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

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Spring Interrupted by Fluffy White Stuff, Tedious Crackle Confusion and a Feeble Justification of Faltering Noble Aspirations. . .

Well, Spring was on its way, it really was, we had crocuses, the very first daffodils and some of those small, early irises, it was all going so well. . . 

But then a large quantity of cold air from Siberia decided to spoil the party. We had serious amounts of snow (for round here OK? Yeah, I know it's not much really, compared to many places but let me have a good old British moan about it), and temperatures down to about -6 at night. It was all rather beautiful when the sun came out, but it did mean that the waste pipe from the sink managed to freeze solid so we couldn't use the kitchen sink or the dishwasher. But were we disheartened? Well, yes, obviously, but we just about managed by using every plate in the house by the time the thaw came. . . Stoic? Isn't that a make of car? . . .

Very festive. Only the wrong festival, it's nearly Easter fer gawd sake

The house has rabbit ears. How endearing. .

The cats responded by staying indoors and sitting on Gill's iPad. Maybe it was nice and warm ;-)

Boudicca's response to digital media

Anyway, spike stuff still selling on FB, and some business has been done via my Etsy shop, so I am feeling pleased.
I made some crackle beads, photographed them etc, but then had to work out which beads were in which photograph, as they looked very similar and the only distinguishing features were the particular pattern of crackles on particular beads. 
Cue eyestrain and interesting language. I sorted it out in the end and labelled each set so I don't send the wrong beads to any prospective buyers. . . The pics make the process look a lot easier than it was. . .

You may recall in previous posts, how I went on about how I was following my artistic path and any that financial gain was a welcome extra, but not something that influenced my creative decision making. . . 

I know. . . I know. . .

Well, that noble, hi falutin' stuff is all very well, but faced with the prospect of making some stuff you are pretty sure people will buy, or going off on a creative tangent and 'growing as an artist', the former is tending to win out at the moment.

It's not so much the thought of gaining money that attracts, as it is the thought of losing almost certain earnings if the more commercial route isn't taken. It's like throwing money away ;-)

It takes a steely resolve to turn down likes and sales, especially if such things are a bit of a novelty ;-)
Still, I'm sure it will all stabilise eventually. I'll work it all out. It's still a bit new. 

I'm enjoying the ride meanwhile. I guess I need to take my audience along with me on my tangents eventually ;-)

Below are some of my newer spikes. Mostly sold. . . 'Enjoy', as they say. . . annoyingly. . .

Jon x

Friday, 23 February 2018

The Curious Case of The Blue Soup - A Spike Spike - and the imminent rise of Mid Century Primitive. . .

Well, starting in a backwards direction, just to be awkward, with the Mid Century Primitive, the above pic should show you what I'm on about. . .

The primitive bit is easy to get your head round, pretty self explanatory, but the Mid Century might be a bit less so. Someone mentioned it in a comment on FB and it resonated. I think there is something about the shape and colours that is resonant of fifties and sixties interior design. Your mileage may vary.

Dunno. A bit of a tenuous correlation maybe, but it's a fun invented category to explore the inherent contradictions, or indeed the inherent similarities to be found within it. ;-) 

More about this further down the blog post.

The spike in spike sales may be an oh-so-witty pun but it is also a real life event. I had another good selling session on FB the other day. (Update - and again last night!) My spikes seem to hit the spot with quite a few people.
Hooray for quite a few people, is what I say. Though a spike does imply a sharp up followed by a sharp down, so maybe it's not such a feel good analogy. . .
Anyway, the beads below all sold, amongst others. Long may it continue ;-)

I'll get to the blue soup in my own good time thank you. The subject of Mid Century Primitive is more pressing a matter. Imho of course.

It's a mixture of artily crude and deliberately and sophisticatedly unsophisticated workmanship and simple, sculptural shapes (whatever that means, as any shape could be 'sculptural' really. . . but I think you know what I mean) reminiscent of shapes popular in the fifties and sixties, especially amongst ceramic artists. Who were no doubt influenced by such artists as Brancusi, Arp, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth etc. Well, that's my take on it.

Maybe because like such artists the shapes are defined by the process as much as by an imposed conscious decision. .  Discuss. . .

I'm not saying my work lives up that ideal, but it's what I am aiming for, without getting too precious about it all. It's fun to make this stuff.

Oh yeah, the ones below sold too ;-)

Blue what? . . Oh yeah, soup.

Well. . . It's all about red cabbage. I cooked a roast chicken with all sorts of veg in the pan below it, including red cabbage. The process turned the cabbage and consequently all the veg dark blackish blue. . . ooer. . .

When I made soup from the chicken carcass and bits (as I always do) I included the left over veg. I whizzed it up in the blender and got blue black, slightly frothy, due to the blending process, soup! Yay! My wife was appalled as it didn't look even vaguely appetising ;-) I ate it however.

It tasted great with a bit of yoghurt thrown in. Hah! Mid Century Primitive Soup. . .

Till next time,
Jon x

Monday, 12 February 2018

Spikes, Car Trouble, Rationalising Bead Boxes and Appreciating Past Efforts

Well, this is a bit late, as I try to post every ten days, but we took a short break for our combined birthdays and various DIY things happened too. But I did get some time in my workshop despite all that. 

I sold a bunch more spikes things on Facebook last week. So I am feeling appreciated ;-) These pictured below are some of they. .

On a less happy note, I managed to reverse into a friend's car on our drive a day or two ago, so the feeling of being appreciated is only transient. . . An insurance job, as it bent the front wing and cracked the lens on the headlight. My car was merely scratched a bit. 
Oh well, there goes me no claims bonus for a while. The rear visibility is not good in my car, but that is a poor excuse.
To bore you further, said car has done 100k miles, so I splashed out for a service. The mechanic asked me when the cam belt (I don't know either) had been changed, I said as far as I knew, I didn't think it had, so he looked it up in the manual. It contained the interesting information that it should have been changed 40k miles ago. . . So I have been pushing my luck apparently.

Back to bead matters - I have been sorting out my various bead boxes, in conjunction with checking my laptop, with a view to working out which beads have been listed on Etsy, which have expired, and which never got as far as being listed in the first place. There are surprising number of things that aren't in my shop. I am going to start remedying that situation forthwith.

It's been nice seeing some old friends lurking in their little compartments. Some things I was, and still am quite proud of. I always learn something from looking at what I was doing a year or so ago, it's easy to forget how far you have come in that period. And to realise what you have also forgotten, some it useful stuff that you would do well to remember.

Here are some of my new spikes, for sale in the LBA Galleria Elementals group on Facebook. Only a glimmer of interest so far, but give it 24 hours and we'll see where we are.

On to more general stuff, like the weather. . . 

Time marches on, and as was the case this time last year, (and every other year I imagine) the aconites are out in the garden, and some snowdrops, some cyclamen and even some crocuses are coming out. The hazelnut trees have catkins hanging off them, and all sorts of daffodils and suchlike bulbs are determinedly pushing their way out of the ground. At least Spring seems like something that will happen in due course. I even heard a skylark singing the other day, when the sun broke through. Don't know what it was thinking. . .
Winter ain't over yet however. I don't mind, as long as it stops blooming' raining. This winter has just been sodden. Give me a crisp, cold day anytime instead of dismal wetness and uncomfortable blustery winds. . . Extreme weather? We get extremely dull. Hence no photos ;-)
Jon x