Because we ARE going to get to celebrate at midnight tonight, I've been working on a box, 14"x16", called "Bubbles", after the bubbles in "Bubbley". Champagne. POP!
It's all circles, with tubes that are CONNECTED with a BRIDGE. Like us. Yes, the movers destroyed my only two large boxes and I have to start over, but I GET TO START OVER NOW! And, all thanks to YOU!
What I do is being called "outsider art" by dealers, but I use pieces of vintage Bakelite -- valued somewhere just between silver and gold -- to cover Lucite Light Boxes, lit from within by LEDS. I have ADDED, just for YOU, a special, stand-alone item. "Night Light Boxes"! Limited edition, numbered and signed by me. Just take it out of the box, plug it in, and let the warm, vintage glow caress you off to dreamland...
This all began, my obsession with Bakelite,seven years ago when I won, at auction, right here in New York, a vintage Backgammon set from the infamous celebrity night spot, The Stork Club (News Flash after a couple bumps).
The "men", the game pieces for that set, were... unusual. They felt so satisfying in my hand. The weight. The heft. And, they were absolutely beautiful. Colorful, marbled, translucent... I did a bit of research and discovered that they were made of Bakelite, officially the very first plastic (officially, the first Thermosetting Phenolic Resin). It was invented, in YONKERS, by an odd, eccentric inventor named Leo Hendrick Baekeland in 1907. It would be almost fifteen years before the first actual "Bakelite" item would hit the shelves. But, when it did it, almost overnight, it changed the world forever!
So, the NEWS FLASH! I've heard from Hugh Karraker, Leo Herbert Baekeland's great grandson, accepted his generous donation and delighted in his kind words: "Your Bake-A-Light light boxes are a unique and very appropriate use of Bakelite, 'the material of a thousand uses', showing off its color, translucency, weight and shape, lit up like a neon billboard! As a descendant of Bakelite's inventor, Leo H. Baekeland, I wish you the best of luck with his project."
Oh, and utterly tangentially, there was a Hollywood film released recently called "Savage Grace", starring Julianne Moore, chronicling the tumultuous Baekeland lineage, as well as Barbara Baekeland's intriguing affection for her own young, gay son (portrayed as, perhaps, only Julianne Moore could).
SO, ever since that auction seven years ago, I have been an avid, excited, eager and sometimes overly-adventurous collector of Bakelite. Not so much the jewelry, although it can be quite stunning, but the more utilitarian pieces. Parts of jukeboxes and merry-go-rounds. Taken-apart lamps and trophies and radios. Game pieces. Mahjong racks. Piano keys. Pencil sharpeners. Poker chips. Doorbells. Ashtrays... One day, I noticed that when I bought a new piece of Bakelite, I'd hold it up to the light, as they are often colorful, translucent, and marbled, as you can see this rather remarkable poker chip...
I decided I had to shine some kind of LIGHT through my pieces, my collection, and I decided to create the light, create the medium, and I settled on a box. A light box. A Lucite light box lit from within by LEDs!
The boxes themselves, made by Mike at California Acrylics, were inspired, initially, by the mid-century stained glass windows by Wright, Tiffany and Gerhard Richter. The boxes are Lucite. They are treated, "fogged", so that the LEDs within are inevident. Due to a rather clever beveled technique that Mike came up with, the boxes hang flush to the wall and are able to bear a great deal of weight. Good thing, as a box that's, say, 48"x48" can be covered with thousands of pieces of Bakelite and weigh in excess of 300 pounds. Lately, however, at the suggestion of some of the galleries interested in my work, I have been working on a smaller scale,12"x14" and 14"x18", and finding it equally satisfying, the results quite striking.
The galleries and interior design companies, here in New York, in LA and in London, urged me to to make the boxes smaller in size so they could A) travel more easily and B) be accompanied brochures containing photos of the larger boxes, explaining my willingness to make boxes of pretty much any size, even a triptych, or a series. I'd like very much to collaborate with a buyer on the particulars of their boxes; the theme, color, level of literalism, the actual pieces used. I'd not want to feature 1930's ashtrays, however lovely when lit from behind, on a box intended for a fervent anti-smoker, nor would I delight in creating a massive light box inspired by Studio 54 for someone whose foremost youthful humiliation was, weekend after weekend, being denied admittance.
I am here asking for your help. For your MONEY. For your tax-deductible donations, yes, so I can start to rebuild, but I have not come to you empty handed! Oh, no!
I have some very joyful thoughts to give you! A karmic jolt, as it were. But, I have ALSO brought, first of all, some limited edition photo prints from an intended coffee table book "A Study In Bakelite" ( THESE two photos are of a poker chip, a number of mahjong racks...)
THEN, there's the fact that your NAME will be listed "in perpetuity" in any and all published and unpublished, ACKNOWLEDGEMENT PAGES, in books (I have three published so far) and on GALLERY WALLS!
I have ALSO made you two kinds of Holiday Ornaments! The glass and Bakelite kind...
And, vinage-y hard-stock ornaments:
But, wait! There's more! THEN comes the JEWELRY! I've made, broaches, cuff-links, earrings, tie bars (with the learned assistance of a dear friend), of which these here are a VERY few examples:
Order NOW and ALSO throw in a T-SHIRT! I've had many of them made for you, 100%n cotton, in many sizes and colors and Bakelite-appropriate designs. This first one, taken from an old German Bakelite documentary, is called "It's Alive!"
Then, below, there's the "Darma Initiative" style Bakelite Laboratory T-Shirts:
THIS NEXT T-Shirt is actually the CHEMICAL MAP of Bakelite, with some of the products Bakelite was used to make as satellite images:
And, my favorite, the ACTUAL BAKELITE LOGO used by Leo Herbert Baekeland:
BUT, WAIT! There's STILL MORE! I have come up with TWO levels of "SURPRISE GOODIE BOXES"! Level Two being the more expensive items, of course (these photos show examples, from both levels, of just a few of the treats that await you!):
There is ALSO what I DO. WHY we are HERE. And, what I hope to do for YOU. I can only make a limited number of actual LIGHT BOXES, of course, so this is a very special level.
I will ALSO be making TWO 24"x24" LIGHT BOXES", which are half the size of the HUGE boxes in the "Mothership" photos. In a small living room the 24"x24" boxes are just right.
BUT, If you have a LARGE ROOM, and want a LARGER BOX, I will go there if YOU will! I will happily make you a LARGE LIGHT BOX, 48"x48". In fact, I will go to the donations section now and add ONE VERY LARGE BOX. It takes a couple of MONTHS at LEAST to make, and thousands of pieces of Bakelite. But, they are REMARKABLE.
Thank you SO, SO, SO, SO, SO much for taking the time out of your day to consider my work. I will be stopping by this page constantly to answer any and all questions!
Let's be here for each other in these sometimes terribly dark and lonely days, sharing my two very favorite things; COLOR and LIGHT!
With love, Keith
- (23 days)