One of a kind music box that tells the story of African adventure

4 min read 2 Comments

After I graduated from college, I went on an epic adventure. 

Starting out with the plan of a silversmithing apprenticeship in Barcelona, instead turned into 13 months of wandering, ending with paper butterflies in a small mountain town in Morocco. 

The result of that unplanned expedition from Spain to the Canary Islands, to Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Morocco was an intense overload of interpersonal experience and personal introspection. 

Once returned to the US and settled in Seattle, I set out to capture my emotional state in the form of sculptures

Which led to this (sound on for full affect!)...


This music box captures the spirit of my adventurous life while living and traveling abroad.

The box in its closed state, is simple, clean and unassuming. 

steel and mixed metals one of a kind music box that plays 7 songs simultaneously, handcrafted in Seattle by artist Catherine Grisez

When I left for Spain, I was prepared for an apprenticeship, but open to whatever adventure awaited, though I had no idea what was in store. 

I went there to hammer on silver.

Instead, I...

  • worked on an organic farm
  • dreamt in Spanish
  • helped refinish a boat
  • sailed to a remote island with a captain who serenaded dolphins on his saxophone
  • learned bits of local African languages, French, and Arabic
  • experienced alarming kindness and intense hostility
  • hitchhiked through the Sahara Desert with a British smuggler
  • learned about censorship in a dictatorship
  • filled a large sketchbook with writings and drawings of everything
  • and so much more

open view of Satiated mixed metal music box, showing insects and bumpy knobs

I took in every moment of it - the cultures, the sounds, colors, smells, clothes, light and darkness. 

My mind became a technicolored, lawless wild west.

Each new experience added a layer of chaos balanced with a strange kind of numbing. 

It all seemed like such a dream - like I was watching things unfold from somewhere outside of myself but at the same time, experiencing life in the most intense and bizarre way. 

cast bronze turn keys filled with red resin, paired with a hammered copper landscape of mounds and peaks. insert for Satiated mixed metals music box

During the last several months of my travels, I lived in a small 2 room 'row house' carved into the hillside of a small mountain town, a few hours from Fez.

There was a small bathroom (literally a hole in the floor of a closet), a small propane tank with single burner where we cooked meals on the floor, and a well up the hill where we gathered water. 

In the middle of the main room was a large open square in the ceiling, with nothing but a battered, mostly open, rebar grate to prevent large objects (or people) from coming inside. 

Every day, unusual insects and critters would fall from the sky.

While giant insects from previous months in the desert and other parts of North Africa influenced this sculpture, the memory of staring through that opening and wondering/considering/contemplating life remains a strong visual to this day.

copper bugs, squirming on their backs inside a window covered with a simple silver grate - make up the inside of Satiated, a mixed metals music box that plays 7 songs simultaneously

 The box plays 7 songs simultaneously: 

  • After the Lovin’

  • Always on My Mind

  • Arabian Dance

  • Feelings

  • Masquerade

  • Pomp and Circumstance

  • Unforgettable

Each song tells part of the story.

The experience of my conservative, privileged, middle-class American upbringing in relation to the struggles and happiness of people I met in impoverished villages, lavish cities, and everywhere in between taught me much about life. 

Satiated, mixed metals, one of a kind, music box sculpture inspired by epic Africa travel adventure - showing closed, open, and detail views

I made this sculpture by fabricating the hollow steel box with a hidden trap for music mechanisms. The inserts are hammered copper, carved cast bronze, and countless hours of carving tiny insect legs and soldering them to the bug form I hammered out of sheet copper.

The resulting box, titled Satiated, is a one of a kind, handcrafted, metal sculpture that plays 7 songs simultaneously.
The sound (and absence of sound when closed) tell the bigger story.

I never did get to do the internship (he postponed it just after I arrived in Spain), but I'm so glad I got to live this part of my life instead. Epic indeed! 

And those paper butterflies I mentioned at the beginning? 

One of the many art projects I did to amuse (and comfort) myself while living this life was a butterfly wall. (another included teaching myself and Moroccan locals to make silkscreened t-shirts to sell to tourists) 

I made hundreds of butterflies, black on one side and brightly colored on the reverse, then pinned them to a wall in a murmuration type pattern. 

When looking straight at the wall it was a sea of black butterflies, but peer from the side and a rainbow of color burst from the undersides. 

hammered abstract copper butterflies handcrafted by CG Sculpture and Jewelry in Seattle

I don't have pictures of that wall, but at some point since, I thought I'd recreate it in copper. I made these abstract copper butterflies with the intention of doing something lavish to the undersides, but haven't gotten around to finishing them. 

What do you think?!
Should I come back to this project?
(I suffer from too many ideas and too little time syndrome!) 

The butterfly wall was back in the day, pre-camera phones, when I made things just because I could and didn't document every moment. 

And this is exactly what I'm getting back to in my work now.
Pursuing art for the sake of art, the love of making and inventing. 

Channeling life's ups and downs into objects that radiate depth, meaning, and beauty.  

I'd love to hear what you think about this experience and resulting art!
What adventure has influenced your life? 
Comment below...


Catherine Grisez

2 Responses

Shannon Hughes

May 23, 2022

You’re a great storyteller….and I want to hear more about that epic adventure, which I love seeing portrayed in your art. And YES on the butterflies. Totally fits your current transformation…as well as fitting for many others who are changing and evolving. I can see a wall of them at various heights with interesting lighting that helps us see not only the copper pieces themselves but the shadows they create. Your work is exquisite!

WEND Jewelry

May 19, 2022

This story is incredible. Wow! Your talent abounds and astounds. I definitely think this butterfly wall is a fantastic idea. Maybe a new bit of public architecture needs such a wonderful installation (ooooh – a library perhaps).

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