The Brass rings complete it was back into the studio to complete the joining process of the silicone to the rings. This was for both the Brass Shoes piece and the Watch piece.
I had to mix a minimal amount of silicone, which was handy as I haven’t actually got much left! It felt homely to be working with the silicone again and the calm. The brass frames had to be set horizontally so as to make sure the silicone levelled out to allow the domed piece of silicone to sit on top of it and make a good seal. One of the problems I encountered was the brass shoe ring was slightly wider than the domed piece of plane silicone and so I needed to add a couple of mm more to one piece. The silicone is very forgiving and when layered the seam is very hard to identify and so this was not a problem. It meant that the first day of sealing in the shoes I could do one side (as below) and then the following day when this had set I could pour into the other side of the frame to create the orb shape. There were a couple of air bubbles that appeared in the seal, however this is where the silicone has settled and so they felt like breathing spaces rather than being problematic.
The watch piece used the same principle, where the silicone had to be poured into the gap in the brass frame and allowed to settle. Then the already cast watch dome piece was positioned on top. It fit so well and instantly looked right. It was a satisfying process to finish the brass shoe piece and think of showing the story teller!
I am really lucky that where I work I’m surrounded by people who know how to use so much different equipment and have used it for long enought, that they knwo exactly what they are doing! I had a sudden thought the other night that the UV printer we have at work could maybe just create enough height in its printed text that I could wrap this round a tube and cast into it.
I am still in a bit of shock that one of the things that I thought would be the hardest thing to complete is done and done so well and was a really exciting and moving experience and fitted in with the way my work is formed better than I expected and could have ever imagined.
As I wrote in the last post, I discovered this craftsman through a friend in the village. It was by chance he had a piece of brass the right size as I needed to make the rings from and he brought it to show me the following week. We were then in the workshop two days later.
The rings took a good few hours to make and I was able to witness a lot of the process. It was interesting to know how this all worked as I never realised with metal turning that you had to sometimes make tools for the job too.
The craftsman did both pieces simultaneously, one inside the other and knew from experience how to do each step. There was a couple of times I nearly stepped in and said something but I was always mistaken and he knew exactly what to do. When the rings were turned he questioned his own workmanship, saying how things could have been done differently and asking if it ‘would do’. I on the other hand saw an amazing piece of engineering that was exactly what I wanted. They were not perfect, but that was the thing that I wanted. They had marks that showed the toil and labor that had gone into each piece. As Korn suggests craftsmen are never happy with what they create, but to another what they have done is exactly what they imagined and more.
After the larger ring was finished we discussed how we could drill it so we could hang the piece. We tried thinking of a couple of ways, but then I put my trust in him as our ways of thinking although similar in some respects, allowed a different solution to be thought of and I felt I could let it go somewhat as we were creating this part together. He drilled a small hole in a brass nut and then drilled into the ring (freehand which I would be too scared to do). We tapped out the hole to create the exact screw thread and then screwed in the nut with some special “Lock-Tite” to secure it. It gave the ring a less polished look than I imagined it would be, but it also made me feel that we were part of the same production and he is engrained in the object story as much as the teller.
The smaller ring, whilst it was still under construction I suddenly thought about how I would secure the leather on the underside because of a small cut he had made into the brass. We worked out that we could leave this lip and so it solved a design issue further down the line. Working alongside the craftsman allowed me to be fully immersed in the project in the same way that I would if I was creating.
It wasn’t only the working on the objects, it was meeting his wife and having a cup of tea. Looking at his model engines he’d made and talking about family, careers, connections. Before I left I wanted to ask how much it would cost. He wouldn’t let me pay, saying he only took the job on because it was a challenge to him. He likes to try things that will test his skills. He did give me a job to do in exchange, that will utilise my own skills of research and making, although I will keep this private. I am looking forward to working with him again. We had such a good experience.
I am currently sat in an amazing treasure trove of tools! Thanks to my neighbour I found my man to make the brass frames for my watch and brass shoes. He let me come and watch him make the frames which is actually really good as I have learned so much more about the process and how metal lathes work, the time and precision involved and the skill to operate the machinery. It is also a methodical process having to think of which bit to do first as some are reverse sided and some need inner bevelled edges so it’s very interesting to work out the process.
One of the most interesting things about today is being able to input into how the pieces will be done so a bit of co production and I feel part of the journey still. We talked about bevelling the outer edge a bit so that’s been done and it changed how I thought the item would look but it has actually enhanced the design of it and feels right.
We have talked a lot about the work and what he did before he retired and what I do and make. He’s shown me photographs of his life and things he’s made and we’ve talked about stories of craft and meeting people. The rhythm of work really does get stories flowing!
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.
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.
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.