Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Quiet Talk With the Looking-Glass, Part Two.

Welcome back!

Now I set about working out a stand on which to mount the mirror piece so it can be removed at will. 

A fragment of a c.1960s/70s electric chandelier is screwed into an arrangement I like. I then pick out one of a quartet of vintage wooden coasters made by some hobbyist long ago who was teaching him/herself to carve. I've had these for years and have wanted to employ one for a long time. Perfect to use one here.


I fabricate steel clips to attach the coaster to a copper sheet backing. Two homemade brass turned rods are soldered to the plate and fed through the coaster. These rods poke through holes in the scissor handles - and the antique screw and peg will support the angle of the mirror when at rest.

I'm delighted with how it's coming along.

Then Fate steps in, as it often does. :)

The stand is knocked off my bench and, being poor quality cast metal, shatters into three pieces. Though I'm crestfallen, I look down without a sound (curse or otherwise) and put the pieces back on my bench to sit with tomorrow.

I have been doing this long enough to know that mistakes - hard turns - result in work that is far better than originally envisioned.

Papering the stand with mid-19th-century engraving tissue.

Then a wire armature to coil the length of the arm, and papered again.

More paper collaged. Now drying time will allow the wire to rust into the paper and create color and texture.

As it dries I turn my attention to finishing the back of the mirror.

Gorgeous mid-17th-century paper from Paris becomes the final collage on the mirror back. A few elements are layered in after this image is taken, and the piece is complete.

Please come view the finished artwork on my website here.

For purchasing information, visit my online shop here.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

A Quiet Talk With the Looking-Glass, Part One.

Nice to be back in the saddle, showing new work in progress. 

So much has gone down in the last few years here in Studio Stuffsmith. My found-object work went largely quiet for a few years while I learned a totally unrelated skill - capmaking. That intensive period gave birth to The Well Dressed Head, my online shop of early 20th-century cloth reproduction headwear and accessories. It has been thrilling to learn a new trade, and a sideline business that can share space with my art practice. It has also allowed me to step back from the mixed-media making to allow new inspiration to build and grow.

Now it is my real pleasure to walk you into my new sculptural piece.

The piece was started in March of this year in Halls Gap, Victoria during the world premiere of my new 'Object Lessons: Adventures in Assemblage' workshop. The mirror was removed from a turn-of-the-20th-century 'pyralin ivory' hand mirror. The silver was selectively removed and a collage was assembled on it.

This also resulted in locking down the work's title. The piece stayed like this until June, when it was brought halfway around the world to Mineral Point, Wisconsin, where it got a small inset lensed portal below the mirror.

With that small addition, A Quiet Talk returned with me to Sydney and waited patiently in the studio.

November sees it take center stage on my bench. The next step changes the piece significantly. 

I am off and running before I have a chance to grab my camera and document. Such is the creative spark. Early 20th-century steel scissors are riveted in place between the handle and a several-hundred-year-old piece of hardware (thumb-latch?) found amongst metal-detector fiinds in the UK. I cut and insert 18th-century book covers to fill the handles.

Next, for the bottom of the handle area, I choose a late-19th-century wooden organ stop handle, removing the pyralin-ivory text ('Stop'd Diapasm Pedal')from the front with a mind to using it on the back of the handle. I've drilled the cavity out substantially to create a larger chamber, and affix steel wire loops to help tie it down.

 Getting ready to rivet it in place.

Now the knob is tied to notches I made in the scissor blades and early 19th-century imagery from my recent workshop trip in Paris is decided upon.

Now I set about anchoring the scissor assembly from rotating on the handle. Steel wire will work well here and create a more complex silhouette.

 Much physically stronger and brings the disparate elements together visually.

Eye pins are made from fine steel wire to make anchor-points for the book cover scissor handles, as well as to peg the book-board in place so they don't get knocked out.

You can see the hole drilled in the bottom edge of the handle here, which will stabilize the book-board.

 Waxed-linen thread will be worked all through these loops.

Tying in progress. Also note the object in the center-rear. This is an extraordinary 17th-century Czech crystal bead.

The chamber is finished in the organ stop knob, finishing the front of the mirror. But before I give attention to the rear, it's time for me to dream up a stand to let the object rise off the ground.

Stay tuned for part 2.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A New Piece, in-progress, Part 2.

Apologies for the long delay in posting the finish of this neckpiece, it caught me just before a teaching trip to the US and time got away! Let's pick it up where we left off last time.

With the spoon lashed firmly in place inside the mold, I start working on other areas. I'd like to trap a bead behind the spiralled wire here, so I tuck the spirals out of the way so I can make a recessed area at the base of the handle.

Drilled and waiting.

On to getting some paper onto the structure. I'd like to encase the metal in some beautiful distressed paper. This is about as lovely a distressing as possible - a vintage Japanese book that is laced with borer holes and tracks.

Each spread reveals a new and exhilarating Rorschach of spontaneous design.


The silhouette is coaxed out...

...and applied.

Another piece is used for the back as well. Now to let it dry so that rust will work its way into the paper.

Set aside to dry overnight, and rust appearing.

Now I'm ready to squirrel out a title for the forming piece. Into my library of titles I go. This is always a great part of the process, where a certain title will ring true to the fledgling piece - the next found object to join the crew.


Because so much paper is already shrouding the piece, I decide instead to etch it and make a metal plate to mount. The lettering is hand-engraved into the ground and then etched and now sawn out.

The wire tails I'd left long before are perfect as attachment devices for the title plate.

Now I can snip them down and form them to the plate.

Hooked into place, this allows a little bit of movement to the plate, which I like.

I turn my focus to the broad end of the spoon handle. I'm going to bend it around front to allow the lovely hallmarks to read, but I'd like to cut a window away to suspend a small object.

The shape drawn.

And cut.

A wire fitting will mount into the holes and create a hanging loop in the top center.

A gorgeous little Victorian boot button takes the place of prominence.

Ready to install.

And set in place.

The chain/cord is all that remains now. I used some square steel-wire chain I made for a previous piece and joined it to leather to complete the piece.

Which you can view, at long last, HERE.

Or, if you happen to be in Providence, Rhode Island you can see it in person for the next few days (until the  19th of June), as it's in the tail end of an exhibition I have a handful of works in - more info here.

Thanks for bearing with my tardiness!