Archive for February, 2012

How it's Made: Etruscan Jewelry

Welcome to the introductory blog of the “How it’s Made” series.  In this series, I aim to shed some light on the technical methods of how objects in our collection were created and to gather a greater appreciation for art-making in general. 

Coming from a metalsmithing background, I wanted to start this series with precious  metal objects.  I selected Etruscan jewelry because I have such admiration for how beautifully designed and how well-crafted these metal objects are.  While studying metalsmithing at the University of North Texas, I had the opportunity to learn several of the same techniques the Etruscans used, but with the convenience of modern tools and technology.

Pair of "a bauletto" type earrings, Etruscan, 6th-early 5th centuries B.C., Museum League Purchase Funds, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., and Cecil H. and Ida M. Green in honor of Virginia Lucas Nick

Who were the Etruscans?

Early inhabitants of Italy, the Etruscans settled in the northern region of Rome in the late eighth century B.C., and can trace their heritage by name in modern-day Tuscany.  The Etruscans succeeded the Villanovan culture, a civilization that established early foreign trade and was adept in creating bronze jewelry. The influx of Greek colonization in Italy aided in the transition from Villanovan to Etruscan culture, which thrived until Roman imperialism succeeded around 200 B.C.


Etruscan territory

What Makes Etruscan Jewelry Interesting?

Today, it’s no mystery why jewelers love to use gold.  Gold is a very easy metal to work with; it’s malleable (which means it’s easy to shape and form), there is less clean up after soldering, and it doesn’t tarnish over time.  So, why is Etruscan gold so amazing?  This ancient civilization manipulated metals and implemented tedious applications without the modern convenience of a torch and other fancy tools is pretty incredible.  It amazes me that such delicate pieces could be fused together by controlling an open flame instead of a pressure-controlled torch. 

Take granulation, for example.  Granulation derives from the Latin word granum, meaning “grain,” and it describes the method of fusing small granules to a base.  This ancient technique is a hallmark of Etruscan jewelry and requires a lot of meticulous preparation. 

Pair of Funerary Earrings, Etruscan, 4th-3rd Century B.C., gift of Mr. and Mrs. Cecil H. Green

In order to make the granules, Etruscans would place gold dust or very small clippings of metal into a crucible.  In order to keep the granules from clumping together and melting into one giant granule, they placed layers of charcoal between the clippings, and then heated them to their melting point.  At that point, the metal dust or clipping will roll itself into a little ball and create a granule.

Modern granulation technique, courtesy of "The Complete Metalsmith" by Tim McCreight

Modern granulation technique, courtesy of "The Complete Metalsmith" by Tim McCreight

Once you have your tiny granules, you have to then position them and fuse them to a base.  Today, metalsmiths use ready-made flux and solder to join granules on a base.  According to Jochem Wolters in his essay “The Ancient Craft of Granulation: A Re-Assessment of Established Concepts,” adhesive non-metallic solders such as the gem chrysokolla (which literally translates to “gold glue”) or any other copper-bearing compounds were the solder of choice for the Etruscans. 

Chrysokolla, a gem used for non-metallic solder

If you’ve never soldered before, and you’re having a hard time visualizing this, think of a peanut butter sandwich.  You have two surfaces that need to be fused together.  Think of the base and the granule as the two slices of bread, and the solder as the peanut butter; without it, the two surfaces cannot fuse.  Once you have your solder and granules in place, you place your object over an open charcoal fire and heat it evenly.  Amazing!

It’s important to note that the Etruscans didn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of metalsmithing techniques, for many of the methods they are recognized for (such as granulation, filigree, chasing, and repoussé) were borrowed from neighboring cultures.  The true reason Etruscan jewelry stands out is because of the ancient metalsmiths’ technical skill and amazing ability to manipulate gold with precision.  I can attest that even with modern tools, it is difficult to execute many of the techniques that were used in the 6th and 7th centuries B.C. 

I hope you find Etruscan jewelry as riveting as I do, and if you have any questions about other works from our collection, please feel free to post your questions in the comments area. 

Happy making,

Loryn Leonard
Coordinator of Museum Visits


  • Barbara Deppert-Lippitz, Ancient Gold Jewelry at the Dallas Museum of Art, (Washington: University of Washington 1996), 31-57. 
  • Tim McCreight, The Complete Metalsmith: Professional Edition, (Davis Publications: February 2004).
  • Jochem Wolters,”The Ancient Craft of Granulation: A Re-Assessment of Established Concepts,” Gold Bulletin, Vol. 14, Number 3, 119-129. 

Friday Photos: Face to Face

I am very excited to announce that this Sunday, February 12th is the opening of Face to Face: International Art at the DMA. This exhibition, comprised entirely of works of art from the DMA collection, honors and celebrates the contributions of our generous donors. As a result of their kind philanthropy, the DMA has grown into a diverse international collection. If you are a frequent visitor of the Museum, some or maybe even all of these artworks might be familiar to you, but their intriguing and unusual display design will have you looking at them in all new ways. The works of art will be presented in pairs of two, each coming from a different culture that share some kind of commonality. Through close looking and the guidance of thoughtful label text, the discovery of similarities between two seemingly dissimilar objects will provide a new perspective on the collection. An example of one of these provocative pairings is below.

What do you notice about these two pieces? What kind of connections can you make between them? Why might they be shown together?

Eccentric flint depicting a crocodile canoe with passengers, Mexico or Guatemala: Maya culture, Late Classic period, c. A.D. 600–900, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., in honor of Mrs. Alex Spence, 1983.45.McD

Eros lamp holder, Greek, perhaps from Asia Minor, Hellenistic period, early 1st century B.C., bronze, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., in honor of Anne Bromberg’s 30th anniversary with the Dallas Museum of Art, 2005.12.a–b.McD

Stumped? Come to the exhibition to find out more about these and many other works of art!

Hannah Burney
McDermott Education Intern for Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Community Connection: Oil and Cotton

Every six months or so, our department gets away for a day-long retreat.  It’s an opportunity for us to reflect, look ahead, and spend time together outside of our typical work spaces.  We’ve been fortunate to hold two of these retreats at Oil and Cotton, a creative space in Oak Cliff that offers a variety of multidisciplinary art classes, workshops, and camps.  Opened in September 2010, the space is managed by Shannon Driscoll and Kayli House Cusick.

How did you get started?

Shannon:  Kayli and I met during a volunteer project in our neighborhood called The Better Block. The project took an area of the neighborhood, where Oil and Cotton is now located, and made temporary changes to the block that we felt as a community would make it more pedestrian-friendly.  We met at one of the first meetings, where we both raised our hands and said we were interested in doing a pop-up art studio for the community.

After that, Kayli and I started planning, and we created Rock, Paper, Scissors.  We used a warehouse on Seventh Street, asked for donated materials from friends and family, and set up a base of volunteers for two days during the Oak Cliff Art Crawl.  We set up a long, long table full of art supplies and materials, and had volunteers lead people through creative projects, from collage to stenciling to drawing and painting.  All the volunteers were artists or had different creative backgrounds from Oak Cliff and beyond.  The space was packed with crowds for the entire weekend.  It was really wonderful to see people of all ages and backgrounds and from different parts of the neighborhood and of Dallas, sitting together and making things side by side.

After the festival, people in the community approached us and said they didn’t want us to stop what we were doing.  The gentleman who owned the warehouse had a building that came up for rent, and we talked to him and decided to go for it.  Kayli and I both come from art-related backgrounds, and we brought our experiences as artists and educators to what we’re doing.

Shannon Driscoll, co-owner and instructor at Oil and Cotton

What did you do before opening Oil and Cotton?

Shannon:  I had a private conservation practice – I’m an art conservator.  I had also been teaching classes on the side at my studio and at the Dallas County Jail with Resolana – I’m a board member for Resolana as well.

Kayli:  I wrote curriculum for my mother, who had a business for about twelve years off and on. It was something we did as a family growing up; she was an art teacher, and she made elementary art curriculum for Coppell ISD.  When she opened a business with my sister, I was a music composer at UNT, and it ended up being the perfect fit.  I also taught piano lessons privately out of my house forever and ever.  Then I had a child; when I met Shannon, my daughter was two, and that’s what I was doing.  I had always had the idea on my backburner, if I could ever figure out how to combine all the loves I had, and have a work environment my child could be in, I could do everything I love to do.  It all came together when I met Shannon and she said, of course we can do that.

What has the community response been to Oil and Cotton?

Shannon:  It has been wonderful.  A day hasn’t gone by when someone has not come in to ask how they could help us or how they could donate materials to us or asked us for another class that we’re not offering.  People feel involved in what we’re doing; they’ve seen us grow from something very small to something more permanent and a part of their neighborhood.  I think that’s exciting for people.  They feel invested in what we’re doing, and they want to help us.  We wouldn’t have been able to do what we’ve done in this amount of time without their help.  People have donated a box of white tiles, which we used to create backsplash for the sink; corks; fabric; paper… we always find a way to use what we’re given.  We’ve had people come to us and say, “I have this idea for a project, and I want to see it happen”.  For example, an architect led a two-week architecture workshop for teens, and they created a deck for us.  All the materials were donated, and architects came and talked to the teens everyday.  We’ve had the most amazing, talented interns that support our education outreach, and we’ve had teachers who help select children in the neighborhood who might not be able to afford classes here, and we give them scholarships.  We rely on these neighborhood teachers to send us people who need help, and who will benefit from coming to Oil and Cotton.

A community collage was part of a free open house and student exhibition

What has been your most successful or fun class?

Kayli:  For me, it’s songwriting camp.  I got to work with other musicians – I worked with David Daniels, who is a touring indie rock musician; Floramay Holliday, a touring country music singer; and Mikal Beth Hughey, a jack-of-all-trades who plays in some bands locally and teaches piano and voice in her studio at The Kessler Theater.  It was a weeklong summer camp.  The kids came in and formed bands; they collaborated to write a song together, rehearsed it like crazy, recorded it, made a CD, and had a performance at the end of the camp.  They had to come up with merchandise and think about the visual aspects of what they were doing, in the form of a band t-shirt, poster, and CD cover.  We had a photographer take pictures of them for their CD’s.  It was just awesome fun for me as a musician; I got to learn from other musicians how they approach writing.  We occupied the whole space, with kids rehearsing in every room as loud as they could be.  The kids could be themselves without a lot of adult interference.

We also got to work with the DMA on the Mark Bradford exhibition.  That was very special – I am a big fan of his work.  We were part of a meeting with people from Oak Cliff to bring some Oak Cliff blood into the situation.  We volunteered to work with Nicole and have our teen class to do this interactive project during a Late Night.  That was really fun.  What I liked about that was all the ages and different people; we had senior citizens to little kids, and it was a lot like Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Everyone brought something different to it.  By the end of the night, the teens were destroying the project and making little sculptures out of it.  It was originally a weaving, and it became sculptural.

Oil and Cotton Mark Bradford Late Night project

Has anything surprised you since the opening of Oil and Cotton?

Kayli:  The amount of generosity people have shown in our community, and the enthusiasm of the art community here to try and make Dallas good.  The amount of interns and volunteers we get because they want to see us succeed and want to be a part of it.  People understand this is art in social practice, that we’re making this happen for real.  It’s been a surprise to us that something that is natural for us to be doing makes people think “Oh hey, I can do my thing and survive.  If I don’t spend too much money and work my tail off, I can survive”.   It helps to have the support of our neighborhood, and we could never have made it without that support.  People offer to paint walls, dig the dirt in back of the building.  My mother also gave us a ton of furniture and art supplies.

What is one of your most treasured handmade possessions?

Shannon:  I am a collector of art, and art has always been a part of my life.  My dad is a junker; I grew up going to yard sales, estate sales, and junk shops with him in Baltimore, so I’ve collected things over the years.  I’ve got a collection of drawings that a little girl made from 1908. She must have done them in her classroom, because there is a drawing of the back of the head of the child sitting in front of her.  There is also a drawing of a doll she titled “Mr. Eat-a-Pie”.  They are beautiful pencil drawings, and she watercolored some of them as well.  She made a little portfolio for them that says 1908 along with her name.

Kayli:  A little woodblock that was my grandmother’s.  She was an Okie, and she had an amazing collection of all kinds of Native American things.  She had this little tiny wood block, around five by seven inches, with mustard yellow paint remnants on it.  I’ve always wanted to do something with it.  It has a sort of a tesellation or radial design with teepees and geometric shapes that come out from the center.  It looks like an old lino; you can see all the different colors used to print it, like red and green under the yellow.  You know it was used a lot, but you don’t know what for.  It says “20 cents” really big on the back.

Kayli House Cusick, co-owner and instructor at Oil and Cotton, and her grandmother's woodblock

Kayli:  We would love to see more teachers getting together here.  We’d love for people to know that if they have a group and want to do a special technique workshop, we’ll either teach it ourselves or find someone else to teach it.  This is great space for retreats.  (*Editor’s note: we agree!)

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Teaching in the Community

Different Perspectives

We are trying something new at the Dallas Museum of Art in conjunction with our current contemporary art exhibition Mark Manders: Parallel Occurrences/Documented Assignments. What questions or emotions do you experience after viewing Mark Manders’ work? You can now discuss your reactions to the exhibition to discover answers or perhaps look at the work in a new way.

Installation View of "Mark Manders: Parallel Occurrences/Documented Assignments"

Every Thursday, through the end of the exhibition, staff and special guests will be in the exhibition from 6:30 to 8:45 p.m. for our new In Residence program. Just look for the person wearing the In Residence button and start a conversation or ask thim or her a question about Manders’ process or the materials he uses.

Mark Manders, "Ramble-room Chair" , 2010, Courtesy of the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp

As part of the In Residence program, we have invited an archaeologist, a poet, and an architect not only to answer questions and talk with visitors about what they perceive in Manders’ work but to participate in a conversation for our Perspectives series.

Perspectives is a series of conversations led by DMA staff who will explore with the special guests what their professions can reveal about Manders’ work. The first Perspectives conversation will take place tomorrow evening and will feature archaeologist Dr. Gregory Warden.

Mark Manders, "Anthropological Trophy", 2010, Courtesy of the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp

If you can’t join us tomorrow night, be sure to stop by one Thursday evening before April 12 and take part in this new program. It might just change your perspective!

Mark Manders, "Room with Chairs and Factory", 2003-2008, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Marguerite Stone Bequest and Gift of Mrs. Saidie A. May (both by exchange), 393.2010

Stacey Lizotte is Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services.

What to Expect on a Docent-Guided Tour

A few months ago, Loryn shared her tips for making the most of a self-guided visit to the DMA.  I thought I would weigh in today with a summary of what to expect when you schedule a docent-guided tour at the Museum.  We offer docent-guided tours Tuesday-Friday at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 1:00 p.m., and all requests for docent-guided tours must be submitted at least three weeks in advance.

Let’s say you’ve submitted your request and received your confirmation letter from Loryn.  What happens once you actually arrive at the DMA?

An excited 4th grader hops off the bus

First, you’ll be greeted by one of our fabulous docents.  This docent will chat with you to make sure that you’re broken up into smaller groups (we assign one docent for every fifteen students), and s/he will match you up with the docents for your tour.  Once your tour is under way, you should expect to see five to six works of art in a one hour tour.  We emphasize quality  over quantity–we believe your students will gain more from in-depth experiences with a limited number of works than they would from trying to see twenty works of art in one hour.  If you would like your students to see more paintings and sculptures while they are here, consider scheduling a self-guided visit after your tour.  That’s a great way for your students to be able to go back and look at works of art that are most interesting to them.

Discussing Mark Rothko's Orange, Red, and Red

Three years ago, we created a program goal for K-12 docent-guided tours.  Our goal states:

  • On docent-guided tours, students will experience the Museum as a comfortable place to visit and return to, discover that works of art are relevant to their lives, and begin to see their world in a fresh way.

How does that happen in the galleries?  First off, your docents will welcome you to the Museum and learn a little bit about your group and what you have been studying.  They’ll discuss the guidelines for a Museum visit, and also present a theme for your tour.  At each stop, they will ask your students to look closely at the work of art.  They might use open-ended questions to ask the group what they see, and they’ll hopefully ask them to share visual evidence for their ideas.  We use questions and conversations to encourage closely looking, rather than a lecture-based teaching method.

A docent helps students look for clues that tell us about Tlaloc

We also know that everyone learns in different ways, and docents are encouraged to think about addressing multiple learning styles over the course of their tour.  Your students might be asked to write a short poem, act out a pose or gesture, or even sketch in the galleries.  Each of these activities focuses their attention and allows them to look closely to make sense of the works of art in the Museum.

Students move their bodies like the lines in a painting

We want students to begin to experience a sense of wonder while they are at the Museum, and that can happen in many ways on a docent-guided tour.  Some students experience wonder the minute they step through the door and see the Barrel Vault space for the first time.  Others ask questions about works of art, make connections between works of art, or say things like “I never knew that.”  One way that docents can help facilitate that sense of wonder is by giving students time to look and reflect on their own.  And of course, listening and responding positively to your students’ ideas is a great way to promote that sense of wonder, as well!

Students are asked to arrange colors in response to an abstract painting.

The final element of a docent-guided tour at the DMA is helping students see that works of art–whether they were made 2,000 years ago or two years ago–are relevant to their lives today.  How is a bed made in 1844 similar to the beds we sleep in?  What is different about it?  What type of bed would you love to have in your house?  These are just some of the questions docents might ask students when discussing this work of art in our galleries.  We want students to make a personal connection while they are at the Museum, and it is our hope that these connections will turn your students into lifelong Museum goers.

We end all of our tours by inviting students to come back to the DMA often.  I hope that this gives you a sense of what happens on a typical docent-guided tours, and that you’ll bring your students to visit us soon!

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching

Kicking off our Super Bowl weekend

This week we were pleased to host Gene Jones, Ruth Ryan, and Tiffany Cuban at the DMA for an interview with NBC 5’s Meredith Land. The discussion took place near Henry Moore’s Reclining Mother and Child, located next to the Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean galleries on Level 2. The piece will air this Sunday after the Super Bowl. Below are a few images we captured throughout the day.

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Friday Photos: Welcome Andrea!

Andrea Vargas Severin, Coordinator of Teaching Programs

We would like to introduce you to Andrea Vargas Severin, our new colleague and friend.  As the newest member of the Teaching Programs and Partnerships team in the Education Division, Andrea will be responsible for various details related to our work with teacher audiences, including professional development workshops, teacher in-services, and the educator e-newsletter.  You can expect to see her out and about before too long, providing tours to visitors of all ages and coordinating several partnership programs.  She will also be a key member of the team that writes web-based teaching materials.

Andrea has a Masters of Art in Art Education with an emphasis on Museum Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in the History of Art and Studio Art from Vanderbilt University.  Her previous experiences at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, the Richmond National Battlefield Park, and Mexic-Arte Museum will bring a fresh perspective to our work.  We are delighted to have her as a colleague.

Look for Andrea’s first post on this blog soon!  If you’d like to learn a little more about Andrea, you can visit the Authors page.  And if you’d like to meet her in person, come join us for the upcoming Designing Exhibitions Teacher Workshop on February 11.

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Help Wanted: Looking for a Few Good Interns

With all the amazing experiences you can have at the DMA, what could be better than learning about our work firsthand? Each September, DMA staff welcome a new class of McDermott Interns through the McDermott Internship Program. And thanks to the generous support of the Eugene McDermott Education Fund, we are even able to provide our fabulous interns with a stipend.

Although I may be a bit biased (I was a McDermott Intern last year), McDermott Interns truly are a vital part of the DMA. We couldn’t survive without them! Throughout their short nine-month stint at the Museum, they contribute to various projects, from exhibitions to tours to programming and beyond. We even make sure our interns get to experience other arts organizations around the Metroplex. It’s a smorgasbord of museum opportunities!

Two of the lucky interns from this year’s class are our very own Hannah and Jessica, who have blogged about some of there experiences with you here. I asked them a couple questions to get their perspective on being a McDermott Intern:

What has been your favorite part of the McDermott Internship so far?

Hannah: Definitely teaching. I love going into classrooms and interacting with the students; their energy, enthusiasm and curiosity is contagious. They are constantly reminding me why I am so passionate about art and teaching. I also really enjoy going to docent training lectures and discussions, because it gives me the opportunity to keep learning.

Hannah (center right) with local teachers during the Art and Fashion Teacher Workshop.

Jessica: My favorite part of being a McDermott Intern is being able to work with some of the friendliest and most dedicated people I have ever met. I have also really enjoyed learning about the DMA’s collection and fantastic exhibitions, and then passing on that exciting knowledge when giving tours.  It is so rewarding to know that you made someone’s trip to the Museum memorable!

In your opinion, what is one reason why someone should apply to be a McDermott Intern?

Hannah: One thing that is really unique about being a McDermott intern is that you get the chance to work really closely with one department, while also getting opportunities to collaborate and interact with the entire staff of the Museum. With guidance and support, you have many responsibilities within the department you are working for, and your days are filled with diverse tasks, activities and programs. No two days are the same!

Jessica: One word: EXPERIENCE! The staff at the DMA will ensure that you are given every opportunity to learn about the inner workings of so many different departments within the Museum. The DMA really values McDermott Interns as professional coworkers, not just as extra help. It is that kind of attitude that really makes being a McDermott Intern a wonderfully fulfilling experience.

If you or someone you know is interested in exploring a museum career, check out our Museum Internships page, which includes more information and a link to the 2012-2013 McDermott Internship application form. We look forward to your submissions!

Sarah Coffey
Assistant to the Chair of Learning Initiatives


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