Patterns of Meaning
In late June 2021, Chip Barletto and Cory Bonnet acquired an unprecedented collection of foundry patterns dating from the late 1890’s to early 1900’s and blue prints- thousands of each. In that time we have moved ten 26 foot box trucks worth with another four or so to go. It is a massive undertaking.
The wooden patterns were hand built to exacting specification, then packed in foundry sand to create the molds used to cast steel parts. Massive gears, crankshafts, valves, railcar wheels- just about anything needed to build the infrastructure of the late 1800-early 1900’s industrial world.
This collection was originally saved by R. Gene Koch, a Mineral Ridge native who lived in Lake Milton, OH. He believed for decades that the wood patterns used to make those steel parts were worth preserving.
“Look at the craftsmanship. Why doesn’t anyone care about these? This is a dying art, a part of the industrial age,” Koch said in a 1991 interview.
Koch died in 2008 at age 81. Unfortunately, he didn’t live to see his dream become a reality, but Cory Bonnet and Chip Barletto are giving Koch’s collection the showcase he always believed it deserved. They purchased over 6,000 wood patterns, blueprints and other artifacts from Koch’s wife, Evelyn, a retired Warren City Schools teacher.
"It was all or nothing." Bonnet said. "For decades people have tried to cherry-pick and buy the best patterns for resale, but she never budged. We saw that the value in this collection was the amount of pristine patterns from this era- it's the shared heritage of the Industrial Age, every rustbelt town - the stories are in these artifacts.
The first obstacle was moving everything out of the barn in Ohio to Pittsburgh.
With the help of a crew, they have transferred ten full loads of a 26-foot box truck to the Energy Innovation Center (EIC). Bonnet said the owners of the EIC have been very supportive as the collection has expanded to storage on unrenovated floors of the building.
At least four more loads of smaller items remain in the barn.
Carrying heavy wood gears and spools down a narrow barn stairway, loading them into a truck and unloading them into the Center’s upper floors — with only a standard passenger elevator, as no service elevator available — was a Herculean task.
Patterns of Meaning has had two major shows, a display at Pittsburgh International Airport and was featured at AISTech- the Association for Iron and Steel Technology's annual conference - the world's largest meeting of steel manufacturers and support industries. The collection is on permanent display at the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh, PA.
In addition to Bonnet's paintings and sculptures, new works of art are being cast from the patterns in glass and ceramics. Furniture, lighting and decorative objects. Interior/architectural design projects for residential and commercial.
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