Do you ever stop to think about all the brickwork in your world?
It’s everywhere, and yet almost invisible.
Interesting facts: A standard red brick in the United States is 3.625 inches deep by 2.25 inches high by 8 inches long (9.2cm x 5.7cm x 20.3cm), and weighs about 4.5 pounds (roughly 2 kilograms). I discovered so much more about brickwork at this website, things like how many bricks it takes to build a 10 foot by 8 foot wall (answer: 549). The bricks would weigh about 2,470 pounds, and that doesn’t begin to include the weight of all the mortar needed to hold the wall together. Heavy work yes, but not unmanageable for a wall that’s standing on the ground.
But what if you had to carry load after load of bricks up a ladder (using a brick hod of course), 10-12 bricks at a time, then climb onto the platform of the scaffolding, up another ladder, eventually getting to the top where the actual work really begins?
Nowadays the load of bricks may arrive at their lofty destination with the help of a crane, but the brickwork itself cannot be mechanized. It is done by human hands, one brick at a time.
Way up there at the top of the building, as you perform your precise artistry, you realize there are only four parties who will ever notice your hard work: they are you (the brilliant exhausted bricklayer), the architect who dreamed up this intricate design, the hundreds of birds flying overhead, and the crazy lady a hundred years later who has this habit of saying, “Wow, look at that!”
I had such fun taking these pictures to share with you. As I aimed my camera skyward on a busy weekday morning, people walking by looked up too. Most had no idea what I was looking at: after all, there was nothing new up there, no plane flying by pulling an advertising banner behind it, no recently launched rocket ship, not even a child’s escaped balloon. Nothing.
But oh, if you could see what I can see. Now you will.
I have far too many pictures to put into just one post, so Part 2 will arrive in the next few days. I’ve intentionally left out most identifying features of these buildings, because my motive is to show you what you’ve never noticed before. Then after you breeze through this post, I encourage you to look around your own town or city, especially up at the skyline, at the eaves of buildings, and the chimney tops. Do you see any decorative elements that you’d previously overlooked? Smile and look again.
I believe embellishment is in our nature. I do admire the minimalist artwork of Mondrian, Albers, and others: those styles are a cool glass of water on a hot summer’s day. Refreshing, until I’m again aware of my need for nourishment, for real food, for delight. For me, that is found in embellishment.
Decorative brickwork of the mid-1800s, dancing high in the sky where few bother to look, has a special appeal for me. I suppose it’s because it looks mildly tongue-in-cheek: after all, that brilliant design work and heavy-lifting labor could have been featured much closer to eye level.
But no, something that grand needs to soar. You have to stop in your tracks to really see it.
And there’s the point. Stop. Enjoy.
And how many stories throughout the centuries are mixed into the mortar between all those bricks?
Part 2 will be coming to you in a few days. Until then, don’t forget to stop and look up!
Heartfelt thanks to the kind folks who have already dropped a donation into the new Tip Jar. It helps me pay the rent, keeps me writing, painting, sketching, editing photos, and yes, enjoying a cafe coffee now and then. Your support is most appreciated!