A friend I've known for several years had been talking with me for much of that time about commissioning me to produce a piece in remembrance of her mother, who passed away over a decade ago. At the beginning of this year, it came to fruition and I began putting my mind to it. How very special to be making a piece for a friend, to be entrusted with precious keepsakes to creatively employ.
Felicity's mother, Maureen Kistle, had been Miss Australia in 1955. I was supplied with some of Maureen's baby hair, a small clover charm that she frequently wore and a phenomenal portrait of her, likely from her Miss Australia days. This was my generative image, ripe with possibility.
This is also the first chance to employ my newly-learned resin and moldmaking skills (this piece formed alongside the oyster piece seen previously).
So I begin by creating a patterned 'lens' that would cover the front of whatever I'd create. Into this clear matrix I embed some of the baby hair and two small rubies.
The resin disc complete.
Now I begin the search for a suitable structure for the piece. This is often the way things will run for me - I will create something intuitively, not having a context for it to live yet. As I'm about to discover, this element will sit this piece out.
I had just bought this lovely 1950's compact case while teaching in Queensland - it quickly becomes the vehicle to work with. It immediately is apparent that I can't use the resin window I'd just made - the diameter is too large for the compact - so it is laid aside; I have intentions to use it on something else for Felicity; maybe a brooch? The rubies, and more importantly the hair, make this an element crucial not to merely toss aside. I'll come back to that later.
I study the compact. There are two mirrored surfaces. The powder compartment opens on this side ...
...and the other side has a beveled mirror, so the whole piece behaves like a miniature hand mirror.
The handle of the compact houses a lipstick, which is removed by nudging the little tab upward.
The original lipstick is still inside.
It's rank and rancid. Needs to go.
Gooey and stinky work. Not my favorite part of the day.
During this time, I've been at my kiln, firing Maureen's image onto opaque ivory-colored glass, in the diameter I need to insert in the compact. I've got an extra in case of any problems (this second image will come in handy, as we'll see).
Cutting the glass to size.
I begin removing the mirror backing from one of the mirrors, then decide not to use that glass in this piece.
It'll get used in something else, no doubt.
Next step is to burn off the compact's coating that has kept the metal from tarnishing all these years.
I can examine it now that is has cooled. The big decision I make at this stage is to have the piece be truly double-sided - able to be worn either way. The side opposite the hinged lid previously held a mirror facing out. I will create a lens fitting to seal the open side.
I find a doorknob escutcheon plate, just the right diameter, which I will cast. This will enable me to use a copy of the plate - the original is quite heavy, and would max the weight out at this early stage.
The plate as I find it.
The center ring is removed.
Ready to pour the mold.
The mold ready to make a casting.
The next piece to cast is this turn-of-the-20th-century gutta-percha binocular lens hood, which I do. LOVE the texture on this object.
Lastly, I create several lenses, one of which will be incorporated into the assembly.
Six molds a-making...
Right out of the mold - the center has been drilled so I can remove the interior with the jewelers saw. The resin is heavily loaded with bronze powder - it will respond to a polish just like a piece of metal.
The three elements - escutcheon, binocular hood, lens - assembled, polished - and ready to use.
Time to work on modifying the compact. Check back next week...