Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Working on my new project, the customised tattoo machine and associated jewellery pieces, "Beneath the Skin". This project involves a collaboration between me, a tattoo artist in the US, an Argentinian maker of tattoo machines and a metallurgist in Sheffield! It is going to be exhibited as part of the "Galvanize Sheffield" exhibition.

This week, I've been converting the drawings into 3D forms by various manual and digital means. The original drawings from Zook look like this:

Beneath The Skin Workbook 5

(Yeah, I know that "Beneath the Skin" is being interpreted somewhat literally!)
I wanted to render the drawings in metal and decided to press-form the heart in copper, which could then be patinated, and cast the skull in fine silver, which would not patinate. The background will be made from a copper-gold alloy, Shaku-do, which can be patinated to a rich violet-black. Other details will be in other Shibu-ichi type metals. While this is a vast departure from my more usual style, I will still be incorporating gemstones where possible.

Initially, I tried to make the heart and skull as purely digital models, but my main software package is Rhino and the "organic" modelling tools in that are not particularly good. A crash-course in Blender also told me that this was not the way to go! The solution?

Beneath The Skin (WIP) 16

I modelled them in Polymer Clay!
Then baked them and put them into my 3D scanner to create the digital model:

Beneath The Skin (WIP) 17

This digital model can then be manipulated and ultimately milled out in a milling machine.

Beneath The Skin (WIP) 18
Beneath The Skin (WIP) 19
Beneath The Skin (WIP) 20

The heart is being cut from acrylic as a conforming die for press-forming. The skulls are being milled in wax for casting:

Beneath The Skin (WIP) 21

The main purpose of the show is to look at ways of using traditional Japanese alloys and the patination thereof, so I started work on the test samples for the pieces today. I'm trying to achieve that deep cherry-red which appears on many Japanese metal items, which I know to be on a pure copper surface. I managed a muddy reddish-brown!

Beneath The Skin (WIP) 22

Beneath The Skin (WIP) 23

Beneath The Skin (WIP) 24

In the above samples, the copper has been heated in Niiro solution for 1 hour. The first two pieces are samples to be left as is; the subsequent pieces will be treated further in various ways. Sample 1 (left) is heated in plain Niiro; sample 2 (right) is heated in slightly acidified Niiro with tannin - I was trying to emulate an umeboshi plum as I couldn't get to the Japanese supermarket! The second one definitely has a richer colour.