For two weeks each September at the Kansas State Fair, dozens of Jayhawks stand silent on the midway, ready to meet their fans. The state’s annual celebration in Hutchinson is where artist Dan Besco first introduced Kansans to his wonderful and whimsical birds. His chainsaw-carved Jayhawks, each with its own unique personality, delight alumni and adorn lawns throughout the Kansas City area and across the state.
Besco’s Jayhawks will be featured at the Rock Chalk Ball April 29 at the Overland Park Convention Center, where he will carve a 4- to 5-foot Jayhawk on the patio during the reception. The bird will be included in the live auction, and the piece can be customized with the buyer‘s name or initials. Smaller Jayhawks used for centerpieces also will be available for purchase.
A true passion
Of course, not every Kansan is a Jayhawk fan, as Besco learned one year during the state fair. One morning following a concert at the grandstand, a Kansas highway patrolman showed up to take a report on “the assault.” It took Dan a minute to realize that K-State fans had knocked over his 5-foot Jayhawk the previous night. “There were plenty of witnesses,” the officer chuckled, gesturing to several dozen wooden Jayhawk statues, “but none of them are talking.”
Besco says he does get considerable harassment from other schools who don’t like KU, but carving the Jayhawk is his true passion. A self-taught artist, he first learned to carve a bear. “It was terrible,” he says. “It was more like a bear-dog-pig, and I didn’t enjoy it at all.” He liked carving, but the bear didn’t interest him, and he didn’t think it would sell. “After all, who wants to buy a bear in Kansas? We don’t have bears in Kansas,” he says. Besco has always been a KU fan, so he decided to focus on the Jayhawk. He carved his first one in 1995, and he hasn’t stopped yet.
Quality and endurance
The sculptor says he is one of few carvers who use standing dried timber from Colorado. Other sculptors use green wood to carve, but that’s a poor investment because the wood will dry and crack unpredictably, and new cracks can ruin a piece, Besco says. Because quality and endurance are important to him (and a Jayhawk should be tough), he purchases wood that has died naturally yet is still standing in forests. To keep up with demand, he rents a truck and drives to Colorado several times a year to haul logs to ensure that the wood he uses is stable. Existing cracks in the wood, which add charm to the piece, won’t further crack or warp, he says.
Besco hews his birds from memory and can finish a carving in about two hours, then he trades his chainsaw for a blowtorch, burning the sculpture to smooth rough edges, waterproof the wood and add a deeper base for the stain, giving it an “antiqued” look. His Jayhawk renditions include a basketball-playing bird that attaches to an SUV and a long plank featuring all of the historical ’Hawks. His appearance at the Rock Chalk Ball will be one of the few times he has turned his talent into “performance art,” carving a sculpture from a tree stump for a live audience.
Watch the video to see Besco in action:
To see more of Besco’s work, visit www.kansaw.com. His KU work is officially licensed, and a portion of his sales support the University.
Delicious Italian food, neck massages, cuddly pups and holiday movies are sure-fire ways to reduce stress!
Finals Dinner is the Student Alumni Association’s most popular tradition, and nearly 500 students attended the event on Monday, December 12. Always held on the first night of finals, the event is designed to give students a break from the stress of studying and upcoming exams. All members of SAA are invited to attend, and each can bring a friend.
Students enjoyed the all-you-can-eat pasta buffet and holiday movies in the dining area. Neck and shoulder massages are always very popular, with six professionals from Medissage set up and ready to deliver hands-on therapeutic relief. Many students look forward to this service each semester, and the therapists say they’ve come to know those who return from year to year.
Jerome, Jackson, Curtis and Harley Jane also played their part, though they might have been oblivious to the fact that they were working. To this foursome of therapy dogs, the night involved friendly hugs and belly rubs. Students find that a squiggly, delighted dog is an excellent antidote to stress.
Beginning with the 2016-17 school year, all freshman students are provided with a complimentary four-year membership in the Student Alumni Association. Memberships make great gifts for upperclassmen! Visit the Student Alumni Association page on our website for more information.
Jayhawks have always been proud of our ties to Pluto and the man who discovered it in 1930, Clyde Tombaugh. After all, how many alumni can claim that one of their own discovered a major celestial object? Although many were disheartened when the planet was downgraded to dwarf planet status in 2005, Pluto will always remain special.
In a significant first for any space scientist, Tombaugh’s ashes headed to the planet on the fastest spacecraft ever launched. New Horizons, a robot on a mission to “map the unknown,” took nine and half years to reach the dwarf planet. On July 14th, 2015, Earth time, with one short fly by, and just one opportunity, the spacecraft flashed through the skies of Pluto.
The crystal clear images of a world never before seen by human eyes have been released in a video by the New York Times. You can view “Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart” through the free app, NYT VR, available for either iPhone or Android. You’ll have the best immersive experience if you use Google Cardboard, a virtual reality viewer that works with your smartphone, but you can still watch virtual reality stories on your phone without one.
The images show a rugged world of ice and frost with mountain ranges and sheets of ice that form Pluto’s “heart,” and the cracked and split ice surface of its’ moon, Charon. As New Horizon pulled away, cameras pivoted to capture Pluto’s atmosphere.
Isn’t it fitting that of that pale dot that Clyde Tombaugh first discovered so long ago, our final view is a halo of heavenly KU blue?
Google Cardboard Viewers If you are looking for a summer science project, you can build your own Google Cardboard Viewer. This viewer is gaining in popularity, and it adapts your phone with a construction/gadget that is like one of those old View-Master toys, that simulate 3D. ComputerWorld released this do-it-yourself guide specifically for the NYT VR app, which includes the viewer format. (Or, click here to order an inexpensive one online).
Sorrento is in the south of Italy, and features a rich history of Roman and Greek mythology. The area is known for the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, which destroyed the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii. In modern times, the region is the lemon-growing capitol of the country, and is known for its artisan foods like buffalo mozzarella. Susan Younger hosted the trip and kept this diary.
Thursday, May 12, 2016: Sorrento Arriving at Naples, our AHI host Valentina was a welcome sight waiting for a very tired group of travelers. The hotel was very nice, the food was good, and we were all ready for bed early that night!
Friday, May 13, 2016: Positano and Amalfi There was energy in the air as we boarded the bus to Positano and Amalfi—we were ready for our first adventure, but I don’t think we were expecting the roller coaster ride. The roads, carved into the side of the mountain, were very steep! The scenic views along the coast were breathtaking. Positano was originally a fishing village, and Amalfi was once a major shipping port.
Saturday, May 14, 2016: Bay of Naples and Paestum I looked forward to this day, starting with the visit to a “water buffalo mozzarella farm.” I’m not sure everyone was as crazy for the animals as I was! The owners of the farm believe that stress-free animals make the best cheese, and they were right—the samples were fabulous! The cows had customized milking machines that they enjoyed, and big, padded roller machines that massaged them. It was funny to see the cows lining up, and they got a little vocal when one cow was hogging a machine for too long.
The next stop on the itinerary was Paestum, where we strolled through the ancient temples of Hera, Neptune and Athena. The ruins are older than the Roman Colliseum, and were built by the conquering Romans.
Sunday, May 15, 2016: Naples and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale We visited the National Archeological Museum and toured Naples. The ancient Legend of the Sirens (from Homer’s Odyssey) is said to originate from the Bay of Naples. (The sirens were beautiful but dangerous creatures that lured sailors to their doom). The area is rich with tributes to sirens and also the sea-going god, Neptune.
We had marguerite pizza for lunch—there is no comparing tomatoes and basil grown in the volcanic ashy soil that surrounds Naples! And we are really getting used to drinking wine at EVERY meal (including breakfast).
We discovered these giant lemons that were as big as our heads, and had fun taking photos with them until the grocer took them away.
Monday, May 16, 2016: Herculaneum and Pompeii This is the day most of us have been waiting for … Herculaneum and Pompeii are the two cities that were destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. The opportunity to tour the ancient ruins was one of those once-in-a-lifetime things—the preservation of these two cities is unlike anything else in the world.
Herculaneum was amazing, and you can view the sobering sight of skeletons caught in the port by a pyroclastic flow—a poisonous, fast-moving cloud that was inescapable. (Pompeii was covered in a massive amount of ash).
I was so looking forward to this day, but I really messed up by getting lost in Pompeii!
I stopped to take a photo of some modern art, and got separated from the group in the large crowds. I could not find the group anywhere! This was pretty embarrassing, and I missed most of Pompeii while I was searching for my lost Jayhawks.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016: Isle of Capri Taking the ferry to the Isle of Capri was fun, and the boat ride around the island showed us red coral growing abundantly in all the rock coves and tunnels. The gardens were amazing, since the climate is fairly mild all year long.
This evening, a group went to a “Tarentella Operata” at the Tasso Theatre. We could not understand a word they were saying, but the performance was energetic and entertaining. I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough to capture Ivan dancing in the aisle!
Wednesday, May 18, 2016: Sorrento Our last day was one to relax and enjoy shopping and dining in Sorrento. We have such a great group of people, and it has been so great to get to know them all. The lasting memories and friendships from this trip will be cherished.
Our group of Jayhawks included (following rows directly after the group photo): Row 1, far right: Birgit Love and Steve Pennington; Row 2, left: Mary Jane and Mark Swanson; Row 3, right: Mary Jane and Susan Younger; Row 5, right: Sara and Ivan James; Row 6, left to right: Chuck Refshauge, John and Renee Zimmerman, and Ann and Gil Tisue.
—Susan Younger hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip to Sorrento. Susan serves as the KU Alumni Association’s creative director and the mastermind behind many of our beautiful publications, such as Kansas Alumni magazine, decor for special events, and pretty much anything creative in the office. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the newly announced 2017 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.
What happens when you combine 18 cases of red, white, blue, and yellow gift bows, a couple of glue guns and a fabulous group of volunteers? You get a giant display of Jayhawk spirit. Quite literally!
In early August, the decorations committee for the Jayhawk Roundup, led by decorations chair Chris Jeter, gathered at Murfin Stables to work on an oversized “bow mural.” The project will grace the corner of the arena and provide a photo background for the annual event, held on October 2, 2015, in Wichita. This year’s theme is “Happy Birthday KU,” celebrating the 150th birthday of the University of Kansas.
Members of the committee helping that day were Chris and Lori Jeter, Jim Burgess, Jerry and Lucy Burtnett, Bob and Kay Blinn, Camille Nyberg, Margaret Lafferty, Danielle Hoover, and Susan Younger.
The mural was fairly easy to create, so we wanted to share it with you so you can make your own. This technique would be perfect for a high school spirit wall, a grade school art project, or for anywhere you want to make a really big visual impact.
To start off, you will need to create your image on a grid, and if you are familiar with cross stitch embroidery, the idea is basically the same. For the Jayhawk head, the graphic was placed underneath a grid and then filled in with colored dots to bring up the pattern. The more detailed the image you wish to create, the larger the mural should be. (Each dot coordinates with the color of the bow, and gray is used here to represent white). Our mural ended up measuring approximately 6 1/2 feet tall by 11 feet wide. With a grid like this, it’s easy to determine the bow position, and the number of bows needed. The black lines running every six columns represents each mural panel, as explained in Step 2.
For our base paper, we used a brown kraft paper, and the color really helped our white bows pop. Our kraft roll is 24″ wide, so we divided the grid into the appropriate number of columns. (See black lines on the grid, indicating each column). Measure six 3-1/2 inch squares starting from the left edge, and leave the remaining 3″ to the right, so you can glue the panels together to make the complete mural. If your paper is thin, reinforce the back with packing tape. The kraft paper is surprisingly strong, but reinforcing helps strengthen the paper.
We left room for a sleeve at both the top and the bottom, and will thread a PVC pole through the sleeves to stiffen the mural and make it easier to hang. (We also left 12 inches at the top and bottom as blank space above and below the bows).
Draw out the entire grid on your paper, and then label it so you can follow the grid, such as “row 1, column 1,” “row 1, column 2,” and so on. To cut down on confusion and make the process easy for a group, use paint markers to indicate the color in each square.
Package bows work really well for this project. They’re fun and the texture adds to the effect, and in this case, the bows fit our birthday theme. We used 4″ confetti bows from Papermart, which have a variety of strong colors and great case prices.
Use a glue gun with a hot glue setting. It’s important to use hot glue, because it helps grip the fibers of the paper better. (Avoid using cold glue guns). Draw an “X” of glue in the square, and affix your bow. You don’t need to remove the paper covering the sticky pad on the back of the bow. In fact, that sticker is too weak to use, so just glue right over it. You want to make sure that you draw a large enough “X” so that the glue grips parts of the bow, and not just in the center over the sticker. Lightly smash the bow down as you glue it to make sure it grips the hot glue well. (Don’t worry, the bow will pop right back up).
Once all your panels are finished, lay them flat together to make sure your design looks right. The left side of each panel should line up with the blank space on the right side of your panel. Glue the panels together with tacky glue. When the glue is dry, reinforce the panels on the back with packing tape. If you are going to store the mural for a bit, don’t glue the panels together until you are ready to hang it, and keep the panels flat while storing them. This will help prevent warping, and cover them with plastic tarps to keep the moisture out.
And that’s all there is to it! If you would like to make your own mural of the Jayhawk, feel free to borrow our grid diagram. We’d love to see examples of your own creations, so be sure to post them on the Association’s Facebook page.
KU’s annual event honoring faculty and staff for their years of service to the University will be held on Wednesday, May 6, at 1:30 p.m. in the Kansas Union Ballroom.
Service pins are given to 5, 10, and 15-year honorees, and service pins and gifts are given to employees with 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 45, and 50 years of service.
Attendees are invited to celebrate at a reception immediately following the ceremony.
We’re thrilled that eleven KU Alumni Association staff members will be honored at tomorrow’s ceremony, including Tim Brandt, who was director of the Adams Alumni Center for ten years before retiring two weeks ago.
Stefanie Shackelford, vice president for alumni and membership records, 25 years
Marcia Wilson, office assistant, 25 years
Susan Younger, creative director, 20 years
Chris Lazzarino, associate editor, Kansas Alumni magazine, 20 years
Mike Wick, webmaster, 15 years
David Johnston, vice president of marketing and internet services, 15 years
Steven Hill, associate editor, Kansas Alumni magazine, 15 years
Mike Davis, senior vice president for donor relations, 15 years
Tim Brandt, recently retired director of the Adams Alumni Center, 10 years
Danny Lewis, director of alumni programs, 10 years
Tegan Thornberry, assistant director of membership, 10 years
Congratulations to our staff members and thank you for your dedication! We’ll honor their service again at our own employee recognition festivities next week, where each one—along with five-year student employee A.J. Templin— will be treated to the traditional poetic tributes our staff has come to know and love. You can find short biographies of our staff members on the staff directory page.
See a full list of honorees at the 2015 Employee Recognition Ceremony here.
In the world of paper engineering and pop-up books, author and artist Chuck Fischer, f’77, has made a big impact. His Christmas-themed pop-up books include A Christmas Carol, Angels: A Pop-Up Book, and Christmas Around the World. But it’s the re-release of his first book, Christmas in New York, that gives Fischer giant exposure in a new world market—literally!
A firm in Hong Kong reached out to Fischer in September for permission to create a marketing campaign for the book. The company created giant pop-up page spreads which went on public display this week. The oversize sculptures introduce new audiences to Fischer’s work and have delighted the crowds. Fischer was on site for the official unveiling of the campaign. “Needless to say, it’s a thrill to be here and see my work in person, to have it come alive in 3D at this scale,” he says.
The original artwork for Christmas in New York, as well as art from six other pop-up books, interior design murals, china, crystal and fabric are now part of the collection at KU’s Spencer Research Library. The works are an important addition to the holdings that include limited-edition artists‘ books, children’s books and 19th-century scientific books, all of which include varieties of pop-up features and are regularly studied by KU book arts and design students.
Classes began at our beloved university on Sept. 12, 1866.
According to KU History, tuition for college classes at that time was $30 per year.
Some of our staff members shared their birthday wishes for KU:
Happy birthday KU! Not everyone can claim that they get better looking every year, but you just grow more magnificent, especially with the recent Jayhawk Boulevard improvements! Rock Chalk, and let the campanile bells sing. —Susan Younger, creative director
Wishing you the happiest of birthdays KU! Thank you for providing me with unique experiences I will cherish for a lifetime. You have truly molded me into who I am today. —Emily Ellison, alumni programs coordinator
Happy Birthday KU! May the worldwide network of Jayhawks continue to grow, one of the many reasons being a Jayhawk is so special. Cheers to the Jayhawk family. Rock Chalk! —Heath Peterson, vice president for alumni programs
Happy Birthday KU, because of you I have learned what it truly means to #beajayhawk. Here’s to many more years of inspiring students to make discoveries that change the world. —Leah Kohlman, communications coordinator
My birthday wish for KU would be for every future Jayhawk to have the same great experience that I had as a KU student. Rock Chalk! – David Johnston, vice president for marketing and Internet services
You may have noticed the cover of the July, 2014 issue of Kansas Alumni magazine, which featured bright, sunny porch steps stacked with colorful “books.” The library consisted of hand-painted bricks and pavers painted to look like old books featuring KU authors and other classics. If you are into crafty projects, you may have seen this popular idea online. Google “book bricks” and you’ll find more tutorials and how-to videos. In fact, our Associate editor, Chris Lazzarino, first spotted this idea, and we thought it would be fun to do. The bricks make great bookends, garden art, or even a nice focal point on a windowsill or shelf.
The books are fairly easy—the hardest part may be deciding your favorite classics— and can be made by anyone. If you don’t feel up to hand-painting the lettering, you can use alphabet stickers found at most craft stores. We kept our books simple, decorating only the spine, which is really all that shows if you choose to use them as bookends. Painting on bricks is a rough endeavor, so embrace the imperfections and don’t strive for perfect lines!
Here’s the easy step-by-step tutorial:
Step 1:Bricks and Pavers
Gather old bricks if you can find them, or buy an assortment of pavers from a garden or home improvement store. If you are using old bricks that have a little bit of moss on them, first soak them in a light solution of water and bleach (about 1/4 cup to 1 gallon of water), and then scrub them to remove the moss. Let the bricks dry several hours or overnight. If you are using pavers that you have just bought, they tend to be dusty so rinse them off well and let them dry several hours or overnight.
For other supplies, you will need acrylic paint, brushes, blue painters masking tape, tracing paper, and computer printouts of book titles (or use alphabet stickers for the lettering). You can use inexpensive paint for this project. In fact, the liquid acrylic that you can buy in bottles at the craft store are perfect for this. You also need to have an assortment of brushes on hand, from wide flat brushes, to small narrow brushes for lettering. Use bristle brushes—foam brushes will not hold up against the surface of the brick.
Step 3:Base coat
Paint your bricks and pavers with a white coat of paint. This helps seal in the porous surface, and will help you get even coverage when you apply more coats of color.
Step 4:“Pages” To created weathered-looking pages, paint three edges with an off-white or cream paint. Add a second coat. When the paint is mostly dry, use a darker tan and with a long narrow brush, paint lines along the pages. Broken lines work well, and we are going for a rough, weathered look here, so wiggle the brush and don’t worry that the lines aren’t straight. Add additional lines with white paint to achieve the look.
Step 5:Book Covers Make sure the paint on the “page” area is thoroughly dry, and then tape over the edge, leaving a margin for the book cover. (Be sure to press the tape down on the edges well.) Paint your book with a solid color, adding two coats. Add a little black paint to your book color, and add the deeper tone to cracks and creases in the brick. Use a wet paper towel to blend the dark color in and wipe away the paint that is not in the cracks. Next, add a little white for highlights to the cover. This is easy to do with “finger-painting.” Dip your finger in a little paint, wipe most of it off on newspaper or a paper towel, and then lightly rub across your book. Adding the deeper tones and highlights help give the book a bit of dimension.
Step 6:Spine and Details The next step is to embellish the spine. Add panels for the book titles, stripes, and symbols. Most publishers used a small symbol or brand on their spines, and adding a small embellishment to mimic this can add to the effect. When the book is completely dry, remove the tape that protected the “page” part of the book. Even if your page paint was thoroughly dry when you taped it, you may remove some paint when you strip off the tape. Don’t worry about this, the random spots will add to the aged look of your books, or you can go back and touch up with paint if you prefer.
Step 7:Lettering We printed out book titles from the computer, and then traced them onto the books before we hand-lettered them. You can totally wing it if you feel comfortable, or you can use small alphabet stickers. (Stickers not recommended if you will use these books outdoors). For help with hand-lettering, have a good tracing paper to transfer the title. Speedball’s “Mona Lisa” tracing paper has dark carbon, and it shows up well on the rough surface of the brick or paver. Tape a piece of tracing paper in place, and then trace your printout. The result will be rough because of the surface of the brick, but it should give you enough to go on. Carefully paint your lettering, dark paint on light surfaces, and light paint on dark surfaces. Don’t worry if your lettering is rough, it just adds to the charm!
Paint a “drop shadow” to the left of the letters, which will help the title pop a bit. If you want, add the title to the front of the book as well, especially if you plan to use the books as pavers in a garden.
Use a very rough sandpaper (we used 60 grit), to sand along the edges and rough up the bricks. If desired, drag the sandpaper across random areas to remove paint.
And that’s it! Have fun making your own colorful library of brick “books.” Recreate your favorite childhood stories, plan a themed collection for a boy or a girl, or decorate a windowsill near your favorite reading nook. These would also look great edging a garden area. If you plan to use them outside, you might want to coat them with a matte-finish spar varnish so that the paint will last longer. Have fun and be sure to send us photos of your “new” books.
—Susan Younger, Creative Director
Photograph of books on steps by Steve Puppe,