Friday, 15 June 2018

Progress, Resistance, Chicken Troubles and Back to Some Kind of Normal

Well, the Open Studios thing has finally come to an end. On balance I don't really think it was worth the work and expense.It was nice to have people (not many though) come and see our work and make approving noises. And it was nice that I sold a few pieces. I suppose we have put ourselves on the map somewhat but the whole thing did take up too much of my time and head space really. . .

On the poly clay spike front, I have been trying them out as earrings with integral ear wires. Getting a  shape that I like and that I feel goes with the general design has been tricky.

Not something I've done before and as a non pierced eared male I have limited experience of the practical issues involved. I posted on FB for advice and received some useful feedback.

I adapted the ear wires as a consequence. And I also ordered some niobium for alternative ear wires as copper turns some people's earlobes green. It looks pretty much like oxidised copper, I have tried hammering it gently and found that it distresses nicely (in my view anyway). Not too much or the grey of the metal shows through the coating a bit too much. So it's all good.

The other area of progress has been the rustic, industrial, gothic, ancient modern/whatever pieces I have been making lately, using grungy wire mesh and/or recycled poly clay beads/upcycled electronic components. I was having the same issues/doubts over suitable ear wires for them as with the spikes, except for the choice of metal. I use titanium as it is hypo allergenic and a suitable grey colour. So far I have been concentrating on the wire + poly clay ones without added electronic bits, but I am getting my head round those too. I do seem to have been leaning towards black and white beads too, but there are colour ones in the offing too;-)

In both cases I have gone for a relatively standard ear wire shape, (much as I want to be original and oh so different. .) often with some sort of detail on the shank, such as a bead or a bit of wire wrap, as that seems to balance out the piece. I guess ear wires have evolved that way for a reason. I am still taking inspiration from the work of others so I imagine my designs will develop. We'll see.

Incidentally, the first pic in this post is of an experiment using earring posts instead of wires, looks promising too. Stay tuned. . . ;-)

I am going to try selling the integral ear wire spikes and the industrial/ancient earrings but am hitting quite a bit of internal resistance. Not sure why. I don't think it's fear that nobody will buy them, as I am ok with that. Maybe it's a feeling that I am making myself vulnerable by exposing my work to more knowledgable and potentially critical view ;-) But that is all about me rather than about real life. Maybe it's the step I am taking further down the road towards making jewellery rather than supplies that is intimidating me. And the fact that I will want to charge a decent amount for the grungy wire stuff as it is original and takes a fair bit of time to make.

Of course the other issue is that I am quite fond of them. I like referring to what I have made before when wrestling with something new.
When things sell, they are out of your life. Some things I have made and listed sold so quick I feel I hardly knew them ;-)
I shall try a FB group or two with them sometime soon though, internal resistance or no.

The smaller of our two chickens got broody again, so I shut her out of the chicken coop to attempt to dissuade her from sitting in there 24/7 getting progressively less healthy. Unfortunately, I forgot to open it up again before I went to bed. This has happened before with no ill effects but this time, come the morning there were no chickens and a small pile of discarded feathers in a corner of the orchard. Fox I reckon. Well, couldn't be anything else really. So I feel guilty ;-(
But life goes on. I will get couple of new chickens once we come back from holiday in July, and take better care of them I hope.
Oh well, onwards and upwards ;-)
Jon x

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Open Studios, Artist Statements and Letting Them Eat Cake. . .

Well, it's been a hectic few weeks. . . The Norfolk Open Studios weekend we had signed up for all those months ago finally came round, and it was pretty full on getting ready for it. I had to sift through, and choose various designs to print, work out which designs to make into tiles, make the tiles, get some not too expensive frames for the prints, work out which pieces of jewellery and which beads to put on display, how to display them and how the various strands of my work would fit together. . . Interesting but just a bit too much like flippin' hard work. (And I had a gig on the Sunday that I had to find time to rehearse for. . . It went well, apart from the rain, it being an outside event - we huddled under a gazebo thing until it stopped after about half an hour, but It's all left me feeling somewhat wiped out)

The jewellery and prints bit. . . with various props

The tiles and prints bit, with old red velvet curtain

I also felt I needed to write a kind of artists statement explaining a bit about the intention behind my work and how it came to be created etc.

So what I will do for this blog post is show you some pics of the final display and regurgitate the artists statement for your delight. . . ;-) Actually it does quite succinctly pin down a few things, I think. You may find it interesting. . .

If not, just look at the pics ;-)

Prints, Tiles and Coasters

My work and practice involves making unique, digitally constructed images (derived from my explorations into the mathematics of pattern – in nature and in decorative and other arts) into physical objects by transferring said images onto paper (as prints), and onto tiles and other surfaces.
My tiles lie, in category, between prints and ceramics, being essentially prints onto a ceramic surface. Framing them serves to emphasise their function as art objects.
In my work, unlike most artisan print processes, the actual production of the physical object is not where much of the skill and expertise lies. In my case that skill and expertise is largely to be found in the mastery of the software I use to create the images, and the vision to see that it could be used for such a purpose in the first place, (a purpose it was never intended to be used for).
I have a deep interest in the so called ‘mathematics of nature’ and how computer software can be used to impersonate natural patterns and surfaces by using that mathematics. Leading on from that, I have found in my explorations that patterns can be produced (especially when symmetrically reflected) that resemble patterns produced by entirely human means. I find echoes of African art, Art Nouveau and Deco etc. This leads me to speculate on the reasons the human brain and the human mind find certain shapes particularly pleasing. It could be that these fractal forms echo the fractal nature of the brain and it’s workings, that there are some forms that are somehow universal. . . They also look beautiful, both old and modern at the same time.
Which is also a feature of

My Bead and Jewellery Work.

My chosen medium is polymer clay, technically a modern, plastic modelling medium with many clay like properties. It is malleable until baked (at domestic oven temperatures), whereupon it becomes hard and tough. It can be painted, sculpted, glued and distressed in various ways. It is also cheap and no specialist equipment is required which makes it less intimidating to experiment with.
It is an interesting material in that it has little identity of it’s own, possibly due to it’s newness as a medium. This lack of clear identity, its transparency if you like, means it is can be made to impersonate other materials, but produce forms that those materials might not be able to.
I discovered that many artists use polymer clay to make beads, which led me to explore beads as cultural phenomena and as art objects in their own right. And to realise how very ancient beads are in the history of human creative endeavor. Personal adornment has a long history. This was all new to me, and I found it fascinating.
My work involves utilising textures and images, transferred or impressed into polymer clay, to make unique and unusual beads and jewellery. Exploration, experimentation and following the fascination are the guiding principles of my practice. I use many techniques in my work, such as image transfer, texture making, faux ceramic, crackle glaze effect, turned effect, and directly distressing the surface. I have also developed surface treatments to make my beads seem to be ancient, although actually being entirely modern. An apparent contradiction I also find fascinating.

Tiles and Coasters -

Tiles. Sold a few ;-)

More tiles, sets of 4 and unframed ones

Some prints. Digital abstract stuff

More prints. brighter ones in black frames
So the first weekend was a bit slow as far as sales went, but a couple of couples of old friends dropped by, having seen the brochure thingy and not yet having seen our new home. That was very nice.

I might juuuust break even if I sell couple more things, but really, it does feel like the work and money spent wasn't quite worth the return. Still, it maybe puts us on the map, so to speak, and could lead to future sales and suchlike. Not sure we will do it again though.

Who's eating cake? well, apart from us that is. The ducklings are! The five ducklings that hatched by our pond about three weeks ago were down to four pretty quickly, but are still four, which is great, as it means they are probably going to make it. Their mum is very protective and has the cats properly intimidated. We seem to have an endless supply of stale cake lurking in the bread bin, so these lucky ducklings have been getting the Marie Antoinette treatment. . . No decent pics I'm sorry to say.

Oh well, back to normal poly clay mutterings next time,
Jon x

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Tripping Over Afterthoughts, Teetering On The Brink of 'Art Jewellery', and the Dilemma of When Components are Complete in Themselves . . .

Back to what passes for normal round here, after the the somewhat frantic goings on of the last few weeks. Still managed to be late with this blog post though. But never mind, the only person nagging me is me, and I never listen to me anyway. . .

As you can see, I got inspired by the electronic components I indirectly inherited, and by various other bits and pieces, and made some interesting things. . . 
But more on that, later in the programme, there is the small matter of chronological precedence vis a vis the blogging process to discuss. 

As you are possibly aware, I like to blog every ten days or so. Over those ten days I will have likely explored two or three different ideas at least, some successfully, some not. Each idea worthy of being documented on this blog. The trouble is that come blog writing day, the most recent idea, my day ten obsession, if you like, is going to be the one my head is full of and the one I most want to share. Which leaves the previous good ideas as mere blogging afterthoughts if they get a mention at all. Not sure what I can do about this. I don't want to blog more frequently so I think I shall just have to live with it and go with what is is uppermost in my mind at the time.

Which is - My messings around with electronic components and other bits and pieces.

Repurposed beads plus electronic bits and wire mesh stuff - 2" by 1-1/2"

A combination of events has led me down this interesting route. Firstly, inheriting these electronic components from my late Father in Law. Secondly, deciding to break up some old necklaces that I had hanging around, which never sold. I still quite liked them but have come to realise that they just weren't up to the mark. It's quite liberating to actually admit that things don't work and to reclaim the bits that are worth repurposing. And thirdly, there being bits of garden related wire and mesh and suchlike lurking in and behind the shed. These things had caught my eye and been stored in the 'Possibilities Pending' file in my head. These three things and a good dose of 'Why not?' when following spontaneous creative ideas led me in this hopefully fruitful direction.

More repurposed beads etc - 3-1/2" by 3"

I even ventured into larger pieces, using resistors (I think) as decorative elements alongside some old dremel carved poly clay beads I made many moons ago and couldn't find a good use for. 

And again - 4" by 3"

This stuff does start to look like something you might see in some kind of gallery. (I did say 'might see'. . . ) It has a certain confidence in what it is, if that makes sense. 

And again. . . 3-1/2" by 3" - image trans bead plus big hollow organic pod thing 

I feel more free to explore composition and balance. And to enjoy the juxtaposition of unlikely partners, neither of which were intended to be combined but can co-exist successfully once the right balance is found.

Interesting though this process is, it does leave me with my biggest dilemma. A lot of the more complex components I make, and quite a few of the simpler ones have a certain completeness as objects in themselves. Adding an ear wire, or attaching them to some kind of chain/string/thong seems like an afterthought. Which of course, it is. 
The type and shape of ear wire and the length and thickness etc of the string is very important, and I worry that I haven't left room for additions to my design.
It's something I need to work on, think about and explore. Not being a jewellery maker is a disadvantage at present. I want to have some finished pieces to show at our upcoming open studios thing at the end of May.
Nothing like a deadline to get the mind working. . .

OK - Afterthoughts. . .

1 - I followed up my experiments in combining image transfer and turned look beads, and made a bunch of immensely cool spike things. Big buggers too, about three inches long.

2 - I also made some small turned look beads for more delicate projects, around 1" long. That intense blue when varnished looks almost like glass. I love that blue!

There is probably other stuff I could show you, but as I don't want to write, and you don't want to read a flipping novel, I shall stop.
See you next time,
Jon x

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Electronic Possibilities, An Embarrassment of Wire, Daft Ducks and Actual, Bona Fide, non pretend Spring!

Cool components. . .

Well, it's been a while. . . Life has got in the way somewhat over the last week or two. My father in law passed away and we had to go up to Yorkshire for the funeral and to sort things out.

Anyway, putting emotional stuff etc aside, part of that process was sorting through stuff in the house to see what should be salvaged and what should be left to the house clearance people. He was a model train enthusiast and was an electronics engineer in his working days so there was a lot of related bits and pieces to deal with as well as the usual furniture, pots and pans and books.

The long and the short of it is that I have rescued loads of electronic components that look like they are dying to be up cycled as jewellery components. Little tubes with coloured stripes etc. I have no idea, and no interest in what the stripes signify, I know it's code for wattage/amperage/whateverage but I just like the way they look. I look forward to finding out how they might inspire future work.

Continuing on from the 'free wire' mentioned in my previous post, there were about twenty or so 100 metre reels of coated copper wire in the attic. Just the right size, once the coating is cut off, for making loops and bails. I rescued 4 reels, so now I have 400 metres of wire to play with! That should last a week or two ;-) It might even inspire me to actually spark up the butane torch I got a year and a half ago and learn a bit of basic soldering etc. . . .

Other news, as if you really want to know ;-) I am signed up, with my wife, (excellent watercolour artist and tutor) to Norfolk Open Studios, which happens in May. I shall be exhibiting my ceramic tile stuff and some prints of my digital abstract stuff as well as some bits of jewellery. This requires me to actually make some jewellery, which is not something I have done for a while. But it is something I increasingly feel I need to explore, to find my 'voice' in a jewellery context, so a deadline might be the kick up the rear I need to get stuck in to it. I don't think bead buyers would necessarily be amongst open studio visitors so I need a way of showing what I do that non beady people might respond to more readily.

Actual Spring sunshine, photographic evidence thereof. .

Spring is actually not only here, but showing physical signs of being here rather than being a sort of winter with added daffodils. I actually ate breakfast, sitting in the sun in the garden today. Wonderful!

Vast tracts of grass, cut with the small mower as the sit-on can't deal with long grass.

And it was actually dry enough to cut the grass! We've had more than two days without rain! Unbelievable! I can actually plant some things in the veg garden. . .

Because we haven't been using the garden door, due to the weather, a duck has decided that the flowerbed just next to the path, just outside the door would be a good place to make a nest. . . sigh.

Ill advised duck on ill sited nest

Oh well, it will have to put up with us walking past from time to time, I'm not going to make silly allowances for a not altogether well thought through duck's nest. So far she seems ok with the arrangement. Not sure what will happen if ducklings result, we have three cats. . . Last year the ducklings lasted about four days (!) and we didn't have cats then, just barn owls, tawny owls, kestrels, sparrow hawks and possibly foxes. Doesn't bear thinking about.

Texture beads - sold

Now we are back from Yorkshire and almost recovered from all the hectic doing, I have had some time in the workshop to make some things. Easing myself back into it all.

I made some spikes and some textured beads and plan on making a lot more stuff.

If I am going to make necklaces etc for the upcoming open studios, I will need plenty of beads. . . So I have ordered some large blocks of Cernit. I am rolling my sleeves up in readiness and doing gentle warming up exercises. . .

No doubt you will hear all about it in due course. . . ;-)

Jon x

Mid Century Primitive spikes, the only ones pictured here that didn't sell. Well I like 'em.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

The Discomfort Zone, Images and Textures, Free Wire and a long awaited Farewell to The Turquoise Toilet. . .

Well, I've been experimenting again. Tearing myself away from the relatively safe/unadventurous option of making stuff that has proven sales potential, and instead, working on following up a few hunches and seeing what spur of the moment options reveal themselves as ideas develop, or falter. . .

Ironically, I find being in my comfort zone, uncomfortable. ;-) 

So I have been playing with textures again. An aspect of my work that I have neglected somewhat of late. I had also been turning my mind to the idea of beads on the end of longer wire loops, so combining the two things led to the semi circular, embossed beads on various length loops that you can see pictured here.

The texture is made using an Indian, hand carved printing block I picked up for a couple of quid

I had spent some time a few days ago, playing with image transfer ideas, basically, transferring images onto other poly clay shapes. By which I mean doing things like transferring round images onto square bead shapes etc. It worked quite nicely, and I will revisit at some point.

I tried some non distressed looking ones, but distressed looked so much better. And more 'Me'. .

The reason I mention it is that I had often vaguely wondered whether you could transfer an image on top of a texture, in such a way that the image only transfers onto the raised parts of the design.

Well it turns out that you can. You just need to use a bit more water when rubbing the paper off the back of the image, and use a fairly deep, simple texture. A lot of scope for experimentation right there. . .

Image transfer over texture. Plus alcohol inks.

Another subject of my vague wonderings was whether I could combine an image transfer element with a 'turned look' one. Early days but that seems reasonably possible. Wire down the middle is needed to provide strength to the join, but it's looking promising.

A fairly crude, early example

And now, the bit you've all been waiting for, - Free Wire!

I snaffled some cast-off electrical cable from a skip the other day. Wire used for higher voltage stuff like mains wiring is solid copper. It is too thick to be used for ear wires, but is great for loops and such. It isn't coated so it oxidises well. It comes in varying thicknesses too. Just cut the plastic away and there you are. Electricians just throw their off cuts and old wiring away.

I haven't tried using the bunched, very thin wires you get in normal TV etc cables for anything yet, but it may have it's uses. Upcycling rules!

Free electrical wire in action

So that was my concerted bit of experimentation and comfort zone escapology. The trouble is that every discovery sparks a dozen other new possibilities to follow up. Not enough hours in the day, especially when you have serious DIY to do as well. . .

The 1970's turquoise acrylic bath, (complete with crack) and related turquoise sink and toilet, lurking in all its glory in our upstairs bathroom since previous occupants of this house installed it, (in the 1970s I assume) has been retired to the local dump. 
I am busy fitting a new 'traditional' style suite more in keeping with the feel of the house. Much as I appreciate retro style, it has to be said that there is both good and bad retro. A hideous, and frankly, knackered, turquoise retro bathroom doesn't really fit our aesthetic - snobbish, pretentious arty types that we are ;-)

Jon x

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Messing with Bails, Strange things in the Veg Patch and More Variations on the Usual

I have been considering some artily distressed image transfer squares I did quite a while ago, and trying to think where I can take them. They somehow got stuck as interesting small squares with no particular purpose. They didn't suggest anything in particular strongly enough to connect with people. Imho. 
Oh yeah, I am forgetting, I did make cufflinks using them, but that didn't add anything to their 'interesting small square'-ness, if that makes sense. (?)

Anyway, I had various odds and ends of wire of varying thicknesses lying about, so I decided to try making some hammered flat, or hammered flat looking bails to give the little squares a definite function as drop charms. If that's the right name for this kind of thing.

The options I had were a) to flatten a small bit of wire and cut it off, leaving about 1/8" of round wire underneath it, if you see what I mean. Make a loop using the flat bit, drill a small hole, carefully in the 'top' of the square, apply glue to the round bit and stick it in the hole. That worked OK, but I had reservations about how strong the bond would be. I used superglue, but 2 part epoxy would be better I think. Drilling the hole was fiddly. A thicker bead would be needed.

Option b) was to use a longer flat piece of wire, make a loop, grind a groove in the back of the square with one of the various Dremel bits I have accumulated, and glue the flat wire into the groove. It might make the back look a bit too rustic though. Not that it bothers me at the moment. I tried filling in the bits of groove not containing wire, with liquid Kato clear and baking briefly, as this would make the bond stronger and I just wanted to see how it would look.

The flat wire in this particular case wasn't actually copper wire I had flattened myself. I up cycled a copper coloured steel staple from a large cardboard box I dismantled for recycling months ago. I spotted the staples and saved them as they looked as though they may be useful, and because it's the kind of thing I like to do. . . I like the way it looks. Trouble is you can't get hold of them in sensible amounts. I don't want to buy 1000 of them for twenty quid really. Anyway, that's a problem for another day.

Option c) was a cross between 'a' and 'b'. To flatten some wire, leaving some round wire, make a loop with the flat wire and instead of drilling a hole, cut a rounded groove in the back of the square and glue the round bit into the groove. I quite liked the way this looked, though that might have been due to the way the dark oxidised copper wire (the real stuff this time) and the white, ceramic/marble look of the clay of this particular square. I shall let it all percolate in the recesses of my brain for a while before making some 'for real' and trying them out on the World.

Bails aside, I was digging the veg patch earlier, as it actually stopped raining or snowing for long enough to get out there, and found what I thought was a rogue onion from a previous year or something. I poked it with the fork and it revealed itself as a rather cool lump of stone, probably flint. I shall pretend it's a fossilised onion from the triassic era though ;-) I think it's rather amazing, and the fact that it looks like a vegetable and was found in the veg patch gives it a whole different significance ;-) It now lives on the windowsill with other odds and ends.

 Here are some variations on 'turned look' beads, and a pair of more deeply scratched or incised spikes. All sold on FB apart from the blue and yellow ones. My internal jury is out on those, but the clean lines and colours are certainly a departure for me ;-)
Right, off to the jam night in the pub in the next village. St Patrick's day, but I don't think there is anyone Irish in the village. Nevertheless we have a few Irish folk songs etc hastily added to the song list just in case. Have a good one wherever you are,
Jon x