Thursday, February 28, 2013

"A stone, a leaf, an unfound door"

“. . . a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.
Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother's face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth.
Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?

O waste of lost, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this weary, unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When?

O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.”
― Thomas WolfeLook Homeward, Angel

Sometimes a rummage through the stash unites things that should be together.  An abandoned wire wrapped agate and part of an orphaned Etruscan revival earring, and about 30 inches of dead stock beaded brass chain have come together to live again as a sautoir, looking pretty authentic.  All parts were recycled, even the jump rings. 

Just listed in my Etsy shop!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

La Clave

The citizen

I went into the toolshops

in all innocence
to buy a simple hammer
or some vague scissors.
I should never have done it.
Since then and restlessly
I devote my time to steel,
to the most shadowy tools:
hoes bring me to my knees,
horseshoes enslave me.
I am troubled all week,
chasing aluminium clouds,
elaborate screws,
bars of silent nickel,
unnecessary door-knockers,
and now the toolshops are aware of my addiction—
they see me come into the cave
with my wild madman’s eyes
and see that I pine for
curious smoky things
which no one would want to buy
and which I only goggle at.

For in the addict’s dream
sprout stainless steel flowers,
endless iron blades,
eye-droppers of oil,
water-dippers of zinc,
saws of marine cut.
It’s like the inside of a star,
the light in these toolshops—
there in their own splendour
are the essential nails,
the invincible latchkeys,
the bubbles in spirit levels
and the tangles of wire.

They have a whale’s heart,
these toolshops of the port—
they’ve swallowed all the seas,
all the bones of ships,
waves and ancient tides
come together there
and leave behind in that stomach
barrels which rumble about,
ropes like gold arteries,
anchors as heavy as planets,
long and intricate chains
like intestines of the whale itself
and harpoons it swallowed, swimming
east from the Gulf of Penas.

Once I entered, I never left
and never stopped going back;
and I’ve never got away from
the aura of toolshops.
It’s like my home ground,
it teaches me useless things,
it drowns me like nostalgia.

What can I do? There are single men
in hotels, in bachelor rooms;
there are patriots with drums
and inexhaustible fliers
who rise and fall in the air.

I am not in your world.
I’m a dedicated citizen,
I belong to the toolshops.

Pablo Neruda, in The Paris Review, Spring, 1974

A 22-inch hand wrought steel chain with one link made of a horse shoe nail, with a pendant milagro, foiled and oxidized, and a very crusty-rusty antique key.  The Spanish words for nail (el clavo) and key  (la clave) are so similar and their relationship to el corazon makes me have long thoughts, like how many of our personal memories do we really need, what purpose do they serve?  Can we set them down to sleep and dream and not remember them in the morning?  I want some vague scissors and invincible latchkeys, to help with the dilemma.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Do Over

I decided to combine the chains and pendants into one necklace.  It's more interesting, I think.

I made a pronged setting of 24 ga. copper for the enameled eye, and set an eyelet in the hole for the suspension ring, to protect it from chipping.  It did chip a little around the hole, which happened when I began reaming the hole to make it large enough for the eyelet.  A flaw, but not too bad, at least for me, and I believe this one is something I will keep for myself, anyway.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Simple Eye

More struggles with simplicity.  Remember the simple, graphic black-and-white eye from Ken Bova's class? Here it is, as a pendant on another simple steel chain.

Usually, enamelled pieces are set in bezels or given the sort of treatment that protects the edges from chipping, and I know that was a "should" here. But! I found all that just too distracting, and I like it as-is, presented as an evil eye charm, and not too fussy.

I would love to explore this technique, torch-fired enameling, more deeply, and one of these days, when I have a better studio setup, I will. The main necessity would be good ventilation; something more than an open window, and after that, a good technical torch set.

Meanwhile, it's still lovely to play with simple presentation and strong graphic quality.

This little necklace is 22 inches long, approximately, give or take a fraction or so, and would layer nicely with a string of beads or the hand necklace below, and there's room to add another charm or charms if I ever feel the need to complicate things.

And it could be that I'll end up making a setting for it, but I'd like to wear test it first.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Varada Mudra

The Gift Bestowing Gesture of Compassion, or Varada Mudra, is a gesture in Buddhist iconography seen in images of the Buddha. It's actually a universal symbol, seen in other cultures as a symbol of the virtue of charity. In Buddhist teaching, wealth begins with generosity, which I find a profound way of viewing the material world. All we have originates in the hands of others.

I like the idea of this little hand worn as an ex voto or amulet around the neck.

I made a steel chain, 18 inches long, with a hook that fastens the assembly to the same link that suspends the hand. It is mild steel, degreased and patinated with gun blue and heat gun in several steps, finished by quenching it hot in mineral oil, cleaning with alcohol and finally waxing, to keep the rust at bay. I think a little bloom of rust would add to it, though. It's funny, sometimes I do get a blue sheen on mild steel with the gun blue finish, but most often not. I think it takes burnishing between steps to get the blue, but I am not sure. Here it's mostly black with a fugitive highlight here and there.

After the time taken chasing the hand in copper, I wanted a break from the project before I was ready to do something with it. Then it took some more time while I wrestled with the need for simplicity. Now I am thinking of doing a series of these, just as simple. They would be interesting worn in multiples layered at different lengths.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

New Things

A necklace cobbled from vintage printed tin, gem tintype and chain fragments, with antique text collaged to the back.  The poem is "The Blue and The Gray," by Francis Milnes Finch, and this fragment is from an encyclopedia dated about the time of its first publication, post Civil War.

 I like the look of old text so much, I would probably wear this necklace with that side facing out, but the tintype portrait, of the size called "gem," originally made just for lockets, or other ways of carrying the image of a loved one about easily, is interesting, too.  It's a young woman, possibly a girl, in what appears to be a gingham dress, with long hair behind her ears in perhaps a net snood.  The image is so tiny you'll have to see what you think may be there.  But she looks rather stern and innocent.

The chain is the last of a nice length of old stock beaded brass, spliced to some interesting links and a hook salvaged from bits I have collected.  I do love a spliced chain -- it's ostensibly simple, but a closer look shows more depth and texture.

Here's the front, in sharp contrast because the photo was made in a south window on a rare sunny day.  You can see some of the paper peeking around the edges, which is another thing I like.  It softens the tin, looks old and frayed, and is actually quite sturdy after being soaked in resin, cured, varnished, and then waxed.

When I think about the Civil War I remember that, growing up in Atlanta in the 50s, the issues and scars of Reconstruction were still fresh almost 100 years later.  I think of generations of parents who taught their children in such a way that things were not laid to rest or allowed to heal.  And it leaves me wondering if, with all the partisanship we experience today, we aren't repeating that sad old mistake.

Here's a pair of earrings capped with smashed verdigris-ed thimbles, very old, turned up in a dig in Latvia and purchased from Alchemy Shop on Etsy.  (Link to the right.)  Beneath the thimbles are African clay spindle whorls, then bright glass trade beads and sparkling peacock pyrite nuggets, ending in Dalmatian jasper drops.

From thoughts of seamstresses of long ago, I jumped to the word, "virago," one which I have always loved, along with "termagant."  These are words that are supposed to insult women, but we shouldn't be so easily controlled, with words intended to make strength and self expression into negative qualities.

Words can never hurt me!

And another pair of earrings evoking my dream of a nice place to live in the sunny Southwest, a dream that recurs every damp, dark February here in the Northwest.  So I named them "Mi Ranchito de Comodidad," or "my little ranch of comfort."

I love rusty, used horseshoes, and I especially love  them as pendants.  And I love milagros, or ex votos, those little offerings and reminders to saints of one's needs for intercession.  The horse and steer are milagros.  To me they represent a ranch, so they are my ex voto reminder that I would like to have a ranchito fragrant with sage and mesquite, with room for me, my studio, Abbie, Sparrow, and some guests.  I also love contemporary ethnic beads, when they are still made of clay and glass, as these are.

Both pair have 20 ga. niobium wires, which I have made myself.  Niobium doesn't oxidize in normal conditions, and so it doesn't irritate our tender skin.

All of these can be found in my shop at Etsy, link to the right.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Female Entrepreneur

Golden Yukon Waffles, hot off the griddle, served on a tin plate, drizzled in butter and maple syrup with a side of bacon, the perfect fuel for a slog over the Chilkoot Pass.  A smart entrepreneur offers the right product, at the right time, in the right place.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Hand III

All done, at least for this phase.  The work was lightly planished and sawed free, with a tab at the top for attachment.  With the hand in this position, the mudra represents "blessing offered."  I oxidized it with liver of sulfur and then waxed it to stabilize the oxidation.  

The piece measures 1-3/4 inches by 1 inch.

It is possible to get a much finer, smoother finish when planishing, but it is also possible to overdo it and lose the vitality of the work, which is, in many respects, a drawing, and needs the lines and textures to stay expressive.  Leave flawlessness to the machines, I say, and learn when to stop.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Hand II

Repousse step complete.  Views of back and front.  Next steps:  clean off the pitch on the front, anneal and pickle, return to the pitch and refine; then saw it free.  Thinking perhaps a fibula, perhaps a rosary-style necklace.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Talk to The Hand

I have a new project in my pitch pot.  A hand, in the "fear not" mudra.

Here you see the liner work done, using the small curved liner and the small straight liner.  My intention with this piece is to gain more skill with the use of the liner tools, and to scale the work so that the repoussee work, the raising from the back, is scaled properly for the tools I have for that purpose.

The lines are also places where the metal is work hardened, so there are "channels" of softer metal where I can punch up a third dimension when I begin the repoussee.

I used a planishing tool to push back the metal around the hand, thinking to harden that area as well.  Ordinarily, that wouldn't be done, but I am also experimenting here with the possibility of pure chasing, that is, working only the front of the piece.  That requires good liner work, so I think at this point I am getting closer, but I do have farther to go to reach that goal.  A lot of traditional chasing is worked just that way, front only.

Here's the workpiece flipped over and remounted in the pitch, ready to begin repoussee work.  I will use punches in the areas between the raised lines.

It's a tricky mental shift from a flat drawing to dimension, adding relief to the concept, which actually will make the image change proportions, I think, getting narrower, or at least that's the plan.

After repoussee, I will anneal and clean the workpiece, fill the back with pitch, remount, and refine, using liners, planishers, and matte tools to add texture.

Stay tuned, and see how it goes!