Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Liver problems, an aborted bisque and then success!

I wish I could tell you that the gap between posts was a sign of intense productivity, but unfortunately it isn't. I have picked up an adenovirus, which is supposed to be a minor infection, often not even noticed by the healthy. It's supposed to last about a week but I've been sick for several weeks now and over a fortnight ago I started feeling quite nauseous whenever I eat, as well as much more tired than usual, light-headed, and even throwing up occasionally.

When I went to the doctor he told me that all my liver tests were abnormal, due to the adenovirus. I've had to severely limit the foods I eat and cannot tolerate any fat at all, not the slightest spray of olive oil or a scrape of butter on my toast, without becoming nauseous again. Ginger tea has become my saviour.

I finally managed to get all the pieces for the flag book ready for their first firing and loaded them in the kiln last Friday. I started it up to "candle" overnight, ready to complete the firing on Saturday. I awoke in the early hours of Saturday with a moderate headache, but attempted to continue with the firing. I thought I could just rest and go to the garage every hour to check on the kiln's progress. But by 9am the headache had become a migraine and I was throwing up....I forgot about the kiln for a while, I must confess, but around 10.30 I sent my lovely husband to turn it off. I couldn't walk to the toilet unassisted, so there was no way I could continue with the firing.

I'm not sure what temp the kiln reached before it was switched off, maybe about 500-600 degrees. Yesterday I had a look at the pieces and they definitely had altered in character, but they didn't have that bone dry, almost chalky look of bisque-ware. Today I had another attempt and this time we made it to 1000 deg. Next step....lots of sanding. It's only 8 weeks till assessment so I have to try to push on, but it's very slow at present.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Forming the concertina spine

This week I finally managed to get back to work on the flag book. You may remember this post where I showed you how I made the mould for the concertina spine.

To form the clay spine, I roll out a slab of clay. When it's nearly as thin as I want I lie some plastic sandwich wrap over the top and press it onto the clay surface. I can then use the plastic to lift the slab and flip it over, so I can apply plastic to the other side. Having the plastic as a support allows me to handle to clay slab a lot more easily, roughly even, and I can roll the slab much more thinly without it cracking.

When the slab is the desired thickness, I lie it onto the mould and begin to stretch the clay into the angles of the mould.

Below you can see I leave the plastic on the clay at this stage
because it lets me shape it quite firmly without cracking.

Next I cut the clay down to the desired size and then continue shaping the angles and smoothing the clay surface. When I'm happy with the result, I cover the slab loosley with plastic to slow down the drying process and leave the clay to dry and firm up. When it reaches "leatherhard", it will hold its shape and can be removed from the mould. The clay is still quite wet at this stage and can be carved and smoothed gently. It is important to remove the concertina from the mould at this stage because as the clay dries it shrinks, and if left on the mould it will eventually crack.

Below you can see the finished concertina spine sitting on a foam
cushion. Now I leave it to dry thoroughly before the bisque firing.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Installation - wip

At the end of August I made a short trip to Melbourne to present at a tutorial and to see my supervisor at RMIT Uni. The trip went well, and it was great to have a space to set up my installation work and get a much better feel for it.

Although I have s p a c e in my workshop, it is definitely a garage, and it does seem to suck the emotion out of work, and make it hard for me to tell whether things are working as they should. A huge white room like Marion Borgelt's studio would be great, but even a small blankish space like the one in this video would be fine.

This is the work I presented for critique (sorry it's a bit dark). Or I should say, I tried to present this work... I set the work up the day before the tut in order to try out a few different spaces and arrangements, and discuss it with my supervisor. Unfortunately the next morning when I arrived with the class and the course coordinator we discovered that a somewhat overzealous cleaner had "tidied" away the crucial shards from the floor! Ah well! It seems that what consitutes art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder....

Thankfully I took the time the day before to document the work. The photos, together with what was left of the work enabled people to give me some valuable feedback. There is a bit of tweeking to do, but generally the work went down well and I'll be able to include it in my masters.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Finally...Self (States of Change)

I'm really sorry to have kept my regular readers in suspense for soooooooooooo long about the outcome of my last firing. Thankfully all went well and I set about binding the pages. Well, sort of. Once I had the pages in my hands, I wasn't sure about the original binding I had planned.

Originally I thought I would make an accordian book, using a simple technique explained by Julie Leonard in the Penland Book of Handmade Books. This would involve gluing book fabric to form hinges between the porcelain pages. Somehow seeing the pages made me feel something a little more elaborate might be better, so I did some more research and selected another technique by Julie Leonard.

Below you can see that the technique is a variant of the same method. The pages are framed in windows, allowing both the front and the back to be visible, and then hinged in much the same way.

Images from: Penland Book of Handmade Books, p.217
Published by Lark Books, 2004.
All rights remain with them

Still this did not feel quite right. It dawned on me that I was enjoying playing with the pages and putting them together in different ways. This also opens up the meaning of the series, and allows for the images to be read as both disintegration and reconstruction. I think this reading is a lot more hopeful, and also realistic. I don't see life as a linear path, but much more of a spiralling journey, where we retrace ground, spend time ruminating and re-hashing, and slowly move on.

You can see the full range of pages on my Flickr page, here.