Friend of a friend of a friend……

Today I made another friend. Someone I met through someone else. Through talking to people and telling stories and learning about them, then telling them my PhD making story and then saying “oh, I know someone who would be interested in doing that, pop back on Tuesday” and that’s just what I did!

For the last few months one of the things that has worried me about making is the bits that I can’t physically do myself.

I popped in to see blacksmith across the road last week and his mate. We were weirdly discussing making and I had bought him a copy of Richard Sennetts ‘the craftsman’ as he was interested in what I was reading. I told him my predicament in getting some frames made and that my only contact so far had been with a man from a company that I had no idea where it was and asked me too many questions!

He mentioned his friend was coming the following week who might be interested. He’s a retired engineer and currently was helping fix a steam engine in the blacksmiths shop.

So it spurred me on that afternoon to get my plans drawn up ready to take round! It was nice to think I may have found someone who not only could make it but fitted the kind of person I wanted to help me.

I met him this morning and I knew he was the one to make the frames. A retired metal worker who didn’t want payment because he only took on jobs that interested him and were a challenge. This to me instantly reminded me of a true craftsman. Someone who wants to keep learning and trying and actually that to me fits with what I want to do. Where as we all seek perfection in our own work, it is the love, effort and labour that is put into others that we see rather than mistakes. He talked to me about his tool bag and told me where it was from and how it was made, then taught me how to read inches….(I also need to change my plans to inches now!). Also In our discussions of the plans he told me about his making capabilities. Where a machine has previously made pieces like this for me in the past, he, by hand cannot match the fineness of this (eg 1mm thick walls) however on the way home it suddenly hit me that if the outer rims were thicker I could drill though the brass shoe one to hang it and also the watch one at both ends to attach a strap so my designs have developed already! I just need to get the metal and then he is going to let me go and watch him make the pieces. I’m so excited to be co-producing rather than commissioning the pieces. It feels right.


End of Year Round up

So it’s Boxing Day and for some reason I find myself sat at my computer doing a bit of research.  I wanted to just work out what I had done and what I plan to do in the next few months for my PhD, so I can start to get on with it.  This will hopefully make up part of a plan that I can follow.

I’ve managed to finish 3 items.  I’ve finished them so much so that I have photographed them.  I have managed to interview one of the participants about their finished piece.  I need to interview the other 2 participants.

From this first stage of making I have discovered a number of things.  Some of it I wrote in my post about the rolling pin but it applies to all the pieces.  I seemed to ‘know’ when something in the process was wrong or right.  Materials, techniques etc.  Even when I should be making.  This is something that I will take forward to the next ‘batch of objects’.

The next objects that are already underway but yet to complete are:

Bag, Bottle, Brass shoes and watch.  The shoes and watch are objects that I will be relying on someone else to help me make the metal frame so it’s hard to make sure I find the right person to do it, that I build a relationship with them and then am happy with the process.  I also have to find funds to do these bits too!!!

I have then got the larger objects to finish.

Rucksack, trainers and toilet dolly.  As it happens my last piece to finish and cast was the trunk in my MA collection.  I think it is just the sheer volume of the object that I am casting and also because it is a new technique again.  Casting onto a fabric is a bit of a funny process and so all these objects do that to some degree.  You have to make sure the fabric weave is sealed so the silicone doesn’t got through it and embed itself in the fibres so i need to do some patch tests of barriers on fabrics and things like that.  Then hopefully they will all work!!!

Having spoken to my supervisor I also need to get my reading done but I find this hard whilst i’m making.  It appears to be more of a reflective process rather than a combo at certain points.

I keep having feelings that I am doing OK but then the written side I panic I’m getting behind with.  It’s quite hard to manage with everything else I need to do.  I think the quicker the making is done then I can prioritise the reading and writing.

In the new year I have three consecutive days of ‘getting on with it’.  I’m going to sit down and really sort things out.  Pull out all the paper work, get some spider diagrams underway and streamline what I have got into some kind of order.  I’ve already cleared my wall infant of my desk to start pinning up different things.

Happy Christmas!!!!!

Further Thoughts rolling pin

Having completed the rolling pin for a few days, I’ve had the chance to show the finished item to a few people.  I myself have come to the conclusion, but also with responses from others that the ‘strap’ is not right or doesn’t fit in.  The idea of this was to get my leather work into the piece but there was no real reason for it apart from being a design feature. I therefore feel that having tried these bits, they can now be removed from the finished piece.  Responses were that they didn’t fit or that it had the feeling that it was a bondage rolling pin and why does it need the leather work….  It’s a good few points that I have had chance to contemplate and I am going to change.


Rolling pin complete

There are a number of elements I want to discuss as part of the rolling-pin piece that I managed to complete yesterday.  This piece has required the most support from other people, although all pieces have had an input from people I know.  This piece required learning from others, developing new techniques and chosing between techniques that seemed right or wrong.  It also involved a lot of experimentation to see what I actually wanted to create in the end.  I also wasn’t really sure what the end product would be like even though I knew what I wanted to create from the initial design.

The rolling-pin journey saw me learning new skills such as 3D studio max back in the summer.  This was because I initially wanted to create a rolling pin that would print the hand written recipe into the dough of the actual recipe.  With the help of specialists in this area I managed to create a section of rolling pin that was printed on a 3D printer to use on the dough.  Although this was not my initial design idea, I always wanted an element of 3D text within the design.  For a while after I had done this I was really excited about how it could be rolled into the dough, however it did not fully feel like my work.

I had gotten people to help me and because my knowledge of the computer programme was limited I would have had to settle with what was produced for me.  I lost all creative control and therefore I didn’t feel like I was transmitting the story as the maker into the piece.  I got swept up in the novelty that the finished piece would be able to be used on the actual dough to create the ginger bread.

However going back to my initial design idea of the rolling-pin I wanted to have the handwriting of the person around the rolling pin embedded within the silicone, so the writing was not a physical, present element but a ghostly impression wrapped round the rolling pin, telling the story of what the rolling pin would have made when it was used.

Collection 6 clean

As I was in the studio, trying to use the 3D software a colleague of mine was using the UV printer.  Just as a offchance I ended up watching the process and thought nothing of it.  Walking back to the car that evening I suddenly worked out how I could produce the cylinder component of my original design.  I wouldn’t have to use the 3D software and get help, I could 3D print the words, wrap it round a centre core and then have an outer tube to pour the silicone between.  I emailed my colleague who asked me to come along the following monday with hos students so I could see how to do it myself.  Much like the creation of the actual rolling-pin using the lathe and being taught to do that, I worked alongside students, was demonstrated the technique and then produced the file myself to be printed on the UV printer.  By printing onto acetate it meant that teh surface when the silicone was poured onto it would always be shiny.  We printed to a relied of 0.6mm.

IMG_4835From this, I worked with the 3D printer and technician, to produce an inner core tube that fitted exactly over the rolling-pin.  This felt OK as it was a part of the process and not a finished component.  The text was then wrapped around this with double-sided tape and then an outer tube with an 8mm gap was sourced and put around the outside leaving a cavity for the silicone to be poured.  I felt in my element, as I was back to working with techniques that I feel my expertise lie in and so as well as working out the process, when doing familiar tasks my mind was able to wander back to processing the story and thinking of the participants.

Having poured the silicone and with a lot of force and washing up liquid, the tube of silicone was set and complete with amazing accuracy and probably better than I’d hoped.  To be able to get it out of the mould was difficult requiring destroying the inner tube, however I was able to get the silicone out using tools that had been made especially for me to my specifications by my friend and blacksmith who lives over the road.  Without these tools the job would have been so much harder!


The finsihed pieces…


It has felt very much like co production throughout this piece, from the story-teller to the number of different people who have had an input or supported the making in one way or the other.  I am so happy my gut and head told me to create the piece that I had proposed and that I didn’t settle.  It feels with this research that I couldn’t settle anyway…. It has to be right…!


Bag patterning and making

Before I started my PhD I did my MA in which I learned traditional leather working skills including bag making. Bag making is something I continued to do until the last couple of years.  Having gained a story that the product required a bag making I was quite glad to try to utilise the skills again.  The bag in the story is one that resembles a Mulberry Bayswater style bag and so having researched into this I found it was a flap top bag with handles.  On my first attempt I did not enjoy doing a mock-up because as I was sewing I knew it wasn’t right but I kept persevering with it, however I know that I won’t be able to line it and that where the leather joins in places won’t accomodate the lining so I need to have a re-think as to the construction.  This is not a bad thing though as I think I tried too hard to replicate something, rather than channeling the story and letting it grow and develop through that.  I will look more into this later.  I did however buy some beautiful leather from Roy at Metropolitan Leathers.  It is so nice and soft and clean…..!  Looking forward to working with it.

Inetesting again how the process has to fit the story or else the object and myself don’t feel right……



Trains are so good for reading and thinking. The last couple of days I’ve been working in Manchester and so I’ve been on the train by 7.30 each morning and spent an hour can chug up with research reading. Both texts… Richard Sennett, the Craftsman and Peter Korn, why we make things and why it matters have given me a real excitement regarding craft and making . I’ve been underlining and note making like a crazy lady! It actually made me wish I had a commute in the morning as that time is then designated to reading where I don’t seem to have that time anywhere else…. I seem to read better ‘in transit so maybe I need to start jumping on a few trains on a research day and visiting some galleries. The problem I find is that at home I get easily distracted and wander off when I’m starting to get to interesting bits because I get over excited! Also reading later for me is hard so actually the early morning read works really well. I may have to work out how to take advantage of this.