Today I learned a new skill from someone. I have frequently visited the blacksmith over the road and he (Richard) and his friend (John) have always been amazing at helping me, making me tools, inspiring me to do my own craft and believe in my own work. A few weeks ago when I visited we talked about a number of different things that can be read here When things just fit into place…
Basically the drawer was left outside the blacksmiths shop, I needed a drawer, I used the drawer, John offered to teach me how to forge and make a handle for it. As the PhD is all about passing on stories and knowledge, this was a great opportunity to learn and talk (my two favourite things).
Lighting the forge at 9am the smoke was beautiful, like an early morning mist. Story telling of jobs and experiences past flowed freely and so did the cups of tea! I learned how to lengthen a piece of steel, the rhythm needed for the hammer to get it even, straighten it out and mark the middle. I learned when to take it out of the fire, how to use the bellows and how to brush off the oxidised muck before hammering. How to hold the hammer, work the anvil and then how to put it back in again. The next part (and with a very achy arm) I twisted the hot metal in a vice with a pair of pliers to create the twist on both ends. Then hammer into right angles to create the handle shape. Fitting it into the drawer was easy, just a little bit of a drill and it pushed in like it had been made for it (it was made for it so I suppose that’s why it fit!). It was cleaned up with a wire brush to get rid of the muck and tada! The experience was exciting, interesting and exhausting. It made me feel a real part of a team and learned something that I would like to know more about. Again this project has built friendships and told stories along the way.
The flap over bag is the last story I collected and so technically the newest in design and production. It has been a slow process so far as stitching the handles has taken a good few weeks down to being not so well and also the pain hand stitching leather exerts on your fingers. Its like learning to play the guitar…until your fingers have got used to it it blooming hurts!
Today I set aside to get something of everything done. I didn’t have a plan as such but things just happened as they usually do. I glued the hinge on the bottle piece so whilst the room was smelly I thought I may as well glue the base of the bag into place. Then once i’d glued it and left it all to dry I thought I might as well punch in the stitch holes. A nice rhythmical job. Then because I’d done that I wanted to check if the needle would go through the different layers so started stitching. I sat with my legs either side of my tall lump of wood I used for stitch hammering and had the bag draped over. The needle glided through as I’d waxed the cotton well before stitching and although I sat in silence I started tapping my foot as I was stitching, then I realised I was singing San Quentin by Johnny Cash! Thank goodness it was only me in the house! I thought about it and I think it was me getting lost in the work. It reminded me of the women in the mills weaving or stitching. I would like to look up work songs or something. I re-found Illuminations as well so I’m going to have another read of it.
The other thoughts were of the mother who the story was about. Her make do and mend culture and how she cut a bed sheet in half and sewed the outside edges in when they wore out in the middle. It made me think about this as I’d opted to do all the stitching by hand rather than using machine which also gives me more attachment to the piece as I feel I am investing time and thought in it.
The drawer that was found outside the blacksmiths shop was made of hard wood. It was too long at too tall but the circumstances of its appearance fit in with my work so well that I had to use it and adapt it. It already had its own meaning and its own memories embedded. It had once held someone else’s treasured possessions. An archive of something that I would never know. But already built into the wood was the history of someone else life, passed on to me from someone else ready to store its next memory.
So I took the drawer to pieces and played with the location of where the watch could go. On the back of the drawer or on the bottom. The bottom seemed more fitting for a natural location for the object. instead of just placing it into the drawer I wanted to embed it so I drilled and sanded the shape for the object to fit. I then cut down the length of the drawer, but it felt too high, so I then cut the tops of each piece down and the front panel and glued them back together, clamping so it fit properly. And it did! It just worked being this size. I sanded the tops down and thought about the story with the rhythmical motion. Then the front piece was cut glued and screwed into place on the front of the drawer awaiting its forged handle that is yet to be made. The handle will give me the opportunity to learn the skill of forging. Hopefully this will happen next week.
The drawer felt the right finishing touch to the watch. It needed something to sit in rather than the strap or something around it.