Ready for a New Dumpster Diver House Tour? Meet Ellen Sall

A major perk of hosting our  Unexpected Philadelphia  website is that we get to run happily amok – with cameras in hand – through the homes and studios of our fellow Philadelphia Dumpster Divers,  that merry band of artists who have played,  exhibited and produced witty,  found-object art together since 1992.

So when “Dumpster Diva” Ellen Sall invited us to photograph her South Jersey home last August,  we had our beach clothes packed before the phone call ended.

17_02_22-1-ellen-sall-dc_6644“You expect us to drive all the way to the Jersey shore?  Can we come today??”

BEADED  BEGINNINGS

Ellen and her mom,  Bernice Rosenfeld,  began making beaded jewelry together in the early 1980s,  under the name “By Bernel”.  By the mid-1990s,  Ellen had struck out on her own,  making Fimo clay earrings and pendants that incorporated objects like beads and her own watercolor drawings.

17_02_22-2-ellen-sall-dc_6564Ellen and husband Robert Sall in the living room of what she calls their “HOE” house – “Heaven on Earth”.

She also manipulated wire to create everything from menorahs to miniature chairs.

BORN   AGAIN   LAMPS

Then,  one day,  she fashioned a larger chair from found objects like pots,  pans,  an electric fan and a light,  and christened it her “Electric Chair”.   A brand new business – Born Again Lamps – was launched.

17_02_22-3-ellen-sall-studio-cm_9015Ellen at the entrance of her  Born Again Lamps  studio in Philadelphia.  That’s her “Tea for 2…6, 8, 10” lamp  (complete with a hat-box shade)  at left, and “Espresso Yourself” at right.

Soon she was exhibiting at the Philadelphia Furniture Show and at the Art Rider holiday craft show at New York’s Park Avenue Armory.

17_02_22-4-ellen-sall-lampsLamps just wanna’ have fun:   At left is a piece from Ellen’s “Phoney” series,  shown above a lampshade crafted of jewelry,  trinkets and stitches on wire screen.  At right is “I Can’t Make Up My Mind”,  with her lighted,  color-changing hat.

Before long,  an Ellen lamp appeared in Elle Decor,  Delta Sky magazine did a feature on her,  and people like Sally Jessy Raphael,  Reem Acra and Christopher Lowell bought her work.

KEEPING  US  IN  STITCHES

For beach days when her studio power tools are not handy,  Ellen works with bead collage,  embroidery  and gel pens on photographs, found objects and old linens – a process she likens to creating stream-of-consciousness graffiti.

17_02_22-5-ellen-sall-artAt left is an embroidery in progress.  And,  yes,  the beaded rat trap at right is actually worked on a real Victor rat trap.

THE  TOUR  STARTS  HERE

So,  click here to join our Unexpected Philadelphia photo tour of  Ellen’s art-filled home and studio.

As always,  when you arrive at our website,  you can click on any thumbnail photo to page through larger versions of all the photos.    You’ll also see a scrollable caption under each photo if you’re on a non-mobile device like a PC or laptop.

17_02_22-6-ellen-sall-studio-dc_2098Ellen in her light- and fun-filled space at the Mill Studios,  in Philadelphia’s Manayunk section.

Enjoy!

Kate & Dave

 

 

Ready to Reboot Your Creative Life? Check out ACN!

When we moved to South Philly in 2011,  we were lucky to stumble across two groups that provided us with both art inspiration and a wonderful circle of friends.

The first,  as you’ve probably guessed,  was the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers,  that inspired group of found-object artists whose homes and studios we profile on our Unexpected Philadelphia website.   (And,  yes,  there are more Diver home tours coming,  including — when we finally get around to it — our own.)

17_02_15-1-tracy-takes-another-chance“Tracy Takes Another Chance on Love” –  Kate’s found-object commentary on the pre-Dave dating scene.  Hmm — Should I take the “not quite divorced” guy for 50 points,  my cousin’s ex-fiance for a family-wrecking 30 points,  or “Mr. 93%-Right” for 100 points?

Philadelphia mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar introduced us to the free-spirited Dumpster Divers,  but his sister — dancer and choreographer Sheila Zagar — introduced Kate to its complementary and indispensable opposite:  the Artist Conference Network.

17_02_15-1b-kate-mellina-maryellen-plansKate’s “Maryellen Plans Her Day” because sometimes you just need to shake things up a little…

ARTIST  CONFERENCE  WHAT??

Founded in California in 1983 by painter and art professor  Beverly Cassell,  the Artist Conference Network (ACN) is the somewhat unpoetic name for a nationwide coalition of artists,  performers and writers who meet in local groups to set personal creative goals and encourage each other in their work.

17_02_15-2-lynn-denton-schell-st-cosmosPhiladelphia filmmaker,  painter,  mosaic artist,  sculptor and writer Lynn Denton with her “Schell Street Cosmos” mosaic.   Lynn founded Philly’s ACN chapter in 1994.

17_02_15-3b-lynn-dentonTwo more examples of Lynn’s prolific output:  “Throne Rug Study”,  a 2016 canvas,  and a still from “Clair-Obscur: A Film Performance” at the 2000 Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema.

DEFINING  YOUR  DREAMS

ACN members set annual and quarterly creative goals,  and coach with a fellow member by phone each week to review progress,  identify obstacles and breakthroughs,  and set goals for the coming week.

We also hold meetings every other Thursday in members’ homes to share work in a non-competitive,  non-judgmental atmosphere that recognizes each member as the sole authority on their creative journey.

17_02_15-4-chris-sheerinTwo recent works by ACN member Chris Sheerin,  a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts.

ABOUT  OUR  MEMBERS

Our Philadelphia group annually accepts between 12 and 15 members,  who commit themselves for a year each March.   Recent members have included painters,  photographers,   writers,  bloggers,  poets,  a singer and song-writer,  a dancer,  a filmmaker and sculptor,  a fiber and indigo dye artist,  a collage artist,  and a found-object and bead jewelry artist.

Some,  like Lynn Denton and Chris Sheerin above,  have formal art training.   Others,  like Kate,  are self-taught or hone their skills through workshops.

All of us are committed to helping ourselves — and our fellow members — expand our creative potential.

17_02_15 5 Rebekah Higgins.jpg“DNA” (graphite on paper) and “Portals” (oil on canvas) by mixed-media visionary artist,  art and design professor,  and ACN member Rebekah Higgins.

I  WILL  SURVIVE  THRIVE

Members are encouraged to set measurable goals that will really stretch them,  but have no fear:  The group will applaud your efforts whether you reach your goals or not — or whether you decide to pursue a completely different and better dream mid-year.

Kate’s ACN goals have motivated her (and Dave, her non-ACN co-conspirator) to establish our Unexpected Philadelphia website,  design a Fringe Festival performance,  create our holiday window and “flip the script” voting projects,  update the outside of our house with quotes and painted blocks,  and even lose 10 pounds.  (And,  yes,  that last goal was definitely Kate’s — our guy Dave barely casts a shadow.)

17_02_15-6-blaine-bonhamA photographer,  travel blogger,  and former executive vice president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society,  Blaine Bonham captures the essence of people,  urban and natural landscapes —  and his own back yard.

WANT TO LEARN  MORE?

Interested in exploring whether ACN can help you kick-start your creative goals?

Call Blaine Bonham at 215-280-4651.  Blaine can also tell you about our Thursday,  March 2 meeting,  where you can join us as we share work and celebrate the completion of our winter goals.

Hope to see you there!

Kate

 

 

The Great Photo Album Adventure (Part 13): Who Are We?

If you’ve followed the story on our blog,  you know that a friend gave us a fabulous housewarming gift:  a 12-pound photo album from the 1960s,  packed with images from nightspots in and around South Philadelphia.

You also know that we’ve been on a grand hunt to identify the hundreds of entertainers,  sports figures,  business people,  politicians and  “just plain folks” cavorting on its pages, with the goal of donating them to Temple University’s Urban Archives for safe-keeping.

WHO  ARE  THEY?

The photos were collected by South Philadelphia newspaper columnist Arthur Tavani, and many are already on our website,  along with whatever identifications we have.  

In September,  2015,  we added our  first section of “Who Are We?” photos,  asking for help in identifying the many unknown women in them.   Today,  we published 27 new photos on our website,  all showing at least one person we can’t identify.

Some photos include famous Philadelphians….

17_02_02-1-197-waw2-al-martinoYes,  that’s South Philadelphia singer Al Martino second from right,  with columnist Art Tavani (far left) and Philadelphia council president Paul D’Ortona (far right).   But who’s the man with the flower in his lapel?

 Some just look famous….

17_02_02-2-055-waw2In our wild imaginations,  they’re a singer (left) and comedian (right),  but we honestly can’t identify either of the men surrounding Art Tavani.

Some were probably hoping to become famous….

17_02_02-3-022-waw2The suits and hair scream John,  Paul,  George & Ringo in 1964.   Who are they?

 Others are associated with local law enforcement and the church…

17_02_02-4-047-waw2That’s Art Tavani at the far right,  and the flyer unhelpfully says, “Hand in hand,  you and the law!”,  but that’s all we know.

 …or with business and government…

17_02_02-5-075-waw2Columbus Day,  circa 1966 at Palumbo’s in South Philly.   We spotted Art Tavani  (back left)  and Dr. Antonio Carloni,  Italy’s Consul General  (third from left in front),  but who are the other local trophy holders?

 CAN  YOU  HELP?

So check out the mystery people in our new website section,  and ask your friends and family to take a look.

Once there,  you can click on any thumbnail photo to scroll through much larger versions of all the photos.   You will also see a caption under each photo if you are on a non-mobile device like a laptop or PC.

17_02_02-6-multi-waw2

SEND  US  AN  EMAIL

Find someone you know,  or recognize a venue we haven’t identified?    Send us an email!   We’d love to hear your story.

Enjoy!

Kate & Dave