Each Friday, I’m planning to take a few minutes to describe the inspiration and design process behind a project I’ve completed during the past week. The first such project is my Singing Swan Wall Plaque.
For weeks now, a quote of Heinrich Heine (a 19th century German poet whose texts inspired, and continue to inspire, a vast amount of German lied) has been running through my mind:
The swan in the pool is singing,
And up and down doth he steer,
And, singing gently ever,
Dips under the water clear.
Heinrich Heine (Book of Songs, Lyrical Interlude No. 64)
A bit over a year ago, my husband and I had the privilege of meeting Philip Koplow, a professor emeritus of composition at Northern Kentucky University. The Hamilton-Fairfield Symphony Orchestra, of which both Arturo and I are members, performed one of his pieces. Almost by accident (or rather, by God), Phil and I struck up a conversation at one of the rehearsals.
Since then, a strong friendship has developed. Phil introduced us to the lovely town of Augusta, KY, where he and his wife, Cordelia, have a small cottage on banks of the Ohio River so he can compose in peace and quiet. Early last year, he arranged for Arturo and I to perform several concerts for the Augusta Art Guild, including a school concert which was wonderfully fun. He’s written us two pieces, one of which we’ve performed several times throughout the greater-Cincinnati area, and at the moment, the three of us are collaborating on an orchestral piece with solo cellos and voice, to be premiered by the Hamilton-Fairfield Symphony Orchestra this summer in commemoration of 9-11.
What does all this have to do with the Heinrich Heine quote above, you ask? The tie-in is this: Phil and Cordelia’s cottage in Augusta, KY is named Swan Cottage, after a swan that frequents the local ponds and the nearby Ohio River. Their cottage is full of swan decorations: art, figurines, etc, including a frame swan figure painted on a leaf, done by one of Phil’s Augusta neighbors. One of Phil’s first comments when I told him about my new business was that I should make some swan-themed art.
As a result, I decided to look for swan-related quotes and happened upon this verse by Heine. I’ve long loved Heine’s poetry. I’ve sung literally hundreds of settings of his poetry by Schubert, Schumann, and others, and his rich imagery has always captured my imagination. This short stanza was no different. For several weeks now, the verses have been playing through my head, and I’ve been considering various possibilities for illustrating them in clay. I finally settled upon the design below, of marbleized swirls of blues and white, suggesting a sky above and a pond below, with a swan delicately floating in between.
This plaque is more than just my “project of the week” – it’s been on my mind for many weeks and could almost be described as my “project of the month.” Thanks for the idea, Phil!
(Just in case you wondered, this plaque isn’t yet in my Etsy shop because I haven’t had time to list it due to craft fair application deadlines this week, but the plaque will be available there by the end of next week. If you’d like to order a Singing Swan Wall Plaque before it’s available in my Etsy shop, feel free to leave me a message here, and we’ll work out payment and a delivery time-frame that’s sooner than the end of next week.)