Thursday, 27 May 2010

SteamPunk Valves - Can you tell what it is yet?

Having a bit more time to breathe has let me think more about the ‘art’ side of what I do. This still feels a very alien concept to me, when I first went to technical college we shared campus with an art college which took up an opposing side of the campus to us. It always felt like an opposition too, few of the engineering students would even visit the union bar as it was very much in the art department’s domain.

One of our tutors (who could make Gordon Ramsey blush, I learnt both engineering physics and new swear words from him) claimed to be banned from the staff room permanently due to his run-ins with art tutors! Welded metal sculptures were very popular with them, with many dotted around campus. He claimed that they installed a very large one outside the main technical college entrance on a large patch of lawn, which would have been highly visible from the science blocks windows. He said he then phoned the local council to complain that someone had dumped a load of scrap metal on the campus lawn, and demanded they come and clear it away – which they did! We couldn’t get anyone else to confirm – or even deny – that this had occurred, but I suppose it goes someway to showing my in built reservations about this ‘art’ stuff!

Lately I am much more drawn to it, I still try and make it functional art, such as pendants and jewellery and so on. A few more sculptural pieces seem to be ‘arriving’ in my workshop though, but I am still trying to break down my inner reluctance to really go for it. I even managed some rather good flower parts, but ended up putting to one side deciding it was too much of a waste of good glass to make the full thing. However this rather natty and totally barmy bit of glass ‘happened’ the other week as I revisited some lampwork valve ideas. I managed to break the first tube after I first got everything together, but it was so interesting I took the trouble to refit it all in a new tube. Some of the metal bits have suffered, but are still intact despite they grey colour, which I actually kinda of like. Apart from the copper coil and grey metal bar at the opposite end this is all glass. There is a tiny blowout hole on the right underneath by the red seal to help equalise the pressure of the hot gas to stop later cracks. It's about 5 inches long.

I am going to use that to insert some copper wires/device as part of it, and the longer glass rods will drop down inside a box. I’ve got quite a few bits to go with this, but it appeals to me to make something Steampunk that isn’t just something with cogs stuck on it! (I’ll save that rant for another time!) It appeals also to that sense of wonder I got as a kid opening these old radiograms with their strange colourful oversized components and glowing glass wonders! I’ll post more about this as it goes along.

In other news an interview with me will be coming up on the Folksy section of Indie Smiles soon, in a running feature about crafting blokes. From what I remember of the interview I suspect I had my mad head on that day, so heaven knows how crazy I’m going to sound! Although looking at some of these valves I am making lately I wonder myself as I know what I've decided to make with this; functional and useful it really won't be! ;)

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

All Change!

You may have notice I’ve been a little quiet on the blogging and listing front of late. I can now reveal some good news of some enormous changes which will hopefully mean both those things can improve!

I am now no longer commuting for the ‘day job!’ Instead I have taken on a project which is entirely non-office based, and everything will be done on the interweb! I still can’t quite believe it myself, and still wonder when I’ll be told it’s all off and to get back on the commuter un-merry-go-round! Although these first weeks (and my internet/twitter/blogging etc silence) are a bit mad as I spend a lot more hours getting things started, it does mean a huge quality of life improvement for me as well as getting me nearer to the point I can dump ‘the day job!’

Apart from the financial saving, the saving in time is a huge boon to me. Already I’ve had a few evenings that I’ve been able to get on the torch and play around with new ideas, rather than rush around doing chores or just being so shattered I fall into bed. I thought it might take a few weeks to have an effect but already I have got a lot of new ideas and directions I want to go with the glass.

To prove the point I’ve made an entirely new style of pendant with shapes that I really love! They are so much more organic, like seedpods or tropical flower buds, and I’ve developed a different way to capture this nebula look. There was a bit of hesitation when I first did this, but I took a leap of faith and here’s the result! I was actually more nervous about making the second one in case it was a fluke and I couldn’t make it again!

This past week I think I’ve done some of my best work for a very long time. I feel the reduction in stress and travel hours has made a difference already, and just at a time I want to start taking my glass in some new and exciting direction too. Even things like getting photos taken so I can start listing some of them is easier when I can do it during a needed tea break between looking at spreadsheets. It really feels like I’ve got a large chunk of my life back.

And then I found out I’ve been featured on Joy Funnel’s blog too at Fired With Imagination! Joy is a maestro with silver clay and fresh back from Japan where she’s been seeing how silver clay is made. So it’s quite a treat to see that she has a complete set of jewellery – earrings AND bracelet – made with some of my Steampunk beads! And very good timing as I've been working on a new idea for Steampunk beads too. Now that’s a good end to a good week!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

A word From Our Sponsors

No, don’t panic, it’s not an advert! I mean YOU, the people who are lovely enough to buy some of my glass, as without you I’d be surrounded by unwanted glass things and not be able to afford to buy new glass to melt! So a big thank you from me!

I always forget that what I make goes away to have it’s ‘real’ life. For me it ends when it goes in the post box and I (hopefully) get feedback saying it survived the post and is what people expected. It doesn’t mater how many times I send something out, I always worry it’s not going to meet people expectations when they see it in real life!

Now and then I get pictures back when they’ve been added to projects, such as these lovely beaded necklaces from Christie Hemsworth where she’s added some of my hand formed leafs to her own creations. I am quite in awe of her work, I really don’t have the patience for seed beads, I can’t thread one and the idea of trying to put this many together brings me out in a cold sweat! What’s great about these is how she’s blended the leaves into the design to compliment the colours. Many thanks to Chris for sharing the pictures and her joyful creations, you can check out her Folksy shop here;

One wonderful surprise I had this weekend was a sneak preview of a silver bracelet that uses some micro marbles that I made for it. This is different beast altogether, and the final piece looks more impressive that what I envisioned when it was described to me – I can’t wait to see it finished now! What both things have in common for me is how they have been used in ways I would never have thought, so much so I had to double take to recognise them as things I made. It’s very rewarding to see these things ‘all grown up’ and off living a new exciting life I’d never have expected.