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calendar   Friday - May 13, 2011

Feat Of Clay

Achieving the American Dream, Accidentally




Once upon a time there was an artist who worked with clay. He made cups. He made bowls. He made pitchers and bottles. He made little pots. He made big pots. He really like making big pots, and he learned the secrets of making really big ones. In a perfect world his name would have been Harold, so I could call him Harry Potter, but alas, his name is Ron Levy. And he lives in New York City.

So let’s set the scene. He’s an artist, so therefore at one point he was starving. That’s the narrative imperative; artist is to starving as jazz musician is to substance abuse problem. You can’t have one without the other. And I’m sure he was his mother’s heartbreak; she wanted him to go to medical school and become a doctor, but no, not him. He had to follow the American Dream, mk 1, which is to figure out how to get paid to do the stuff you like doing. And of course that barely worked. But unlike his soi-disant cousins portrayed in such sitcoms as Seinfeld and Friends, when Chance showed him the way to turn mud into gold he didn’t sit around and whine about it. No, he seized the brass ring through hard work and research, and achieved the best American Dream, the mk 2 model that defines the perfect job: it is now his job to cash the check and spend the money, while other people earn it for him. And now he can go back to making pots for fun, whether they sell or not. Ok, I’m embellishing like mad here, but that’s what makes a story a story. You need the setting, a bit of back story, and one of the three accepted forms of conflict. Then when you have that and add on the happy ending, plus lots of details and insightful comments, it becomes worth telling. The story exists on its own, never changing over time; it is our job only to fit the latest players to their parts and to spin the tale once again.

RON LEVY never intended to become a tandoor mogul. In fact, he had never heard of tandoors — Indian clay cooking vessels that are part oven and part barbecue pit — until 1986, when a New York gallery exhibited six-foot pots he had made, inspired by amphorae on Crete. A man with an Indian accent called, wondering whether Mr. Levy, a ceramic artist, could make a large pot with a tapered mouth, no bottom and no glaze: a tandoor.

After it was installed at a Columbus Avenue restaurant called Indian Oven, word spread through the Indian community, and orders began to pile up.

“It came to the point where I had to stop doing my ceramic artwork, and focus on tandoors full time,” Mr. Levy, 63, recalled.


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a tandoor: your basic raincoat for a campfire, and you can cook on it too



So he converted his studio on Mulberry Street in Little Italy into a tandoor factory. Over the past three decades, he has built more than 2,000 for restaurants across North America ...
...
The traditional tandoor that Mr. Levy set out to copy 30 years ago was typically an unfired vessel, the clay walls strengthened with straw and animal hair.

“It was very unsanitary,” Mr. Levy said, adding that ovens shipped to the United States “often arrived from India broken, or would crack with extended use.” The tandoor’s shape, a cylinder with sloped clay walls, has remained essentially unchanged for 5,000 years.

Mr. Levy’s first innovation was to fashion the body from a blend of earthenware and stoneware, the former chosen for its modeling and expansion properties, the latter for its ability to withstand high heat without cracking. For porosity (an essential quality so that flatbreads can cling to the oven’s inner walls), he added finely ground fired clay, known as grog.

So he filled a market niche that had a pre-existing demand, and started making money, but he didn’t stop there. Keeping a great clay pot red hot takes a lot of heat, so he found a way to improve the ancient design by covering it up in fireproof insulation.

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1st upgrade in 5000 years: an insulated tandoor


For insulation and extra strength, he developed a clay and vermiculite mixture that could be baked onto the exterior of the pot.
...
A unique cast-in-place light weight insulation is bonded to a 100% clay tandoor, pre-fired to 1,000 degrees C. This provides extraordinary strength, durability, and heat retention.

So it’s a better, stronger product that lasts longer and costs less to operate. Done yet? Time to rest on those laurels? Not hardly. Now he had to make it “professional”, and please those pesky government regulators at the FDA and come up with a version that could get NSF (National Science Foundation) approval, which is the stamp that everything used in a restaurant should have. Some say NSF stands for Nominal Sterilization Factor, because you only see this stamp on food related products that can survive a trip through the autoclave or a serious treatment with Clorox. So he made that innovation as well, and the marketplace loves it.

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the stainless steel commercial model


Finally, he devised a sturdy stainless steel housing, so the tandoor could be sold and installed as a movable, freestanding unit.

“We’ve been using Ron’s tandoors for the last 20 years,” said Vicky Vij, an owner of Bukhara. “They outlast any Indian clay tandoor. They’re masterpieces.”

Nice. The stainless steel model comes with wheels so it can be moved around in the commercial kitchen. It has even more insulation than the insulated clay model. And keeping it clean is a breeze. And to keep costs down and the EPA happy, you can get it with a gas burner instead of a charcoal burner. All Ron’s tandoors come in two sizes, regular and jumbo. It’s pretty easy to see how the stainless steel model is an upgrade put over the insulated model, which itself is an upgrade over the standard bare clay model. So the ultimate modern commercial tandoor is a double improvement over the traditional one. Hey, those laurels are starting to look mighty comfy. Is it time to have a seat yet? Hella no! There’s a whole new market segment to exploit! Now we’ve got all these Indian people coming over here, being a success, making lots of money, buying homes in suburbia and trying to assimilate as much as they can yet still hold dearly to tradition. Everybody else in the neighborhood has a backyard barbeque, but what a poor desi to do?

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a mini tandoor for the home, the “home door” aka homdoor


Now Mr. Levy has developed a tandoor for home use, the Homdoor. It starts at $1,200.

And now there is a new cooking gizmo for all the “foodies” to buy. Nice going Ron. But it sounds like he’s still working hard at all of this. Let’s get to the happy ending part ...

The final challenge was production. Mr. Levy made his commercial tandoors in small batches as orders arrived. His business plan for the Homdoor, on the other hand, calls for 500 units to be built the first year. Last year, he joined forces with a ceramics company in Uhrichsville, Ohio.

“It turns out, they were using the same press molds and virtually the same ceramic blend for their fireplace components and chimney flue liners that I use in my tandoors,” Mr. Levy said.

Following Mr. Levy’s specifications, the company has built 50 Homdoors, tweaking the shape, propane burner and casing.
...
The first commercial unit rolled out in March. He was so pleased with the result that all of his tandoors are now made in Ohio.

There ya go. Cash the check and spend the money. The perfect job. The American Dream, mk 2. And he lived happily ever after.



Oh sure Drew, sure he did.
Oh, you doubt me? How’s this then for the money quote, in our current rotten economy? Don’t you wish your business was forced to say something like this?

Currently demand for Tandoors by Ron Levy is exceeding production. With the recent NSF Approval of Tandoors by Ron Levy demand is anticipated to further grow. In order to meet demand, Tandoors by Ron Levy, LLC are now being manufactured by Superior Clay Corp, Urichsville, Ohio.

Nice.

See More Below The Fold

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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 05/13/2011 at 12:56 PM   
Filed Under: • Fine-DiningSuccess StoriesTalented Ppl. •  
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calendar   Saturday - November 27, 2010

The Source

Aw man, I really need a joint! I don’t care what kind, I just have to have one right now!

If you’ve ever found yourself in that circumstance, and you said those words while holding a saw or a chisel, then this is the link for you.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 11/27/2010 at 05:29 PM   
Filed Under: • Talented Ppl. •  
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calendar   Thursday - October 14, 2010

17 YEARS TO BUILD A MODEL SHIP AND WORTH EVERY YEAR ….

Found this tonight and got caught up in it. Take a look at what this fellow did.

Took 17 years and he worked with very old wood indeed.

Around 1980 the wife and I had a private tour of this great ship. That was the thrill of a lifetime.  One of a few I’ve had.

Sculptor completes a model of HMS Victory after 17 YEARS… using a piece of wood from Nelson’s flag ship

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 3:27 PM on 14th October 2010

Dedicated sculptor Ian Brennan has spent 17 years carving a perfect replica of HMS Victory - out of a block of wood from the famous ship.

The artist has put in over 5,000 man-hours into creating an exact copy of Lord Nelson’s flagship that helped defeat the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in 1805.

It contains 200 feet of tiny wooden rope, 104 guns, 37 wind-filled sails, and flags spelling out Nelson’s famous battle cry ‘England expects every man to do his duty.’

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Detail: The 1:66 scale ship is accurate right down to the 37 billowing sails and 200ft of rigging, giving a marvellous impression of the ship racing to Trafalgar

Mr Brennan, the official sculptor for the British Royal Household, had hoped to finish the model by 2005 - the bi-centenary of the battle.

But the oak wood from Victory’s lower gun deck was so hard it was like carving concrete and the labour of love took far longer than expected.

Having worked on Victory some years ago Mr Brennan was given a beam from above a cannon - it even had the hook in it from where the mess table hung.

Within the 400-year-old oak the 60-year-old found enough good timber to create the 47 inch ship - a 1:66 scale model.

It weighs 44lbs and during its creation Mr Brennan has worn out four sets of overalls and cut himself numerous times.

READ MORE AND SEE LOTS MORE PHOTOS HERE


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Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 10/14/2010 at 03:54 PM   
Filed Under: • Art-PhotographyHistoryTalented Ppl.UK •  
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calendar   Saturday - March 13, 2010

An age when it was taken for granted that, England could accomplish anything. And did so.

This is really some awesome stuff.  Gives one some idea of what put the great in Britain in those bygone days. This was one heck of an achievement. And all done without computers and the kind of things that might have made the construction safer and faster. Good gosh, think of it.
NO HEALTH AND SAFETY.  First the need and the imagination and then the engineering skill and genius of the Brunels. 

Of course .. all this was done in an age when the mere suggestion that England be given away to foreigners might have brought on a challenge to a duel. And quite right too.


Open to the public for the first time in 145 years, Brunel and son’s ‘eighth wonder of the world’ under the Thames

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 4:50 PM on 13th March 2010

The public is to get its first chance in 145 years to see the Brunel tunnel under the Thames that was hailed as an eighth wonder of the world and a triumph of Victorian engineering.

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An underground work walks along the tunnel, which was originally designed to take horse-drawn carriages

The tunnel is open today and a Fancy Fair originally held in 1852 below the river is being recreated at the nearby Brunel Museum.

It was built between 1825 and 1843 by Marc Brunel and his son, Isambard, and was the first known to have been built beneath a navigable river.

The tunnel, which runs from Wapping to Rotherhithe at a depth of 75ft below the river’s surface, quickly became a thriving shopping arcade and entertainment centre.

It was illuminated by lights along its 1,300ft length and by the end of the first week of its opening, half the population of the capital were said to have paid to walk ‘the shining avenue of light to Wapping’. Queen Victoria was among the millions who walked its length.

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The tunnel, ‘a shining avenue of light to Wapping’, became a thriving shopping arcade and entertainment centre

In 1869, it was closed to the public and converted into a railway tunnel for the East London underground line up until 2007.

Extension work will result in the tunnel becoming part of the new London Overground and it will once again be used by mainline trains.

The two-day opening is taking place at the conclusion of the Mayor of London’s East festival celebrating east London.

Brunel Museum director Robert Hulse says the tunnel was ‘not just the birthplace of the Tube system, it is the site of a Victorian rave’.

The Brunel Museum tours will take in the grand entrance hall and the 1867 arch at the Rotherhithe entrance. It is now an International Landmark Site, one of six in Britain, but is usually closed to the public.

The tunnel was originally designed for, but never used by, horse-drawn carriages and was required because of the demand for a land connection between the north and south banks of the Thames to cater for the capital’s expanding docks.

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There had been a number of failed attempts before Marc Isambard Brunel took on the project in 1825 with his newly invented tunnelling ‘shield’ technology.

The tunnelling shield was revolutionary because of its support for the unlined ground in front and around, which reduced the risk of collapses.

However, many workers, including Brunel, became ill because of the filthy water seeping through from the river above.

The sewage from the river gave off methane gas which was ignited by the miner’s oil lamps, causing fires underground.

When the resident engineer William Armstrong fell ill in April 1826 from working underground Marc’s son Isambard Kingdom Brunel took over at the age of 20.

Work progressed at only 8–12 feet a week and the company directors decided to allowed sightseers to view the shield in operation to earn some extra cash for the project.

Charging one shilling, up to 800 visitors came every day to see the Victoria marvel.

But the project was hindered by a number of setbacks.

The tunnel flooded suddenly on 18 May 1827 after only 549 feet had been dug. Isambard Kingdom Brunel had to lower a diving bell from a boat to repair the hole at the bottom of the river, throwing bags filled with clay into the breach in the tunnel’s roof.

Following the repairs and the drainage of the tunnel, he held a banquet inside it. The tunnel flooded again the following year, on 12 January 1828, when six men died and Isambard himself narrowly escaped drowning.

Isambard was sent to Clifton in Bristol to recover and it was while there he heard about the competition to build what became the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Financial problems followed, leading to the tunnel being walled off in August 1828. The project was abandoned for seven years, until Marc Brunel succeeded in raising sufficient money, including a loan of £247,000 from the Treasury, to continue construction.

There were further floods, methane leaks and fires before the tunnelling was finally completed in 1841 and opened to the public, once lighting roadways and spiral staircases had been installed, on March 25 1843.

CLICK ON THE MAP FOR MORE

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The Brunels, father and son.

The son went on to even greater fame. His is a fascinating story.


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Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 03/13/2010 at 09:04 PM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesArcheology / AnthropologyArchitectureOUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENTTalented Ppl.UK •  
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calendar   Wednesday - March 10, 2010

World Record by building the largest house of free-standing playing cards.  Take a look

Wow .. Can you imagine how much patience this must take?  Almost as much as as explaining tech thingy stuff to me.  Right Drew?

I wonder if being an architect gives him an advantage understanding laws of stress or whatever. Of course it must. Whatever, it’s still nice to see this stuff.


Don’t breathe on it: Architect spends 44 days creating world’s biggest house of cards

By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 3:50 PM on 10th March 2010

An American architect has broken his own Guinness World Record by building the largest house of free-standing playing cards.

Bryan Berg used 218,792 cards to create a replica of the Venetian Macau, which is on display in its namesake luxury hotel and casino.

Berg took 44 days and 4,051 decks of cards to complete his model inside the Venetian, which sits at the heart of Macau’s Cotai Strip, the China-ruled city’s version of Las Vegas’ neon alley.

Since Macau’s casino sector liberalised in 2002, a spate of Las Vegas style gaming giants have transformed the once sleepy former Portuguese colony into the world’s biggest gaming hub.

Weighing 44 stone and measuring 33 feet by just under 10 feet, the model which consisted of cards stacked without glue or tape, nearly collapsed several times. 

(To us yanks, that’d be 616 pounds. wow)

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MORE HERE AND MORE PHOTOS


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Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 03/10/2010 at 06:10 PM   
Filed Under: • Art-PhotographyAwardsOUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENTTalented Ppl.USA •  
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TEHRAN TO LONDON ……….  Something way,way off the norm for my posting habits.

Over a year ago I heard this young lady on the radio as a panelist on a brilliant program called Just a Minute.  I didn’t quite catch her last name and at the time didn’t even bother trying to look it up on the BBC site.  But as time went on and she appeared a few more times in the coming yrs, I started to take more note of her.  Actually, her appearance on the radio made fans of us almost at once.  Unfortunately, she isn’t a regular on that program and it’s easy to lose track of entertainers when there are tons of other things to do and you don’t own a TV.  Then, this past wkend in one of the Sunday magazines that come with the papers, I found a profile on her.  Prior to this I only knew she was originally from Iran and came to England as a toddler. 

Here’s a success story of an immigrant whose family left the madhouse of the ayatollahs and found a home and freedom here.

I thought this was worthy of a post on it’s own.  Not to say that everyone who YTs her looking for her act will be fans of her humor. What we have seen we have enjoyed very much.  This is a bright and talented woman we admire.  Here’s her story. 

Shappi Khorsandi: From Tehran to Enid Blyton

The stand-up comedian recalls the often comic upheaval of fleeing to Britain with her family from Iran in 1979

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You can tell by the names my parents gave me and my brother that they never planned to leave our native Iran for good. Had they known they would end up raising us in England, they would have given us Persian names that the English could pronounce more easily — like Darius and Cyrus, Dara and Sara. They would not have named us Shaparak and ­Peyvand, thus condemning us to childhoods of being called Shakkattack and Pavement.

Our names, though, turned out to be the least of our problems when we ended up in exile after my satirist father had insisted on writing jokes that criticised the mullahs. The ruling clerics have never been known for their sense of humour, nor their interest in freedom of speech, and it was made clear to my father, by a 3,000-strong mob that stood outside his Tehran office in 1979 chanting “Death to Hadi Khorsandi”, that it was probably best to leave Iran quite quickly. That figure of 3,000 was only an estimate made later, by witnesses — my father didn’t stop to count.

So London became our refuge, and when my parents first took us to nursery school, the kindly, elderly teacher asked: “How old are your children, Mr Khorsandi?” Taking pride in his English, my father told her: “This one is half past three, and that one is half past four.”

Aged half past three, I spoke only Persian and thought English was a language you made up as you went along and everyone else would just magically understand: ­“Foroshh knoo allaw!” With my parents maintaining Persian at home, though, I soon became bilingual and able to sulk in two ­different languages.

While I discovered Enid Blyton and all the other delights of this new language, my father continued his attacks on the Iranian government through the cartoons, articles and poems he penned in the satirical newspaper he published and distributed to the Iranian diaspora. His newspaper, Asghar Agha (which roughly translates as Joe Bloggs), had a wide circulation among the Iranians who had fled the regime. But the popularity of Asghar Agha made my father a target even in exile. Many times I would answer the phone and be informed by an angry, growling voice that my father should be killed for his opinions. “Dad!” I would call. “It’s for you! I think it’s the Ayatollah!”

In 1984, when I was 11, I came home from school to find two burly Englishmen in our little flat. At that time, English strangers in our home were usually bailiffs, but these two gentlemen were sipping chai and enjoying Persian sweets. Iranians are widely regarded as the most hospitable of people, but even we draw a line at breaking bread with bailiffs. They were, I was told, plain-clothes police officers from Scotland Yard who had come to take us into hiding. They had uncovered a terrorist plot to kill my father. I had often wished that my father was a plumber, like Mark Johnson’s dad at school. Never more so than in that moment, though. Plumbers are almost never assassinated.

We went to Windsor, to a little bed and breakfast. My father was told that he mustn’t let a soul know where he was, so he only told around 20 of his closest friends who all joined us for our hiding party. After a few days we were assured it was safe to come home. We did, but I didn’t feel safe. I kept expecting someone to leap out from behind a tree and throw a grenade at us. We were still under police protection, which meant that from time to time officers would stop by, drink tea and talk about terrorists with my father. “You must check under your car for bombs, Mr Khorsandi,” they told him. So, every morning, before my father drove us to school, we would lie on our bellies in our drive and stare underneath our Ford Cortina. My father would crease his brow and say: “I don’t know what a bomb looks like. There could be 10 under there, I have no idea. Jump in, we’ll see what happens.”

Nothing bad did happen, but the threat that it might followed us to and from school, travelled with us on our holidays to Brighton and Blackpool, and hovered over us as we slept. From that day on, we lived in fear of losing each other.

For a terrorist, killing is just the tip of the iceberg. His job is to take away your peace of mind and to break the spirit of your supporters. They didn’t manage this with my father. Asghar Agha is online and going strong. As for myself, I have tried to spare my own son the traumas we went through. I don’t have a car, I have given him an easy name and I am instilling in him a healthy interest in plumbing.

Shappi Khorsandi will discuss her memoir, A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English, at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival on Wednesday, March 24, at 8pm.

SOURCE


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Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 03/10/2010 at 12:15 PM   
Filed Under: • CelebritiesHumorTalented Ppl.UK •  
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calendar   Monday - January 11, 2010

AN AWESOME AMERICAN ARTIST.

I do use awesome a lot I know but then, I also do get carried away by things and especially things like this.

I can not imagine having the kind of patience it takes to do this.

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January 11, 2010
America’s top modeller goes for a ride

Model cars

Michael Paul Smith, a model-maker, has used his skills to recreate an extraordinary miniature world of motoring from a bygone era.

His townscapes are so detailed and accurate that many admirers thought at first that they were photographs.

The 57-year-old American uses his experience as an architectural modeller to build elaborate sets and even makes many of the vehicles himself — all in 1:24 scale.

His work is painstaking — it can take up to four weeks to build a single house, shop, café or garage — but the perfect results are earning him a worldwide following.

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CAR SOURCE


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Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 01/11/2010 at 03:58 PM   
Filed Under: • Art-PhotographyOUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENTTalented Ppl.USA •  
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Not that very many people ever read this far down, but this blog was the creation of Allan Kelly and his friend Vilmar. Vilmar moved on to his own blog some time ago, and Allan ran this place alone until his sudden and unexpected death partway through 2006. We all miss him. A lot. Even though he is gone this site will always still be more than a little bit his. We who are left to carry on the BMEWS tradition owe him a great debt of gratitude, and we hope to be able to pay that back by following his last advice to us all:
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Oh, and here's some kind of visitor flag counter thingy. Hey, all the cool blogs have one, so I should too. The Visitors Online thingy up at the top doesn't count anything, but it looks neat. It had better, since I paid actual money for it.
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