A Visit to Craft in the Bay Part 1

I went to Craft in the Bay which is situated behind The Red Dragon Centre, it’s a small building  packed with all sorts interesting pieces.

The Main Space

Bev Bell Hughes

The first object that I took interest in was this ceramic piece below. I found it hard to believe that it was made by hand and not taken out the bottom of the ocean. This object was made by Bev Bell Hughes, she explores the relationship between natural forms and clay.

Bev constructs these objects by pinching slabs of clay together and uses a volcanic/lava glaze to finish them with the texture that makes it look like it really came from the sea.

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This was the main thing in Craft in the Bay that caught my eye. I loved the organic form of it and the texture. I also loved how it didn’t really look like a piece of ceramic and I really wanted to run my finger along it and examine every part of it.
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Another one of Bev Bell Hughes’ pieces. To me, this one looks a little more made than than the other one but I still find the form really amazing.

 

Christine Gittins

Again what I found most interesting with these is how these pieces didn’t look like ceramics to me, they looked like marble. I loved how there were these two contrasting textures, the very rough top parts of the pieces that look like craters and the very smooth stone like bottom part.

I learned that the way that Gittins gets this effect with saggar firing, which is almost like a method of drawing with fire. You can put put things like horse hair and feathers on the object before firing and they’ll leave marks on the surface and then burn up so you’re only left with the final result.

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These vessels have a beautiful marble marble quality that makes them look so heavy set and solid and they have these tops that look like volcanoes which I find interesting because sagger firing and firing in general has such a strong and long standing relationship and association with fire that it makes these pots feel so raw whilst looking so polished.

The thing that I loved about the piece in the photo below was mostly the finish in the middle of it. I really liked the way it looked like a kind of burnt metal, I just thought the detail in the middle was very appealing somehow.

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Again I love how raw this dish is, the metallic detail of it makes it feel like it was pulled from the centre of a volcano and shaped by humans. There’s something about it that vaguely reminds me of the opening sequence of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring where you see the rings being forged.

 

David Frith

David Frith is another ceramicist that I really liked in Craft in the Bay. I mostly liked his work for the colouration and calligraphic qualities rather than the forms. I found out that Frith uses a copper glaze to get the earthy deep red that he gets on his work and fires them by reduction firing where oxygen in the kiln is very limited, the copper glaze seen on the plate is commonly used in reduction firing.

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I love the rich earthy red tones of this piece of ceramic, the marks in the middle are quite abstract but also very reminiscent of oriental calligraphy which I have always admired.
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These are my favourite of the pieces in Craft in the Bay by Frith because I love the shape of the vessels as well as the colouration. They’re quite tall and it’s almost like the colour cascades down the pot like a water fall. Again I love the red marks that streak the side of the pot really beautiful and oriental.

 

Sasha Kingston

Sasha Kingston is a paper and textile artist. I was drawn to her work because of  the organic, aquatic shapes featured in the work. These pieces particularly remind me of jelly fish or some kind of microscopic creatures.

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I love the simplicity of the materials that are used, I think it’s important to remind myself of the amazing things that can be done with low-key materials. I think that the effect that Kingston has created here is quite dynamic and looks very light on the paper and give the sense of being very natural and fluid. 
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There’s something about this piece that I find very dangerous in a weird way, I think it’s because there’s something about the harsh lines that remind me of stingers from insects or deadly sea creatures. I really like that contrast of a dangerous looking thing being made from something that’s quite delicate. 

 

Helly Powell 

Helly Powell is an artist who does fauxidermy which is fake taxidermy. Powell uses various textiles to create her woodland animal heads. I really appreciate these pieces because I don’t like taxidermy that much because I find it kind of sad. However I find these textile creations to be a lot of fun because they have a realistic and strong sense of taxidermy without being nearly as morbid. I also find that these pieces are without the connotations that taxidermy has for me, I think it’s because they aren’t real animals and have a warmer feel to them. I’ve always been slightly disgusted by taxidermy being displayed in houses because I feel as though it’s almost like bragging about killing animals or like it’s asserting a weird power that people have gained over other animals in a way that makes me uneasy.

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I’ve always loved things that are inspired by or are replications of foxes in some way because I like foxes. They always have an air of mystery and mischievousness about them that I find very enticing. There is something about the glassy eyes that does make it a little sad but I find the shaggy textile that Powell used makes it fun to look at and very much takes the edge off the idea of taxidermy for me. 
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The favourite piece by Powell is this stag because I think that the mix of textile designs is really beautiful and elegant. I think these choices is very befitting of the stag because it reflects the elegance and grace that stags naturally have. I really admire the skill of the piece, I would love to be able to do something like this and it inspires me to improve my sewing skills and gain greater knowledge in working in textiles. 

These were things that caught my eye in the main space, they were mostly things that spoke to me of organic and unusual forms. I really enjoyed looking at this space because it opened my eyes to new ways to use materials that I have been looking at for so many years, so I think it has really excited and inspired me to look at materials in refreshed ways and to really have courage to try odd things with them.

 

Cardiff Museum Visit

On my first day of Artist: Designer Maker, I went to Cardiff Museum to look have a look around and see what takes my interest.

The Marine Section

I found that the things I was most interested in were the marine exhibitions because of the strange forms that sea creatures take. I also find that there’s something really frightening about them because they look like things that come from an entirely different planet and they have the most amazing ways of functioning and existing.

I have always found looking at these kinds of creatures useful for my practice because I like referencing the weird yet elegant forms they take. I also like the concepts for example how they survive and hunt, it’s scary yet thrilling to learn about.

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The basking shark that hangs has impressed me since I was a child. There’s a strange sense of it being tamed and yet so alive and ready to move around. Its gaping mouth always terrified me and sends an odd chill down my spine as I look at it but more so when I turn my back to it. The shark may not be directly linked to making or artwork but I think that considering the way that it makes me feel will help me understand the way that I would want people to feel about my work. I want the work to have a defined impression on somebody before and after seeing it, almost like it has a strong aura like I’ve always found this basking shark has.
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The end of a sand mason worm. I found the form of the creature really interesting because of how serpentine it is and also how skeletal it looks underneath the shell. I also find the way the creature exists strange and yet really clever and practical.
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The body of the sand mason worm. They build tubes out of sand and shell fragments. The end of the sand mason worm appears frayed and are often seen tow tide.
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I found this ctenophore  (specifically pleuroboracha rhododactyla) that I was attracted to because of the shape. It initially reminded me of the Golden Snitch from Harry Potter and I liked the wing like elements and the delicacy of the whole thing. I learned that there are a lot of different kinds of ctenophores and most of them swim through the ocean although there is one kind that crawls along the sea bed. These creatures are carnivorous and use sticky cells called colloblasts in order to capture to prey. They can sometimes be known as sea jellies or sea walnuts.
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I was drawn to this radiolaria for similar reasons that I was drawn to the ctenophore. I liked the intricate nature of the creature, particularly this one because of the the little holes of the spines that are coming out of it. I find these beautiful forms interesting to observe because they are unusual and for a person to make this would take an awful lot of time and planning but these small things just make them without thinking. Radiolaria can also be known as radiozoa and are extremely small, measuring only 0.1-0.2mm in diameter. However, the things that make these creatures especially fascinating is how they are able to produce these intricate skeletons that being with a central capsule that divides and builds these structures.
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I love jellyfish because of how beautiful and elegant they are whilst also being very dangerous. They’re also very ethereal and ghostly which I have always found to be an enticing trait in things, I really love those things that look like apparitions from other planes.

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I was fascinated by the grotesque form that’s really squished into the jar and it looks horrible and creepy but darkly fascinating. I don’t know what it is about them but they’re very enticing and it reminds me of how people always want to look at strange things such as freak shows, oddities from all around the world. They also remind me of the victorian times when people would go to museums to look at really strange things that scientifically were often complete bogus because they altered the thing in question for spectacle.

The Art Section

The next section that I had a look at was the ceramics on the first floor. I found that I was more drawn in by the things that had very fluid, organic shapes rather than things that were extremely meticulous.

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Magaret Hine Goat made from tin-glazed earthenware. Margaret Hine was a potter who made a number of animal figures. I was drawn to it because of the patterns on it and because there’s something very ancient about this way of depicting animals in a very simplistic way. I love the way it’s stylised and not super fussy about detail and you can tell that it’s about the pattern as well as the form.

 

 

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Steffen Dam Fossil Panel made from glass. I love the shapes and the colours on these glass panels. They’re so energetic even though they’re referred to in the title as being fossils, I can just imagine them swimming around the ocean. I think this is because the colours are so light. I really like how squishy and bouncy they are and yet glass has no flex, it just shatters so I think it’s amazing how this effect has been accomplished and I didn’t think that this sort of thing could be done with glass and it certainly makes me more interested in the medium. I’d always thought that colours on glass could be quite heavy in a way and I’ve never been massively keen on it, but this has certainly opened my eyes to the possibilities of glass.

These were the main things that really caught my interest in the museum, like I said at the beginning, they tend to be things based on natural forms because things in nature can often be shapes, colours and forms that could never be imagined.

 

Pewter Casting Outcomes

Photos of my outcomes during pewter casting and the initial ideas behind them.

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Some of my initial idea sketches.

I decided to try doing a koi carp to begin with because the shape would be pretty easy and I could continue to work into the mould to add more detail such as scales as I got more used to the process.

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My first attempt at casting my koi carp.

Above is my first pewter casting attempt. It’s very ropey and I messed up the sawing a little by cutting too much off the left section. I also kept the detail to a minimum because I saw this one as a trial run.

I decided to work into the mould a bit more to try and create smooth out the shape a bit more.

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My second pewter casting attempt.

My second attempt looks a lot smoother and I was able to use the jewellery saw a lot better and I used a file to smooth the edges. I still kept the detail to a minimum but I found the quality of the object a little better this time.

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The third koi carp

This is my third attempt at the koi carp. This time I added some more details so I think it looks a bit better, I just need to drill a hole at the top to form a loop so that I could put a chain or something through it.

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Some more of my ideas.

For the next mould I decided to make something even simpler because I wasn’t too happy with the way my fish came out.

I chose a very simple design that only used aspects of line. I used the design that is the star sign simple for Taurus because I thought that I could use it as a starting point to more interesting line patterns.

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My first Taurus symbol attempt.

I think it came out alright although I think I should have worked the mould a lot better in order for the line to be smoother and for the whole thing to look a bit more thought out and put together.

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A developed version of the previous cast.

For this design, I simply worked into the mould for the Taurus symbol to change it up a little. I still think it holds the same problems that the other one does in that it’s just not that refined but I do find the design more interesting.

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The final design I did was inspired by Japanese characters, specifically numbers. I have a held a deep interest for Japanese culture for a long time and so I wanted to incorporate this. I found that it was especially interesting to do because the Kanji has such strong lines, as all written language inherently does.

My idea was to make an odd combination of the numbers to create some sort of shape.

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This one was the least successful object in that it didn’t fully come out but I found that the quality of what did come out was much higher than the others. The lines were smoother and looked more carefully dug out, I just needed to try the mould out again to see whether the rest of it would have come out (I spilled some pewter whilst pouring it in) but I ran out of time so perhaps I will try again in the future.

So that concludes my first attempts at pewter casting. I think I could have tried more interesting things with the design and I think I also need to think more carefully about the material and what kind of designs and scales lend themselves well to pewter casting. I’m hoping that i can try it again at some point so that I can refine my ideas and the process and also try out new designs and pewter casting techniques.

Pewter Casting

This week I started my workshop rotations and I began with pewter casting.

Preparing the Plaster

The first step would be to make sure that the plaster was bone dry. The blocks we were given were already dry so that was fine, but it’s something to remember for the future if I want to make my own block of plaster to use.

I started with a block of plaster which I smoothed and levelled with a plastic strip and mesh.

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The plastic and mesh that I used to smooth the plaster block.

 

Once the block was all smoothed out and level, it was time to draw a design. I had picked out quite a small block of plaster and I had never done this before so I decided to come up with something I thought was simple. I drew a fish design onto the block and began carving it out with metal tools.

Once I had finished my fish, I created a funnel so I could pour the melted pewter into the mould.

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Here my fish is almost fully carved out, I just need to add a channel for the air to escape.

 

The final thing that I needed to do was carve a very shallow line from the bottom of the fish to the top of the block, next to the funnel. I needed to make sure that this wasn’t too deep to ensure the pewter didn’t try to fill that area.

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The finished mould.

In terms of carving out my shape, this was all there was to do, now I needed to melt some pewter in order to actually make an object.

Melting the Pewter

Melting the pewter was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

The equipment:

  • blow torch
  • melting/pouring pan
  • stick of pewter
  • thick gloves
  • pliers (to hold the stick of pewter when it got too short)
  • a brick
  • sand pit
  • clamps
  • wooden surface

The first step towards melting the pewter was dusting some talc powder and then clamping the plaster to the small piece of wooden board and sticking it into the sand pit.

I put one clamp on each side of my plaster and placed it on the board. I needed to make sure that I didn’t put the plaster right at the top of the board so there was space for the pewter to run down to make sure that more of it goes into the cast.

All that was left to do was put it in the sand. I made sure that it was stable and slightly tilted back.

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My plaster in the sand reading for the pewter to be poured.

The next step was to melt the pewter. To do this I first put on some gloves for safety. Then I held the pan in one hand and the stick of pewter in the other. I placed the end of the pewter into the pan so that it would melt into the pan which was on a brick so that would work surface didn’t burn.

I then asked somebody to use the blow torch to melt the pewter. This did not take very long and soon it was time to pour the pewter.

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Melting the pewter.

Once the pewter was melted I poured it into the mould and waited for it to be set. To test wether or not the pewter was set I tapped the pewter with a knife. When it made a solid tapping noise, I knew it was set.

I then turned my object out into the sand and then, using pliers, I placed it on a piece of wood to cool it down.

Once it had cooled, I used a jewellery saw to cut off the excess pewter and I was left with a finished piece.