Monday, January 31, 2011

john barry

Very sorry to hear of the death of John Barry, one of my favourite composers. Whether it be Bond themes, The John Barry Seven or his orchestral suites, he was a masterful orchestrator who also managed to be "pop" without playing to the gallery. A sad loss to British music.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

lobster quadrille, completed

I finally finished The Lobster Quadrille, a piece I started in the spring of last year and which I never got round to setting and finishing. It was the work of a few hours' to complete it.

The Lobster Quadrille 22

The Lobster Quadrille 25

The ceramic "faux coral" is by Lisa Stevens - who also made the figure of the Cold Genius for my other recent piece - and the jet carvings are by the marvellous Kev Dixon in Whitby. The main metalwork is corroded iron lobster pot, found on the beach and the whole piece is set with pearls, black tourmaline, black spinel, black onyx and transparent quartz.


The Lobster Quadrille 23

The Lobster Quadrille 28

The Lobster Quadrille 27

The Lobster Quadrille 24

The hook is based on an ivory fishing-hook in the Whitby Museum (which is an essential visit when in Whitby).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

the black and the white

I finished the Cold Genius!
Everything: now to send it off to Goldsmiths' Hall for their craft and design competition.

Cold Genius 2

The box is made from an old wooden box which held a precision lathe. I rubbed it down, waxed it and lined it.

Cold Genius 3

The plaque on the lid reads:

"Ye Cold Genius
 "Being ane most sincere tribute to
 "Mr Henry Purcell, Composer
 "Mr Dauvit Alexander, Jewell'r"

Cold Genius 5

The piece in the box, which is lined with icy-white velvet!

Cold Genius 7

The piece out of the box, with chain attached.

Cold Genius 8

Another view, close-up. You can see the figure of the Cold Genius through the quartz prism in his "Ice Cave".

Cold Genius 9

The main lid open, showing the "scrim", Act II!

Cold Genius 10

Diamond snowflakes and large aquamarine crystal visible through the scrim.

Cold Genius 11

Act III: the finger of Cupid points down to awake the Cold Genius from his slumber. The finger is a copy of a Victorian bog-oak brooch, which I scanned with a 3d Scanner and then milled out from water-buffalo bone.

Cold Genius 13

The Cold Genius removed to be worn as a brooch.

Cold Genius 15

Rear view, showing the engraving of the aria which inspired the whole piece and the catch mechanism which holds the brooch in place.

Although I have another major project to start ("Beneath The Skin"), I've not done the drawings for it yet, so had time today to get back to a piece which I began in the spring of 2010, "The Lobster Quadrille", a collar and matching earrings made from Whitby jet, porcelain "faux coral", gemstones and corroded lobster pot. Most of it was made but for some reason, I never got round to setting it, until today.

The Lobster Quadrille (WIP) 18

The main collar, showing the setting for the carved jet lobster, the porcelain faux coral (by Lisa Stevens), a black tourmaline crystal, quartz in various forms, pearls,  and black spinels. The very organic-looking metallic material is the corroded iron lobster pot, picked up on a beach in Dorset.

The Lobster Quadrille (WIP) 16

Earrings featuring black spinels, pearls, porcelain faux coral and two carved Whitby jet winkles. These are a very traditional form of jet carving from the town and were carved to commission by Kev Dixon in Whitby.

The Lobster Quadrille (WIP) 15

This is the jet lobster I bought from Kev about four years ago and never did anything with as I couldn't ever think on quite the right project.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Work continues on the Cold Genius piece and the main "theatre" is now finished, apart from polishing and patination. All the engraving is now done:

Cold Genius (WIP) 69

The ice-cave in which he lives, still to be enamelled. The ceramic figure will be visible through the quartz crystal prism.

Cold Genius (WIP) 70

The back is engraved with the text of the aria on which the piece is based:

"What power art thou, who from below
 "Hast made me rise unwillingly and slow
 "From beds of everlasting snow
 "See’st thou not how stiff and wondrous old
 "Far unfit to bear the bitter cold,
 "I can scarcely move or draw my breath
 "Let me, let me freeze again to death."

Friday, January 21, 2011

nearing completion

My current crazy obsession with the Cold Genius nears an end. Everything is stoneset and I've spent the last 2 hours engraving the inner lid. There is about another 2 hours to go, but I need a break!

Cold Genius (WIP) 67

Blue topaz, aquamarine, green quartz, clear quartz and enamel chips.

Cold Genius (WIP) 66

Cold Genius (WIP) 65

And here is the very unorthodox set-up for the engraving, the problem being that I had to engrave it after soldering everything in place...

Cold Genius (WIP) 68

Thursday, January 20, 2011

An exciting parcel arrived in my workshop today!
A whole mix of Japanese mokume alloys, such as Kuromi-do, Shaku-do and Shibu-Ichi:

Beneath The Skin (WIP) 12

I've been invited to make them into one or more pieces for a show in Sheffield as part of the Galvanize (sic) Sheffield festival of metalwork; my colleague Cóilín Ó Dubhghaill has been researching these alloys as a PhD thesis and the final part of his thesis is to produce an exhibition in which contemporary makers make use of his findings.

The exhibition is titled "Beneath The Skin" and I have commissioned Luciano Espindola to make a tattoo machine which I will then decorate and modify with these metals:

Beneath The Skin 11

The basic drawings for this machine have already been completed by a graffiti artist in America who goes by the name of Zook:

Beneath The Skin: Final Inks

I will work from this to create the machine modifications.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

more and more coldness...

The Cold Genius piece is starting to take a form now and I can see the end in sight. Which is just as well, really, as he has to be posted off late next week! I set and finished the brooch element today:

Cold Genius (WIP) 62

Cold Genius (WIP) 63

This is the main feature of the pendant and can be removed by unscrewing to be worn as a separate brooch.

The box is in its pre-polishing stage at the moment, with the lettering in place. I have still to engrave, enamel and set stones into it.

Cold Genius (WIP) 63

Cold Genius (WIP) 64

On a completely unrelated subject, everyone who knows me knows of my loathing of the Daily Mail newspaper but they have outdone themselves this time with an "article" about the Bristol woman murdered over the Christmas period, Joanna Yeates. If you can stomach reading this appalling item you might be forgiven for thinking that it was written by a somewhat spoiled moody teenager who thinks that nobody loves her and who has fabricated a mythical connection between the dead woman and herself in order to compensate for the pain she imagines she feels inside. Yet it was, in fact, written by a middle-aged, middle-class, presumably educated, woman, the contemptible Liz Jones, a woman who thought it was acceptable to go and try to recreate the last moments of Ms Yeates' life and then to write a bitchy analysis of her "lifestyle"...

Which begs the question, WHO THE FUCK IS LIZ JONES?
Alas, all her Wikipedia article says is that everyone hates her for writing this article!
Oh, and that she was born in Essex, which explains her foul obsessions with "labels" and social climbing, all too apparent in the piece. I did also find an article by her in which she says, "Now I know why I hate myself..." and goes on to explain, "I have never felt happy, not even for a moment."

Figures, really. Shame she has to project her unhappy life and miserable being onto the already horribly upset families of those affected by the murder she so glibly trivialised.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

More on the Saws

UPDATE: Comments from Lee Marshall, designer of the Knew Concept Saw.

I emailed Lee with some of the comments I've received on Ceafthaus, on Flickr and on here and he sent me back a very detailed and thoughtful reply which I quote here with permission.
Spares are available of course. It simply has not come up as yet, so I haven't crossed that bridge. I will send some spares to Tamizen so that she has them available as needed.

Threads....the typical nut for an 8-32 screw is .125 (3.2mm) thick. The thread engagement on the blade clamp is almost twice that! Also, the threads are roll-formed, not cut with a standard tap, which makes them even harder than the surrounding material. The fit is much closer than standard, so there is no "slop" in the threads, unlike the clamps on the usual saws out there.
You are paying a premium for my saws, and as part of the implied contract with you, I provide a top level product. That includes the thinking about such small things that you mention.

Springs....after some of the original saws went out, I was made aware that some springs flew off and got lost in the studio. This was typically caused by lack of familiarity with the saw. Since I developed it, I was familiar with it and I didn't see the problem. I now stake the top end of the spring to the tang, and this is no longer a problem.
He also said that in his opinion, the main advantages of these saws are the lightness and the absolute control they give you over the blade, comments with which I concur. They are also going to be bringing out a few new products soon, including a lever-tensioning saw and a saw which allows for angled cutting.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lots done

I managed to get a fair amount done today. Nothing too complex, hence the blog post here rather than as a point of technical discussion! The main box is finished and I fitted the inner "scrim" lid which hides the narrative of the contents:
Cold Genius (WIP) 53

Cold Genius (WIP) 52

Under the scrim will be a little scene from Purcell's opera, "King Arthur", showing the awakening of the Cold Genius:
Cold Genius (WIP) 49
The white metal is a piece of stove-enamelled steel from a 1960s fridge and the silver frame will hold a pointing hand carved from buffalo bone.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A few days ago, I made a blog post about my "Knew Concept" saw which Dingo's mum gave me for Christmas. There were a few people asking if it was actually very different from a standard iron saw. Well, having spent 6 hours with the 5" saw and (11 of) 8/0 blades cutting this:

Cold Genius 47

I can honestly say that it is WAY better than my old iron saws, which, as of today, are now in retirement.
Drawbacks: The blade takes longer to insert; the blade cannot be used once it has broken - on my iron saws, the frame can be shortened to take partial blades; it is quite difficult to insert the blade into a drilled hole and then tighten the saw, though I think that might be practice; the saw is considerably more expensive than a traditional saw.

Advantages: The saw is unbelievably light which means that there is no fatigue when cutting; there is no tendency for the back section to swing about (a problem with 5 and 8" iron saws) so cutting is more accurate; because the saw is rigid, blade snagging is minimised; cuts are considerably easier to start as blade judder is minimised by the rigidity too.

I am slightly concerned about the threads on all parts as they seem less robust than on my old saws and they look as if they could well wear out more easily if over-tightened or not regularly cleaned, but that remains to be seen.
Overall, a winner!

The Cold Genius piece has been somewhat slow today. I decided that I wanted a little window on the silver "scrim" (a second, inner lid on the box, photo above) so that the Cold Genius could teasingly be seen in part without opening the box. None of my stone suppliers had anything suitable to hand and so I cut down a quartz bead into a "lens" to make the window. It was done with a diamond bandsaw, a diamond abrasive wheel and various grades of micromesh abrasive:

Cold Genius 43

Cold Genius 44

Not much other work done today. I threaded the catch mechanism:

Cold Genius 46

Friday, January 07, 2011

theatre box

I have now almost finished the box which is the pendant element of "Cold Genius". As the inspiration for the piece was an aria from an opera, it was my intention to make it in the form of a theatre, which is what I think I've achieved...

Cold Genius (WIP) 42

Obviously, the steel rod in the top is a temporary solution. The pin which is used will be silver and will also hold the connectors for the chain:

Cold Genius (WIP) 39

The end of the pin will be set with a large cabochon blue topaz.
The box opening mechanism looks fairly simple, but it has taken me ages to work out exactly how I was going to do it:

Cold Genius (WIP) 37

It was important that the hinge was centred on the centre of gravity of the box and not the visual centre, which necessitated a stand-off hinge. I also wanted it to be completely concealed within the "proscenium arch" top. A lot of this was worked out in Rhino.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

post christmas and no blues

At last the festive season is behind me and I managed to get back to the bench today.
Dingo's mum gave me a new saw for Christmas, one of the "Knew Concepts" saws which is completely rigid. Although it is a bit fiddly to get blades into, it is an amazing tool: from the second I started to cut with it, I knew that I would not be going back to my old, springy iron frame. Because the frame is rigid the blade rarely catches in the way that we are used to with traditional frames.

My "Knew" Saw

I was thinking about this and wondered if this is the first major change to the jeweller's piercing saw since the middle-ages!

Piercing With My "Knew" Saw

"Cold Genius" is back on the bench again. I've done a load of work on the box section of the piece and today completed the major construction work on it:

Cold Genius (WIP) 36

Got home on Tuesday night to discover another bullying letter from TV Licensing. Despite not having owned a television for over 20 years, despite telling the licensing authorities this, despite 20 years of persistent harassment, despite being promised last time that I wouldn't be hassled again. These aggressive c*nts must think that by accusing me of lying and cheating and by threatening me with fines and intrusions into my home I will buy a license anyway, whether I have a television or not.

It strikes me as somewhat odd that a mere entertainment company should take such an approach when the DVLA don't accuse people without driving licenses of driving cars illegally; the police are not in the habit of breaking into the houses of people who don't have shotgun licenses on the grounds that they might have; customs and excise are not noted for sending threatening letters to people who don't have licenses to operate a still on the off-chance that they might be making whisky... you get the idea.

This latest bout of harassment took the form of a letter declaring that my details had been passed onto their enforcement officers and that I could expect a visit, a court appearance and a £1000 fine. Which is an odd thing to happen to someone who has not broken one single law but who is guilty of... well... not watching television.