Experimental carving day at the Institute of Making

On Saturday I spent a fun day learning to carve stone and a variety of other materials with the lovely people at the Institute of Making at UCL.

Below are some photos from the session:


I do love getting my hands on new tools

Look at that mallet!!

Tools and satisfyingly dusty sketchbook. We have been working hard:



things begin to take shape





The stone masterpieces created by the participants later in the day, whilst I got distracted by the Table of Unusual Materials...

lots of interesting things to carve: foam, chalk, cheese, chocolate, soap, carrots, wax, plaster and more...


soap?

not so much fun to carve, too squidgy

chalk is good

perhaps I can combine the two?

these colours look familiar... I can see where this is going...

A fried egg! Unfortunately chipped the chalk at the last moment from trying to force the 'yolk' into place, but oh well it was fun

A bit of dark chocolate, but running out of time now so quickly move on...

My favourite carving of the day... Mrs Carrot!



She gets thrown in the bin like everything else. It's been about 25years since I had to learn the hard lesson of having to break up my lego again after painstakingly building a house/car/magic roudabout , and yet I still find it difficult discarding things I have made.

Find out about other upcoming events at the institute of making here: http://www.instituteofmaking.org.uk/events

Methods and Processes

Something fun: A diagram of methods and processes produced as part of my MA.
Open it up in a full window, wait for it to load and then move around using the mouse (not the "play" button) in order to get the best experience.

All is Lost

To coincide with London Jewellery Week, today I have begun work on a new collection. Entitled "All Is Lost", the work aims to address issues regarding value, material, authorship and the concept of "design". The idea is that the pieces can be bought at any stage of the making process. If they are not purchased they will continue to be carved until eventually there is nothing left.

It will work like this:

1. I have been given 10 small pieces of beautiful wood: 5 of them sadly unsustainable (and in one case extinct) tropical hardwoods and 5 of them home-grown lovelies from the UK.

2. My usual working process involves carving, so this is what I will do to turn these pieces into 10 items of jewellery. There may be some addition of metals and stones.

3. I will carve, and add, and carve, and add and continue to carve. The pieces may go through a few mutations, until eventually there is nothing left of the wood but a bag of sawdust and a few pieces of now-structure-less metal.

4. The jewellery can be purchased at any stage of this process. As time goes on, the pieces will become more intricate and valuable yet eventually they will lose their functionality.
 


So, when do you buy? Who makes the decision that a piece is "finished"?


First piece of wood: Black Ebony
Stage 1 (2hrs)




A little bit of background information about this wood: I was on the lookout for some interesting & locally sourced woods for this project. When I asked in the workshop, the technician got the idea immediately, and I was shown to the darkest depths of the back cupboard where some pretty unique pieces of wood were stored, and had been there for over 20 years. Among them were 3 lengths of different forms of ebony, some rosewood and various other hardwoods.
Ebony is a beautiful material yet didn't fit into my original remit of "sustainable and locally sourced" at all! However, I was told that the length had lain there untouched for over two decades, and will continue to do so as it is so rare that no one would want to attempt to make anything from it. This struck me as particularly sad. I took a small sliver from the thinnest end, just enough for one ring and left the rest intact.







Added grooves to rest the fingers














I have found this to be an interesting process, and I have thought a lot about the material whilst making.

It felt painful to cut into a material that I knew was rare, and wood very much feels alive in a way that metal doesn't. I kept all of the filings, they are softer than usual sawdust and a deep brown colour.

Eventually I realised that this wasn't a sad thing at all - what else would have been done with this wood? The world does not need another "product", especially not an ebony one, so in that sense the process of destruction is not causing harm. And en route to its eventual demise this small piece of wood will be able to take the shape of many wearable items, to be enjoyed and appreciated. And who knows, perhaps someone will claim it before it completely disappears.

I thought about life; how we emerge and grow and try to make the best of ourselves, before inevitably returning to the ground.

The prehistoric spearhead shape began to seem quite fitting.







Ebony Stage 1: Available until Sunday 17th June. Can be worn between the fingers or tied onto string for a pendant. Comes with bag of removed material and process sketches.



Update:
Monday 18th June 2012: Stage 2 (4hrs):


Copper and brass work well with the ebony, along with a selection of trillion-cut citrines recently purchased from a friend.

let's build a trillion setting (I have never done this before!)





woohoo, success!
Adding a brass feature to the top

removing material from the back of the pendant in which to inlay the citrine setting



Well, I need to stop here as 4hours have passed! It has taken me longer than usual as this is a style of setting I have not made before, but I'm very pleased with the result!



"All is lost" pendant: Ebony, Brass, Citrine.
Available until Tuesday 26th June 2012


UPDATE: Wednesday 27th June (2.5hrs)

Now the pendant is starting to become a finished object, it becomes harder to work on it. What can I do that wouldn't be too destructive? It's possible for the moment but I know that eventually it will be in pieces. So let's begin...
I now aim to have a "finished" object at the end of each stage.

drilling the pendant to make a hole at the top


Considering the addition of more brass

Now in two pieces! I cut this to add brass, but momentarily had to stop and sketch all the multitude of other options I could make from two seperate pieces

...before coming back to the brass

Hollowing out the pendant to create a container. The brass will form a snap-shut lid


A few photos of soldering and sawing are missing here, but the brass pieces have been made and are now being glued into place. Sketches seen in the background.



 

 Finished pendant/locket/container. Available until Tuesday 3rd july 2012



And then things started to break down:



It seemed a waste to just continue to erode the piece, I wanted to destroy it through production, how many more pieces can I make from it (however tenuous)?



A small bead

Possibility of adding more metal to bring back form


smaller pieces begin to disintegrate, yet there are still possibilities for these tiny parts...