black and night

from the Bettina Speckner workshop I did last year.

The centre work alters recycled objects, while the other two work with large black beads which I took from my small collection of large beads (I had three in black, three in red and three in white, all acquired in Albany, WA, while I was on assignment down there for a few days, years ago.) These were bought specifically to wear to a 20’s theme party held by my littlest sister.

The necklace recycled an umbrella handle (from an umbrella I ‘borrowed’ from my mum/dad, and which later collapsed in a Melbourne storm – hey, it was originally from London, so don’t talk to me about a Perth umbrella not living up to a Melbourne shower…) and an electrical power cord. I sliced everything (yup, one trick pony…) and then reconstructed the parts.

I flippantly dismiss my slicing as my ‘one trick’, but in this case I was looking at my practice from a different angle, and created some particularly self-reflecting work. For whatever reason, I ended up working in reverse. I usually design a bunch of shapes, and then slice them. For this I sliced a bunch of objects, and then designed with them.

I was reminded of this project this morning, when I opened a parcel from Jasmine Matus for the Box Project. It’s going to be an interesting experiment, whichever way I slice it.

export exhertions

Today I went to a Design Victoria mini-symposium, or what they called a Tools of the Export Trade Masterclass. I found out about it on the Australian Design Unit blog. Owing to the recent shenanigans that ensued when getting works to international exhibitions (thanks Eyjafjallajokull for making it even more stressful), I was (and am) keen to ‘skill-up’ in this area. The marketing insights and the tips from professionals managed to outweigh the the speakers who intoned some very irrelevant information for a small business such as mine. In fact, after today, I’m leaning towards using the term ‘micro business’ when referring to my art practice.

While the info on offer was all well intentioned, and possibly even some of it useful to me; like some of the nuances of the ‘dark arts’ of marketing, and more grants info available from the Victorian Government and Austrade, it’s not likely come in handy when my projected output won’t reach the marketing budget needed to trigger their minimum grant amount.

Ahh well, back to sweating over the details on Australia Post forms.

out of Perth and back to earth

An explanation of my title: I’m now back in Melbourne, and am going back (all of 2.5 weeks) to what I learned in Perth at the workshop presented by Elizabeth Turrell, which was, in essence, about how to apply sand to metal.

So, what’s to know about earth then? Well, very kindly, Inari put her hand up to make an order to Thompson Enamel in the US on behalf of a few fellow Victorians. She is currently studying at RMIT and keen to keep using this process in her works for examination, so was quick off the mark with her order, which I have been told arrived yesterday. (Yup, a Sunday…)

For my order I went over to Thompson’s website where I downloaded their comprehensive catalogue (on the main page) and set about trying to find the enamels we had used during the workshop. In the end I ordered (in 8oz dry powdered form) from the section – Liquid Form Enamel, Water Base, Base Coats:
BC-1070 Medium fusing white
BC-969A Low fusing clear transparent
BC-303L Medium fusing clear transparent (not used in the workshop, I just added this one to be a completist)
and in the Liquid Form Enamel Colors:
533 White
930 Chinese Red
772 Black

Being in the possession of a sand blaster (too many posts to note sorry, do a search if you’re interested) I will be testing these enamels (once I have mixed them with water and got them paint-brush ready) on mild steel and stainless steel (why sandblast? Elizabeth suggests blasting the surface to help the enamel stick). And with any luck on some recycled pre-enameled metals as well. One of our group has already approached her local white goods retailer and been given a bounty of fridge doors to attack/beautify.

Now all I need is a kiln. Coincidentally, TurboNerd sent me a link to this little sucker yesterday. It’s maybe a little small (dimensionally and in possible heat output) for my current needs, and definitely lacking in a thermometer, but it’s perfect for my current price range…

For the moment I think I’ll attempt flame-enameling instead.

enamel workshop

Images of samples created during the Elizabeth Turrell workshop, conducted at Manifesto Glass in West Perth, April 13, 14 and 15, 2010.

Top image – enamel samples day 1 and 2. Bottom image – final day

During the workshop we were learned to use Tompsons Wet Process enamel, with the main difference in application between this and regular jewellery enamel is that you can paint it directly onto the metal surface, much like a clay slip. In fact, the mainly white above was half clay, half dissolved enamel solution. This once fired becomes a very matte surface, on which you can draw with graphite pencil, as I did in that piece, after which I fired over it a thin layer of transparent enamel, and then fired a transparent layer, painted over the star/flower shape, with the glass granules embedded into it. These were applied while the enamel was still wet.

Elizabeth had on display many different sands and oxides, which were laid directly onto a layer of pre-fired enamel  and re-fired. Not all would stick, (especially if you piled it on) but a thin layer would be attached to the metal after re-firing.  As you can tell I had the most fun with the black, red, white and transparent enamels, with the use of glass grit for texture. This I brought with me, as it’s the media I use in my sandblaster.

She also showed us stamping and transfers, the former using the liquid of the stamp-pad as a glue to hold a thin layer of sprinkled jewellery enamel or oxide (or sandblast media) to be quickly fired afterward. A felt tip pen can be used to the same effect (that’s how I got lines of white and clear grit onto the bottom right sample.) The transfers (top left sample on bottom image; dots on the LHS) were applied pretty much in the same way as a fake tattoo, but the burning out process of the plastic transfer medium was a little more complicated. You can’t afford to let it burn out too quick, as going up in smoke would shift the carefully-placed image.

It was an incredible workshop; each artist involved produced amazing and different works. Everyone was so happy to be there and keen to be experimenting; all the while testing the process, and their skills. Being involved with someone who is such a master of her medium – in the actual mechanics of the material as well as its historical and present-day applications in both the jewelelry and industrial worlds, was truly inspirational. To be honest I’m not impressed with my works, as I feel now that I should have pushed myself harder. Yet having said that, I know that what I did I will actually use in my own studio, so from that perspective my samples are all very successful. And it got me to draw in my work, which is something that I only ever do in a very mediated fashion. It’s nice to see some hand drawings, though it may not happen again for a while.

As I left yesterday I realised that I was actually sad that it was over.

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.

Day 2: fill in the blanks

We’re making blanking tools with Helen. This is where you make a tool that is used for cutting multiples of a shape in sheet metal. To do this you saw through a sheet of sprung steel while it is held against an angled bench pin. The angle is necessary so as to enable the metal that is later sandwiched between the two surfaces to be sheared easily.

Using this method you can make the punch and die in the same stroke of the saw blade, as both are part of a single sheet of sprung steel.

And in keeping with the title, there’s no image today as I forgot to take a snap of the tools, called ‘blankers’, as well as the blanks – the cut out pieces of metal that were the ultimate result of todays graft. Tomorrow, for sure.

Master Class Workshop

This week sees me getting schooled. By Helen Britton no less. Last year I did the Bettina Speckner workshop (again at RMIT), which was a really great experience, and during which I made many new friends. This year will be different as I’m more knowledgeable about the artist and her works (yeah, I’ll admit it, I’m a fan), I know some of the people going, and because I’m now familiar with the studios and format. Last year was great in part because it was all so unexpected – I had no clue what I was getting in for, so I just drank it all in as it bubbled along.

This year it’s hard not to have some expectations.

The first formal schooling that I did that had anything to do with research jewellery (or artist jewellery, if you prefer that term)  involved Helen, back in 2004. (Well, outside of high school that is, which was arguably not in the ‘research jewellery’ arena  – and thanks LSHS for the jewellery workshop and for employing Sarah Elson to teach art when I was in year 12.)

In April of that year I attended a mini-symposium, organised by FORM, to present the four jewellery artists who were in Perth topping up their local inspiration for the exhibition to follow –  Home Ground. Helen and Carlier Makigawa on the one bill (and lets not forget the aforementioned Sarah and Bronwyn Goss) speaking about jewellery was very inspirational. And for me, an interior designer at the time, taking in all this amazing-ness was intertwined with the knowledge that they all started off in Perth… Incredible!

During my studies that followed I even read the MA thesis that Helen completed at Curtin Uni.

I’m going to try not to get all night-before-Christmas, but, in the words of the long-since-departed Big Kev, I’m excited!