RMIT Year 2, Semester 1, Silversmithing #1

7 01 2012

It’s been quite a while since I wrote about my university work.

Second year, first semester, Silversmithing, project #1: ‘Inside Out

The brief was “focusing on an object’s “inner” in relation to the making of objects and how this potentially impacts on the way objects read. The reading of ‘inside’ may be expressed in terms of function, metaphor, emotion or other concepts of your choosing. For example, how the inside informs the outside. … To realise a group/groups of work that engage with the notion of inside.”

I had been playing an idea in the year before, the idea of the ‘exquisite inside’ … an object with a most incredibly beautiful inside, barely noticed from the exterior. The idea fit the brief wonderfully and so was worth exploring further for this project.

image taken at the time; image not to be reproduced without permission

In deciding on the outside of the object, I wanted something plain, unassuming, ordinary, unattractive even. In looking through my visual diary of the time, my first pages of development had already thought about casting the exterior from a sweet potato; though I had originally considered casting in metal from a sculpey shell.

Some notes from the first few weeks of this project include those I took in class discussions:

  • reduce the complexity until the object doesn’t make sense anymore
  • the object needs to exist in the world on its own; need to be cogniscent of how others may view it; needs to be clear and have clarity of intention

Working through the characteristics I wanted for the exterior, the possibilities included thin cast porcelain. At RMIT the G&S department was close to the ceramics department, so I asked them for help in casting. I tried a few different shapes, but eventually decided on a paw paw that had the shape and volume I liked.

image taken on assessment day; image not to be reproduced without permission

So first step in construction was the plaster cast (below). Then I used porcelain slip casting, pouring porcelain slip (liquid) into the cast, wait a few minutes (from memory, my testing was at 10 minutes), the longer the thicker the shell. Then pour out the remaining liquid and wait for the porcelain in the cast to dry enough to slip it out (this could have been a few hours). Then wait a day or two for the plaster cast to be totally dry again. So to make a few, the elapsed time can be pretty substantial.

Because things can go a bit astray in the kiln, I made more than I needed. So after they were biscuit-fired I chose the one to have the ‘exquisite inside’. Then it was on to the frame – which had to wait until this stage so I could make the exact fit to the edge of the piece.

In the meantime though I had been working on the interior elements. Kind of like an interior magic garden. The fine silver was roller printed with lace pattern, cut and plique-a-jour enamelled. The colour of the enamel is a dark green.

construction bits and tests

To construct the final object, the enamelled objects are cold-joined to the frame, and the ceramic shell is ‘chemically bonded’ (“glue” was a swear-word at RMIT!) to the outside of the frame.

This is one of my most favourite pieces … it speaks to something I think is really important, “inner beauty”. I loved the making process and I especially like that the porcelain is translucent and you can see in the middle image above that the shadow of the inner elements can be seen on the outside.

… last post: RMIT Year 2, Semester 1, Jewellery #2


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