Thursday, July 31, 2008

Progress: Mould Making

A few photos to show you how the mould-making is going. I finished the clay accordian form and here I'm building the surrounds, ready to pour the plaster. There's clay on the outside if the boards to stop leaks, and also between the form and the boards on the inside so the edges will be neat. That's the worst part in my opinion, as it's so fiddly to make it really smooth.

Here the form is fully surrounded. You'll notice I stuffed up slightly - I didn't put the boards together properly, so the last "wall" was too small for my boards. Never mind, I just used clay. In retrospect that might have worked better for all four sides because it was much easier to push the wall onto the form and make a neat join. I have seen clay walls collapse mid-pour....resulting in rapidly setting plaster all over the I usually go for the boards. I'll have to give this more thought if I end up doing more of these.

Below: the plaster leaks, YAY!

And the mould fresh out of the surrounds. You can see the end where the clay wall was - it's a bit wonky and has sharp edges, but they can be smoothed out. You can probably also see how untidy the sides are - that's where I used extra clay to join onto the boards. Tomorrow I'll do some cleaning up and take another picture. Hopefully it'll be a lot smoother and ready to go!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Clay Concertina Spine

If you've been wondering about the outcome of the firing I mentioned in my last post, it was only so so. It turned out that there were eight pages without cracking, but they weren't my "best" ones, so I decided to make some more and then make my selection.

While they were drying I made a start on the second porcelain book I want to make. It will be a flag book, and the whole idea is to play with the idea of the moving flags. If you're not sure what a flag book looks like, my book "Like Weather" is an example. By making the entire book from porcelain, with no hinges or joints of any material at all, the flags will be immobile.

I have to confess that except when absolutely necessary, I avoid mould making and casting my work for one simple reason. I don't enjoy the process. But there are times when it really is the best way to make a form, and the concertina spine in a flag book is one of those times. Joining all those 1 inch wide slabs and getting the angles just right, would be a very tedious process and highly inclined to cracking and inaccuracy. By making a mould, there is the opportunity to re-use it in the future, to make more concertina spines if this one turns out well.

First step is making the desired shape in clay. Here's a sketch from my visual diary to show you what I am setting out to do.
I made a rectangular block of clay and I am carving out the V-shapes at the angles shown. I've made a couple of jigs at the correct angles from old credit cards to help. Here's a photo of my progress so far.

Surprise! Surprise! I am actually enjoying this part of the process! This is as far as I made it because unfortunately late last week I had a migraine. It is taking me a couple of days to get my brain functioning again, but hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to finish shaping the clay.

This week I've also done some work on a couple of my trip photos. I've posted the results on my flickr photostream, if you are interested.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Back in the Studio

This week is my first back in the studio. Things are serious as this semester is my absolute last chance to complete the masters. Despite the pressure I'm trying to enjoy myself, and I am looking forward to some dedicated time making.

I'm also trying to keep a bit of balance - I have set aside 1 day each week to spend with my husband, as well as a weekly visit to my mother plus 1 other social "contact" each week. I am aiming for 3 solid days of working, (of course, when I say day, I mean "CFS day" which is highly variable, but for me is a maximum of 4 hours work, starting somewhere between 11am and 2pm) and the remaining day is for whatever seems most pressing that week - it might be physical rest, it might be housework or cooking, or maybe more time in the studio.

I am hoping that the time with my husband and friends will de-stress me enough to allow me to keep this up. I guess I will know how I am going in a few weeks. I know 3 days working doesn't look that much, but I know my limits, and I know that the pressure can get to me pretty quickly. I start to feel exhausted and then the migraines start. Will it be enough? I honestly don't know, but I know I'll have to be disciplined and intelligent in my approach, as well as having a good dose of luck!

Anyway, I was pretty happy with the progress I made this week. I tidied up the clay pages you saw here, and loaded the kiln for the bisque firing. For those who aren't familiar with firing, the bisque is the first firing, to around 1000deg C. You take the temperature up slowly (about 90deg C per hour) until you have passed the critical point of 573 deg, where crystal inversion occurs. After that you can take the temperature up more quickly. Once the firing has reached temperature, you turn the kiln off and go away. You have to let it cool naturally until it reaches a temperature where you can handle the pieces in your bare hands. Any over enthusiasm in opening the kiln before it has cooled, may result in your precious pieces cracking at this stage.

Well, I was patient. I was very patient. But still the firing has not been completely successful. Quite a lot of the pages have cracked, and I'm not sure why. Fortunately I made nearly 3 times as many as I need, but even so I'm not sure that I have enough that I am happy to use. I had heard that Imperial Porcelain is inclined to crack, but I presumed this was in the forming. As I had few problems at that stage, I thought I was in the clear, but perhaps it is a problem in firing.
If there is anyone reading who has any suggestions, I would be pleased to hear from you!

For now I'm off to bed, and tomorrow I'll take another look at the slabs and see if there are enough....I only need 8, so keep your fingers crossed for me.....

In the meantime, here are a couple of my photos from the trip. The first one was taken in the garden at Borthwnog Hall and the second is at Avesbury Circle in England. The yellow is a field of rapeseed behind the girl.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Craft Revolution

Marisa Molin: From the series Symbiosis

Last week-end I went to see "Craft Revolution" at QUT Art Museum. From the website:

"Craft Revolution explores the idea that craft is radical and revolutionary, through an exhibition and online discussion. Rejecting the dominant culture of consumption and the loss of community, craft is a means of creation and engagement that is slow, purposeful and often cooperative. It is this rejection of the dominant consumptive culture and the return to historic or traditional practices that makes craft revolutionary."

The show is only quite small, I found it disappointingly so. It includes some traditional craft works as well as more contemporary pieces. Personally, I'm not really sure they really added much, although the message was clear: your craft doesn't have to be highly conceptual in order to be radical. Still, it was works with a conceptual base that I found most inspiring.

Marisa Molin's works (above) were a case in point. Contemporary jewelry makers are currently among the most radical craftspersons, in my opinion. Working with the relationship of adornment to the body opens up so many avenues. I was especially pleased to see the actual works by Molin, in addition to the photos depicting them in relation to the body.

Another work that really appealed to me was a gorgeous dress by Tallulah Filloy which brought together aspects of traditional Maori costume with a skirt made from a beautiful red bathmat. Yes , I said bathmat. And yes, if it was in my size, I'd wear it!"Our Father Who Art in Heaven", 2008 by Ann-Maree Hanna

But my favourite work was this one by Ann-Maree Hanna. Unfortunately I couldn't find a picture of it as it is installed for this show. It is quite breathtaking in it's beauty and profound in it's message. The work is made from embroidery thread and is a scrolled version of the Lord's Prayer written in arabic. The calligraphic lines of the script rendered in gold are suspended from one end and gently fall to the floor, where the rest of the prayer remains on its giant bobbin. The lighting is used to great effect to cast the shadow of the words onto the wall. The bringing together of Christianity with the language of the troubled middle east is such a beautiful sight, I'd recommend this exhibition for this piece alone.

You can read and see more about this show on the QUT website (where I found the photos, and sorry, I don't have permission) and on the associated blog.