Thursday, 25 September 2014

Hyperbolic Crochet

Some of you may have heard of Hyperbolic crochet before. 

I became aware of it in 2008 when an exhibition of crocheted shapes made to resemble a coral reef were exhibited at the Haywood Gallery, London UK, where I was living at the time. The project, organised by the Los Angeles-based Institute for Figuring was a direct response to the plight of coral reef from pollution and global warming.

Hyperbolic plane where the repeat is increasing into every 5th stitch

Hyperbolic crochet is a pattern where one simply increases stitches at a regular rate in every row. The more often you increase, the more quickly the model will ruffle up. It is a pattern that replicates the geometry found in nature, such as the anatomical frills sea slugs and kelp. 

Double hyperbolic plane where the increase is one in every two stitches

 In 1997 Cornell University mathematician Daina Taimina finally worked out how to make a physical model of hyperbolic space that allows us to feel, and to tactilely explore, the properties of this unique geometry. The method she used was crochet.

Seed-pod model 

Recently it has been proposed that the shape of our universe is hyperbolic as well. 

Pseudosphere. Crochet in the round at the increase of one in every three stitches

As many of you know, my recent investigations and concepts in art focus on the Pioneer or Settler. And my interest in lichen was piqued when I undertook a residency at Hill End in 2013 and observed many different varieties growing around the area. I photographed them extensively and recorded a few here

My current thinking about this is that lichen can be seen as a metaphor for early settlers and pioneers. Indeed, it is even considered a pioneer plant itself.

So I am currently exploring ways of recreating lichen using various techniques. The hyperbolic plane crochet technique lends itself well to the idea, and I have undertaken some experiments using wool. My next step is to see what happens when they are immersed in a ceramic slip, or recreated using wire instead of wool.

If you would like to try making your own hyperbolic crochet forms, the pattern can be downloaded here.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Enamelling Techniques

One of the courses I am undertaking to build my skills is Enamelling taught by Lillian Yuen. Lillian is a fabulous teacher and jeweller and she makes the most beautifully delicate enamelled pieces.

Over the past couple of weeks we have learnt how to work with opaque and transparent enamels, and achieve different effects using sifting techniques, and solid enamels.

Below is a pictorial account of my discovery of enamels. Its been such an exciting adventure!

The first week we learnt how to prepare samples for opaque enamels. Below shows the test strips which have 4 layers of enamel.

Opaque enamel tests

  1. Base coat (top)
  2. Second layer (second from top)
  3. Third layer (orange peal effect which means it isn't heated as long so that some of the grain texture remains)
  4. Fourth layer (sugar fired, heated less than orange peal effect)

Pull Through tests

Next we experimented with pull through techniques, which is putting one colour over another, and the bottom colour 'pulls through' the top.

Top left: Soft flux base covered by Peacock Blue 1645 opaque
Top right: Chestnut 2190 transparent covered by Calamine Blue 1520 opaque
Bottom left: Candy 1211 opaque covered by Mandarin 2840 transparent
Bottom right: Black 1995 opaque covered by Ivory 1238 opaque

Sifting techniques

The following week we learnt different sifting and decorating techniques (above)
Top left: graphite pencil on Antique White 1045
Top right: using a stencil of a dried flower I sifted Peackock Blue 1465 over a base coat of Antique White 1045
Middle left: Sgraffito techniques white on blue. Image scraped using a tooth pick
Middle right: Sgraffito techniques blue on white. Image scraped using a tooth pick
Bottom left: Sift and dump. White base. Image then painted using Klyr Fire, blue enamel sifted which sticks to the Klyr Fire. Remaining enamel is tipped off
Bottom right: White base stamped using regular ink pad and stamp. Same technique as the sift and dump where blue enamel was sifted onto the wet ink and the remaining blue enamel is tipped off.

Wet packing enamels before firing
 Next we learn how to work with transparent enamels using a wet packing method which requires washing the enamel powder to get rid of any contaminants and placing the wet enamel on the copper. This example uses a piece of copper which also had a piece of silver embedded in the medium flux before the wet enamels were placed on top. The enamels used in this examples use precious metals to create the colours (mainly gold)
wet packed enamels after firing
And the above is the result.

Top left: Opalescent 2061
Top right: Orange Red Ruby 2110
Bottom left: Pink 2820
Bottom right: Wax 2110

This week we have been experimenting using solid enamels (chunks of glass and beads) to make patterns, along with swirling which is where you move a titanium tipped rod to move the molten enamel.








After. A metal pick is used to move the molten enamel surface

Before: pieces of Venetian glass on medium flux

After: Venetian enamel pull through with cobalt blue on top

Another after version of Venetian enamel. This one was grinded down so that all the lumps of glass were the same height (rather than lumpy)

Can you tell Ive been having fun?

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Cuttle Fish Bone Casting

Summer is coming to an end and Im back at school. I have just started my Masters in Fine Art at NSCAD (Nova Scotia College for Art and Design). I am undertaking an interdisciplinary approach and will be working across ceramics, textiles and jewellery. 

As well as undertaking MFA courses, I am also polishing up on my jewellery skills. Recently I have been learning how to cast shapes in silver using cuttlefish bone as the mould. Cuttlefish bone is reasonably soft and it can be easily carved, or have objects pressed into it. 

Cuttlefish bone with a fork shape pressed into it.

I experimented with a few different shapes: fork, a piece of lego fence, and a twig. I discovered simple shapes work the best (because they highlight the striations of the cuttlefish bone that occurs naturally), and so I discarded the fence and twig idea and perfected the fork shape.

Cast silver fork shapes from the cuttlefish cast

 Generally the mould has only one pour (the heat of the metal burns away the cuttlefish bone and gives off a smell similar to burnt hair). The above image shows the first pour into the mould - notice I only achieved 2 of the 4 prongs (left).  On the right shows what happens if you use the same mould again. Much of the detail has been lost. Although this time I did get the four prongs.

Lego fence cast in silver and a twig

The above lego fence and twig were earlier shapes that I experimented with. Although the fence shape was relatively successful, I found that it the lovely cuttlefish bone striations were lost and so I discarded this idea.

My finished piece, another fork, was handed in last week for marking. It was finished with Black Jax to highlight the cuttlefish ridge striations. I totally forgot to take a picture but will post one as soon as I get it back.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

The Artist's Path Article in Textile Fibre Forum Magazine

I was approached by Janet De Boer, the dynamic force behind Textile Fibre Forum magazine, to write an article on my experiences participating in the Hill End residency and international residency in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada last year.

I wrote about how I went about achieving a successful crowd funding initiative to cover the travel costs to Canada, provided some tips on participating in and what to expect during a residency, as well as writing about the work created for the residencies. The result was a three page article that has just been published in the September edition of Textile Fibre Forum magazine. 

Click on the images for a legible version of the article.

Participating in the two residencies last year created a different path for my art career. Keeping an open mind and getting out of my comfort zone led to new opportunities and possibilities. I have been swept in directions that I would not have dreamed possible a year ago and I have met so many fabulous people along the way.

The career of an artist has many twists and turns, all of which are made possible with a curious mind and tenacity of spirit. Who knows where it will take me next? 

A big thank you to Janet and her team for including me in the magazine. X


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