I just finished up a custom piece with an extra special backstory: Two of my mom's colleagues hired me to make an anniversary gift for my own parents -- as a surprise!
My mom, Diana Divecha, is a developmental psychologist who works with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. She and her colleagues, Robin Stern and Marc Brackett, publish editorials, speak at conferences, and educate experts about how social and emotional learning programs benefit kids and teens. When Robin and Marc came to me with the idea for a custom piece for my parents, their only request was that I create a representation of the Mood Meter.
The Mood Meter is one of the central tools in RULER, the emotional intelligence curriculum developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. It's a graph that helps people identify and articulate their emotions. The x-axis plots how positive or negative the emotion is, while the y-axis plots energy level. This results in four distinct quadrants:
- Red: Emotions that are unpleasant and high in energy, like anger, frustration and anxiety
- Yellow: Pleasant and high in energy, like excitement, joy and elation
- Blue: Unpleasant and low in energy, like boredom, sadness and despair
- Green: Pleasant and low in energy, like tranquility, serenity and satisfaction
Robin and Marc gave me tons of creative freedom with regard to the style, aesthetic, and materials, which was such a treat for me! I ended up creating a large, square mosaic made out of sheet steel. I took the graph and tipped it on a corner -- diamonds felt more dynamic than squares. If you've seen my work before, you probably know that my color palette is pretty subdued (both my portfolio and my closet could be described as "Fifty Shades of Gray"). I used a variety of finishing techniques -- staining, sanding, sandblasting, waxing -- to create tones in the steel ranging from bright silver to a dark slate gray. There's a subtle ombré from bottom to top: The lower half of the piece is a bit darker, to reflect lower-energy emotions, while the upper half has brighter, shinier steel tones, to symbolize higher-energy emotions. Robin requested small splashes of color as a nod to the Mood Meter, so I painted four small triangles with the original quadrant colors. Lastly, I welded a simple frame out of steel flatbar to give the piece a polished edge.
Needless to say, my parents were pretty stunned when they saw the piece -- they couldn't believe that Robin, Marc, and I had managed to keep this project a secret from them for months! It wasn't easy, though. I'm very close to my parents, and there were many times when I was tempted to gush to them about what I was working on. But I kept my lips zipped, and they loved the surprise!
"That you were able to create a piece of art that expresses our love and appreciation for you and your family brings great joy and satisfaction to us," wrote Marc. "It’s a gorgeous piece of art with a subtle reminder that each day thousands of children and adults are learning the skills they need to become talented and caring people."
Want your own custom wall hanging like this? Email me and let's discuss!