One idea that didn’t make it / metal spinning / out-sourcing

24 12 2009

Sometimes the hardest part of making for an exhibition, or even an assignment or following a concept, is choosing the ideas that are pursued to fruition. For often there are more ideas than time to make them (I’ve written a little about this before).

One idea I was playing with for ‘Feast‘ was raising a bowl to replicate Nana’s trifle bowl – I love raising bowls! The only problem with this idea was that I was quite short on time and had no access to the necessary equipment. So I thought I’d get the skeleton of the bowl spun, then saw-pierce the design and fold some components in, or chase (yes, pretty labour-intensive!)…

Nana's trifle bowl (left) and spun bowl (right)

The above copper bowl was spun for me by Bob Thomas, a well-known Melbourne metal craftsman. I am happy with the bowl, but upon more looking and playing and thinking, I realised that I had other pieces I was more passionate about, and this idea didn’t get much further.

Metal spinning uses lathe-type machinery to rotate a symmetrical wooden shape, over which metal sheet is pushed. This is not something to do at home kids! There is a pretty cool short video of Bob doing his thing on YouTube here.

I have often struggled with the idea of ‘out-sourcing’ part of the making, but I understand that many artists do this in a variety of media. However, with this particular piece I later felt that what I planned to do to the bowl afterwards would not be substantial enough, to my mind, to make the piece enough of my own expression.

I see it in degrees: asking Bob to spin the metal bowl, and then for me to plate or engrave it and then pass it off as my own, is entirely unacceptable to me (and I imagine most other makers). Saw-piercing the bowl still doesn’t feel enough of ‘my own hand’. Perhaps more substantial ‘interruption’ of the bowl would be required for me to be happy with someone else’s handwork being a component of the piece, where their contribution to the work does not outweigh what I bring to the piece (unless it is a formal collaboration).

I have pretty conflicted ideas about out-sourcing in my own making. I’ve done it in the past with industrial processes like laser-cutting (my own design on large sheets of metal); however where I got a bit stuck this time is that I know how to raise, I was simply without access to a workshop to do the work myself. And it was an exhibition piece, not a production piece (where consideration of cost-efficiency for the end purchaser may be an influence).

What are your thoughts on out-sourcing? Do you out-source and what are your rules and boundaries?

The other matter this exercise brought to my attention was that Bob is likely to retire within a few years, though there are no obvious successor in Melbourne. Many of those skills practiced by single-practioner individuals, often in a workshop in their backyard, who are nearing their retirement are in danger of dying out. Where will these skills go? Do you know any other spinners? Another example a friend mentioned was the man who makes jewellers hallmarks (I don’t remember his name) – when he retires who will take over that work in Melbourne?

Previous post on ‘Feasthere

Update (28th December): next post on ‘Feasthere

‘Feast’ – the starting idea

23 12 2009

When Zoe first invited me to participate in the ‘Feast‘ exhibition, I immediately knew what idea I’d be working on.

Feast celebrates the predetermined as well as the gloriously spontaneous moments that happen around the christmas feasting table. Bring your christmas cracker humour to the table and join us for a celebration of jewellery and objects.

I responded strongly to the ‘predetermined‘, for my abiding memory of the Christmas lunches of my childhood were that they were all quite similar; at the same person’s home, and with the same foods. This was never a bad thing, but has formed quite a comfortable loving memory. Most importantly of all, each person in the extended family usually brought the same foods each year.

Nana ALWAYS brought the trifle.

My Nana generously sent me the bowl that she always had the trifle in (I have to say that I wasn’t entirely sure such a lovely item could be trusted to the post; but my Mum super-bubble-wrapped it!). It’s a beautiful cut glass bowl; and I love the shadows it throws.

So I started with the pattern of the bowl… obviously! Without really knowing yet where it was going to take me, I played around with old-fashioned pencil rubbing and new-fashioned super-sculpey.

More soon.

Previous post on ‘Feasthere

Update (24th December): next post on ‘Feasthere

‘Feast’ – in situ

22 12 2009

Just a quick post – the lovely Zoe sent me an image of my work in situ at ‘Feast‘ (I’ve cropped it a little for the screen etc).

photograph credit: Zoe Brand; amended copyright notice, this image not to be reproduced without permission

I am interested in how others see my work, and how that differs from my own perspective of it… so it’s interesting to me that the ‘Nana’s Trifle Bowl‘ object has the top layer slightly askew, to make the shadow play more obvious… and it looks like it may also be on an angle (that is, not all three legs on the table), though I wonder if that’s reality or a trick of the angle of the photo! Either way, the shadows look fabulous.

Previous post on ‘Feasthere

Update: Zoe also published some photos of the installation and opening of the exhibition on her blog here

Update: there is another image on the blog of another exhibiting maker here

Update (23rd December): next post on ‘Feasthere

My ‘Feast’ pieces

21 12 2009

The first exhibition I’ve been part of since I graduated three years ago is currently on in Sydney: ‘Feast‘ at The Depot Gallery, part of Studio 20/17. It’s a short-running exhibition, open from 20th-24th December; I am very excited that it’s given me the “excuse” to get back into making!

I look forward to writing more about the process in the coming weeks or so; but for now I’d love to share images of the finished pieces. The two pieces together are collectively named ‘Nana ALWAYS brings the Trifle‘.

Piece #1: ‘Nana’s Trifle Bowl‘; 2009; object; fine silver, sterling silver, perspex; approx 2cm high, 10.5cm long, 7cm wide

amended copyright notice: this image not to be reproduced without permission

Piece #2: ‘Nana’s Trifle Recipe‘; 2009; brooch (corsage) / pendant; fine silver, paper (the actual trifle recipe my Nana handwrote for me, on white and pink note paper), stainless steel

amended copyright notice: this image not to be reproduced without permission

Another view; there is clear connection between this work and that shown in the 200th post last week.

amended copyright notice: this image not to be reproduced without permission

I am very very sad that I’ve been so unwell this week that it foiled my plans to be at the opening celebration in Sydney yesterday afternoon. I was so looking forward to seeing it all in situ and also seeing the work of the other participating artists… So if you have a chance, go and see it, and tell me what you think!

Previous post on ‘Feasthere

Update (22nd December): next post on ‘Feasthere