Monday, April 23, 2012

The Story Without End, In-Progress - Part Two

Welcome back!

'The Story Without End', not surprisingly, continues...

 The sawn-off segment of brass eyepiece is replicated in metal-impregnated resin, using techniques graciously shared over two intensive January days by master moldmaker Jim Hood, to whom I owe tremendous praise and thanks. The last three months have subsequently been spent in my studio learning and honing these techniques.

Using the casting allows me to use an object like this that was previously too heavy to be incorporated into something wearable. It will even allow me to alter the scale of the object, an idea that boggles my mind with possibilities. 

So this is where the front of the pendant stands now...

The lens is removed so I can continue my work on the body.

A spot is recessed in which to mount an extraordinarily beautiful blue chalcedony, which has a very slight translucence.

 The chalcedony in place, with numerals hazily glimpsed underneath.

 Now attention turns to the rear of the pendant.

A gift last week of several Victorian harmonium knobs provides a fantastic element to occupy the opening in back, really changing my earlier thoughts about what would happen back there. Thanks to Elizabeth and Jude for this treasure!

The knob is extremely deep - way too deep to use without alteration, as it would stick into the chest when worn. I want to be very thoughtful about the side-on silhouette, so first the knob is reduced in length.

Next, the ivory plate is removed and the wood hollowed out dramatically. It has a resemblance to a eucalyptus nut now, and after popping out the dowel that attached the knob originally to the organ, there is a lovely hole in the back that I can put to good use.

Now that I've gotten the knob to this stage, I need to go back and widen the hole on the pendant to allow it to sit farther into the piece. 

After a good 45 minutes of alteration, the knob sits where I need it to. 

The knob is now provisionally glued into place and the interior is painted the same color as the oyster knife handle. 

The pendent seen from the side. I'm really enjoying the odd asymmetrical shape of this piece as it's progressed.

Now to work on the interior of the knob.

 A large, faceted labradorite bead is pressure fit, then affixed to the back of the knob. The plan at this stage is to have a lot of small things that will roll around inside the knob and some sort of clear panel in front. I look around for a lens or something similar to work here. 

After picking out some very tiny glass balls and snippets of antique paper to occupy the chamber, it doesn't take long before I realize that a mica panel is in order. I don't want to use glue to affix the panel on the front, however. 

 So I set about making a tiny thin groove that will allow me to snap a disc of mica into place over the top.

 I initially cut a piece of quite clear mica.

 I opt, instead, for a very striated piece, where you can see the black deposits between the layers of the mineral. The disc is cut just larger than the circular opening, and because mica is quite flexible, it should snap into place when I gently push down on it. 


At this stage, as I've mentioned, the knob itself has been glued into place. I never like to have glue holding anything in a structural way, so I find a method  to mechanically connect the knob.

Miniscule copper tacks fit the bill. Mike Meador, are you smiling up there?

 Pre-drilling the holes for the tacks.

Inserted and patinated. 

Next I move to just below the knob. The copper title plate, as you may have noticed, has holes on either side that have been wrapped around the piece. The holes protrude over the recessed area on the back of the handle. These holes will do the double duty of permanently keeping the plate on the piece, and attaching an object below the knob.

 An extended hunt through my materials yields the perfect object – a fragment of 19th-century clay pipe. It's the perfect width to span the recessed area below the knob.

It's also, I realize, a perfect place to sign my name on the piece. 

Engraved, painted, and rubbed back, the fragment is ready to mount. 

Next week, the last finishing touches to complete the piece. Stay tuned!



Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Story Without End, In-Progress - Part One.

Great to be back here. Let's begin. After spending the morning at an excellent antique store in Toowoomba, I choose to launch with this beautifully worn and patinated oyster shucking knife. The egg-shaped girth of the handle is great for the utility of the tool, but won't serve me in its new incarnation. What that diameter WILL give me, however, are options - options on what and how to carve and drill into all that wood.

 A slice of handle is removed, to give me a 'frontal' area. I am also preparing to remove a large cylinder of wood from the middle. Here, the first small hole is drilled in the interior of my big circle, to give the jewelers saw a helping hand in sawing such a thick bit of timber.

  Then a smaller area is carved out to make a rear view.

I have selected a balance point to run a tube-rivet horizontally through the handle. At this point I imagine leather going through that tubing, though I'm leaving it open to change as the piece develops.

Now a bold moment: I drill the steel blade after testing to make sure it's not too hard. Steel that is this old and has been exposed to salt water over many years is quite brittle, so this is a do-or-die point.

Now I can spend some time sawing through the blade to remove much of the steel. Due to the brass finger-guard shape, many saw blades are expended as I work my way carefully around.

The whole object becomes much lighter as so much metal is removed. I do have plans to bring the cut-out hunk of steel back into the piece, though.

De-blading the blade.

The interior piece is shaped and will hang suspended inside the form.

Now to the handle of the knife. I am given a small flared lens assembly from a microscope, which is what I sized the large hole in the handle to. This is provisionally friction-fit in place while I go about designing the title plate. 'The Story Without End.' is a title I've had in my files for over 20 years, and etching it onto the copper plate brings me back to early days in my studio; to the endless hours poring through old books finding interesting snippets of text.

Note here also - a profound change in the design of the piece. The tube-riveted area was no longer a proper balance point for the piece, which I had figured might become the case. Two beautiful knurled old equipment bolts work their way right through the copper tubing to become an anchor point for some decorative steel chain. The brass finger guard has been pierced on the left and right and will now become the attachment point for the pendant to be worn. 

I've decided to have the title plate recessed into the front of the piece, so I go about carving out the space for it to occupy.

Next week we'll see the piece come together as the chain is finished and the detail in the body of the piece - front and back - is worked out.



The New Year: Happy, yes. New, not.

Hard to believe it's been a quarter year since posting. 

Good Heavens. 

The reasons for this, however lame, are valid. I have been away teaching workshops in Queensland (see below) and Victoria; I was tutored by a master moldmaker in the labyrinthine ways of casting and molding; I've been frantically productive in my own workshop honing my own experience in this area; I've been producing commissioned work, so I haven't been able to post in-progress images of the work lest it be seen by the client before it was ready; I've been preparing to film my new online workshop which premieres in July: STEELING BEAUTY: Forms, Chains & Clasps in Steel Wire.

So there.

All that said, I miss posting here very sorely. So, beginning tomorrow, I'll be posting my first in-progress shots of the year - starting with - what else? - an oyster-shucking knife!