Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dr. Seuss, I Owe You...

The Supercollider piece is progressing apace. I managed to cast the central torus element today:

Supercollider - WIP - 22

I got really fed-up cleaning it! Overall, I'm pretty pleased with this, though it still presents the problem of how I am going to get all the investment plaster out of the inside of the hollow bits! I also managed to get some of the links for the chain made today:

Supercollider - WIP - 23

Supercollider - WIP - 24

And the "emitter" from which the secondary pendant, the needle pieces I posted previously, will descend:

Supercollider - WIP - 21

This caused one of the students to comment that I had obviously enjoyed Dr. Seuss when I was younger. As Dingo will tell you, I know "Green Eggs and Ham" off by heart and can (and do) recite it when required (or even not required).
Here is where I finished the day:

Supercollider - WIP - 26

Sunday, November 27, 2011

working backwards (sustainably)

On Friday, I was sent to the most annoying meeting I've ever been forced to go to. It was given by a moron, an idiot who thought that it was enough to pompously declaim his unvalidated, ill-researched opinions on things relating to "sustainability", yet was hypocritical enough to brag about his "frequent visits to Greece" and his "two weeks in the Maldives", presumably all involving flights. Well, it is nice he can afford these things by selling his services as an advisor on sustainability. The talk itself was dross - I wouldn't have accepted his Powerpoint as a presentation from one of my first-year students - and he succeeded in not only being rude and insulting to his audience personally - for not having the intelligence to understand the basics of sustainability, believe it or not - but was made assumptions about them - suggesting that we all spent our evenings watching celebrities on television - additionally, he was foully heterosexist, sexist and actually even managed to be racist...
You might well be wondering why I have used this space to vent about something so utterly irrelevant. Well, this particular cloud had a silver lining: I actually managed to use the time (almost one and a half hours) to prepare some drawings to make sense of my vague ideas for the Supercollider piece, channelling my fizzing anger into my sketchbook, rather than at the fat slob in a cheap suit who was haranguing us, thus being creative and keeping me in gainful employment!

Supercollider - WIP - 14

Here you can see the "torus" structure from which the "particles" will explode. For years, I've had some sections of rusted spiral steel from a car which I found on Southwold beach and which is some sort of shield for a brake or other cable. It is really hard to work with as it is tough and springy and won't really anneal:

Supercollider - WIP - 7

Previously, I used this material to make some earrings which were inspired by the location at which I found it:

Rock Pool - 3

This time, I thought it perfect for creating a sci-fi/steampunk hybrid feel to the piece by using it inside sections of the torus, returning, again to a MUCH older piece, one of my very first explorations in found-object jewellery from the late 1990s, "Scary Baby":

The Scary Baby
(So old, I don't even have a decent photograph of it!)

As you can see, some of the elements of this piece have transferred directly to the drawings for Supercollider. Originally, I was going to make the torus by hand, but as I can't reliably bend thick tubing, I decided to make it by modelling the basic form in Rhino and milling it out:

Supercollider - WIP (Rhino Model) - 17

As this is too big for our milling machines, I had to find a way to make it in sections. Remembering "Airfix" kits from when I was younger, I split the torus into sections with lugs and grooves to make it easy to reassemble accurately:

Airfix kit

(Photograph by "unloveablesteve" on Flickr, used under CC BY-NC-SA License 2.0)

Supercollider - WIP (Rhino Model) - 16

As with the "particle" elements, the steel sections of this element are going to be cast-in-place, this time using the spiral wire from above:

Supercollider - WIP - 10

Supercollider - WIP - 13

Ready to cast.
I also managed to get started on some of the other sections of the chain and for attaching to the torus:

Supercollider - WIP - 9

Supercollider - WIP - 12

I spotted work by one of my ex-students, Ishbel Watson, in a gallery window this weekend, which is excellent!


A week of getting excellent mail, too! I got this from Dingo:

Dingo Writes...

And Janos sent me a stamp and a seal which he carved for me from Cararra Marble:

Justified Sinner Cararra Marble Stamps 1

I'll post more of this when I get some stamping ink and sealing wax.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

back to blogging!

Having now had a couple of weeks where a combination of loads of things on my plate and general late-autumn lethargy have conspired to prevent me from making any blog entries, I'm back to it after a week in which I saw an opera featuring a depressed singing egg and created a seriously dangerous structure.

Having seen the Call for Entries on the SNAG Website for the "Hot Under The Collar" show, part of SNAG Conference next year, I decided to create something specifically for it, rather than trawl out one of my old pieces which have been seen before. Since making the Spoon Skull Cross, I have been thinking a lot about the process of casting steel objects in place, something that has been sitting subliminally in my mind since studying Chris Knight's fantastical chalice earlier this year:

Beneath The Skin Exhibition - 7

The Spoon Skull Cross has used sewing-machine needles cast in place at the back and I wanted to create a piece which makes use of this process as the primary focus, rather than as a decorative element. Consequently, I came up with the idea of putting these all over the surface of a sphere:

Vicious Revisited - WIP 1

This Rhino model was then milled in wax. Unfortunately, I only have access to a 4-axis mill and so had to make the ball in sections which slot together:

Vicious Revisited - WIP 2

The needles have a groove ground into the shank of each one and this is filled with soft beeswax; the needle is then inserted into the wax model shown above:

Vicious Revisited - WIP 4

Supercollider 4

This is then invested and cast:

Supercollider - WIP - First Casting

I've been working on a variety of sizes of these structures:

Little Supercollider

Second Supercollider - 3

These structures return me to a form with which I was obsessed a few years ago, that of the mace:

Mace Pendant 2

This is a piece I made about twelve years ago and kind of marks my movement away from minimalism and into a more truthful - for me - interest in complexity and decoration. (The photograph above actually shows a remake from about eight years ago, the original piece being used to remake this. It is ostensibly the same - I didn't remake the chain but did remake the ball, catch and the spikes to lighten the whole thing and refine the spike shape. The ball is almost exactly the same size as a table-tennis ball, from which is was moulded!)

Other than that, I've been making some new items for the Etsy shop, as well as swapping round some pieces there for some pieces returned from a gallery:

Kinetic Skull Ring 5 More Corroded Nut Rings - 11
More Corroded Nut Rings - 12 Pendant In Green 2

As to the opera featuring a singing egg, well, it was a brilliant collaboration between theatre company "Magnetic North", contemporary music ensemble "The Red Note Ensemble", composer David Fennessy and artist David Shrigley and featured not only a singing egg but puppet vegetables and a psychotic butcher... A pantomime for adults, a proper opera - sung through with arias, duets, trios, recitative and ensemble pieces - and I really, really hope it goes on tour. It would be a great shame if it were only seen on the three nights it ran for.

Pass The Spoon 1

Pass The Spoon 3

No photographs of the production as I really don't like to take photographs while things are underway, nor do I like other people doing so.

I also made a welcome return to the Citizen's Theatre two weeks ago, a place I have overlooked for some time now but unjustifiably so; much of my understanding of theatre was born of attending performances at this place when I was at school and their direction has always been interesting and defiantly unpretentious.


My friend, Mark Kydd, was in a play there, "Spain", which was funny and compelling and he, of course, was superb in it. Part of what made the experience so enjoyable was that he had worked on the play a lot with the author - the piece was written specially for him and for the space - and there was a certain pleasure to be had in spotting the elements of his life, the thinly-disguised references to people we both know, within the text. A gruelling, physical and comic performance lasting just over an hour, I regret going on the last night so that I couldn't tell anyone else to go and see it.

Spain, Set

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Belated Hallowe'en and a word from Fran and Anna

I wanted to have this piece finished for Hallowe'en but things got in the way, so here is my Spoon Skull Cross, a bit of fun made from iron wire from a building site in Brighton, a rusted bolt, some flat ground tool steel from a derelict workshop, a silver souvenir teaspoon, silver, copper, rubies, sapphire, garnets and carnelian:

Spoon Skull Cross 10

Spoon Skull Cross 9

This was quite interesting to make as I cast the needles in place, having cut grooves in them and then filled the grooves with soft wax. These were then pushed into a wax model which I had milled to fit. The whole thing was invested and cast and the needles hold firmly in place, surviving barrel-polishing and manual polishing. After quenching the flask to remove the plaster, I tempered the needles to stop them being brittle.

Spoon Skull Cross 8

The front of the cross is properly inlaid with copper, using undercuts and a hammer:

Spoon Skull Cross - WIP 4

Spoon Skull Cross - WIP 5

 I've also finally posted the Call for Entries to the Crafthaus exhibition, "Scotland the What?", which ought to be fun to put together. I'm curating it with my good friend Jeff Zimmer, a glass artist based in Scotland but who originally came here from the USA.

Jings! Crivvens! Help ma boab!!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

online exhibits

As a bit of a precursor to an online exhibition I'm organising on Crafthaus about contemporary craft in Scotland, glass-artist Jeff Zimmer, an American who is representing Scotland at SOFA, has just posted images of the works he is exhibiting there. Hauntingly beautiful.

His exhibit is reviewed on The Glass Quarterly blog. Jeff writes of her review that he is pleased that she understood the subject matter but, "I think her title is a bit strong, as 'indictment' implies having reached a conclusion/judgement.  What I'm really saying is that we all whitewash our histories.  We need to in order to live with ourselves.  We create the 'pretty' version of our life, decisions and histories so we can continue to view ourselves as honourable, noble, honest, even 'good.'  I hope it will serve more as a focus for meditation on those themes than an 'indictment.'  That's why the pieces are so 'quiet' - to aid a slower, more considered thought process."
These are stunning pieces and really need to be seen to appreciate their subtlety and scale.

My own work featured in a less glamorous but no less appreciated online exhibition of work by makers in Scotland on Etsy, curated by Cate Fitt.

2000 Years Of Mental Torture 5

More about the Crafthaus exhibition in the next few days.