Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Final Project

The last project of the semester is always an independent study where we can do whatever we want.

First, I think some information about me is necessary. I'm somewhat of a hypochondriac. Not totally, but only because I know what's going on and I have the ability to talk myself out of whatever I think I have. I'm not really concerned about germs and colds and normal things like this, ohhh no. I become terrified that I have weird things, like receding gums and tetanus. When I first began taking metals, I didn't get a tetanus vaccination because the doctor said I really didn't need one, since I was working with non-ferrous metals. Even though I do come into contact with steel in the form of tools and such, the doctor still said I didn't need it. But I spent the whole semester convinced that I had tetanus. Any time I got a little cut or scrape, I would freak out and go to the health clinic on campus. I remember one night I couldn't sleep because I kept thinking my knees were locking up, then I would jump up and run to the mirror (which i wouldn't have been able to do if my knees were in fact locking up...I realize) to see if my face was doing the weird muscular contortions that are associated with tetanus. I finally went to the doctor and insisted I get vaccinated just to ease my mind, and I still freak out sometimes and have to remind myself that tetanus innoculations are good for 10 years. When I eat fish, I have to consciously remind myself that I do not, nor have I ever had an allergy to fish or seafood. I begin to freak out and think my throat is closing up. I manage to control it, and I eat fish all the time, but there's always that moment where I have to stop and just have a conversation with myself.

When I was doing my undergraduate studies (in Psychology), I took a class about sensory perception with Dr. Scharff. I loved that class and I thought it was so interesting! The whole class was about the senses and the brain, and how they interact. We spent over half the semester on vision alone. It was so fascinating, but terrifying at the same time. So many things can go wrong with your vision, and sometimes (well, before we started all this testing when children are young) you could have one of these disorders your whole life and never realize it's abnormal. I spent the whole semester worried about my vision. I called my optomitrist so many times that the nurses would just stop transferring me.

So I thought it could be really interesting to make a pair of glasses that would show people what it would be like to have Hemianopia or Visual Neglect (two different names because you can experience this visual problem from two different sources). My hope was that people could see why they should be as terrified of these disorders as I am. I didn't want to just cut the glasses out of sheet metal because that would look cheap and be too easy. Even though I only had 2 weeks to do this, I decided to make the entire glasses a hollow-constructed form.

I patinated the front to indicate the point of trauma, and it ended up looking like an old, stained mirror. I don't mind that because I feel like it goes along with the idea of something being wrong.

The inside of the glasses is lined with sterling silver that I etched with nitric acid. I used designer glasses logos and cut them in half to help indicate to the viewer what will happen when they put the glasses on, but also to help intice people to put their face close to the glasses to look at the fine detail.

I put three coats of wax on the glasses to help keep the copper from getting blotchy like that, but I guess in this case that just wasn't enough. I will have to go back and sand off the blotches and re-wax.

I've decided to do a whole series on these weird things that scare me. I'm excited to see where it goes.

Door Knocker

Sorry, it's been forever since I posted. Finals time is just not a nice time!

So our third project was to make a door knocker. I've been doing a lot of work out at C&R Kutt Bottle, which is a non-profit glass recycling organization. It's basically the only way Nacogdoches has to recycle glass bottles. They are comprised of a very small group of people, originally branched from a church project, that collect wine bottles and use them to make all sorts of things like sets of drinking glasses, wind chimes, tea lights, christmas ornaments, lamps, everything! It's so cool. They sandblast designs on them, and they decorate things by gluing on tumbled bits of broken bottles. Their mission is to use every bit of the bottle, so we're working on uses for corks and bottle tops, and they tumble any broken bottles to make various sizes of glass bits that are no longer sharp. All the money they raise goes straight to Habitat for Humanity. They've been doing this for 2 years and have raised over $6,000 for Nac. Habitat so far. Last year Habitat was able to build 2 houses instead of one, due largely to this organization. So we've been going out there a lot to help make this stuff, and I wanted to find a way to incorporate glass into a metal piece.

When the doorknocker project was first introduced to us, we had been talking about abuse a lot because there had been some kind of abuse seminar in the student center. They made contact with my professor to talk about future ideas for collaboration between metals and this seminar. So anyway, we had been talking about tieing it into our art for a few weeks, so I decided to make abuse the focus of my doorknocker (since I had no ideas at all). I wanted to make it a door knocker that keeps you from knocking, like a person recovering from an abusive situation might not let future people in so easily. So there are magnets in all the forms that repel each other. Unfortunately I did not think about having to stabilize the knocker, so it just flips around and hits the form anyway. I'm working on stabilizing it with some tubing.

So the knocker (that I realize looks like an avacado) slides along the track so the knocker can choose which form to knock on. 

The forms represent the stages of recovery, from very messy to almost whole. The designs are sandblasted onto large tumbled-glass pieces. The glass is held down by the copper circles, which are laid onto wool fabric yo-yos. I chose yo-yos because a lot of quilts used to be made with them, so to me it's a shape that represents comfort and family. Plus it's pretty. 

I patinated the copper with heat to go along with this idea of gradual transitions, so the forms change color from a goldish to a deep orange. The whole thing is mounted on an old kitchen cabinet door. I need to age the door a little more, but I think it works well with the idea. Plus the hinges at the top make it very easy to mount.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Third Semester Metals-part 1

Ok, almost caught up to real time! So Fall 2010 (aka...now) brings my third semester of metals class. I feel like I've been doing it so much longer. Even Lauren (my teacher) had a moment the other day when she realized how "young" I am in metals. This semester I've really been trying to push myself both in learning new techniques and also in terms of content. 

So we jumped into our first project head first. Lauren had us suggest various content fields, like "love" and "culture". Then she had us each blindly choose 7 techniques from a hat (all techniques were ones that were previously covered) and two content fields from the hat. Our assignment was to use at least 5 of the techniques and use our content fields in some way to kick-start our sketching (which I don't really do...sketch). 

I use my sketchbook more for verbal ideas. I tend to write paragraphs and ideas, so I do sketch in a way, but it's not usually pictures. If I need to "sketch" an idea, I usually do it in air-drying clay or paper. I seem to have an easier time "sketching" in three dimensions. 

So I decided to push myself to use 6 (instead of 5) of the techniques. I wanted to explore the idea of identity, so I thought it would be nice to try and create fingerprint type shapes with each different technique. Since I was using 6 techniques, I went with a cubed form. It turned out pretty nice. I still have some finishing issues which I hope to fix over the christmas break. 

My techniques were-hollow construction, married metal, overlay, fold-forming, roll printing, and piercing. I also experimented with using solder to make a fake married metal side. The chain is a bought chain, but once I get better at chain making, I plan to make my own chain. The fold-form side (the side on the right of the bottom picture) is my favorite. It looks like fabric. 

Our second project was to make three rings that represented plane, volume, and line. They could associate with each other or not, as long as there was one ring for each element. Oh also we had to set at least one stone using a bezel setting. I had plane and line figured out pretty quickly, but unfortunately every idea I had for volume would have had to be cast, which isn't something we were doing this semester. Finally I decided to do a ring based on a school of fish after watching one of the "Planet Earth" episodes. I waited really late though, so I'm not completely happy with it, but it's ok.

This is my plane ring, though it could easily be interchanged to represent volume. It is comprised of three fold-formed leaf shapes that are tension fit together so they don't come apart. This was the easiest one. no soldering, no riveting, just hammering. There are two silver leaves with a copper one in the middle.

This is my volume ring about the school of fish. I drilled holes in the metal before I rolled it down so that the holes would become oval shaped. I hammer textured the metal, polished it, then sanded the top so the hammered divots would be shiny spots, like fish. This is the ring with the stone. I used an amethyst cabochon and I reverse bezel set it (which means I set it in from the back).

This is my line ring. I like to call it "Mondrian has a bad day" because I was inspired by a conversation I had with someone about Mondrian. His work is a series of white canvasses with blue, yellow, and red squares on it. It's the stuff people often look at and go "this is art??" He used the squares to represent the city of New York and so I thought this was appropriate to show the difference between NYC in the early part of the 20th century, when Mondrian was painting, to now. This ring caused me the most trouble and headache. I cut each  rectangle out of rectangular tubing (NO, I did NOT make each single rectangle!) and soldered them together, one by one. It took forever. Then I spent a lifetime filing out the inside of the ring to be a circle, since it was all jagged from the varying lengths of tubing. It's cool, but I have no desire to do it again.

We just finished project number 3, but that will have to wait for another post!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Second Semester Metals Part 2- Everything Else

So after those 5 weeks of making earrings AND working on the first project, I was delighted to be able to just focus on doing the project. It's good to know that I can work at that pace, but even better to know I don't have to anymore.

The rest of this semester was spent learning to cast, which is how most jewelery sold in stores is made. Casting is fun, hard, time-consuming, and somewhat dangerous. Most things we do have some elements of danger, but casting could cause some serious injury with just a minor mistake. Basically, here's how it goes down. We use various hardnesses of wax to carve, melt, whatever, in order to make our form. Then we use a mixture of plaster and silica to make a mold around our form. This is a tedious process. We have to wear respirators because the silica can cause serious lung injury, and the mixture cannot be too thin nor too thick. We only have about 5 minutes from mixing the powder with the water to get all the bubbles out before it starts to set up. It's a pain. But then the molds (with the forms still in them) then get put in the kiln where they get so hot that all the wax (or anything else that was used) gets burned out.

Then we begin the actual casting process. This must be done while the molds are still hot from burning out the wax, but they can't be TOO hot. The timing is very important. We have this centrifuge that holds the mold and holds the vessel that we use to hold the melted metal -the crucible. I like that name. So basically, metal chunks go in the crucible, then we use an oxygen/acetelyne torch to melt the metal until it's molten-aka completely liquid. Sometime during this melting, the mold is brought over and placed in the centrifuge. Then, while still heating the metal, you release the tiny pin (the only thing that keeps the centrifuge from flying while you're heating the metal) and the machine goes whizzing around in a circle, throwing the molten metal into the mold. At this point, if there were any cracks in the mold AT ALL, molten metal goes flying, which is obviously super dangerous. It happened a few times, either because people didn't make the molds right, they got the form too close to the bottom of the mold, or they did not properly gauge the amount of metal and put too much in.

After this, we let the mold cool just a little, then we plunge it into a bucket of water and let all the investment bubble out. The mold is still REALLY hot, so the water gets hot fast. It's fun though, I like this part. Sooooo here's what i made with this whole process.

Set of 3 rings that associate in some way. Carved totally out of wax, cast in sterling silver. I love them, but my fingers have gotten fatter since then...

My next forms were made experimenting with barbie parts. The blue wax is the carving wax we use, and the red is for making the sprues. The sprue system is like a tunnel system to allow the metal to get into every part of the form. Based on the physics, there are just some places in certain forms that the metal cannot reach thru centrifugal force, so making sprues allows the metal to get in there. The sprue wax is super soft so I used it to help blend the barbie parts with the blue wax. It looks creepy like this though. Ps- the texture in the blue wax is just what happens when you pour melted wax into ice water. I saw them do it on the food network with melted sugar, so I thought I would try it. Cool, huh?

 I didn't set out for them to be anything specific, they were just the result of me playing around. I think they look like some sort of mutant coral or something, and my teacher thinks they look like barnacles.

I really wanted to cast orchids because I think they're just beautiful. I coated the first one in wax because I wasn't sure if it would be thick enough to stand up to the mold. You can see the sprue system in this picture, to give you an idea of what I was talking about. All those red sticks fill with metal and we have to go in and cut them out. Seems like a waste, but that metal just gets melted back down in the next casting. 

I wanted to keep playing with the barbies, so I added their faces, hands, and feet to some orchids. I love the result, and though I have been told it's confusing or too blatant with the imagery, I have a whole series of these in my head. 

I used a patina to make what was the red sprue wax into what looks like a mold/moss like growth.

The male mutant flower

 Aaaand at this point, we all realized how much Ken looks like JFK. Crazy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Second Semester Metals Part 1 - Earrings

This semester went a little differently than last semester. We were tasked with the job of creating a pair of earrings every week for 5 weeks while STILL working on our first project. It was crazy but I loved working with smaller forms. The earrings were meant to be a way for us to experiment with new techniques without having to commit time and money to a large form. I decided to experiment with fold forming, and I fell in love with it. It is so easy, from a technical standpoint. You fold the metal like paper. No soldering or fancy tools needed, just a hammer and an anvil (and a way to anneal the metal). Here are three of the earrings I made. As it got closer to that first project being due, I slacked a bit on my earrings, so the last two pair are not something I'm proud of. But these are!

Copper fold-formed ruffles soldered onto brass backing (just plain brass, no designs) to give them weight. 

Copper sheet fold-formed into leaf shapes and patinated using heat to turn the copper a brownish color.

Brass sheet fold-formed into callalillies. My whole class says they look like female reproductive parts. I see this, but at the same time that is the purpose of a flower so it only makes sense. The brass is much harder to fold-form than the copper because brass is inherently a harder material than copper. As you work with it, it gets harder faster and therefore needs to be annealed much more often. 

Annealing is the process of heating the metal up to a certain temperature in order to loosen the mollecular structure. In blacksmithing, which most of us have seen on TV, they heat the metal to red-hot and hammer it on the anvil while it is still glowing bright orange. This is NOT annealing. We heat the metal up to a point somewhere around 1300 degrees (I have the exact temperature on a sheet somewhere, I just can't find it right now). If done properly, annealing does NOT make the metal red hot. The metal takes on a slight pinkish glow and the tip of the torch flame turns from blue to orange/yellow. At that point, the molecules are loosened as much as they're going to be before they begin to break down and start melting. We then quench the metal in some water (just put the hot metal in a bowl of cold water) so that it cools rapidly, we take it out and go on our merry way.

First Semester Metals

Ok, I'm going to cram a whole semester of metalwork in this post. Since I didn't document the process like I did in the last one, it shouldn't be too bad.

Our first project was a study in riveting. I made this:

It's me....though very abstracted. I learned about hidden rivets and regular rivets doing this piece. I could definitely afford to do it again now that I have better control with a hammer and more knowledge of the techniques.


This is the original picture that I based the piece off of, just so you can get an idea.

For our second project, we did band-on-band rings. This was my first time working with silver, and this is the point where we learned to solder. We use solder that melts around temperatures between 1300 and 1440 degrees, depending on which type you use. We do not use the type of solder that you use a little soldering iron for. That's called plumbing (or soft) solder and it isn't really strong enough to stand up to what we put our jewelery through. We use torches, and it's fun.

It is important to note that this ring was made by taking two pieces of silver, forming them into rings, and then soldering them together. It is not cast like most of the rings sold in stores.

For the third project we were tasked with making a toy that is also a ring. The perameters were pretty open for this one. The concept of what is a toy was left compeltely up to us, and as long as a finger could go through the piece somehow, it was considered a ring. I decided it would be funny to make an electrical outlet ring, since some kids apparently think those are toys.

I roll-printed a canvas texture on it to make it look like wallpaper. The bottom and top look slightly different because they are made in two different ways. The bottom is a hollow construction. The holes go all the way through and the form is completely closed up. The top one is not made like that. The face of the top one comes off so it can hold things. Originally it was supposed to hold an LED light, so that if you stuck something in the socket, it would light up. Unfortunately, I could never get that to work for more than about 10 minutes, so I just left it empty and open to possibilities.

That's Lauren's hand. This piece is actually in Houston RIGHT NOW, at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, in their CRAFT TEXAS juried exibition! It's my first show!

Our final project was to create a reliquary with a found object. Last Christmas, as a gag gift, I got a little resin Elvis bust (because I like Elvis), so I decided to make him a stage. Check it out:

He comes complete with a functioning curtain and a rotating platform so you can make him dance!

 From the back, with his jailhouse-esque bars
I had an old snowglobe music box that plays "Blue Sued Shoes", so I took it out and installed it in the bottom platform, so he has music to dance to.

Here's Lauren making him dance!


And there you have it! My first semester doing metals. I spent the first two projects thinking I sucked at it, and then by the third project I had gained a little more confidence, which I think is evident in the work.

Monday, November 8, 2010

First Metal Experience Ever

During the summer of 2009, I took part in the Art Educators Retreat at SFA. I learned some things about teaching, because our guest speaker was a teacher, but mostly it was just a place for art teachers to make art. I felt pretty out of place because I was the only person in the whole retreat who wasn't a teacher. I needed the retreat for a class credit. One of the sessions was a metalworking class. Overall I think we were supposed to spend about 5 hours working in the metal shop over the course of the week. Several of us decided to ditch the other projects and only work on metals. I think by the end of it, I calculated that I spent about 15 hours working in the metal shop that week. Since part of the assignment for credit was to document the retreat with pictures (for an end presentation), I have step-by-step pictures of what I made. This is the only instance for which anything but the end result is documented.

Here you see my two sheets of metal-one brass, one copper (both about 2x3 inches), along with my sketch and a material (I think it's actually some sort of Christmas garland) that I planned to use for texture.

 Ahhhhh, my first experience with the rolling mill. So wonderful and exciting to see plain sheet metal go in, and textured sheet metal come out!!! Basically, you make a metal "sandwich" with your texturing material in between both sheets, and you run it through the rolling mill. The mill presses the sheets together, and stretches them just a bit. The end result is two sheets of textured metal, and one really messed up texturing material. Any material used for texturing will get very messed up, so it's not a good idea to use something that you want to reuse or that is hard and brittle. Fabrics work really well, along with screen, wire, ribbon, file-folder paper, and sand paper. 

 My next step was to cut circles out of my metal. I was going to have to saw each little circle out, but then Lauren showed me the wonderful Pepe Disc Cutters. I love the disk cutters because they are so fast, easy, and they make perfect circles. A quick file on the under side of the metal and you're done! I ended up making matching earrings out of the left over circles that I cut out.

Since I was doing a two-layered pendant, I wanted the top layer to have some dimension to it, so I used the hydraulic press. The press is really cool, though anyone who works on cars probably thinks it's the most mundane, everyday thing. We have several pre-cut dyes in our studio, along with some materials to make our own shape if we desire. You take a dye, which is made from thick plexiglass (about 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch), and place it over your metal. Then we have some urethane pads of varying hardness (we use the yellow one the most, it's the most squishy) and a nice spacer. You put all that in the press and start pumping. To get a good, dimensional form, we pump to about 3500. Then voilĂ , formed metal. 

Uumm so at this point, my picture taking went down the drain apparently. After forming the top dome, I cut both pieces into circles. I then drilled holes in each and riveted them together. Riveting was very difficult for me, but again I only had a quick explanation in a room full of people. I understand it a lot better now, and consequently I am a better riveter now. Anyway after the riveting (and somewhere along the way I bent some scrap into a quick bale for my pendant to hang from), Lauren helped me change the color with some liver of sulfur. This is a stinky, yellowish chemical that turns copper and silver varying shades of brown/black, depending on how long it's in there. Since the bottom was brass, it didn't turn any color.

Then I waxed it with paste wax to keep it from fingerprinting and this is how it looked at our final show at the end of the retreat! As you will see, I became a metals addict, and I have no desire to recover.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

First Things First

I guess the logical place to start is to give some background info on myself and what things I have made already. I will share photos, inspiration, and my personal thoughts on improvement.

While I am currently a graduate student in the art education field, I have not been studying art for very long. I took my first art class my junior year of college, when I took drawing. I've always been creative, making all sorts of things, but I didn't start focusing that energy on art until I was about 20. Until then I used my creative impulses for singing, playing the piano, and arranging music. Now, I'm 25 and I've basically decided that art is the thing for me. I graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Spanish in 2008 from SFA, and I started graduate work in spring of 2009 with my printmaking class. I will graduate with my masters in May of this year, and I am beginning to work on applying for an MFA program in metals.

I had my first metals experience in summer 2009 during the Art Educators Retreat. I then took the intro metals class in Fall 2009, advanced metals in Spring 2010, and I am currently in advanced metals again right now. I'll start posting pics and things tomorrow.

So.....I made a blog...

Alright. I have given in and made a blog. Mostly I decided to start blogging so I would have an avenue for thoughts, ideas, and opinions. I enjoy the idea of having somewhere to show my art, but I'm also excited about having a place to talk through my ideas and not have to worry about losing my sketchbook. I'm hoping that having this blog makes me become more meticulous about documenting my life. Do you know I barely take any pictures of anything? Mostly because I'm awful at taking pictures, but I need to at least try.The only reason I have pictures of my artwork is through my wonderful professor, Lauren McAdams. If it wasn't for her....well...I'd have crappy images of everything. Don't get me wrong, I do the best I can with what skills and equipment I have, its just I'm severely lacking in the "skills" department. So if you see a great, high-quality picture on my blog that looks like it was taken by someone who cares, chances are it's a McAdams picture.

So....what do I write about?