Sunday, December 14, 2014

Collections

One of my goals for this year was to have a better focus for my design work. I used to just make what came to my head, skipping across techniques and styles. It was interesting and fun, but I felt the lack of a clear direction and of an unifying principle.

I began by spreading out all my current work and really looking at it - what do the piece have in common, what are their differences? What do I want to develop further, what have given me what they had to give?

I rearranged them, grouped them, separated them, got them back together until I could see ideas gelling. All those disparate pieces began to talk to one another and to form groups. Finally, my body of work made sense to me.

I also wanted to have an overall theme, which could be broken down to describe each line and to guide its development. I thought of using technique as a grouping principle, but I decided that was too limiting. The same outlines and ideas can be developed in different techniques and I wanted the design to lead, not the technique. I tried out using seasons or the elements. My work could fit in those categories, thematically, and I could tie it with the direction I wanted to go. But, in the end, I discarded this as well. Both of these have a limited number of subcategories (spring, summer, autumn, winter; water, fire, earth and air). What would I do when a new line came up? I don't want to discard the categorization scheme soon and these would feel restrictive in the near future.

I won't bore you with all my ideas that didn't pan out. In the end, I chose to use a mythological scheme. Mythology deals with archetypes, with the broad ideas and feelings of humankind. Surely that was a scope broad enough for me to hang all my artistic development on! I am using Greek mythology, but perhaps other cultures will show up some day. The pantheon was chosen for the principles it embodies, not from a cultural or aesthetic point of view.

So, without fanfare, here are my current lines:

Athena - goddess of wisdom, justice, etc, etc. She was also the sponsor of domestic arts, specially weaving. Here, you will find my woven, braided and knit pieces.



Hades - lord of the underworld and of the Earth's riches - gold, silver and gems. Naturally, this collection features gold and gemstone pieces.



Hephaestus - the smith god, patron of artisans, craftsmen, blacksmiths, metals and metallurgy. Surely I had to include him! Under his auspices, you will find my forged and fused pieces.



Hera - many people have asked me why I didn't choose Aphrodite for my wedding jewelry. Aphrodite was a goddess of passionate love, often destructive and violent. Hera was responsible for happy, long lasting marriage, for children and family life. She also got the short end of the historical stick, but that is a story for another post.




Persephone - the lady of spring, vegetation and plant fertility. I took the liberty of expanding her domain a little and including some animals as well.




Minimalism - ok, not mythological, I admit. But these pieces have a distinct, minimalist look of their own and I certainly intend to continue to develop this line. There is something fascinating about distilling a design to its most basic lines.


Can you tell I love mythology? Yeah, just a little. The next posts will go into more detail into each of my patrons and what they represent.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ooops corrected

Remember yesterday's oops moment? Fixed and finished. I am now working on its bigger brother.

Let me now what you think!



Monday, November 17, 2014

Ooops

All I have to say for today: when you have carefully textured metal for a ring, make sure you solder the texture side out, not in.

Cutting, reforming and resoldering. No pictures for now.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Book Recommendation - Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit

How people get inspired, develop their ideas and form a body of work is something that fascinates me. No two artists have exactly the same process but I have yet to come across one who does not have a work routine - and hard work at that!

When I came across Twyla Tharp's book, I was immediately hooked. Creating a piece of modern dance is something that always mystified me. So many unique movements, the use of the stage, the interplay between bodies and negative space, all of it coming together to form a work of art.

Of course, we now take a break for a little snippet of her work.



Tharp constantly stresses the need for structured, disciplined work: researching a concept, refining ideas, exploring the accidental detours but remembering your core. She also cites many other artists and their creative habits, ranging from a writer to a chef, showing that all of us do share some aspects of working on our creativity while still maintaining our own distinct style. She also proposes a series of exercises for each chapter, to allow the readers to work on the concepts themselves and find their own way. I will honestly say that I did not do all of them - some got a little too out there for me!

I loved her description of how a choreography is created and how it is, in many ways, a collaboration between the choreographer and the dancers. For the curious, the ladder she is sitting on for the cover isn't just a weird photo. That is where she sits during her work sessions, to have a better understanding of the use of space. It is a tool.



To finish off, here is another bit of contemporary dance, by Grupo Corpo. I love how fluid their movements are and how joyful. The music isn't bad either.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A new beginning

Metal cracks when it is over worked. In mechanics, it is called "metal fatigue" and a lot of thought goes into the design of equipment, cars and airplanes to avoid it. After all, no one wants the wings cracking off a plane in mid air or the axle of a car snapping on the road. One of the first lessons a metalsmith learns is how to anneal metal, making work hardened material flexible again and avoiding the dreaded cracks.

Personally, I love the cracks. They capture something of the nature of the material. They reflect the unpredictability of nature in their curves. They are pretty.

Many years ago, I forged this heart as a cathartic exercise.


It is still a favorite piece of mine and it is quite expressive of that moment in my life. But I moved on, kept making other pieces and I never went back to cracking metal again.

But the motif kept showing up in my sketches and in my mind. Today, I decided it was time to take it up again. I prepared some metal, cast a button and got to work.


This wasn't the crack I was expecting. I wanted something more dramatic, branching out across the metal. Something that made a statement. Instead, I got an almost clean break. My first reaction was to toss it back in the crucible and start again. But this is what nature gave me, so this is what I will work with. If I want to explore an unpredictable process, I have to be willing to work with what I get.

Now, let's get designing.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Weaving chains, part 2

First, I would like to address a few things that have been asked about the first part.

Yes, I am using a continuous wire, from a spool, instead of working with a couple of feet of wire at a time. Since I am not drawing the entire length of wire through each loop (instead, the needle allows me to draw just enough to make each stitch), I can work on the spool and not worry about joining new wires, work hardening and other annoying things.

Since I generally get a decently sized spool of wire, I am not very precise with how much wire I will need beforehand. I generally estimate around 10 grams of silver for a chain, give or take according to diameter or length. I admit I don't usually bother to convert this to meters, since I buy wire by the gram. And thin wire is just about the only metal I don't prepare myself. It is just too time consuming!

Ok, last time, when we left off, we had completed a simple woven chain. Now, let's start mixing things up.

Double weave

Double weave is when each stitch goes through not only the stitch in the previous row but also through the one previous to that as well, so your needle goes through two loops instead of one. The result is a thicker, heavier chain, instead of an airier, lighter result. It wears very well.

Use the two previous rows, instead of just one


Making double weave is slower than single weave, since part of the stitch will be hidden by the next row. And since each loop will accommodate two stitches, it is helpful to make the loops a little longer than usual. Or not, for a very fine, very closed chain that will kill your fingers to make but look amazing.

Two double weaves, same wire. The oxidized chain was made with tiny stitches,
the polished chain was made with larger loops.


Triple weave
Sorry, no photos here since I rarely bother with triple weave. It is very similar to double weave, except that you will pull each stitch through the previous three row (instead of double weave's two). The result is an even heavier and stiffer chain - I find it too stiff for my taste, since I love drapey weaves. You will need to make each loop very long, so that there will still be some open space after 3 rows. If you are curious, go ahead and experiment. It is not hard to figure out but it is hard on your fingers.

Graduated necklace
This is a fun variation and you can do a lot with it once you master the basics: you can trap beads in the thicker section (use a thick needle and open weave so it will be visible), you can do several "pods" on a single chain or layer chains with differently placed "pods", you can do wider or tighter graduations, etc.

The idea is simple add stitched to increase the diameter of the chain then decrease the number of stitches to reduce it back to the original diameter.




Make your stitch as usual. For the next stitch, instead of going to the next stitch on the right, we are going to go back and add another stitch to the previous one. If we try to add the extra stitch to the same on we were working with now, it would just merge into the other stitch.

Reach back to the previous loop to add the extra stitch
See how the two stitches are sharing the same loop?

Now, we are going to skip the next loop (since we already did a stitch there) and move on to the first empty loop to continue the chain. Go on as usual, with an extra loop per row. For the graduated look, you will need several increases over several rows. I generally stagger the increases, so they are evenly spaced instead of lined up, so that it is less perceptible. If you want an abrupt increase in diameter, you can add more than one stitch per row, spacing them out. 


Skip the next stitch and work on the first empty loop

So, you've gone round and round, increasing regularly, until you reached the diameter you wanted. Time to start decreasing. If you want anything (pearls, beads, found objects) in your pod, add it now. Your next stitch will be the first decrease. Instead of going through one loop, you are going to insert your needle through the next loop and the one next to it. Before making your stitch, take the time to line the two loops up and make sure they are sitting nicely together. Draw your wire, finish your stitch and you have one loop less per round. Easy, peasy.


Capturing two loops at once

Finished reduction stitch


And that is it for today. Chain making is all about practice, keeping stitches even and regular. Considering how "fast" I am pushing these articles out, you will have plenty of time! If you, dear reader, aren't making these, I do hope these articles show you how fantastic this is and how time consuming.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

An artist's statement

There are many beautiful things in the world. I cannot make them all.

I cannot be true to myself by copying others or by being influenced by so many that my self is lost.

I must find my core, develop my art. I accept influence, process it and express it in my own way. Refusing to acknowledge what others do is to shut out the world, ignore advances and declare my own views better than any other. Accepting influence blindly, without reflecting on it and fitting it to my work is to deny my own views, to stifle my voice and shut myself out of the world.