My studio buddy thinks that my blast cabinet looks like something out of Dr Who. I’d like to disagree; it has an interesting colour scheme of shiny white and matte blue, which, while delectable looking on a cupcake, would never have made it onto tv (the shiny bit would have, I’m aware, given the many lens-flare moments I remember from some of the older series.) The thing does have, however, a clumsy un-ergonomic-ness, and rather 1970’s pre-aerodynamic-design bulk. Not to mention the above hose air hose is conspicuously connected to a regulator which is acting more as a pressure gauge, since the adjustment knob does not actually turn.

OK, so she seems to have a point. Of all the blast machines I auditioned, I get one that’s part tardis


Next week sees the opening of Recycle, an exhibition being curated by Penny Peckham and taking place at Synergy Gallery in Northcote, from the 3rd til the 14th of March 2010. As per the title, the works for this show are made from predominantly recycled materials, and will include a small selection of my recycled objects. It looks to be an interesting group of people involved too, if you go by this article.  Synergy Gallery is located at 253 High St, Northcote.

lost and found

I mentioned late last year that I was sending a piece to Texas for the Refined: Back to Basics exhibition. Today I was sent a link to a bunch of images taken of the opening, which took place on the 30th of January. I scrolled through the set looking for my work, and after my first pass I hadn’t seen it, which had me worried. Luckily a second look netted one shot with my work in.

Two things; in the picture a lovely Texan seems to be kneeling to worship my piece; and given that I have since managed to find at least one more image that has my work in, the little Staggered 8 Point Star really does seem dwarfed by the other works. Food for thought.

part b

Here in Melbourne we have a small group of jewellers who like to get together once monthly to chat. We usually meet up at an exhibition (jewellery related, when possible) after which we head for a beverage, to continue the discussion. Nothing complicated.

If you’re interested in joining us, Sunday the 21st of Feb will be our next gathering. We’ll be at the Wisdom of the Mountain show at the NGV international from 2pm. We’ll meet outside the main entrance. If you’re not sure what we look like, look out for me in a large blue hat (with red and white stitching). I’ll be wearing the above brooch too, for ease of identification.

got gas?

My Grandma, a Canadian born Australian, always said when you’d finally mastered something under her tuition “now you’re cookin with gas.” I’ve latterly suspected it was something to do with advertising, and it was a phrase she picked up ‘back home’. (Turns out when you google it, that’s pretty much what they say.)

So I had to send a picture to my Dad today to tell him I was finally ‘cookin with gas’ in my own studio. I’d like to think that for anyone who has set up their own studio, the moment the torch is fully operational is the one where you think you’re finally getting somewhere. Or maybe it’s just me. It’s ok, I’m used to being alone on these things… To me being able to solder today felt like an achievement.

In a similar vein, I also remember a sticker on the wall of my tech drawing classroom in high school. It said “HAND A GIRL A SPANNER”. Today I bought one, to set up my gas.

What else can I say? I’m living the dream!

Categorized as grant, studio

studio setup

Yep, I’m still at it. Don’t be fooled people, setting up a studio is bloody hard work. It combines the physical and mental drain of moving house, with the decision challenging complexity of buying a mobile phone – before the days of the iphone (and if you found that relatively easy, try thinking of having to buy one for your mum, or better yet, your grandma) and the stamina necessary to run a marathon. Or at least a half marathon.

Monday I bought torches from AJS and Koodak. I could have got a cheaper gas only number from Koodak, but I liked the quality of the AJS setup. From Koodak I got a good little microtorch – based on the design of the famous Smith Little Torch but slightly cheaper. If you’re after the brand, Tool World downstairs (all this went on in the Century Building in the city) had Smith’s for pretty cheap, but I like shopping at Koodak, and got a good deal.

Tuesday I bought gasses. BOC South Melbourne got me fitted out with regulators for oxygen and LNG, as well as a rental bottle of oxygen and a 9kg swap and go bottle of LNG. Apparently jewellers don’t buy 9kg bottles, they like to get 4kg ones instead. Having hefted our BBQ gas bottle all the way to Richmond for a refill recently (we got the BBQ there, so we get a free fifth refill, and meanwhile ms neck injury 2005 has to escort the empties) I figured more pain but less often would suit me fine.

Mr BOC had a great sense of humour, and couldn’t believe that little me would want a whole 9kg bottle of gas as well as all the rest of his expensive equipment, so I think he went easy on me and discounted the oxygen regulator. In all I think I got a pretty good deal, which was confirmed by Vito back at the Monash studio yesterday who showed me an alternative price from a supplier who could provide the torches and regulators as a package. Had I but known… Anyway, all I know is that the package mob are in Preston if you ever want to seek them out.

Now I’m arranging delivery of the most complex item, the blasted sand-blaster. I went with Pan Abrasives as they had their PB250ES model on ‘sale’. Since signing up for that one I’ve been investigating air compressors, finally settling on the Peerless P14. It’s made in Bendigo, and is on a par price wise with the others (Ublast again had a Royce contender, and there was Machinery House’s Super 12) but it’s a slight bit better in terms of L/min free air delivery. Yeah, I know a lot more about compressed air than I ever thought I’d need to. The Peerless unit will likely be light on for what I need, but it’s the biggest you can get to run on 10Amp power.

I am perilously close to being able to solder something, I bought plastic containers for storing pickle, but forgot the chemical itself, as well as bricks/a mat to protect the workbench. (I had one, but it got busted in a move.) So I’ll be schlepping back into the city sometime to arrange the last bits. Meanwhile, I’ve been checking out how to actually set up the torches, and have come across a good (on the face of it), safety aware, description. Of course, I never remember to check Oppi Untracht’s books, so I have just found some more good advice in Jewelry Concepts and Technology, P409 + 410. (From here on in to be known as Oppi’s Bible).

Yessir, I’m pooped. And in this last week I’ve sometimes found myself questioning if it’s all worth it. But I’ve come so far, and I’m so close to being able to get to work…

drawing a blank

I know, how many puns can I wedge into my posts on blanking? How long is a blank…?

When describing blankers earlier, I never mentioned how they actually operate. Once you have cut out the blanker, you have to turn it up side down and pull the middle of the blank (rather than the outer frame section) towards you, in order for there to be space to insert your metal. Using the desired metal, that has been rolled (unrolled stock is too soft and might just get stuck rather than shear cleanly, this part was missed in my previous tuition and yes, it makes a difference), you sandwich it in the opening you created in the blanker.
Once the metal is sitting snugly between the two leaves of the steel, you pop the whole thing (with inside portion of the blanker facing up) onto a press. Then squish it! The press crunches down on the metal and shears it, hopefully cleanly. We used a fly press, but in a class I did back at Curtin the hydraulic press was preferred – which is what Helen says she uses in her studio. She also rigged up a pretty good system to press with a large vice, involving two thick (3-4mm) sheets of steel and some gaffa tape.

Day 5: pieces

So, this is where I got to at the end of day 5. The top work was my work in progress when we downed tools at 4:30pm, so it’s lacking a pin and catch (and also hidden is that the middle piece isn’t soldered on… yet.) The other two are wearable, and in fact the bottom one I was wearing at the pub afterward, despite its soldering-induced softness making it still a little too flexible to withstand wear unscathed.

They lack finishing – I’d like to blacken them and highlight the texture on them. They were all roll printed before blanking, and I sand blasted the middle one (mostly to harden it), so it would be interesting to see how each piece reacts to the colouring.

As a way to speedily prepare metal for work, blanking process has a bit fat tick. Its other strength is as a process for playing with design ideas in metal. My usual process is drawing based, with which I play with combinations of lines and forms in AutoCad. The benefit of this (that is, the blanking) process is that you could take a line, or a form, and stamp it directly into metal, and play with it in actual tactile pieces, rather than with the simpler (and two dimensional) representations of such pieces.

Day 4: let the jewellery commence

Today the discovery period ended and our ranging band of experimentalists, like jumping salmon, switched streams. We battened down to become a concentrated group of studious studio jewellers. Work was slowly evolving around and within each of the mounds of blanks that had previously been left to accumulate on every desk. In every hand, jewellery was becoming.

Once again, the effort was concentrated, and incredibly tiring.

Day 3: Blankety …

Today we got down to bid-nez. I made a couple more blankers, and a whole lot of blanks got cut. And re-cut. Working straight in metal with immediate results is so different to my practice, and really seductive.

I’m a big fan of repeat patterns, (to which my third blank attests) so the whole idea of being able to punch out a bunch of pieces exactly the same really appeals. Of course it does.

Now I just gotta find a way to use ’em.