Archive for the 'Workshop' Category

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/

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.

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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.

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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!

Workshop: Figure Sculpting with Kassandra Bossell

This one day class at Sydney Community College in Rozelle was engrossing and satisfying. Kassandra is a warm, supportive and encouraging tutor. For me it was a wonderful combination of my recent learning in life drawing with my interest in developing my work toward three dimensions.

Our material was clay (Keane’s white raku), and just a few simple tools. We were given the task of modelling an elephant to introduce us to the clay. It is so pleasant to work with. This really brings the haptic element to work – very welcome to one with a history of working with textiles.

Then our model arrived and we were introduced to the work process. The model posed on a table set in the centre of the room. Touching and almost surrounding it were more tables, with just a short gap at one corner for access. We worked on boards, 10 of us distributed in a circle around the model. After a short period we would move to the next position, reorient our board, and continue working. Eventually we would work our way around the circle and have seen the model from every angle (we could climb up on stools for a top view).

In the first pose we were to focus on the torso – no limbs. For me this made apparent a difference to drawing. Normally you’re fighting to ignore what you “know”, to draw from observation. For this sculpting I found using my own knowledge and experience of the body was helpful, especially when an arm obscured the torso.

However what we know is always a dangerous thing. Some of the heads in the class looked more like a ball balanced on a short cylinder, and I think virtually all of us had the head too small. Kassandra asked us to focus on the head and how it sits on the body in our third attempt.

A reclining pose raised new problems. Parts of the body were pushed around or hidden by cushions. It was difficult to avoid having the body look like it was emerging through the table.

Throughout the day Kassandra continued to introduce new ideas, or refinements of technique. We needed to think about proportion, weight, volume. Light shows form, and I love the way light almost seems to caress this clay (I haven’t seen it fired, but presumably it could look quite different).

There was a wide variety in results. Some students used transformations, interpretations – definitely not literal representations. I tried hard to reproduce what I was seeing. I also noted again that I naturally use an additive style, building up material rather than carving out.

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The timing of poses varied. First time round I think we had 2 minutes at each position in the circle. Later it was generally 4 minutes and sometimes completing two circuits but moving two positions each time. We all became more and more reluctant to move on, always wanting to do just a little more.

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In the final pose of the day the model was hunched forward, putting a lot of weight on her arms. Without an armature my work kept sagging forwards. Kassandra showed me how to build up and strengthen the arms. In theory I could work on the clay when it is dry, fix up the shaping a bit.

A week later and the clay is far from dry. Sydney has seen a lot of rain, but none of the winds and flooding the north has experienced. Kassandra finished the workshop with a lot of information on how to prepare the work for firing. I haven’t decided yet which if any I will take to be fired. There’s also the question of finish. I never had time to blend in the extra material as I was adding it so the figures look very patchy, a little Frankenstein’s monster. I actually really like that, the way light is broken up, and wouldn’t want to do a lot of smoothing or try to “correct” any mistakes.

No hurry to make a decision – but I was in a hurry to book into Kassandra’s next life sculpting workshop. Given my place is secured I am happy to recommend the class (link) to you all.

Workshop: Welding Sculptures with Paul Hopmeier

This week of summer school at National Art School was exciting, exhausting, terrifying, absorbing, expanding, satisfying… It gave me everything I was hoping for and more.

Paul Hopmeier has been exhibiting sculpture for over 30 years and brought a wealth of technical expertise and problem solving ideas. Sometimes with the group but more often individually Paul would share a way of looking at and thinking about sculpture, helping me to see and think about what I was doing. A small comment about not wanting to lack ambition, or a brief discussion on treatment of ends, and I would suddenly see all sorts of new options and possibilities.

Simon Hodgson, the sculpture studio technician, was on hand all week with advice and help, challenging and suggesting, a tutor in all but name in his own right. Paul and Simon together make a great team – great knowledge, lots of respect for each other, but different perspectives and emphases which again made clear the vast choices we have.

nas_workshopThe first day was basically induction and initial practice in safe use of all the equipment available to us. The photo shows one end of the large studio (air-conditioned, thank goodness). At the end are five welding bays, complete with plastic (?) curtains to contain damaging light. We did stick and mig welding. Along the right wall can be seen the large metal cutting bandsaw, on the left wall the sheet metal folder. Left centre is the roller for bending curves. Behind the centre work bench is a belt grinder and a drill press. Out of view is the sheet metal guillotine. The other half of the space is generally for woodwork – we used it as work and discussion area, and for setting out additional tools – different kinds of vise, hand tools, all the safety equipment for eyes, ears, hands etc. Outside was a series of work benches, covered but open, for noisier work – angle grinders (for cutting and grinding), anvils and hammers… There was a lot of equipment to learn about.

oxy_cutting
It wasn’t until the second morning that we were introduced to oxy-acetylene for cutting and bending. This was the one piece of equipment we could only use under direct tutor supervision, and it properly scared me. In the images above I am adjusting the flame and then cutting some metal. Terrifying.

Then we were let loose. Everyone had brought some bits and pieces of steel scrap and maybe some found objects. We each had oddments from the training process – some cut and bent sheet, a curve of flat bar etc. Outside were some piles and bins of dumped material for us to pick over – off-cuts, abandoned student work, some donations from Paul. We could each decide what we wanted to do, to use, ask for or be offered help and advice, then just do it.

I started with more welding practice. Stick welding you need to control speed, angle, feed (of the stick) and placement/direction. I could manage maybe two of those at once. MIG was a bit easier – no changing distance to work to manage feed, but the sensitive trigger kept auto-feeding wire when not wanted.

My first piece evolved from a series of experiments and then a sort of iterative response to what was happening. No progress photos, but the sequence was something like: Trying out the sheet metal guillotine to cut some strips of thin sheet; combining using plain weave; tacking together using the mig welder (difficult not to melt the thin sheet). Where to go next??? Trying out a different join method by riveting the woven piece to the sample curved metal bar. The result stood up on the table in a curve. Where to go next??? Maybe another piece of welded weave to curve around the back. More cutting, weaving, welding, bending. Put the two pieces together. Boring. Dead space. Dull. Don’t want to do that. Where to go next??? The first bit looks a bit like a mask or helmet. The second piece could be a belly or flank. Nope, sizes are wrong. Swap them. Head and torso? How to join them??? Rummage around the metal bins, found some scrap of heavy mesh. Could weld it on. Where to join? Some discussion, try-outs holding with vises. What angle? Some hammering to match curves. Welding. Pieces are joined. Where to go next??? Could it be free-standing? Audition some possibilities. Not convinced. A wall piece? Oh, that looks promising. Need a hanging mechanism. Bend tabs on that major curve? Complex angles. Cut off excess length of curve and weld on back tabs at good angle? Why not weld right across? So some cutting, grinding, drilling of holes, welding. How to finish/protect the metal??? That final question remains undetermined, but that aside at the end of Wednesday I called it done.

Photo: Paul Hopmeier

Photo: Paul Hopmeier

One of my happiest moments in a very happy week was when Paul called this “resolved”. I am thrilled by the process and thrilled with the result.

It’s around 73 cm high, 31 cm wide and sits 19 cm off the wall. I find the textures, the balance of weight and space, the amount of irregularity of form, satisfying. It reads best seen from the front, but has some interest from all angles. I chose not to tidy or hide any part of the process. Messy learner welds remain messy. A couple of sharp external points had a little grinding, but otherwise the result seen is what happened. I think for this piece it works.

basketry_randomweave_2dIt was hard to get moving on a second piece. Finally I decided to develop some ideas based on my random weave vine and wire piece from the class with Brooke Munro (15-Jan-2017). Instead of the vine I could weld a rough basket form of bent rod. I had some interesting bits of wire, knotted and cut ties from the scrap metal yard. The tie wire used in the vine work could be used again in random weave, giving a third weight of line.

A cycle of work repeated all of Thursday. Put on outside work gear (leather gloves, eye protection, ear plugs and muffs). Take a piece of scavenged rod, around 1 cm diameter. Bend in interesting curves that will match work in progress (wip) – no machinery, just rod firmly in vise, long hollow square cut rod placed over end to provide long lever, strength I didn’t know I had in me. Take bent rod and wip inside, change into welding gear (leather gauntlets, welding mask). Long frustrating process using magnets, vise-grips, bricks etc to hold rod and wip in place. Tack weld (or bump and have to re-set). One tiny weld and suddenly everything could be moved around, turned upside down, and the weld completed. Repeat. Repeat again. And again.

On Friday morning I made a start on the random weave. I also found materials and time to make a sort of tuning-fork shaped device that can be held in a vise and assists bending (demonstrated to us on Monday, but unfortunately forgotten by me on Thursday – but at least now I have one). It’s still a work in progress, but I can continue without needing any specialist equipment.

Photo: Paul Hopmeier

Photo: Paul Hopmeier

I’m planning different densities, layering… plans that will change as work progresses.

Lamp by Mat

Lamp by Mat

Mosquito by Steve

Mosquito by Steve

It was interesting to see the range of work done by the different students (just nine of us – the tenth didn’t return after day 1, uncomfortable with the equipment). Mat made a very clever table lamp, the flex hidden in round tube, a lump of solid metal providing a solid base. Steve made a number of quirky pieces, including this mosquito with wings and jaws formed by a pair of pliers and proboscis a saw blade.

This was a great class and I’ve learnt lots. It was good to be able to incorporate weaving, basketry and thread skills and sensibilities right from the start. I’ve since spent some time thinking about minimal home studio setup, or maybe joining a maker-space. Certainly I see all the techniques and materials feeding into future work.

This was the last activity included in the five month plan developed in September (15-Sep-2016). Next I need to review what I’ve been doing and update the plan.

Exciting days ahead.

Workshop: Vivien Haley The Mono Printed Brushmark: Experimental printing techniques

This one-day masterclass was run at the lovely Hazelhurst Gallery & Arts Centre. Vivien Haley, the tutor, studied sculpture and print-making at Art School. Her varied career has included exhibiting as a sculptor, hand block-printing fabrics, and most recently exploring digital printing of her original work.

In this class Vivien showed us the expressive power of some deceptively simple techniques – mono-printing, block-printing, sgraffito. In one way it was a reminder of what I already knew, given the printing assignment of Mixed Media for Textiles, but with the particular materials and tools and techniques I chose, all the textures and marks I made, none produced a printed brushmark. Incredible in hind-sight!

Print 1

Print 1

After a general introduction of herself and some show-and-tell of some beautiful fabrics (some hand-printed, some digitally printed collages of her hand-printing), Vivien introduced printing in the most simple and direct way – using black acrylic paint, painting onto some xray film or a wooden block, scratching in marks, and printing onto paper. I set off with a wooden block, experimenting with different amounts of paint, scratching, painting on some hessian and printing that by pressing with the wood… a little variety of tones but nothing exciting.

Print 2

Print 2

At one point I started playing with some colour, printing off a scrap of cardboard. There’s a sense of depth in areas, a little movement contained in the structure of the pattern. What started getting my attention was the mark of the brush itself, more than the shape of print or the scratching into the paint.

Print 3

Print 3

Print 3 detail

Print 3 detail

I returned to this print a number of times over the day, adding layers. It started with a glass printing plate, brushed on paint, and some yarn as a resist. At this point I was deliberately choosing brushes which gave a broken mark. The second layer was red paint on hessian, with a border mask of newspaper to give the overall shape. Finally I wanted more lines at a different scale, so covered some yarn with paint, arranged them on the glass, used a circular mask, and took the print.

As a whole it doesn’t work, but I like the detail of the layering, the different scales of mark and the energy in them. We were using primary school grade acrylic paint, not top artist quality stuff, and for this technique it was wonderful. Rich and creamy, just the right consistency for printing without modification, and quite slow to dry – plenty of time for manipulation on the plate or block.

Print 4

Print 4

More experimentation with layers and marks. The printing inks I used in my earlier assignment were transparent, so I got interesting layering and mixing of colour. The acrylic paint is basically opaque, with the layering coming from the broken marks. A very different effect. I wonder what could be done with combining the media, playing the different kinds of layering against each other…

VivienHaleyClass05The last print I’m showing (we all produced a lot of work) brings together the major ideas that had caught my interest. The energy and the lines in the initial layer reminded me of the movement of water in the harbour, so I played on that in my over-printing using pieces of heavy cardboard as a stamp.

Print 5 detail

Print 5 detail

The detail photo shows that the acrylic isn’t fully opaque – the layer below can still be seen. There’s a lot happening with very basic materials and tools.

There were 10 or so in the class, everyone working pretty independently and with a variety of approaches.


One worked on fabric (I didn’t get a good shot of that). Quite a range of different marks and use of colour. There’s more to see in Claire’s post.

A sobering aspect of the class was the reason Vivien has turned to digital work – she developed an allergy to the printing ink. A good reminder to be thoughtful in how we use materials and protect ourselves. Vivien had worked for years with the inks, including quite a lot of spraying backgrounds. The positive is that she has been able to make the move to digital – with all sorts of advantages, such as adjusting colours, changing scale, mixing images of different works to create new designs, and flexibility in print runs (shapes and designs). The results can be seen on her website, vivienhaley.com/, and all the work evidences the original handprinting. Vivien works closely with a printing house and gave quite a detailed explanation of the process from a designer’s point of view, but out of scope here.

During the class Vivien came round a few times and made suggestions, asked questions, pointed out possibilities. One was drawing back into a print, bringing out and developing areas. I wasn’t able to turn my mind to that on the day – I was firmly in printing mode – but it’s something to come back to. Writing up this post reminded me of the collage effects she’s working with. I’m not feeling drawn to a digital approach at the moment (I spend enough time at the computer), but I’d like to print up a range of papers and colours and try working with collage.

Vivien also talked about the nature of printing a brushmark. It becomes a memory, a record of something gone. That could add a nice depth of thought in the right context.

The biggest immediate impact for me has been renewing excitement in making marks. The printing process captures, flattens and makes the painted marks more graphic and I want to keep doing that – especially the broken marks that are so expressive. But the impact I mean here is more general. My sketching has been languishing, but now I’m keen.

I’ll write some more in my regular roundup, but here will show the results of a session printing acrylic ink.


These are based on a video on Croquis Cafe (www.onairvideo.com/croquis-cafe.html), and clearly show the available scope for improvement.

Ignoring that – I see a lot of potential in some of the lines and marks. I also now know that not all cheap acrylic paints are created equal. The one I was using dried much too quickly. Even a two-minute pose had dried too much before I could print it.

The important thing is – I’m working on it.

Workshop – 3D printing

2015-03-103dprinterThis was an evening class, a 3 hour introduction into the huge range of materials, techniques, possibilities and opportunities in 3D printing.
On the left is the printer demonstrated in class by Mat, our tutor. He described it as “really a glorified glue gun”. It lays down layers of material, using a spool of plastic that looks like whipper-snipper line (which was actually used in earlier days). It’s a resource-friendly additive process – I quite like the parallel to weaving, adding picks (layers) of weft to create the cloth.

There’s been chatter in the past about printing plastic guns and so on, but while theoretically you could they wouldn’t be very good guns. Better examples are shoes from a scan of the foot, prosthetics that fit exactly and are cheap enough to upgrade each year as a child grows, a coconut cutter that was everywhere in your village but nowhere to be found in Sydney. With 3D printing you can create unique and/or customised items, or replacement parts not kept in inventory, or prototypes while developing that new gadget that will take the world by storm. For actual manufacture in bulk you’d move to injection moulding or other faster and cheaper methods.

Mat took us on a whirlwind tour of the various methods in use – extrusion, wire, granular, powder bed and inkjet head, laminated and light polymerised. He talked sintering and stereolithography and ceramic plaster… but what I was really focused on were the techniques and materials available to me now, reasonably locally and economically, with my Mixed Media for Textiles course in mind.

FDM (fused deposition modeling), as in the printer Mat showed us, is the most affordable, using polymer filaments – many types available in a wide variety of TLAs (three (or two) letter acronyms). There seems to be a lot to think about when printing – the grain of the printing (greater weakness on the z-axis), adhesion to the printing plate, temperatures, nozzle diameter, printer speed, layer height… and that’s after you’ve actually designed your item. It seems like a lot, but there is a very active community on the internet, lots on YouTube, and various service providers including Mat.

The workshop includes printing of a small item of our own design, so I’ll be sending my file off to Mat soon. I’m really excited about the possibilities for combining the printed items with textiles, so the plan is to start experimenting with that. I also want to get hold of some polymorph plastic, which melts in hot water and you can then mould by hand, and perhaps a 3D pen.

Some links:
http://madmat3dprinting.com.au/ – website of our tutor, Mat Danic.
https://www.facebook.com/MADTechSupport/videos?fref=photo – videos Mat has shared. In particular https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=443910142439183&set=vr.443910142439183&type=2&theater, which shows the polymorph plastic.

http://www.threefarm.com/makers-place/ and http://www.makersplace.org.au/ The Makers Place in Sydney. You can join and access their equipment, including a number of 3d printers

http://www.sydneycommunitycollege.com.au/course/B.3D.Prin There’s another class coming up at the Sydney Community College

Free design software:
http://shapeshifter.io/
http://3dp.rocks/lithophane/
http://www.123dapp.com/3D-printing


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Goodyer girls long weekend in Hobart

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