September 21st, 2021 Newsletter

September 21st, 2021 Newsletter

Bridging High-Tech and Handmade...International Day of Peace...The Unique Vocabulary of Bells
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Artful, One-of-a-Kind Gifts

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September 21st, 2021 Volume 19

Technology and Tradition Come Together Unexpectedly at Cosanti Originals


Like Cosanti Originals, The Franciscan Renewal Center (also known as "the Casa") has been quietly thriving and building a following for decades in Paradise Valley, AZ. It’s no wonder, really, that the Casa would approach Cosanti Originals when it wanted to creatively acknowledge some of its most special donors with a "thank you" gesture.


Michael Stephan, the Casa's Director of Development, wondered if Cosanti Originals ceramicists could create multiple 5.5-inch square tiles in a variety of blue and green glazes, with the focal point of each being a Tau Cross. "Sure, we can do that," said the ceramicists Spencer Smith and Linda Fournier. "Just how many do you need?" Michael's reply took them aback a bit: "Four hundred," he said.


Says Spencer, “Even though the design of each tile was consistent, hand-carving 400 tiles proved to be quite a challenge!” Despite its fairly simple shape, it took some work - and modern 3D technology - to perfect the way the ancient cross shape consistently appeared from one tile to the next. 

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As the first step, graphic designer Jesca Wales put her design and math skills to work and created a size-variant design intended to determine the proper scale and position of the cross on the 5.5 x 5.5 inch tiles. After identifying the size and placement that the Tau Cross would have on each tile, a woodworker created wooden crosses to scale that the artisans would use to emboss the Tau design into the clay. However, the wooden forms failed to achieve an evenly imprinted design.

Tech Takes On Tau Cross Trouble


Working out of the ceramics studio at Arcosanti, artisan Linda Fournier had an idea: what if the Tau Cross could be 3D printed? It’s a process used widely in manufacturing, medicine, architecture, industrial design, and art where three-dimensional solid objects are created from digital files by producing successive super-thin layers of material - in this case, plastic - until the object is created.


Linda approached Arcosanti resident Seth Winslow, who not only had experience with 3D printing but also access to a 3D printer, to create a prototype cross. Seth printed a Tau Cross with crisp lines and beveled edges, having much more detail than its wooden predecessor. The 3D-printed cross produced almost perfect results on the finished tiles and was also easier for the ceramic artisans to use!

As a fun side project, Seth created a little 3D windbell and we think it’s the cutest. Don’t you agree?

More Experiments with 3D in the Future?


The success of the 3D-printed Tau Cross has inspired other explorations into blending technology with handcrafting, such as 3D-printed resin windbell pattern plates to potentially replace the decades-old aluminum versions. “The pattern plates were so expensive to create that we only have one for each windbell model, maybe two for our most popular bells,” says Andy Chao, artisan and foundry manager at Arcosanti.


Used to imprint the bell shape into the foundry sand, pattern plates are essential to bell-making. "Having more pattern plates means foundry artisans don’t have to wait and take turns using a single pattern plate, allowing us to make more of the iconic Cosanti Windbells we’re known for," adds Cosanti Originals GM and Director of Retail, Vickie Mayer.

Photo credits (top to bottom): Courtesy the Casa, David Blakeman (2), Seth Winslow (3)

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Sound (Un)familiar?

The Unique Vocabulary of Bells

We all know that the materials, the shape, and the size of a bell determine the kind of sound that bell makes. But how do you put into words those vastly different and nuanced sounds? The vocabulary particular to bells can draw from onomatopoeia (words that imitate sounds, like “buzz” or “hiss”) as much as it can from Latin or Greek. 

A frenetic and clamorous tocsin is the unmistakable sound of an alarm bell or a word for the alarm bell itself. A plangent toll is a melancholy, mournful ringing of a bell, like the way a church bell is rung at a funeral, while peal is the word for a joyous eruption of ringing. But if a bell radiates a bubbly exuberant sound, something beyond a tinkling or a jingle (like a sleigh bell or the smallest bronze bells in our collection), then the descriptive word you undoubtedly need is tintinnabulation.

We can trace its origins back to Latin: tintinnabulum (“a bell”) and tintinnāre (“ring, clang, or jingle”). You might have heard of tinnitus, the medical term for “ringing in the ears,” also from the Latin.


But it might surprise you to learn that Edgar Allan Poe, 19th century American poet and writer known for his eerie stories and poems, coined tintinnabulation in the first stanza of his hypnotic poem, The Bells

Excerpt from The Bells

by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)


Hear the sledges with the bells—

         Silver bells!

What a world of merriment their melody foretells!

    How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,

      In the icy air of night!

    While the stars that oversprinkle

    All the heavens, seem to twinkle

      With a crystalline delight;

     Keeping time, time, time,

     In a sort of Runic rhyme,

To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells

    From the bells, bells, bells, bells,

        Bells, bells, bells—

 From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.


Tintinnabulation! What a word! The next time you hear bells ringing, listen closely and see if you can find just the right word to describe what you hear. Or, like Poe, you can wordsmith one that captures that unique sound perfectly. Spoiler alert: you'll find major auditory inspo at Cosanti's gallery in Paradise Valley, AZ!

Photo credits (top to bottom): David Blakeman, Wikipedia

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Artisanti Editor & Creative Director: Kelly Bird

Contributing Writer: Chloe Sykes

Graphic Designer: Jesca Wales

Photo credits: David Blakeman (header), Jessica Jameson Photo (footer)