Thursday, February 19, 2015

A new piece, in-progress - Part 1.

Welcome back to Studio Stuffsmith!

A flurry of activity has kept the lights burning late recently. Let's walk together through one of them.

Many times, while demonstrating a particular technique in a classroom or on an instructional video, I will begin something that warrants further pursuit later on. 

So it was that during the filming of my 'Steeling Beauty: Chains, Clasps and Forms in Steel Wire' workshop (airring online for the last time in June of this year) I enveloped this tin baking mold with a steel wire harness.

 These stills from the workshop video show it getting started.

As I moved on to the next stage of filming, the piece was put in my in-progress box, where it sat until now. Time to take it and see it through.

I choose this Victorian spoon as the back to the tin, creating a chamber that can be viewed through the portal I've cut.

As they are wildly different shapes, I'll design connections that will try to allow them to snug up  in the best way possible. I decide to lash them together with twine. Holes are drilled around the periphery of the spoon.

Corresponding holes are drilled into the mold, and then a panel of mica is cut to seal the window of the piece.

The front as it stands now. The rust is encouraged, as I have been planning on covering the metal in such a way as to take advantage of that rust.

Now to work the interior of the spoon.

 Oak acorn caps from my recent journey to Canberra will be used in the chamber.

A terrific hand-tinted engraving from the 1840's will furnish me with the imagery needed.

Readying to go into the caps.

Air-drying and waiting their turn in the assembly.

The incredible engraved detail of the skirt will work perfectly inside the bowl of the spoon.

Now a rather complex multi-day resin pour begins, where there will be several planes of resin pools.

The addition of leaf-insect eggshells and sea-urchin spines nestle around the acorn caps, completing the tableau to be glimpsed inside. This will be the last time I see it unfettered, as once the piece is closed up, the viewer will only see hints of the interior. 

Allowing the contents to extend beyond the viewers' range allows for the slow unfurling of details on repeated viewings. I love that.

A beautiful high-tensile 1900's twine is worked around the piece, lashing the two assemblies permanently together.

About to close the clamshell, as it were.

Slowly working my way around the mold, knotting the twine into place.

Much to do yet! Join me next time as we bring it all together.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Poetry in Motion is now on DVD!

I just couldn't be prouder to release my new DVD workshop set, POETRY IN MOTION: Making Marvelous Mobiles. Forget what you think you know about mobiles - this is a thrilling creative journey that will have you flying, literally.

It can be purchased here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Story of a Shadow, in progress.

During the taping of my latest online workshop entitled 'Getting Attached: Rivets Revealed' (to be held again next July, for those who want to join me then), I began this piece in order to demonstrate some creative riveting techniques on film. What resulted is The Story of a Shadow.

I begin the journey with a beautiful century-old Japanese book, to be treated as the vessel and starting point.

After sitting with it for a while, I spot an item in a 'Stuff' box that has been loitering for over two decades in my studio, so patiently waiting its turn. A silver trophy plaque.

Out comes the saw to make it fit the book.

Now the book is hollowed out to make a chamber.

The interior is built with the windows of the plaque in mind...

......and the book is clamped into a block.

The top of a dried pitcher from one of my carnivorous pitcher plants will be removed and used inside the book structure. The delicate ribs are captivating.

Washers are cut out of heavy brass sheet to make rivets that will secure the book shut.

One washer cut and shaped.

As much of this piece was made while being filmed, the body of the piece is completed without further still images.

The chain I decide on is a new one for me, made from heavy square steel wire. It's challenging to work with this wire because of its heavy gauge and the fact that it is half-hardened off the roll.

Hand-polished and ready to mount to the pendant.

Please visit my website to view the finished neckpiece here.

I'll be back in the studio soon for the next work!




Friday, February 21, 2014

The Watcher, In Progress.

One of my New Year's resolutions has been to dig deep into my trove of treasures, and to pull out those things I've coveted but held back for something 'special.' Turning 50 in January has brought home what I knew intuitively all along:

It's all special.

So out comes one such piece ready for transforming:

An 1890's swivel locket by Pinchbeck. I'm determined to use the original ambrotype portrait within as part of the final piece.

Ambrotypes are emulsion on glass, and must be backed with black for the image to be seen as a positive.


Checking out the swivel action.

The missing side, lost to time.


Out comes the ambrotype... This one is indeed unique as it was hand-colored beautifully and subtly.


The black paint is scratched off the back of the glass, thereby making all parts of the image that would be black become transparent.

Leaving a bit of black behind the face to keep it readable from the front.


My title for the piece is now chosen and I fit it to the oval.


As these brooches were used as mourning pieces, usually enclosing hair of a loved one, I decide to plait a waxed-linen border around the image.



Turning my attention to the empty side, I settle on a spectacular gilt book cover from the early 1800's as my palette.


Cut and edge-painted, I then burrow two recesses to hold jewels.


Gorgeous opals peer out.


A resin lens is prepared and attached.


A brilliantly colored lithograph lends me the face to be seen under the lens.


Almost ready to attach.


First the back must be prepared, as I'll be able to see through the ambrotype to this side of the book cover. I choose some exquisite robe detailing from an 1830 engraving. This texture will reveal itself as the jacket detail of the photo portrait once it's in place.


To secure the glass ambrotype in place, I use more of the thick engraving paper as a 'washer' - this was a practice actually used during the period.


I'll have a shallow space for material to move behind the photo image. I choose to fill this space with tiny tourmalines and mustard seeds.


The edges of the book cover, which are beautifully dense cardboard, are hammered hard to round off the edges, giving the panel a finished quality I'm delighted with.


The panels all in place, the last step is to embellish the exterior frame of the brooch. I choose more of the crimson waxed linen thread, and it imbues the piece with a crude hand-hewn aura.

Now, if you'll saunter over and view the finished piece here.

Or, if you're feeling your oats, you can see how much it costs to wear it yourself here.

Thank you so much for looking and for your feedback below!