Old "Sparky"

Due to popular demand, THIS is a plasma cutter. 

Used here by the ultra-talented Ellen Durkan.

Just always remember, friends,


Fire Breather

As kids, we are all taught not to play with fire. We were all told that playing with matches is not only dangerous but bad. Firemen made visits to our elementary schools to preach the benefits of escape ladders and smoke detectors. Our little hands are whipped away from the stove before we are able to know that it burns. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not opposing child safety standards; I can only relate how they have affected me. You see, growing up, my biggest fear was of fire.
When I was eighteen, I stepped into the university’s sculpture studio eyes wide with inexperience. All I saw was a plethora of machines designed to hurt me in some way. There were saws with blades as big as my head, guns that spew nails powered by loud, scary compressed air, and all kinds of hazmat chemicals that threatened to eat through my clothing. And even worse, I glimpsed seniors on the loading dock tearing steel barrels to shreds with a plasma cutter. Plasma. Cutter. It looks like some sort of sci-fi weapon that hisses as it shoots lightning through steel and spews sparks from its nozzle like the foam of a rabid animal. I was terrified… and fascinated.
Everything I had been taught in the eighteen years leading up to that moment told me not to touch these tools. They’re dangerous! Yet my instructor told me to use these tools as a means to an end, and to do so without instruction. The only advice I was given was to “just mess around till you make something cool. Oh, try to keep all your fingers too.” That’s quite a task for a teenage girl who had only once constructed a birdhouse from popsicle sticks.
As I bent over the bandsaw, I could hear my father’s voice over the flying sawdust, “Don’t go near the power tools! Keep your hands away!” I wish he could have seen me assemble my joinery so precisely that it held together without glue. I wish he could have watched me tack my first weld. Or forge my first steel braid. These days, I’m the senior on the loading dock teaching underclassmen how to adjust the settings on the plasma cutter.  I’m the girl giving fiberglassing demonstrations to the 3D design classes. I’m slicing through marble with a diamond blade angle grinder. Next semester I’ll be the Teacher’s Assistant for Glassblowing 1. And somehow I’m still the only person who can fix that damn jigsaw.

Photos by Jess Schimpf

Full Circle

I'd just like to mention that this white oxford shirt was once my Catholic uniform shirt at John Carroll High.

Seen here at Sugar's annual red carpet event, the Black and Red Ball in Baltimore. Worn by the lovely Roma Mafia, and enthusiastically torn off by the fantastic Femme6.

To those of you who knew me in my youth, I guess you could say I've come a long way.

Burlesque is huge in Baltimore right now. It seems like every weekend affords the opportunity to laugh along to the amazing theatricality of these performers with their tantalizing tassels. While I am certainly no expert on the theatre arts, I understand that this home grown movement is about reclamation of body image through vaudeville-esque humor, circus acts, acrobatics, and classic pin-up style among a limitless myriad of other things. I love these shows. I have enormous respect for the men and women who strut across the stage in their carefully designed costumes (filled with secret snaps, magnets, and velcro for fast and easy removal).

There's not a dramatic bone in body... I'm no good on stage, but I'll happily support these performers with the occassional dollar bill and donation of old Catholic wear. It's for a good cause, afterall.

Interested? Head to Paco Fish's calendar or check out Baltimore's own Gilded Lilly Burlesque group.

See you there!


The website has an entirely fresh identity now!
(matching handmade business cards coming soon)

I added all kinds of new features! Last week I was running three(ish) separate websites; this blog, my digital sketchbook, and my various music sites. I've combined them all here, and they all interlink. Next week I'm buying the domain name, so you'll soon find me here at www.SavannaLeighArt.com

Works- Features all of my formally photographed pieces, soon to be updated with this semester's work.

Sketchbook- I'm tired of printing out stuff I like and pasting it in my paper sketchbooks. This is a green method of record keeping

Tunes- Music is my side project- more of a hobby really. This is an easier page to access that features some video tunes, and will soon feature MP3 streaming.

About- My contact and resume are up now. I'll soon be adding a short bio, artist statement, and list of skills.

Let's play with LAVA

I was trying to find an open computer lab. Instead I found my friends pouring bronze on the loading dock. 
Facebook readers, click HERE for the full post and video!

Bronze sculptures are created by building molds around your form; there's two ways to do this, ceramic shell (right) or sand (left). Ceramic shell is quite a process- First, make your sculpture out of clay, then mold that in plaster. Cast the mold in wax, add sprues for air ventilation, and cover the wax in shell. Then put the whole deal in a kiln that melts all the wax out, leaving a hollow structure suitable for casting. More info about the lost wax process can be found here.

Sand is a bit simpler- mix the sand up (I don't have the formula with me... I'll find it for you guys later), carve it out, pour bronze in. In this case, someone carved some pink insulation foam and packed that into the mold. When the bronze is poured in, the foam burns out.

This is the furnace. It is very very hot (about 1700*F...not as hot as glass). That is fire coming out of the top. We drop metal in there to melt it down for pouring.

This is a crucible. It's made of graphite and it is filled with molten bronze. LAVA.

The molds post-pour


Removing the shell from the cast pieces once they've returned to a solid state.

Just an average day in the life of Sculp.

Crawl back under your stone

It's the end of the semester, and people seem to wonder what rock all the art majors disappear under. It's called the studio, and luckily I am finished with it till Fall. Most of my friends aren't so lucky... It's 3am on a Tuesday night and I know several people who are banging steel, throwing pots, and sleeping on couches they've pulled into quiet stairwells with drop-cloths and tarps thrown over the halogen lights. Next year I'm investing in a new pair of steel-toe boots, and more importantly, a hammock. I can hang it from our pulley I-beams. I've seen kids brushing their teeth in the art building bathrooms in the morning. Doesn't the dance department have showers? I need to figure that out.

Today in my early critique a classmate asked, "Is it raining today? It looks rainy. Is it cold? It's kinda chilly in here now..."
"Guess you didn't walk in to school today?"
"I've been on that couch since 6am."

Here are a few pictures of studio life
(mostly for my curious out-of-town relatives)

Sleep well friends, and dream not of finals.


This is a frame still from "Fargo." See that glass bowl on the coffee table? I'm gonna make me one of those. Maybe in blue/green instead. Pink is expensive. Before I do a new glass piece I always write the steps out and sketch the stages, so I know what to do on the spot. 

I think it'll work like this:

1. Gather/Starter/Gather
2. Frit/Block
3. Heat/Mold
4. Jackline
5. Blow shoulders wide, thick bottom
6. Punty
7. Jack open mouth wide
8. Heat lip, pull with tweezers ~9 points
*Gotta pull the points on the crest of every mold line

I'll let you all know how it goes.

Glass Blowing Photos

Pictures from McFadden Glass Art
All photos by Jess Schimpf

A sunny afternoon spent prepping Venetian style cane bases 
and sculpting a seahorse.

Warning! This post contains nudity. (Kinda.)

The Towson University Senior Thesis show opened this Thursday. There was alot of great work this year, especially from the 3D departments (go sculp!) I still have a few semesters left, so I didn't contribute to this show, though I did participate.

Tom Martin and I modeled for Alessandra Bianco's photography project which explored the human form in constriction. We had to climb into a tiny 3'x3' plywood box and pose for the camera. 
America's Next Top Model, here we come!

Yes, that is my tattoo. No, it doesn't "say" anything... They are violin F-Holes, as seen on Man Ray's Le Violon d'Ingres

She nailed these shadows.

Tom got back into the box. This picture lends a good sense of scale, I think.

The senior thesis exhibition will be open in the Center for the Arts Gallery
Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11am-4pm
April 30 - May 15