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Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Tree Grows in West Philadelphia Part 2

The "Tree of Life" is coming along just fine and we are planning on installing this coming week. We have to go before hand to dig and  pour a large concrete footing.

Emile Liedue HAs finished up cutting the glass and is begining to install the glass into the thin set. Then she will grout everything in and seal it.

It looks really cool, we cant wait to see it standing up in its new home. We built this piece to easily assemble and disassemble. The reason for this is that it will only be at the current location temporarily and will in the not to distant future be moved to another location. This poses a little bit of a challenge because it is much easier to load in and weld everything together rather than design and fabricate it with mechanical attachment points. Its cool though, we love a challenge.

It is being fabricated in several pieces. The circles are in a few different pieces, The branches are one piece, the structural post is another and then the trunk facade will bolt on front.

The artwork is only one sided and will not be visible to the public from behind so we are able to "hide" the structure behind the scenes.

This post will hold the steel branches up and then the trunk piece will bolt onto the front.

The trunk piece and the branches are being painted brown with four coats of oil base paint.

In this picture note the bolt tabs where the art work will bolt on in the field.

I sure hope all of those bolt holes line up. 
: )

Almost there, just a couple of more days and we will be done. We are very excited to see the finished project installed so that we can move onto our next project.

Emilie and I are thinking about taking a more "Gorilla" approach to getting some of our collaborations out there. Keep an eye out in Philadelphia. Something may turn up in your hood!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Tree Grows in West Philadelphia - part 1

Emilie Ledieu and Bill Capozzoli (Me ;) work on an arts & craft tree sculpture to be erected in West Philadelphia.

The sculpture idea; which loosely represents a tree, came together rather rapidly. When the People's Emergency Center wanted an art piece for the Lancaster Ave. corridor they contacted Emilie and I about building a steel structure with glass mosaic. Having seen another install project that involved Emilie and Capozzoli's craft work which involved glass and metal, they decided that they want to continue that theme in other areas of the neighborhood.

The fence and mosaic project was a lot of fun and we enjoyed working together. The mixture of the two mediums goes together really well. We are very excited about working together again on this project and we are grateful to the PEC for the opportunity to install one of our art pieces into their neighborhood. It is a pleasure working for people that care about their town and work towards constantly improving it.

Emilie and I hope to contribute as much as we can in regards to time and materials to these types of works. It gives us a challenging, artistic outlet and at the same time we hope that it makes install art for urban redevelopment more available to communities that otherwise might not be able to afford it. Emilie and I feel as many do that art and craft is a great way to plant the seeds of positive change.

When James Wright called us from the PEC regarding ideas Emile instantly thought 'tree' which I agreed was a great idea. We put out heads together and came up with the "Tree of Life" design that is taking shape now. We set out to make something that is really cool, in a very short amount of time and with a very limited budget.

Emilie is amazing, to see her work is incredible. She is a human dynamo. When Emilie gets into a project there is no stopping her, and watch out if you stand still in her studio for too long you will find yourself covered in a glass mosaic. Seriously though, she is really into her work and it shows. It is a pleasure to work with someone that has that kind of enthusiasm.

When Emilie and I work together it is like magic. Everything seems to fall into place so well. We get along creatively and seldom disagree. It is like a musical segment in Walt Disney animation. We whistle while we work!

So, we ordered a bunch of steel, green glass and and supplies then got down to it.

Since we were taking this directly to the actual piece without a lengthy concept and design stage we went back and forth with the soap stone for a while.

We settled on circles with a  loose representation of tree limbs.

Next was to move the circles onto the limbs in an attractive arrangement. 

Since this is direct metal sculpture and a partially organic look is desired we just free hand burned our shapes out of the plate using an oxy-acetylene torch. Then wrapped the circles, limbs and trunk in flat bar.

We have to fit and welded up all of the individual parts that will reassemble at the location during the installation.

After the circles were welded  we carried them across the courtyard to Emilie's studio so that she could begin cutting the glass for the mosaic.

 Laying out the design pattern for the glass.

Emilie Ledieu cutting and fitting the glass. 

Pictured here is the tree top as it begins to take shape.

Please check back in for part 2!

Things are moving along with this project and we are hoping to install this project within the next couple of weeks.

We are excited about the install but there is still a lot of work to do before we get there. We are hoping the wind remains on our backs.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Ever since human kind smelted gold and formed it into objects the craft of metal work has grown to encompass art and industry bringing them hand in hand. As the metal worker has shaped his wares he has shaped our world. Metal touches every facet of our lives from the car we drive to work to the pots and pans with which we cook our dinner. It has been used to beautify our surroundings with art, improve our lives as tools and forged into weapons to end life all together. The history of metal work is a long one dating before 6000 BC. Later came what are known as the metals of antiquity.

Gold        6000BC
Copper,    4200BC
Silver,      4000BC
Lead,       3500BC
Tin,          1750BC
Iron,         1500BC
Mercury,   750BC

 These seven metals are quite literally the  foundation for which civilization was based. Later over the centuries more metals were discovered and there are now 86 known metals and countless alloys that are derived by mixing those.


"Otzi, The Iceman"

Pictured here is the 5,300 year old body of a neolithic (Copper Age) man. Pictured next to him is a copper axe and knife found in his possession.

Man learned metallurgy and it is one of the earliest applied sciences. So important was metallurgy to the development of our civilization that archeology identifies the three stages of  mans prehistory after The Stone Age as: The Copper Age 3500-2300 BC, The Bronze Age 3500 BC to 1200 BC, and most recent prehistory The Iron Age, 12th century BC to about 500 AD.

 The earliest metals that were smelted from rock were gold and copper, both very soft and malleable in their purest form. Once man realized that he could mix metals together while in their molten state he was then able to manipulate it, taking the desirable qualities form each metal to create a new one. For example, when tin was added to copper it became bronze, It was harder and stronger, it propelled civilization into the Bronze Age.

As the skills of the metal working craftsman grew being passed on from generation to generation metal work improved to an art form. The Blacksmith was born. Forging armor, weapons, housewares and horse shoes alike.  The trade grew and evolved.


Metal was joined by forging it together. It was heated in a coal fuel forced air fire  to a plastic state and then hammered repeatedly until the two pieces fused together.  This is known as forge welding and it is the earliest form of welding.

Blacksmiths helped build the industrial revolution. It is debatable which is the oldest profession the likely oldest trades are: Blacksmith, Cook, Stone Mason and Prostitute.  

Blacksmithing is the way metals have been formed and fabricated for thousands of years.

Very few real blacksmiths remain in the US or world today.   


The foundry has evolved from a simple hole in the ground to large mechanized facilities. Foundries have been casting sculptures, machine parts, housewares and ornamental components for thousands of years. They heat metal to very high temperature in a large furnace until it reaches a liquid state.  The metal is placed into a large heavy pot called a crucible then poured into molds made of various materials. In years gone by within the US foundries speckled the urban landscape. But for the last 50-60 years one by one they have been closing unable to compete with foreign markets.

Comparatively very few foundries remain in the US.


In the mills steel and other metals are cast into large ingots that are drawn through huge rollers under tremendous amounts of compression. The steel is rolled back and forth through these rollers until the length of material is complete. All manor of different profiles and extrusions are formed this way and they serve many purposes. Some shapes include square and round bar, channel, I beams, angle iron, pipes, etc. 

The steel mill was once the pride of American industry. It made us the economic giant that we are today. We led the world in production of not just steel but other metals as well. Now the mills are all but gone in this country, most stock shapes of steel and other metals come from overseas.

The steel mills in the US are all but gone. 


During the nineteenth century welding became easier with the advent of acetylene. Torches were devised that mixed gas and oxygen to concentrate and vigorously increase combustion. The torch was used to melt the parent metals and then a filler metal rod was introduced by hand that formed the weld. The two pieces of metal became one.

Later Nikolai N. Benardos and his compatriot Stanislaus Olszewski developed a form of welding that used an electric arc. A carbon electrode was used to to carry an electric arc to the parent metals being joined and a filler metal rod was introduced by hand to form the weld. As the technology was developed an electrode holder was devised that held the filler metal rod. This rod became both the electrode and the filler metal. When the arc was struck the rod becomes consumed and forms the weld. This was then improved by coating the rod with flux that stabilized the arc and protected the pool of molten metal from atmospheric contamination.

Welding took over as the most common way of fabricating and joining metal. During the the early part of the twentieth century welding grew in the US as we became a manufacturing giant. During WW2 the US built ships and tanks at break neck speeds and it is one of the reasons the war was won. During the war many welders were women.

These women welders and all of the workers during that time did their part in the war effort making it possible for the Allies to defeat the enemy.

Could our generation do that today?


While metal working reaches into almost every area of manufacturing and construction it is fading away in this country lost to cheaper manufacturers overseas.  My love lies with ornamental and architectural metal work. Ornamental and architectural metal work in its custom form is fading fast as small shops find it hard to make any profit applying their art.  There are not many out there and that is why it is called a dieing art. I really love designing and building railings and staircases. For builders and homeowners the temptation is there to install the least expensive option possible. But what most of them don't realize is that ornamental metal work can fit into a budget and can in many cases cost as much or less then wood.

I hope to help keep the craft alive buy offering quality craftsmanship at a realistic price. I try to contribute to the community of craftsmanship by doing my part to advance the metal working craft. I love my work, there is almost nothing that satisfies me more then working with homeowners, architects and builders bringing ideas to life. Creating houses that not only display craftsmanship but even stand alone as a work of art. Railings, stairs and gates are like jewelry for your home, they can be an element that creates a statement about the individual. These elements can set a home apart from the others.

Traditional Railings
( by Capozzoli Metalworks) 

 Contemporary glass and stainless steel railings.
(by Capozzoli Metalworks)

 It is my dream that the craftsmen in this country will survive to pass their craft onto the next generation. I also hope they find a younger generation that is willing to learn. The craftsmen are a big part of what made this country great. Lets not let them fade away, what would we do without them?

In the posts to come I will share my love for my work. I hope to share descriptions of welding, fabricating and installing of ornamental and structural metal work.With this blog I hope to share ideas and information to help keep the art alive.

Thanks for stopping in and reading, please check back for updates!