Once there was a piano. It was old and worn, with chipped paint and panels hanging off its hinges. It looked like it had been loved and played for years.
It was donated to the United Arts Council in Greensboro, NC, along with several other pianos. The Arts Council came up with this great idea to have local artists embellish the pianos with their own artwork, each piano unique to the artist. Then the pianos would be auctioned off as part of the first 17 Days festival to promote the arts in the Triad, NC area in October 2012.
The pianos were delivered to Lyndon Street Artworks, an big ancient warehouse which housed artist studios and a gallery, a place full of working artists, artwork in various stages of completion, and a variety of materials and things just waiting to find themselves into new works of art. The pianos could have easily been lost among all the other stuff. They were wheeled into one of the vacant studio spaces and there they sat on casters for a short time. Each of them old and worn, but each of them seeming to shine, to call out to the artists, to entice them with their potential.
Jeff Taylor was one of the artists who worked at Lyndon Street. He had a studio there full of various bits and baubles, pieces of material, objects…all sorts of things that would comprise the wondrous things he created.
Jeff walked past these old pianos each day on his way to his studio. He told me about the plans for these pianos and said he wasn’t going to bother doing one, he was working on other stuff. One of the pianos in particular must have called to him and convinced him to work on it. So he decided he’d be a part of the project.
I was delighted. It was so much fun watching (and documenting) the process. It was so fantastic to see him immersed in this work, doing what he loved – shaping red hot metal into beautiful spirals and swirls. A true blacksmith at heart, each precise bang on the metal sounded like a musical note. I watched beautiful things appear that were once just scraps of metal.
When the piano was finished Jeff named it “Wrought Not Bought” and it went on display at Elsewhere in Greensboro before being auctioned off. The piano found a home where it could be loved and played again. Where it could stand proudly in a prominent place among the hustle and bustle of a loving family with a young boy who would play it.
…Fast forward seven months or so…
Shortly after Jeff’s death in May 2012, in my compulsion to view and/or collect and cherish everything Jeff ever made, I somehow found the contact info for the person who purchased the piano. I emailed her and asked her to please consider me if and when they ever decided to replace the piano with a new one and sell this one. She agreed to contact me.
…Fast forward again… Five or so years go by and I receive a text message out of the blue. It’s someone asking if mine is the correct phone number. They’re looking for someone named Kelly de Silva. It’s about a piano.
I gasped! And then quickly replied…
It was the woman who purchased Jeff’s piano in the auction. She said they were buying a new piano and asked if I was interested in Jeff’s piano! I quickly said yes and we worked out all the details. And then a day later I had this beautiful piano in my living room.
A couple of the nicest guys moved it into my house. (They graciously offered to move it for free after hearing the piano’s story.) After wrestling it up the stairs, they placed it in the perfect spot. Then one of them played me a tune on it – a jaunty happy honkey tonk type song. It was great to have my little house filled with music!
After they left I dusted the piano and ran my hands along all of the curves of metal that Jeff had created with the hands that I loved so much. I had almost forgotten just how beautiful his work was!
Now whenever I look at it I feel so grateful and so lucky that it came back to me! What a truly sweet and wonderful thing for that woman to have done – to remember me and actually reach out to me when the time came for them to make room for a new piano. My heart overflows.
Here’s the process and the little journey of this wondrous work of art…