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coated with a protective agent like shellac or plastic and kept in a dry place products of baker's clay might last a hundred years or more, but they did not have the longevity of the sculptor's traditional materials, bronze and stone. Ruth began to experiment mixing synthetic products like wood putty and plastic glue into the dough. Promising as they seemed these efforts did little more than fill the house with a toxic stench and make a product with a dismal resemblance to fake lava stone. Discouraged, she went back to using the dough pure and simple, but in the back of her mind she kept the hope of finding a way to give it a longer life. In 1966, Ruth had her first experience with casting in bronze during the making of a fountain for Ghiradelli Square. The sculpture was cast in the traditional way from a wax model, but she began to think that it could be as easily cast from dough. Again she wanted to experiment, but bronze is so expensive that she could only afford to make one small piece. The sculpture she made was that of two mermaids which, years later, caught the eye of Chuck Bassett. He took the idea as seriously as she did. After the commission was given there were meetings to discuss the fountain's subject matter. Ruth was interested in something involving fantasy. Chuck Bassett said that there was more fantasy in the reality of a city like San Francisco than in most products of the imagination. San Francisco was an obvious choice for other reasons. The variety of the man-made city is echoed in its dramatically changing landscape. Many areas of the city have a distinctly different character: the Sunset, the Mission, Chinatown, North Beach, downtown, Pacific Heights - each conjures up an image in the mind. Telling the visual story of the city was an intriguing problem. The drum's surface was well suited to an unfolding panorama; the problem lay in organizing it geographically. Ruth used a city street map as a base for marking the areas. At the center of the high wall of the drum she placed a double "H" for Hyatt House with a sign about Donald Pritzker's head saying "you are here". Everything south of Union Square is to the left; everything north is to the right. The ocean is the top boundary; the bay is at the bottom. Next came the more subtle problem of selecting the material. Books provided information. Everyone had ideas. After consulting city institutions like the Fire Department and the California Historical Society and polling a variety of people Ruth made up a list of people, events, buildings and places. In the months to come this was supplemented by reports in the daily newspapers. Into this fabric were woven bits of cheerful 4
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