The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, January 24, 1991, Page 10&11, Image 10

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    Walls of art
blend mason's
many talents
Connie L. Sheehan
Jay Tschettcr considers his brick
art a marriage — one between his
trade and his art background.
Those who have seen the train
steam toward them from his 40
by-14-footbrick mural outside the
old Burlington Northern depot can
attest to just how successful this
union has been.
This combination of brick and
art began with several years' train
ing as a mason before obtaining a
formal art education at the Uni
versity of Nebraska-Lincoln.
A self-professed fair-weather
mason, Tschetter used the winter
months to practice his art training
after leaving school.
"I kept my art alive by just trying
to scratch through the winter with
out laying brick and doing scrim
shaw projects while living in
Bellingnam (Wash.)," he said.
Tschetter returned to Lincoln
and tried to make a go at scrim
shaw, the art of carving ivory.
"But nobody knew what it was;
nobody knew the value of it," he
For a while, Tschetter dropped
scrimshaw and art from his life.
But while flipping through a bro
chure at a bricklayer's convention,
he discovered a picture of a brick
sculpture. *
"I immediately had an 'eureka'
experience — oh my god, you can
do this?" Tschetter said. "It was
perfect for me."
He contacted the company in
the brochure and trained with tnem
for a while. But, when it came to
setting up his own shop, he said
Yankee Hill Brick & Tile, 3705 S.
Coddington Ave, offered the best
Sitting in Tschetter's cozy work
shop in a corner of the Yankee Hill
factory, one can sense some of the
advantages at being located within
the factory walls.
"Yankee Hill bricks offer an
extraordinary variety of colors in
brick, probably more so than any
other brickyard in the country,"
Tschetter explained.
Because Yankee Hill is a small
company and has to keep up with
automated plants that can pro
duce four times the volume a year,
they specialize in matching colors
and custom orders, he said.
Tschetter added that besides
donating work space and provid
ing quality bricks, Yankee Hill also
helps in marketing his final prod
"They issued a nationwide press
release after I got this done," he
said, pointing to the empty 40
foot easel of slanted plywood used
to complete his train mural.
Tschetter said he began to visu
alize the big project after feeling
some discontent with the "mean
ingless sense of being (just) a brick
"I wanted something more," he
said. "It became an exercise in the
power of positive thinking."
Tschettersaid he began looking
in the newspapers for architec
tural announcements — what kind
of buildings were being built in
the area.
Seeing the plans for the depot
alterations, Tschetter called the
planning committee and suggested
they think of a little train mural
coming out from the wall in the
adjacent park.
"They took i t to the ci ty, and the
city got excited about it and de
cided for a bigger project than just
a wall in thepark. But the city had
to put it up tor open bidding," he
Tschetter talked extensively to
old railroaders while researching
the final drawing.
"I just kind of knew this was
my baby, and I couldn't let anyone
take it away," Tschetter said.
Once the bid was awarded,
pallets of still damp or green bricks
oegan to arrive in Tschctter's
workshop, and the 4()-foot-high
easel was constructed.
The bricks were made in three
phases, beginning with the dark
colored bricks of black and brown,
he said.
After stacking the first-phase
bricks against the easel, Tscnetter
spent a month sculpting the hain
and track into the surface of the
Tschetter uses clay-working
tools of his own design. The free
hand carving is worked into the
surface of the wet brick by scrap
ing portions away or scratching
designs into the brick to enhance
the tnree-dimensional effect of the
Tones from brown to red took
the mural up to the horizon line,
while phase three finished the top
of the mural with colors ranging
from salmon to pure buff.
Tschetter later reconstructed the
wall himself using mortar aspaint
and matching the mortar color to
the brick of that particular area.
"It's billed as the first grand
scale-color-blended brick mural of
its kind," Tschetter boasted.
Most of the murals are mono
tone, but some colors come from
glazes, slips or coati ngs just on the
surface of the brick, he said. The I
colors in the downtown mural go I
through the entire brick.
Hecommended Yankee Hill for
creating the graduated extruding -
process that gradually changed the
color of the brick as it was squeezed -
from the molder.
Tschetter's only color problems
stemmed from the fact that the
true color doesn't appear until the
bricks are fired. He solved this by 1
firing samples from each pallet of s
wet brick and matching them <
against his color schematic draw
ing- \
Although the train mural is the f
biggest that Tschetter has at- ■
tempted, he did another 10-by-10- j
foot mural for an insurance com- j
pany in Omaha.
"1 like the small stuff, though; I
there's less stress," he admitted. 8
Currently, Tschetter is creating |
single and multi-brick samples for
Yankee Hill's retail collection to
be shown to builders and interior
designers in the spring.
He also continues to experiment
with achieving brick color vari
ations by using different firing,
glazing and chemical techniques.
"Brick companies are interested
in what I'm cloing — offering al
ternatives to putting design back
into buildings," he said.
Architecture went through a
phase in the '40s and '50s when
everything went blank, Tschetter
explained. Nov/, he feels more
interest in putting back the orna
"From mu rals to singular brick,
my role is to afford people an
j opportunity to embellish buildings
or fireplaces with affordable de
sign," Tschetter said.
Once he gets established,
Tschetter said he looks forward to
sharing his art experiences with
"Creativity in this society is put
off as some extraneous activity
that doesn't have a lot of mean
ing," he said.
Tschetter is concerned that the
system used to indoctrinate young
students into school reduces their
power of creativity.
"If creativity is buried, then
we're not a whole people," he said.
"Above all, teach your kids to be
creative, because they're definitely
going to need that to get by in the
coming times."
Michelle Paulman/Daily Nebraskan
Jay Tschetter adds some final touches on a fireplace border at his workshop.
Jay Tschetter displays some of his brick art in his workshop at Yankee Hill Brick & Tile, 3705 S. Coddington Ave.
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