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Two Murals to Grace the New Peru State College Events Center
By Tereza Kamenar
Campus Services Project Coordinator
Peru State College, which just celebrated its 150th anniversary, will soon be the home of two new exterior Images in Brick installations. Jay Tschetter, president of and sculptor for Images in Brick, has spent the last several months working on the stunning creations.
I recently had the great fortune to meet Mr. Tschetter and view his progress on the murals. Along with fellow artist Sten Eisentrager, Tschetter (who has over 30 years experience in sculpting and masonry) was happy to show the murals and answer any questions. To say I was impressed with the almost-finished works is an understatement. However, just as interesting as the art is the artist, the company providing the clay and studio, and the sculpting process.
Mr. Tschetter has worked with several clay companies nationwide including Yankee Hill Brick, ACME Brick, Pacific Clay Products, Glen-Gery Brick and Endicott Clay Products. Tschetter’s works can be seen across the US. A few notable murals include:
- The Memphis Fire Fighters Memorial, Memphis, TN
- Spirit of Endeavor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
- Iron Horse Legacy, Haymarket, Lincoln, NE
Right now Tschetter and Eisentrager are working with Endicott Clay Products to complete the murals that will be installed on the (currently being renovated) event center at Peru State College.
Endicott Clay Products began in 1920 in Jefferson County Nebraska. The area is rich in clay that yields a variety of authentic iron spot colors (dark spots caused by the presence of iron salts) and is of excellent quality for bricks and sculpting. Tschetter stated, “Some clays are just too sandy, and when you try to pack it together it just delaminates and comes apart. This is a nice sculpting clay”.
Best of all? Endicott sources all of their clay from their back yard!
How is a mural project started? A committee including the artist and representatives from the architectural firm and the college meet several times to go over concept, sketches and final approval of what the murals will look like. From there the artist, in this case Jay Tschetter, is ready to enter the studio.
At Endicott, the clay bricks are stacked according to the plans. A “dummy layer” is added at the top so the sculptors have somewhere to pin the plastic, which covers the clay at night. A second dummy layer, this one three bricks high, is added on the bottom to prevent the artists from having to lay on the floor to sculpt. As soon as the clay is arranged, a grid is grafted over the drawing and the bricks. The initial image is cut into the brick and the artist begins reduction carving. Several layers of refinement and adding of detail are done before the mural is complete.
For the murals at Peru State College Tschetter chose to use brick that is 6” in depth. This brick will have enough depth to show all of the intricate details in the murals. When installed, the edging of the pieces will have a little “reveal” and the rest of the image will project away from the wall. To make the images stand out better in sunlight, Tschetter picked a color and tone that will “make the leaves pop and create some shadows”.
When the murals are almost complete Tschetter and Eisentrager will do a last scraping, more texturing to make the subtle details more defined. This is the final sculpting step. Next, another artist comes and painstakingly removes every brick, line by line, and drills holes into the tops of the bricks. The holes assist in the drying process, allowing the bricks to dry evenly and prevent color imbalance. It will take 2-3 days for this artist to take apart all of the bricks in one of the murals. The bricks are then laid out and air dry for two weeks. This is an important step in the brick mural process. If the bricks are not fully dried before they are fired, shrinkage may occur.
Finally, when all of the bricks are ready, Tschetter will return to the campus and meticulously line up each brick. A thin line of mortar, which precisely matches the color of the brick, will be used and blended in to complete the install.
Though I could have stayed and talked to Tschetter and Eisentrager longer, I knew they needed to return to sculpting. As I was getting ready to leave, I watched as both artists effortlessly carved details into the clay. Overcome with a feeling of awe I left the studio. I cannot wait to see the installed murals!
Please click on any photo for a larger view.
All media by Tereza Kamenar