December 6, 2009

The Blues Altar

About a month ago, I was asked to build a piece that would compliment the work of artist Tom Zotos. His recent series of paintings, titled "Birth of the Blues," showcases various blues musicians such as Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones. Tom asked for an altar to be built on one wall of PeaceLove Studios which would then be adorned with paitings, instruments and other blues paraphernalia. The only direction given was to draw on the aesthetic of a juke joint.

The finished piece consists of 9 modular units, that when joined with only a few bolts, become a freestanding altar measuring 16' long and 10' high. The inner frame was created with conventional building materials, then finished with wood from recycled pallets and corrugated metal found at a local scrap yard.

Although heavy, the altar was moved and re-assembled in only a few hours. A tree from my art window earlier this year was also on display as a "blues family tree". The opening was well attended, and also featured artists Jeffery Sparr and Jillian Clark, as well as a live blues band. We're going back to add some lights and color on the wall for promotional shots in the coming weeks. I'll be sure to post them once they're done.

Tom Zotos
PeaceLove Studios

December 1, 2009


For a number of reasons, wooden shipping pallets have been an integral part of many projects this year. Each board has a unique texture and color, created by years of abuse. Reproducing this look effectively would be near impossible. Most are uniform and size and are inherently strong, which makes them ideal for stacking and building simple structures. Best of all, they're almost always free, which helps when working with little to no budget.

Pallets are not without their faults though. Dismantling one is an arduous task, especially if you're trying to get the most out of it. An average pallets yields only 10 sq/ft of planking, assuming there is no significant damage. The upright 2x4s are usually discarded, as they are so riddled with nails they would destroy most saw blades. Another problem arises with the quality of the wood. Pallets are usually constructed from low end timber which is often warped. Individual boards are also weaker and unreliable, which makes them a poor choice for structual elements. For this reason, I tend to treat it like a veneer, using it to face sturdier material.

Pictured above is the smallest of 9 modular pieces that make up my current project. It will be my last to use pallets for the time being. Not only will I be using up most of my stock, but I want to start experimenting with higher grade materials and new methods this coming year. But first I need to finish the "Blues Altar" which goes up this week.

- they're also a great way to move a corpse.