result, these students learned how to run their own collaborative art-making project—from developing concepts, to collecting materials, to inviting collaborators. They finished the project by starting their own online art magazine “Chartreuse” (, named by the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Felicity Hicks.

Green Monochrome Unveiling at 3rd Federal

*click picture to watch video

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Tumbler

One of the consultants for the piece was Emilie Ledieu. She works in mosaics and has a lot of experience working with glass. She suggested "tumbling" the broken glass to make it like sea glass. The tumbler works like a cement mixer. You put water and sand in with the glass and plug it in. The longer you tumble, the smoother and more frosted the glass becomes. Some batches we tumbled for a few hours, some for a few days.


I started spreading word I was looking for green glass. People came over with wine bottles and beer bottles and we smashed them. Everyone was really getting into it. I think it was cathartic. We were using hammers and this big wrench. You have to hit the bottles harder than you think. It was funny when a bottle wouldn't break. The person would get embarrassed and go at it again much more aggressively.

Green Monochrome Story

I have been collecting material that documents the construction and presentation of the Green Monochrome for 3rd Federal Bank. I want to start posting it now. The process of making this piece was different from the last. The collaboration was broader and looser in concept. It involved more consultation. For example, we ended up focusing on glass as a material. And glass proved itself to be challenging and needed to be talked about. We also broadened the form of the piece with multimedia components contributed largely in part by the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush. We started an online art magazine called "Chartreuse." Students wrote and performed a song based on the project. We were also on TV.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Orange Unveiling

Emilie Ledieu translating details to French visitors

We had a good turn out at the unveiling. Philadelphia art fixture Donald Carter was there to validate the event. Alex Stolypine brought his family and other Parisian artists, who were in town representing the Paris Embassy and working on the latest Mural Arts Program project in Kensington. People were playing with the orange monochrome and spinning it.

I want to thank Hyperion again and everyone who worked on the project. It was rewarding to be standing up there presenting the piece as it hung in the space I had vaguely imagined months ago. I'm looking forward to the next project, green. I've just gotten word from Buchanan PR, the public relations firm I'm working with, that Benjamin Rush Arts Academy is interested in collaborating with us and incorporating the educational components of this project into their curriculum.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I spoke with botanist Russell Juelg from the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. I said I was interested in making this piece alive but that I had concerns about maintenance. I didn't want it to die. I didn't want the bank to have to take care of this thing all the time. I just wanted it to be like having a plant, or even easier than that.

He suggested I use moss. It grows easily. It has no root system and can grow on a variety of porous surfaces. It just needs a little water now and then. And it lives for ever. He said a friend of his in upstate New York was making terrariums to grow moss, creating miniature landscapes. His terrariums were dome shaped and made out of glass. But as long the terrarium is enclosed, Juelg said, it can be any shape. It can also be tinted (i.e. repurposed green wine bottles).

We are entertaining approaching Woodhaven schools and incorporating this project into their curriculum as a workshop or a series of lessons. Students would help make the monochrome while learning about green practices and the green values this piece demonstrates.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Green Monochrome

CEO of 3rd Federal Bank, Kent Lufkin, and Mayor Michael Nutter at the ground breaking for the Woodhaven branch

I am pleased to announce that SSEWARD has been commissioned by 3rd Federal Bank to make a green monochrome. The piece will go in their new branch in Woodhaven, which represents the bank’s first effort towards LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

We are still working out the timeline for this project. Though it looks like we're shooting for a September unveiling. I'd like to get started in the next couple weeks. Artists are suggesting wine bottles and other green glass. I spoke with mosaic artist and muralist, Emilie Ledieu, who just returned from making a large-scale public mural in France. She had some good suggestions for the piece. Other artists are also suggesting making it hydroponic and having the green monochrome function as an oxygen emitting plant. I am on the lookout for glass workers who might be able to help incorporate an irrigation system for the piece.

I am really excited about this project and look forward to working with all of you!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Orange Monochrome
90" diameter
Mixed Media

I'd like to thank everyone who participated. Over 40 people worked on the orange monochrome directly. Several more played a crucial role in its realization. Building this piece has been very rewarding. It's evolved into a symbol of community. I'm excited for the unveiling and installation at Hyperion Bank, which will take place August 12th.

It weighs around 100 pounds. I'm working with metal worker and kinetic sculptor, Jim Garvey, on building a mount. We're welding an axel that will attach to the hub of the original substrate, a bike wheel, which will allow the piece to spin!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sewing Circle

Little Berlin
119 W. Montgomery Ave.

Come join us Thursday evening at Little Berlin for the third coloring party. We have the skeleton of the piece built. Now we are mostly weaving in fabric. Please bring orange* and juicy gossip.

*remember to log your hours while scavenging

Monday, May 17, 2010

At Saturday's coloring party, fashion designer and stylist, Reese Juel, adding feathers and fire to Icarus

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Coloring Party

Meeting at Little Berlin 8p Thursday 05/13
119 W. Montgomery Ave.

Bring a friend and bring orange--sturdy and strong materials, not just candy wrappers. Metal. Wood. Hard plastic. Things that will last. I like the monochromes to be durable and high quality, something you could throw out the window and it would stay together; the scratches and dents would add to it, and the pieces that don't survive the fall don't get reapplied.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"Value City" Opening at Little Berlin

I wanted to thank everyone who came out last night. We had a good turn out and a lot of involvement. The piece has come along more quickly than I expected. Construction of the orange monochrome will continue through out this month. We'll be having coloring parties at Little Berlin (119 W. Montgomery Ave.) Thursday nights from 8-11p, and Saturdays from noon-5p.

The piece is evolving into a kind of sundial. We need long rusty rods if you can find them!

Looking forward to seeing people again and also new faces!
Fashion designer, Keri Hansen, weaving yarn into the orange monochrome at the Little Berlin opening for "Value City"