Archive for May, 2018

Jane Tadrist: Silver Jewellery Etching

This class at Sydney Community College was held on two Tuesday evenings. Going straight from work it made long days, but I’m pleased with my results and learning so definitely worth the effort.

Very broadly the steps followed were:

1. Preparation of images (done prior to class).
These needed to be black and white, printed in specific dimensions to fit the metal pieces we would be using.

I spent a fun afternoon going through images of old sketchbook pages, looking for possibilities. For example some pen and ink scribble from 2011 (A Creative Approach sketchbook 1), already interpreted multiple times including in print on cotton (22-Mar-2012), was the base for both square and strip designs. Not sure what designs would work best, I created quite a few, all printed out in both positive and negative forms.

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2. Selection of images and transfer onto PNP Blue

Copied images on PNP

It was a multi-step process to get a photocopy of selected images onto PNP Blue (Press N Peel PCB Film, sold at some electronics stores to make Printed Circuit Boards). The film is expensive, so you want to get the most from each sheet, it has to be toner not inkjet, pros and cons of different designs were discussed, not-quite-right images were carefully doctored manually…

3. Preparation of metal
The constant, awful, truth of jewellery and small scale metalwork, in particular my nemesis – soldering (30-Apr-2018). Flat, to size, filed, no plastic coating, sanded, scrubbed, rinsed, carried tenderly and gingerly lest fingerprints should be left on its pristine surface…

4. Transfer of design onto metal and protection of areas not to be etched.
The toner on the PNP film is transferred onto the metal using heat – domestic irons. The toner will act as a resist, protecting selected areas while any bare parts are eaten away. Nail polish and tape were used to protect sides and back.

This was as far as I got the first night. The actual etching takes time, at least 30 minutes and considerably more depending on a range of variables.

5. Etching metal
The prepared metal is put in a chemical bath – ferric chloride for base metals and ferric nitrate for silver. These chemicals need to be treated seriously, carefully – after all, they dissolve metal. Fumes, safe materials for holding the chemicals, proper personal protection, all had to be considered. Work with care and attention, and there won’t be a problem. As well as the safety procedures, Jane gave us lots of tips on correct temperatures, agitation (of the bath, not the users 🙂 ), methods and angle of suspension and more.

6. Check, remove, neutralise, clean
We all worked on preparing more metal and samples as soon as the first strips were in the etching bath, which helped with the waiting and anticipation. A check every 15 minutes or so, and eventually we decided the etching was deep enough. Each piece of metal had to be neutralised in a baking soda solution, then lots of cleaning to remove toner, tape, nail polish.

7. Further enhance and use your metal
I think everyone in the class etched three pieces – strips of brass and copper, a square of silver. Unfortunately we all ran short of time on the etching of our second strips, and they were less deeply etched. Some had time to create a jewellery piece during the class, but it was getting late and I chose to wait for the weekend.

Some of us decided to use liver of sulphur on at least some of our pieces. It creates colour, a patina, on the metal and can be buffed back to bring out highlights and make the etched pattern more obvious. I thought it was always black, but a couple of us got other colours.

I was able to get a few photos of other people’s work, plus permission to use them here.

Vicki’s silver square, with liver of sulphur colouring

The silver we used was 3 x 3 cm. Vicki’s design came out really well. I’m not sure of the source of her design, it’s quite a formal pattern, but there’s still a lot of movement. The amount of detail is effective, and I like the variation in size or boldness of line. The colouring from liver of sulphur works really well to suggest a peacock display.

Dilkie’s silver square

Dilkie chose to keep her silver natural, not adding any patina. The clean lines of the floral pattern stand out well and the eye is easily able to follow the lines with no additional contrast needed.

The photos were a surprise, as the slight pitting and irregularity isn’t visible to the naked eye. I think if anything it gives a little extra life to the piece, an extra variation in the way light is reflected, and it shows the history of its making, the hand of the maker.

Dilkie’s cuff, in brass

Dilkie’s cuff uses a simple, formal, and very effective pattern. It catches the light beautifully.

I need to think some more about the kinds of pattern that work best with this technique. I’d taken a few more formal or rigid patterns, but was interested in seeing how “expressive mark making” would work. I think it makes it harder for the eye to follow, so the patterning is more muddled.

The scribble design shown at the top was used on a brass strip. It was long enough to make a cuff, with offcuts that I used in pair of earrings. The original design is quite bold, but I used the low-res blog version rather than the original photo, and the result is clearly pixelated.

Cuff and earrings. Brass


There’s no deliberate patination or colouring of the metal. Somehow in the etching process the unetched areas took on a coppery look. No idea how to reproduce it, but I really like the effect.

The pattern I used on the silver square was less successful in terms of being easy to interpret, but I like the abstract nature of it.

Sketch 20150815

Black and white square design

The source material was a print made in August 2015 while researching for molding and casting (21-Aug-2015). I used gimp for the image manipulation, which was as simple as selecting an area and changing colour mode to indexed using a black and white (1-bit) palette.

Liver of sulphur was definitely needed to provide some extra contrast, and I got some areas of colour as a bonus. I think the others were planning to use their squares as pendants, but for me it’s always about the earrings.

There are flaws – a few scratches, holes a bit off centre – and the ear-wires may well be changed. But I wore them out to dinner over the weekend, got some nice compliments from my well-trained family, and am happy.

My final strip of copper just didn’t work. It needed longer in the etching solution, but the design is quite bitty and was always going to be a challenge.


Sample p2-20 b

The original photo was of a sample of joining with overlapping edges, using cork and insect screen (22-Jun-2015). Originally I thought the black and white design had a flow that would guide the eye along, but it’s really just scrappy. Back home I tried using liver of sulphur to bring out contrast, but there really wasn’t anything there.

A detail of the “good” end.

The class is being run again later in the year. It will be the same number of hours on a single Saturday. It would mean a longer stretch of time to get work into the etching bath (most of us ran out of time on the first evening), but you don’t have time to process, reflect and plan before the second half of the class. Tempting, especially if there’s opportunity to experiment with other forms of resist, alternatives to PNP (wax, different forms of marker…).

Finished tealight from previous class.

I’ve enjoyed two classes with Jane, who is very knowledgeable and happy to share ideas and tips, plus prepared to go a little off topic if asked. I realised during the class that I’ve never shown the finished tea-light holder from her workshop earlier this year. It was seen soldered but still needing the base resolved and of course all that pesky cleaning still to go (18-Feb-2018).

There isn’t an actual tealight in the photo, just a desk lamp shone down into it. I think the treatment of the bottom edge works well with the theme, and it had the advantage of not being too precise so very suitable to my beginner skills 🙂 .

I see in the post on the earlier class linked above that I was thinking of a home soldering area “before the end of the year”. Obviously I’ve brought that forward (30-Apr-2018), and with some extra tips from Jane, today I tried cutting and shaping some copper to make a cylinder with a tight fit that I could solder. It took some time, but I got my best-ever fitting seam. Haven’t actually soldered it yet – I could feel that I was both tired and impatient, so I walked away – but I have renewed hope.

Cuff – resin offcut from Confluence basin

Finally, as part of tooling-up to finish different things I bought an oval bracelet mandrel during the week. (an aside – it’s rather dangerous for me that Australian Jewellers Supplies is just over the road from my workplace.). As mentioned above, in jewellery terms I’m all about the earrings… but I’ve recently been thinking of extending out to cuffs, bracelets and bangles. This is an offcut from the basin element of Confluence (8-Apr-2018), softened in the work-room microwave and formed. Possibilities!

Nicole de Mestre: Vessels of Mass Consumption

Nicole de Mestre’s recent exhibition at the Chrissie Cotter Gallery in Camperdown was a thought-provoking experience.

Nicole de Mestre
Pods; Urban stalagmites

First, the work itself. I’ve seen and written a little about it before (23-Oct-2016). This time it was seen en masse, in a bright, light, open space. Nicole had hung groupings of similar types of work together, the multiples providing coherence and structure, allowing the viewer to appreciate the variety and interest within a particular group while overarching themes and approaches to material became apparent.

Nicole de Mestre
Tales of the Sea series

Nicole’s process is driven by found materials. Living in NSW’s Central Coast area, tide debris on beaches, kerb-side piles of domestic discards, and social networks are rich sources. The worn and weathered surfaces are treated with care and respect to reveal their beauty.

Nicole de Mestre
left: It’s not easy being green.
right: Where the forest meets the factory

Nicole de Mestre
Ocean Nest series

The smaller upper entry level was a rainbow of colours. Most of these could loosely be called “baskets”, or of course “vessels”, I think generally coiled and stitched. Nicole’s extensive collecting habits are apparent, for example It’s not easy being green incorporates Xmas trees, shadecloth, wire, whippersnipper cord, fishing net and tent fabric as well as the more conventional cotton and rope.

I enjoyed the careful editing of materials so that each piece had its own story and identity, the detail and texture created by Nicole’s handling of materials, the use of found stands which gave baskets more presence and added a pleasing contrast of dark, hard, straight lines of manufactured forms backgrounding the more organic happenstance of the vessels.

Nicole de Mestre
The beach below was deserted

Also on this level were two small, framed collages using textiles and found materials. Nicole told me these had been made at the beach, sketches – a process she is keen to explore further. I found these fresh and exciting. The sense of place, of working quickly and intuitively with materials found to hand gives energy to the work. They come from an entirely different direction to Alberto Burri’s collages (29-Apr-2018), but there is an affinity in the textures and forms created. I’m slowly building a brief for my own investigation based on these, extending my past experiments in collage.

The long wall of the larger lower area of the gallery showed series of assemblages – Foundscapes, effectively landscapes, and Tales of the Sea which had two variants, sailing vessels and the scarcely seaworthy piecemeal improvisations of refugee boats. Two came home with me, although one only briefly.

This sailing boat has a sense of movement and urgency. The sails are full, the flag bends in the stiff breeze. I hope a welcome addition to a friend’s harbour-side home, responding to the views outside, the interests of the family, and the layered, textured, and varied collection of objects within.

Now hanging in my workroom, and catch the early steamer is one of the group of assemblages that reference the experience of refugees, risking everything in the hope of a new life in safety and security.

Nicole de Mestre
and catch the early steamer
(Tales of the Sea series)

It took some careful consideration before deciding that I could live with this day to day. I find it beautiful, full of texture and interest and movement, I love the combination of strange and mysterious oddments, but that aesthetic response must be shadowed by the history behind. There’s still a level of discomfort, but in an undoubtedly self-serving way I find comfort in being uncomfortable, in being reminded, in reflecting on the human ability to find beauty in dreadful circumstance (that last would be much more convincing if it wasn’t others’ circumstances). Nicole told me she tries to walk a fine line, exploring issues and raising awareness in her themes while still retaining the appeal in her work for a wider, potentially purchasing, audience.

Nicole’s assemblages and collages include snippets of text. I think all of Tales of the Sea include phrases from a book, Tales of the Sea. Keith Lo Bue is another artist who uses this sort of idea (for example, The story of a shadow), also using assemblage of found materials. It’s an effective way to provide additional depth and narrative to a work, and I think could provide both challenge and guidance in the many decisions that are made in the process of creating a work. Most of my reading for some years now has been information-based – history, artists, techniques. While not seeking narrative, perhaps I could attempt to add a poetic note… Scary thought, which makes me think I need to try it.

Nicole de Mestre
Totally wired

Totally wired has the energy and exuberance I love in pieces incorporating wire. This work reminded me of Tracey Deep (29-Sep-2016), who also finds inspiration in domestic discards.

Nicole de Mestre
Cooler basket

This piece include parts from a fan guard, a recurring material in Nicole’s work. It can be seen above in some of the Tales of the Sea series, and in a more restrained way as a rim to a basket form. This year’s Sculpture at Scenic World exhibition includes an installation by Nicole, What lies beneath, a series of spheres constructed from fan guards (https://www.sculptureatscenicworld.com.au
/artwork/nicole-de-mestre/
), and apparently she has hundreds more stashed in her workspace. It’s a testament to the power of social networking (acquiring the material), and fascinating to see the variety of ways in which an rather bland form can be reinvented. (It happens I have one or two squirreled away in my garage, which may surface one day).

at Artisans in the Gardens

Another form and texture Nicole returns to in her work is the base of a tin can. They have been used in banksia-like forms in Artisans in the Gardens (23-Oct-2016), and in the current exhibition as the base of some baskets.

Nicole de Mestre
Some like it hot

On a larger scale is Some like it hot, which uses the base of an old water heater.

Detail

Above are a couple of shots to show the amount of detail that is included in the work, and this same care and attention is apparent throughout the exhibition.

Nicole is addressing serious issues in her work, here particularly environmental concerns and the plight of refugees, but it is done with a light and often quirky touch. Titles of works can be evocative – Ocean nest, The rising tide, Ghost bird – or jokey – Inglorious basket, Enough rope, Rabbit proof basket. Even the title of the exhibition has multiple meanings. Earlier I used the word “intuitive”, but in fact I think her skills in recognising potential in apparent rubbish and in combining materials in beautiful and interesting ways are the result of long and thoughtful practice. I was lucky enough to have a long chat with Nicole in the exhibition space, hearing about her somewhat eccentric and creatively rich childhood, her studies and work in woven textiles, her later training and work as an art and then special ed teacher. I’m hugely impressed by her work ethic and productivity – apparently list-making is key. I was also flattered that she invited me to the exhibition via a comment on this blog, and that she finds my writing inspiring and thought provoking.

In fact I’ve had such a strong and positive reaction to my whole experience of the exhibition that it’s been difficult to write this blog post. One concern was just being too gushing. I’ve had to tease out what exactly speaks to me that I want to bring back to my own work. The use of basketry techniques and metal, particularly wire, the weaving background, was always going to catch my interest. There is texture, variation, delightful details. The work is well done, but there is no attempt towards perfection – both materials and Nicole’s aesthetic sensibilities lead to the pleasure and beauty of imperfection. There is power in responding to materials, seeking out the best and the potential within them rather than just forcing them to your will.

Environmental concerns I find difficult and at the moment I don’t want to go there – or not in a major way. Tricky actually in basketry circles, as many makers are sensitive to environmental issues, harvesting their own materials or recycling. I have lived all my life in cities, I’m employed playing with numbers on a computer in a city office, I might be forced to but at the moment can’t imagine a life without plastic – in so many parts of my life I’m clearly a cost to the environment. Add in that I’m often cynical of claims that something or other is “environmentally friendly” or at least more so than something else. What does that mean exactly? How careful and thorough and complete and non-self-interested was any life-cycle assessment? So respect to those who do, and waste avoidance where I can, but no environmental themes for me.

Nicole asked me about this blog, saw me as a writer. Not the way I see myself. I write here because it helps me think. I write because I want to remember, and computers are better at that than I am. I write because it gives me a sense of progress (nope, I will not go down the rabbit hole of what progress is or whether we should seek it – this post is already long). For quite a while I used it as my learning log for OCA studies, my main means of communication with my tutors.

It turns out this blog is approaching ten years old. My first post was July 2008 and I wanted to record my learning as a beginner weaver (my 2008 posts); this will be post number 636. I’m pleased if my writing is of interest or use to others (a quick check shows my most viewed post by far was on diversified plain weave, back in October 2009, over 10,000 views). I’m mindful that what I post will be read. But really it’s all about me and all for me.

So now I’m faced with a recurring problem – how do I stop writing? (this post, not the blog generally). No grand conclusions. No clear takeouts for the future, although I think there are quite a few ideas scattered above I want to bring forward in a new brief. So for once I’ll lapse into the domestic. It’s my son’s turn to cook, I’m hungry and something smells interesting. Time to investigate.

Links
Council media release for exhibition https://www.innerwest.nsw.gov.au/news-hot-topics/media/media-releases/vessels-of-mass-consumption-at-chrissie-cotter-gallery
Nicole’s website: http://nicoledemestre.com/
Nicole on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Nicole-de-Mestre-artist-228097140561051/


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