Monday, September 17, 2012

I made some mercury last Sunday (La domenica, creato un po 'di mercurio)

For a moment, consider mercury, a silver metallic poisonous metal but also the mythical messenger of the Roman gods and diety of trade. It's from this name we have 'merchandise'. Mixed with sulphur, it becomes the red pigment that adorns the walls of ancient Pompeii. Here is a Mercury that I sketched out in clay this Sunday while it was raining.

The circle diameter of 4.125" is precisely that of my drains on the deck outside, so I'm just a few steps away from new bronze at the foundry. You might be asking yourself, 'why are there no drain holes if it's supposed to be a drain'? Those will be drilled when I make a wax master from the plaster mold.

Besides the function of making hatters crazy when smoothing felt or switching electricity on or off depending on an angle, mercury was also used in the past to separate gold flakes from other soil and dust. When thinking of nature in its most pristine forms, I still remember the time my dad took me 'gold panning' in the headwaters of a clear perfect Colorado stream. It took a while to get there driving up the side of a large mountain on a winding road.

As a wide-eyed seven year old, I was blissfully unaware of pollution or things like 'the environment'. Dad jumped out of the truck with a large silver pan with concentric lines around the inside. 'Come on boy, we're fixin to find some gold!', he proclaimed. Rushing excitedly down to the side of the stream, I saw some rainbow trout swimming in the center of the quick moving icy cold water.

Dad was taking out a chamois cloth and a large bottle of heavy silver mercury. He pointed down into the clear water at some gold flecks glistening back through the clear water even though it was mostly cloudy way up there in the mountains. 'See those, that's real money right there!' Well that's all I needed to hear, so I was down there at the waters edge standing on some rocks.

He put the pan down into the water and drew up some soil, swirling it around. Next, he poured some of the silver mercury into the pan to join up the gold flakes, and poured off the excess water back into the stream. Separating out the sand and dirt from the mercury, he then carefully poured the silvery remaining mercury into the chamois cloth. Squeezing it and twisting, he was able to get a ball of material down at the bottom of the cloth. Well it wasn't much so the chamois cloth slipped open and the mercury spilled in the stream. I'm pretty sure this was the reason that sad american indian was crying in all those commercials.

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