Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Diary of an Antiquary, Part 3

Welcome back. This third post in the in-progress series of the making of The Diary of an Antiquary begins with the construction of the chain structure for the hinged box, that by this point I had decided would house a handmade book. My plan was to make it worn very low, at or below the waist, to recall the girdle books from centuries back, albeit in a very different form. Although at this stage the book had yet to be made (I'd cross THAT bridge...) I did envision that the book would be removeable from the box, but chained to it, and so married to the holding structure.

In imagining the chain for this piece, I began to mull over different materials than I was used to working with for this purpose. I'm not sure what got me thinking about wood, but soon I was readying to try whittling a 'whimsy' - the age-old practice of carving shapes in wood that was often mastered by sailors on their long voyages. I have a few antique examples - both are cages that contain balls that move inside them, carved from a single piece of wood. So I began by choosing a length of wood that would lay over the shoulder and neck (I wanted the piece to be worn not like a necklace but over the shoulder like a handbag). This first group of images shows the links being created from a strip of maple. I didn't photograph the wood before I began cutting, but it was a rectangular block that I then rabbeted out along its length as shown.

The links are now roughed out in size.

Removing wood from the interiors of the links.

A big moment is when the first link comes free...

...and can be shaped.

Working along the length, shaping them as I go.

The links ready to be painted.

A short video of the aftermath.

Painting the chain to harmonize with the box.

Next came another part of the chain - which would be straight bars, with decoration turned into them - to hang along the length. Here the brass segments have been hardened and textured and are ready to be sized and turned.

Cutting large steel jump-rings to use as the bulk of the chain.

The long links finished and ready to integrate with the steel chain.

Wood, brass and steel rubbing elbows.

Getting the length established, I snap myself in the mirror with the piece on.

Then I find a much more attractive model (in-house, of course!).

At this point it occurred to me that I would like to have the box mounted on a stand, so it could be elegantly displayed when not worn (because of the design thus far, it wasn't able to stand upright on its own).

As a base, I settled on an antique Indian candle-holder of cast brass and cut it apart.

One of the very few solder joins in this piece being prepared.

Fabricating little posts to protrude from the bottom of the box, to straddle the bar of the stand.

The posts installed on the box.

The stand completed (the horizontal bar is wrapped in 1920's linen thread, which I'll use much more of later).

Small 'claws' grip the posts on both sides of the box...

...and the posts, seen from the back here, keep the piece stable.

Now there were absolutely no more excuses for pushing the book until later - it was time to tackle it. The home was ready for its occupant.

So I plunged nose-down into Keith Smith's excellent book 'Smith's Sewing Single Sheets' and got my head together to try another first for me - fabricating and binding a book.

Stay tuned for the next and final post, which will see the piece to completion.



  1. OH MY GOSH that chain is incredible. You continually outdo yourself Mr Lobue!

  2. OMG. You are amazing. This piece is outstanding. Some people grow as they age and I believe your talent is expanding too.

    Also, I think you should be on Televison. NOt only for your art, but you are such an interesting person, you would find a huge audience of Keith LoBue lovers..

    By the way, did you get some crud on your partner's shirt while she was modeling? I'm sorry I noticed.... Hope she was able to get it out.

    Cannot wait for you to come back to Valley Ridge ARt Studio next year and teach us some more!

  3. That is the most beautiful thing. The sum of so many exquisite parts. I was yours at the wooden chain - and then it just got better and better. It is a real treat to see how you get from a germ of an idea to the finished thing.

  4. WOW what can I say your a man of many talents,I admire your work so much

  5. Brilliant!

    Thanks for the walk-through.

  6. I am at a loss for words - brilliant Keith.

  7. Keith.....I am 'gobsmacked'!!! Your talent, creativity and craftspersonship is absolutely amazing!! I await with baited breath for your final installation!!

  8. Is there no end to your talent? The wooden chain is amazing, it must have taken you days. Thanks so much for sharing your journey, I really looking forward to the grand finale.

  9. Wow, that chain is unbelievable! My jaw is on my keyboard... :)

  10. Yes the wood chain - Keith you are officially a madman.

  11. One look at your work and anyone can see that you are brilliant. But letting people in on the creative process EVEN THE PARTS THAT DON'T WORK and cause you to look for something better, that is true confidence. It is the honesty and authenticity of the journey that brings this 'stuff' well beyond irresistible into the sublime.

  12. truely amazing work, thanks so much for sharing.

  13. Of course, long STEEL bars and WOOD chain. Naturally not the other way around. No wouldn't dream of it the easy way. Keith you are so beyond amazing that we need a new word for amazing.