Approaching wire

I’ve been circling around, making different starts with wire, seeing what might come together.

Egg head

Ages ago (last year?) in a drawing class, tutor Sue Vesely brought hard boiled eggs marked up to show various angles and spacing of the human head. I’ve since made a version of my own, using Sue’s notes and a toy (rubber?) egg. Could I make these shapes and lines using wire and random weave basketry techniques?

It turned out I couldn’t. Nothing to show – it was quickly dismantled, cut up, reused…

… some of it into this face.

Which also doesn’t particularly thrill me. Clumsy lines, not the right selection of which lines to include. This weight of steel (construction wire, annealed steel, 1.57 mm diameter, 16 gauge) was difficult to work with at this scale (slightly less than life).

Not a dead end, but not an enticing path for now.

Another experiment using broken ceramic and wire in random weave also didn’t quite work for me in its first form.


The same steel wire, smoothed and drilled fragments from a cup and saucer, random weave.
The blu-tac is to hold bits in place until I could stabilise placement. Each shard has 3 holes, which I thought would allow enough connections to create a stable non-vessel.

Once again the gauge of the wire, its stiffness when working, caused me grief. When bending wire I was constantly at risk of breaking ceramic, and without sufficiently bending the wire to hold them the pieces kept sliding around.

More recently I’ve been introduced to galvanised steel wire. Lots of different gauges in the hardware store, doesn’t rust (although the shine wouldn’t suit all purposes), not a good choice for jewellery, but a great new option in this kind of work. The old 16 gauge wire has been cut off and new work begun. It’s going reasonably well, but needs to progress before any more photos.

More of the same 16 gauge wire and the ceramic, and still not satisfied with the various possibilities I’ve generated so far. The proportions of the ceramic and wire elements isn’t pleasing. The curve of the wire (from my new dapping set) doesn’t sit well with the different curves of the ceramic pieces. Beads of different sizes have been trialled at different positions, and then the earrings get too long.

I’m really not in a grouchy mood and I don’t think the inner critic is getting out of control. There are possibilities here, just so far none I would wear. It will come.

Now some happy snaps. My friend Claire and I got together for a day of dipping wire in paper pulp. Neither of us had previous experience, so it was all free experimentation. Claire brought the pulp – made from waste cardstock. We both had different types of mesh and wire. There’s more detail and process shots on Claire’s blog – https://tactualtextiles.wordpress.com/2017/08/07/paper-pulp-dipping/.

Here are some of my results.


Above: the pulp built up well on bird wire mesh. On the left is the form as dipped. When dry I was able to change the form, the paper remaining attached.

Above: two views of a form created before the mesh was dipped. A much firmer and sharper end result (compared to re-shaping a dipped piece).

Above: two more vessel forms, quickly random woven together using galvanised wire. I’d like to try this again with more preparation time, creating smaller spaces that the pulp would span better. It tended to slide off these.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Above: a range of forms, wire and an offcut of bird mesh. The pulp held better on the smaller spaces.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Above: the “flower” wouldn’t hold the shape. Some extra fine wire across the leaf helped marginally. The two views of a single “earring” show the impact of lighting on this material.

Above: the two sides of a piece of copper mesh that I had distorted.

Above: more mesh and pulp experiments. Love the combination of copper and the warm cream of the paper.

There’s lots of promise in these results. Some lessons learnt, some really nice effects. I’m hoping Claire and I can arrange another day – with enough lead time for more preparation. Maybe a series of days (or in summer??), so we can let things dry between dippings.

Finally, some first steps following Keith Lo Bue’s Poetry in Motion DVD workshop – http://www.keithlobue.com/product/poetry-in-motion-making-marvelous-mobiles-dvd-workshop-set.

This is what led me to galvanised wire, opening various doors as mentioned above. I’ve worked through the first couple of exercises, and am feeling excited and inspired.

First up was a clever way to straighten wire, plus practice in creating precise shapes and angles. I think a series of these piled up has much more promise of an interesting and dynamic composition than my earlier attempts at wire lines at the top of this post.

Next was an exercise learning to find and fix balance points. Back to 16 gauge wire (galvanised this time), plus corks.


Above: my very first mobile, in two variations. On the left, a flat, horizontal form that spreads out in space. On the right, a simple change in the orientation of one looped end changes the form to a broken straight line, descending in space.

I can see potential for a number of the approaches above to combine into a fruitful line of investigation – even those that left me cold as stand-alones. It’s the end of the weekend, work tomorrow, but I’m rubbing my hands in anticipation.

Workshop: Bolga basket weaving with Godwin Yidana

I was attracted to this workshop by the ideas of working with recycled plastic and of learning some new weaving techniques. Big ticks on both of those, but the main event was so much more. Godwin tells stories – about the history of weaving in northern Ghana where he grew up, weaving as an embodiment of culture. He spoke of home life and challenges, the wisdom of his grandmother, the g-lish foundation and its impact on the lives more than a hundred who now have a way of earning, saving, having access for themselves and their families to food, training, and more.

Work in progress. Materials were hand-twisted cord from 500 ml water bags, recycled and scrap fabric, plastic shopping bags.

Godwin and fellow co-founder of g-lish, Gayle Pescud, were warmly welcoming, sharing, supporting. Right from the start it felt different to other classes as we were gently taught to listen attentively, not fidgeting with our materials and phones, as we heard of the significant spiritual role of circles in Ghana traditions, connectedness, and how all both give and receive. As the day progressed everyone shared stories, made connections, some plans for future ventures…

Finished basket

New techniques included a variant on making cord (Godwin’s repurposed thong technique – a short video at https://www.instagram.com
/p/BXJppVbAaSq/
– I’ve adapted at home using a non-skid mat offcut); a neat setup technique for the basket; lots of detail on handling materials, joining, adding “legs” and more. Everyone finished a small basket, and seemed to feel warmed, refreshed, re-energised.

Some links:
http://www.glishfoundation.org/
https://www.facebook.com/GlishFoundationGhana/
http://www.godwinyidana.com/
https://www.instagram.com/godwinyidana/

Germination I and II – in Basketry NSW Transformation exhibition

Next Sunday is Basketry NSW’s annual Exhibition and Open Day. See details on the flyer to the right (click for larger view).

This is the first one I’ve participated in. I saw last year’s exhibition (see 10-July-2016), and as I wrote back then it influenced me to make basketry part of my creative practice and indeed to join the group.

I’m showing two objects in the exhibition, and will also be one of those demonstrating on the Open Day.

Germination I and Germination II

In early 2016 I decided to change up, transform, my creative practice. Previously textiles-focused, I undertook a week’s Creative Research Masterclass with Ruth Hadlow (13-Nov-2016), other weeks working on Welding Sculptures with Paul Hopmeier (22-Jan-2017), Basketry with Brooke Munro (15-Jan-2017), and a week with Keith Lo Bue exploring forms with steel wire and the poetics of found objects (23-Apr-2017). All this plus shorter classes in life sculpture, drawing, basketry, wearable technology, a sculpture conference, and of course joining Basketry NSW.

Germination I

The first growth from this intensive period is seen here. Germination I melds wire-forging skills from Keith with basketry’s random weave, informed by my loom-weaving background. The steel is construction wire, the same used in Germination II, and with hammer and hand-polishing explores the mutable qualities of this wonderful material.

Germination II Sideview

Germination II was begun in the class with Paul Hopmeier. Scrap metal and factory floor waste combines with construction wire in a tangle of growth, expansion, transmutation.

Soft sculpture Twining and more

Judy Dominic, wrapping up two days of exploration

The highlight of recent days was a workshop with Judy Dominic – Soft Sculpture Twining – organised by Basketry NSW.

Two days, two apparently simple techniques – twining and a ribbing/edging – , two weights of seagrass cord, infinite possibilities.

The combination of material and technique produced a malleable fabric that could be turned, punched, folded, stretched out of shape… Spokes and weavers were moved as needed. As long as you have the length, you have options. And if you need to, you can always add length in different ways.

Judy moved around the class constantly, encouraging, supporting, challenging. One piece-in-progress, and in discussion there were possibilities for a few years’ investigation.

Class work

A general photo doesn’t capture the individuality, the wide range of responses of the participants. A few highlights below (click on a photo for a larger view):

I concentrated on a sampler of options rather than finished work. Two samples in fact, which then were joined, twisted and pummeled, pulled into a possibility for the group display, and since partly dismantled so I can keep playing.


Next will be trying out some ideas using some of my more familiar materials. It will be interesting to see how that changes the performance of the results.

Exhibition
Adman: Warhol before popAGNSW

Andy Warhol
Progressive Piano (hands on piano keys)

The exhibition is huge, lots of photos and ephemera from Warhol’s life as well as his work.

I followed my eye.

Warhol’s blotted line technique results in some fascinating lines, sometimes strong, sometimes tentative, with rhythms and hesitations that had me holding my breath as I followed them across the page.
The use of collage, especially in blocks of colour that draw the eye and emphasize areas without directly responding the the lines, is particularly exciting.

Andy Warhol
Marbleized paper (detail)

The AGNSW website has videos demonstrating a number of Warhol’s techniques, including blotted-line and marbleizing. Definitely techniques I would like to explore myself. I’ve challenged myself with collage in the past (see for example 22-Sep-2016 and 31-Dec-2016 – it doesn’t come naturally to me), and combining it with a monotype-ish technique would be an interesting extension.

Andy Warhol, Julia Warhola
‘It’s a real genuine fake’

Text is another excitement in many of the displayed works, most the work of Warhol’s mother Julia Warhola. It brings a level of detail, intricacy, and draws the viewer in to read and see more. There’s more of the quirky individuality, like the blotted lines, where smooth flowing progression is replaced by a fragmenting rhythm, syncopated, stretching, bending, crowding unevenly down the page. (OK, so the example shown isn’t the most extreme on a number of those counts).

Andy Warhol
Cosmetics

Cosmetics combines lines and dynamic forms brought together with transparent colours, some duller, following the drawn line, others brighter, linking and framing.

I wasn’t expecting to like this exhibition, not “serious” enough perhaps, but I’ve been back a couple of times and felt invigorated, energized by it. It’s in its last days, so you’ll need to hurry.

Dance
Orb Sydney Dance Company

Two newly commissioned dance pieces, one with beautiful costumes and flowing, rippling movement, the other more street gritty, confined, with an amazing sequence of bodies weaving in space.

Had me thinking about what “rhythm” means.

Talks
All part of the AGNSW lecture series Site Specific: The power of place.

Jane Messenger: “Soap suds and white wash: JMW Turner and the Sea”
Turner’s innovation and his influence on other artists such as Monet and Pissaro were interesting, but what has stayed with me are the closing two paintings, one from early in Turner’s career, one late, both showing a vortex of ships, water, spray.

Dr Ruth Pullin: “Eugene von Guérard and Cape Schanck”
Von Guérard was a traveller with an ability to quickly discerne the essence of a place, and an eye for seeing the picture in nature. He was also a man of his time, interested in geology and other science, a convergence of the romantic (the enormity of space) and the scientific (accurate topology). Seeing sketchbook and finished works is always illuminating, especially the open air painting in the German tradition, oil studies rather than a standard sketchbook.

Von Guérard spent just 30 of his 90 years in Australia, 1852 – 1882. I knew him as a painter of Australia and New Zealand. It was odd to see early work, from his extensive training in Germany and Italy, showing his intimate knowledge of the Neander Valley.

While writing this post I came across the abstract of Ruth Pullin’s PhD thesis (link). Impossible to follow up everything 😦

Dr Alison Inglis: “Sir John Everett Millais – the allure of Scotland”
The paintings we looked at showed an emotional sincerity, psychological spaces, collapsing perspective, slightly flattened space and emphasis of silhouettes.

Sometimes. The paintings also showed a journey of technique and style, to a much lesser extent of subject, over the course of a lifetime’s work. That doesn’t make it less sincere, a young man controversial and anti-establishment, the older man president of the Royal Academy of Arts – the establishment. A sell-out or bolder? Does it matter? – focus on the work.

Dr Chiara O’Reilly: “Barbizon and Jean François Millet”
Something noble can be made of the humblest of life.

O’Reilly argued that in Millet’s works, even those apparently empty of human figures, there is a theme of labour, of the shaping and defining of the land by humans. In many pictures of course the figure(s) are strong, powerful, dominating – The Sower, in ways The Gleaners. The figures of the poorest are given dignity by the attention Millet gives, the scale, layering the real with memory and inspiration.

As a textile person I need to point out the knitting – much knitting. We’ve lost touch with the cost, the effort, of clothing ourselves.

Trial and error

… although all is trial and learning, nothing is error when playing ??

Sugar tong and resin

The sugar-tong-end earrings seen last week got new inserts. These started as sample p3-45 in the Mixed Media for Textiles course (23-Sep-2015), threads partially embedded in a thin sheet of resin.

Sample p3-45

It turns out this stuff is easy to cut, sand and drill, and as I noted back then the thread effect is particularly effective when backlit.

I wore the earrings in this form for a day, but they still looked like wearing spoons. Shortening the stem has helped, and this may well be the final version – although it’s a powerful realisation than anything can be taken apart and used as components elsewhere.

Sugar tong ends and resin – final version?

Agapanthus earrings

These agapanthus earrings aren’t going anywhere in this iteration. They’re based on a component in a proto-neckpiece done in Keith Lo Bue’s class (23-Apr-2017). They just look clumsy and lumpen. Less energy, less joy. The idea’s time will come, one day.

Finally a piece in progress. It’s a larger, hopefully refined version of a sample seen 23-Apr-2017. Almost all the material is in there. Now it’s a matter of finessing the form, doing a little more forging, and then major polishing. Hours of fun ahead 🙂

Cold forged and random woven steel in progress

Making and unmaking

After

Before

A potential joy of my current type of making is the unmaking. Who knew a redundant electricity meter had such interesting and very nicely made things in it? Most of it went into the stash for now, but a few components have been re-purposed…

New stand, reworked earrings

… into a new stand for earring photography.

Ceramic and steel earrings – previous version

The earrings shown have been seen previously (23-Apr-2017), and since then have received smaller jump rings and a good polishing. The details make a big difference.

Welded and random weave

Oddly, when I enrolled in Keith Lo Bue’s classes (also 23-Apr-2017) I was focused on learning more about the reo wire I was already using in random weave (the ongoing welded and woven piece) and other basketry projects, and to develop some comfort using found objects. It was a surprise to see the class signposted as “jewellery”. As luck would have it, I am a long term wearer and collector of dangly earrings, and earrings are a great subject for practicing my new skills. Happy days 🙂

Earlier sugar tong earrings

The next making is on-going. This started as the end sections of some sugar tongs (the handle section has been seen previously – yet again 23-Apr-2017). A long process – so a short photo essay. I’m still mulling over the final inserts – the photo looks better than life.

Next up some wire work, inspired by a spiral pendant by Alexander Calder (pictured here).

The version on the right is the basic form. The one on the left has been cold forged (so slightly more polished and faceted, catching some light) and the lower section twisted to enhance three dimensionality. A bit heavy, and neither is good enough to become jewellery – maybe tree ornaments. More practice needed, and perhaps a finer gauge wire.

Exhibitions
Briefly…
Textiles out of Context, Braemar Gallery Springwood
This was a varied exhibition, showcasing a wide variety of textile disciplines.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Ellen King’s Etosha was inspired by her travels. Great expertise shown in this work, the felting, the intricate dyeing. I like the way imagery has been abstracted, such as the tracks of animals to a waterhole, and extending the work to include both wall-hanging and bowl.
Variation in technique, and so scale, creates interest in Jillian Culey’s piece. One of the aspects I appreciate about basketry techniques is the opportunity to play with shadow, giving depth and richness.

Saskia Everingham
Light Seeds

Saskia Everingham’s Light Seeds has an elegance and scale that attracted a lot of attention at the opening. The work was serene on its low plinth, with no evidence of the practical issues of how the lights were powered. It simply glowed.

Sadhana Peterson
By The Water Hole

The combination of ceramic and basketry techniques in this work felt unforced and fully integrated. Colours and lines complimented each other, creating a complex and satisfying whole.

Pam de Groot
Fully Charged

The bright colour and lively movement of Pam de Groot’s felt work brought a moment of joy.

The National 2017
This new biennial survey involves three major Sydney galleries and aims to present the latest in Australian art. In initial visits to AGNSW and MCA I was attracted to some works which used repetition and variation on a massive scale, underpinned by serious symbolism.

Yhonnie Scarce
Death Zephyr

Yonnie Scarce’s installation references the Maralinga atomic tests and the displacement of Aboriginal communities. The hand-blown glass forms, suggestive of people or bush food, move slightly in random air currents, gently clinking – so fragile, so precious.

A midden, sign of long residence of Aboriginal communities, in a bed of copper slag, sign of the mining and commercial activities given priority today, tainting and destroying the land. The “myths and methods of colonisation” (quoting from AGNSW signage) continue.

Other works that grabbed my attention claimed space, approaching an idea from multiple directions.

Found rubber, galvanised steel, and bark – all incised by Gunybi Ganambarr in intricate patterns based on sacred clan designs. Forms echo. A history of use and misuse of the land.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Gary Carsley’s installation was complex and included sound and video. Signage at the MCA references the artist’s investigations of what he regards as the artifice of European-Australian culture. I’m still thinking about this, wondering how it fits or challenges my understanding of my own heritage. A quick internet search turned up the definition “clever or cunning devices or expedients, especially as used to trick or deceive others”. Is my culture more rapacious, more contrived, less valuable than any other culture? I don’t want to accept that, and I don’t think I would want to categorize another’s culture in that way. Deep, ongoing flaws – yes. Dreadful damage done to others – yes. Artifice? Artifice as the sum total or dominant element of a culture? No.

I was very taken with a mixed media installation by Nell at MCA. No photos yet.

There have been a couple of lectures, bits and pieces, but I think that brings me as close to up to date as I’m going to get.

No destination

A liberating moment of realisation – there is no destination, no triumphant end point, no grand statement. I’ve been feeling a bit lost, doing lots of bits and pieces, coming to the end of my grand plan of foundation training and … and then what? I felt I should develop a Brief – capital letter, a big, serious challenge.

Totally blocking.

What I really want to do is make. experiment. explore. play. most of all play.
Inevitably reading and thinking and looking and talking. But not driving to be some kind of substitute course or program.

Live the life and enjoy it. Go to what attracts me. Not look too far ahead.

What led to this insight? In part a great pair of workshops with Keith Lo Bue. Capping off a year of great workshops. I’ve got the beginnings of a great (!) set of tools, techniques, materials, ideas. And now I want a time of free play, see what I can do with it all.

The workshops with Keith were Steeling Beauty (2 days) and Precious Little (3 days), held as part of ContextArt.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In Steeling Beauty we took 1.57mm steel wire, sold cheaply at hardware stores here as “reo wire”, and turned it into intricate chains and forms. Keith covered tools (options, strengths, limitations), technique (basic how to plus variations, ergonomics, safety, efficiency…) and design.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Precious Little started by throwing us in the deep end. First we wandered the grounds of the venue, collecting oddments. Then a swap, putting three of our precious brought objects on a table and selecting three others. Then the brief: take one precious object we brought from home, one found object, and one from the swap, and combine in a piece of wearable art – no extras, no glue. Cue the gasps of horror. A group sharing and discussion at the end of the day showed an amazing range of responses to the challenge and some really interesting work.

The following days we could work on our own chosen projects, with group sessions of instruction and demonstration from Keith. This was just as thorough, as enlightening, and as empowering as in Steeling Beauty. At least half a day was spent on drilling holes in different materials. It sounds like overkill, but was just amazing. I’m full of confidence in approaching materials in a safe way, allowing me to experiment and play freely.

sugar tong earrings

The learning and exploration has continued following the class. I bought Keith’s DVD workshop Getting Attached: Rivets revealed! and have been watching that. I’ve been sourcing a few more key tools. And I’ve been making.

A box of old cutlery oddments in an antique store provided the base material for a pair of earrings (begun in class and finished at home. Skills practised included use of jeweller’s saw, filing, drilling, use of various pliers and cutters).

Ceramic and steel earrings

More earrings use forms created from the reo wire, plus pieces from a ceramic egg-cup, found broken in the back of a kitchen cupboard. The egg-cup came from Auntie Min (my “Australian grandma”, although the relationship is more complex). I’m so happy to have found a way to keep this close.

These used the new wire cold-forging skills, sawing and bending, grinding and drilling ceramic… Some adjustments, fine-tuneing and polishing are still needed.

Cold forged, random weave

Finally a first attempt in combining techniques from two of the classes I’ve done this year – with Keith, and the random weave with Brooke Munro (15-Jan-2017).

That same reo wire is also being used in the ongoing random weave on a structure begun in class with Paul Hopmeier (22-Jan-2017). And I’ve got ideas about using that wire, and some of all those skills, combined with some of the lines and form explored in the various life drawing and life sculpting classes (with Kassandra Bossell 1-Apr-2017, amongst others).

Playtime!


Instagram

Germination II
In Basketry NSW Transformation exhibition Sunday 2 July. More info fibresofbeing.wordpress.com

Calendar of Posts

August 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Archives

Categories