copper embossed zentangle in a black frame

REVIEW: Copper Embossing with the Ann Arbor Art Center

This weekend I took some time to create with the copper embossing ArtBox from the Ann Arbor Art Center (this ArtBox is free to all U of M students with a Passport to the Arts)! This was my first experience working with copper, and I had never done any sort of embossing before. My only exposure to copper embossing was an awareness that it existed from old copper embossing pieces that used to hang at my grandparents’ house. Back then it seemed fantastically complex and difficult, but this project turned out to be simple and fun to complete!

Everything I needed to complete the project was included in the ArtBox, including the sheet of copper, a piece of foam to work on top of (to avoid embossing whatever is underneath :), the wooden embossing tool, sticky tape to attach the frame, and the frame itself (which I thought was a nice touch). There was also a piece of paper the same size as the copper square for a practice sketch, and a detailed set of instructions. I found the instructions to be very detailed, clear, and easy to follow. About half of the instructions were dedicated to the technical details of how to emboss copper, and the other half were dedicated to developing the “zentangle” art form suggested with the kit. The zentangle instructions are really nice if you’re also suffering a persistent case of artblock, or if you’re just not sure how to get started.

The first step was developing my paper sketch. Originally, I got pretty detailed on the paper version since I knew the paper was scaled exactly to the size of the copper sheet, and I assumed I could simply overlay it on top of the copper and trace along the pencil lines. I did this to trace my original long, winding, pattern divider lines but realized quickly it wasn’t going to work out well for the rest of the piece. Firstly, the instructions advise (and I concur) alternating the sides you’re embossing on to create different raised and recessed designs. However, to do this, you need to flip over the sheet of copper…and you won’t be able to see your paper that you taped to the other side. The second problem was that tracing over the paper made it harder to apply the force I needed to properly emboss the copper. You need to press harder than you think you do to get a good line (the foam allows you to apply some serious pressure without fear). The takeaway here is not to overdo your sketch. Sketching out the dividing lines and tracing those can be useful, but after that I started using my sketch as just a very loose guidelines for the types of patterns I wanted to put in different areas—and I ended up straying from the sketch a decent amount.

In the end, I had a lot of fun and I would definitely recommend it as a relaxing way to try a new art form. It’s something I haven’t seen opportunities to learn about very many times in my life, so I would take advantage of this one to try it out in a low stakes way! If you end up loving it, I did a bit of researching and found out that it’s not as expensive a hobby as I might have thought!

PREVIEW: Copper Embossing with the Ann Arbor Art Center

The Ann Arbor Art Center has been offering virtual programs and hands-on activities you can do from home this year, in lieu of the in-person art classes that would be offered in a more normal time. This month, the Art Center is offering a copper embossing kit, no prior experience required, with all materials needed included in the kit. Copper embossing is a very tactile form of visual art that involves using tools to imprint shapes and grooves in a sheet of copper. It’s a great opportunity to try out a less common visual art form and to have something engaging and creative to do while we’re unable to attend as many arts events in person.

U of M students can get a free kit with the current Passport to the Arts! You do need a physical copy of the Passport voucher to redeem the free kit. Due to COVID precautions, Passport vouchers are available in less locations on campus this fall, but you can find them at Info Desks in the Michigan Union, League or Pierpont Commons (I picked mine up in the Union)! Once you’ve gotten your voucher, head over to the Ann Arbor Art Center 10am-6pm Tuesday-Saturday to exchange your voucher for a kit and get embossing!

 

REVIEW: Transit

Christian’s Petzold’s Transit is a sprawling, moral adventure that examines questions of loyalty, morality, and the modern global order in the face of fascism. Set primarily in the French seaside town of Marseille, the background to the drama is a façade of gorgeous pastel storefronts that police vans race past in a flurry of sound and light. The setting is noticeably modern; the outfits chosen by the characters, the ships in the harbor, the vehicles in the streets all clearly belong to the modern era, and it’s also clear that Petzold wants it that way. The ambiguity of eras is only one part of the ambiguity that Petzold has carefully constructed for his film, as he places grand amounts of trust in the viewer to think critically about and understand the messages he wants to send.

The ambiguous setting contains both undertones of the Nazi occupation of France, and the modern rise of fascism in Europe. Most of the characters in Marseille trying to flee are German, and although the identity of those occupying the country goes unsaid, references to Jews, “the occupation” and “cleansings” evokes strong similarities to the Nazi occupation of France during WWII. Yet there is also a modern twist. A family of African descent that the protagonist, Georg, befriends is described as “illegal”, living a careful life in avoidance of the authorities. Their entire apartment complex is revealed to be a haven for cautious, illegal families largely of African or Middle Eastern descent, mirroring the current refugee crisis in Europe. Petzold carefully draws the comparison between the historical threats we have learned to fear and the more modern ones we may have not.

The ambiguity stretches into the exposition of the characters and the choices they make. The narrator, who appears partway into the story, goes deliberately unnamed and largely unidentified for much of the saga, but he is identifiable as an outside observer, someone witnessing the events but not privy to the inner thoughts of the main characters themselves. Petzold also avoids the potential easy moralizing of his characters. They act in unpredictable and frequently selfish ways, given opportunities to act in a clear, ethical manner, they abstain for sometimes selfish reasons, and sometimes reasons wholly unclear and never explained. Petzold’s characters are constructed as complex, whole people, with rich, unexplained inner lives. And that is what makes Transitultimately worth seeing. The characters are rich, real people, with real, complex desires, who refuse to fall into the mold of action heroes or love interests. The film artfully touches on serious modern issues while simultaneously immersing the viewer in a carefully constructed world of drama and tension, the one the unexpected ending ultimately topples.

PREVIEW: Transit

Transit, a film directed by Christian Petzold and based on the 1940s novel by Anna Seghers, opens at the Michigan Theatre April 1st. Ms. Seghers’ novel is a depiction of a German in Paris desperately trying to escape the country during the Nazi occupation in the 1940s, by assuming the identity of a dead writer and seeking a ship to take out of the port city of Marseilles. Petzold takes this World War II drama and puts a unique spin on it, transporting it to the present where the threat isn’t as clearly defined as the Nazi occupation, but is something more modern and ambiguous. The film’s plot offers a tantalizing array of elements, from the dramatic action of a wartime saga, to a complex accidental love interest that jeopardizes the lead character’s plans, to a more philosophical look at the mirror 1940s Nazi France can hold up to today’s society. Transit is being shown in German, with English subtitles.

Two people dancing the yonna

REVIEW: Birds of Passage

The beginning of Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego’s Birds of Passage opens with a symbolism-laden new beginning: a young girl’s transition into adulthood. The Wayuu people at the center of the film celebrate this occasion with a festival of family, friends and dancing. But it is the dancing that provides the clearest window into the future of this sprawling clan. The daughter on the brink of womanhood, Zaida, is dancing the Yonna, a fast-paced give-and-take between her and another man. She is dressed in a flowing red garment, racing back and forth to the beat of a drum, the camera closely following their faces and imparting the dramatic feeling that you too are being chased in the circle, racing around and around in the ambiguous fear of what might happen if you stop. Her first partner, a young boy named Leonidas, eventually trips and falls to the ground. The dance stops, but not for long, as an outsider to the clan named Rapayet steps up and enters the fray, outlasting the drum, and making his first mark on the clan he will eventually join.

The clan is led by a powerful matriarch, Úrsula, who makes clear from the start that her power lies in her willingness to do anything to protect her family. Rapayet, a suitor intent on marrying Zaida, strikes Úrsula as a danger, but possibly even she does not realize the depth to which he will uproot her family and her culture. The Wayuu of northern Colombia had persevered through the rise of the modern nation by their adherence to their traditional practices that Úrsula is determined to protect. As Rapayet ventures into the marijuana trade to finance his dowry for Zaida, he finds himself sucked into a whirlpool of greed and desperation despite his best efforts to preserve the culture of honor. It is only a matter of time before the consequences manifest themselves.

Rapayet, Zaida, and their two children eventually move into a grand stucco villa in the middle of the barren desert, a visual metaphor for the isolation their wealth has granted them. The film is a deliberate exploration of the fine line between providing for your family and sacrificing them in pursuit of these provisions. It showcases the delicate tension between the traditional ways and the allure of 20thcentury wealth and luxury, and the mythic power of the dollar, propelling business and violence across the Colombian desert in an ancient blue Jeep.

Now showing at the State Theatre. In Wayuu, Spanish, and Wiwa with English subtitles.

Birds of Passage Poster

PREVIEW: Birds of Passage

Birds of Passage (Spanish title: Pajaros de Verano) is screening at the State Theatre this week (beginning Friday, March 22). An epic crime film that received the Colombian nomination for best foreign language film for the 91stAcademy awards and was selected for the December shortlist. The drama centers on a Wayúu indigenous family during the illegal drug trade of the 1960s and 70s, illustrating the moral costs of the all-encompassing pursuit of power and wealth. The film will be screened daily at the State Theatre, with audio in Spanish, Wayuu, and Wiwa, with English subtitles.