Q&A with Sara Sheffels

Our second installment of Q&A is with VPUE Fellow Sara Sheffels! She let us take a peek into her lab notebook during her first week in the Art + Science Lab — check it out below!

IMG_0875How’s your first week going?
It’s going pretty well. I’ve been basically just looking at both the objects I’m studying really closely and trying to get to know them. Something I was doing yesterday which was really fun was trying to figure out what the patterns are on the shoulder areas of the lekythos, the Greek vase I’m studying. It’s kind of worn away so I’m trying to look at this picture we took of it and connect all the lines to see what the actual pattern was. It’s actually pretty tough.

IMG_0879 (1)

Sara’s sketches to reconstruct patterns on the lekythos.

Are you doing it by hand?
Yeah, just trying to see where I can see any pigment at all and how it could possibly be connected.

What are you most excited about this summer?
I’m excited about both of these projects because they’re pretty different. The two pieces are from very different places — this one is from somewhere around Athens, about 2500 years old, and this one is from somewhere in Japan, from the 12th century. We’re looking at different things about them – we’re looking at the lacquer on the Japanese one, and trying to do elemental analysis on the pigments on the Athenian one. So I’m excited to dive into both projects.


Photo of the shoulder of Sara’s lekythos.

Are you also learning about the history and getting a sense for the time period and place?
Yeah, for the lekythos I’ve mostly been reading about all the different painters. They all have names based on their styles because we don’t actually know who they were. I’ve been reading about what sorts of figures and images all these painters would try to portray. This lekythos is for funereal purposes so usually they’re depicting someone who died and someone who was close to them and it’s hard to tell who’s who sometimes. So I’m just trying to figure out who those figures on the lekythos are.


Object details.

What surprised you the most this week as you got started?

As I was looking at the objects, especially the lekythos, it surprised me how much detail I could notice on them. I was taking notes, and I thought, I’ve got a pretty good condition report, I’ve got all the little scratches and places where it’s abraded. But then you turn it around and look at it at a slightly different angle, use a different lighting, and there’s suddenly so much more to see!

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