Tuesday, May 22, 2012

REFLECTIONS, In-Progress - Part Two.

Welcome back. On to part two of our journey.

Now that I've finished the lens assembly that would occupy one side of the piece, attention turns now to creating points of connection for a cord or chain. I bypass my first thought (the easy solution!) of wrapping wire around the 'handle' part of the compact and decide instead to drill and tube-rivet anchor points in the hollow body of the compact itself.

 The tubes inserted, yet to be flared out.

The tube-rivets finished. I like the placement.

 The piece is patinated at this point to bring it all together thus far.

 A fast hunch leads to this rather drastic move. I do like the lipstick mechanism, no doubt, but it nags me and I can see far more lyrical things up there, so off it's cut.

Several hours of fossicking through Studio Stuffsmith yields this gem: a 19th-century clay pipe bowl fragment from the Thames. It's a perfect crown.

The tall side, opposite the opening, is hollowed for an image.

As the clay is porous and fragile, its soaked in acrylic media to seal and strengthen it.

Yep. This step has kicked the piece to life for me. Wired solidly in place.

Now my focus turns to the covered chamber that will be the beating heart of the piece. I can now take stock of the elements I've readied for this side of the neckpiece. On the left, the opaque glass portrait of Maureen Kistle and on the right, the same portrait fused onto clear antique glass.

 This clear image reads as a negative...

...until it is backed in black, when it becomes readable.

The pattern on the hinged lid is lovely and I want it to remain - however I want to have the empty circle in the center have some focal weight, so the radial pattern pulls the eye inward. I choose to create a bezel in which to mount a ruby. First a hole is drilled.

 Now the surface is protected...

...and raised in a dapping block.

A washer of thin brass seals in the back of the stone. The opaque glass portrait can be seen faintly through the bottom panel. That is the area where the resin lens assembly will go (chronicled in last posting).

 Now precious cargo comes aboard - a lock of Maureen's baby hair.

 Laid in over black velvet, it will then be pinioned in place by the clear glass portrait. Note the small hole in the center of the velvet to allow light through the ruby.

The portraits now affixed in place and a chain of steel and brass attached.

At this stage I tiptoe through the titles and settle on the name of the piece. Obvious reference to both noun and verb, literal and ruminative. REFLECTIONS it is.

Next week, the final installment as the finished work (and a sister piece!) coalesces. I hope you'll join me!



Sunday, May 13, 2012

REFLECTIONS, In-Progress - Part One.

A few times a year I find myself immersed in commissioned work. Some of these commissions involve some precious object of the client's to be used in a piece of wearable artwork.

 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...


Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Story Without End, In-Progress - Part Three

Here we are to see The Story Without End, um.... End.

 Small brass bails are made to attach the clay pipe to the back of the piece.

A bail, patinated and attached to a leather cord.

Threaded through the hole in the copper name plate...


...and capped with the second. This will leave some options to attach on the outside loops. It's also a very gentle and supple way to attach a fairly fragile material - in this case, the clay pipe piece seen in last installment.

 The large slotted bolt is too harsh and sterile for the piece, and I decide to alter it.

Ready to work on it.

 To a grinder first.
 Then shaped with files...
 ..and on to the sandpaper.

 Polished and ready to replace.

I'll be looking to patina all the bright metalwork, but at this point I'm pleased with the revision.

 A beautiful little pearl is chosen to hang inside the steel blade, so wire is worked to make this happen.

 The pearl is far too large, so a tiny pearl will take its place...

 I love how the pearl rests on two points of metal below it, echoing the open circle below it.

 Now I'm hunting for an eye engraving to mount in the blade recess I've made, and this stunning steel engraving is perfect.

It needs to be soaked off of a scrapbook page, where it has been glued for 150 years.

In place. To those who noticed a small hole in the recessed area where the engraving lays now, a miniscule opal is mounted to peer out from the back side of the blade.

 Moving on now to the chamber in the heart of the piece. First, a panel of 16th-century book paper is carefully laid in place.

 Now a spray of sea urchin spines are attached, along with a tiny starfish, both of which will not be immediately viewable when looking into the lens, but around the periphery, offering furtive glimpses rather than a quick read.

 The inside of the lens housing is first painted off-white, to allow maximum light inside.

Now with paper affixed, the amount of light surfaces will negate the need for direct frontal lighting to make the interior visible.

 At long last, I can attach the lens assembly to the front of the neckpiece.

 Now I'll find an element to hang from the bottom loops by the name plate.

 Beautiful old copper-plated steel chain with a shoe button works well here.

 Really bothered by the tangle of chain on the upper part of the pendant - so the solution comes after fiddling with it for a while - the little chains are dropped down alongside the handle, rather than drooping upward. The balance immediately rights itself visually, and frames the whole piece.
Now I can patinate the metal and take beauty shots - we're done.

Come see it looking its Sunday Best:

And for all of the above plus purchasing information:

Thanks for taking the trip with me.  Next week I'll be showing a major commission taking shape - one that is emotionally loaded and quite an experience.