Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I packed my life into boxes

Well, no, not really, but something made me type that phrase. Not completely randomly, I promise. This post IS about boxes.

I have made a lot of boxes over the past week or so... from balsa wood, with a clear framed perspex lids. These boxes now contain all of my samples and refined creations for my final collection.

Given that the path I'd chosen to go down was fairly exploratory, my work is as much about the process and trials and samples, as what I have now deemed to be 'final outcomes'. As such, I chose the medium of the framed box to present and document my work.

There are a couple of reasons for this...

1) I packed my life into boxes. Well, like I said before, I didn't really do that... but packing belongings into boxes is often what happens when someone dies. What does one do with all the things left behind?
Packing lives into boxes also happens when people move away for whatever reason, often leaving friends and family behind. This is something I have experienced a lot in my lifetime. Boxes are therefore linked with the connections we both forge and sever during our lives. Connections between people is a very strong concept in my work, as is the meditation upon what we do with material goods when someone passes on.

2) The link these framed boxes have with natural science... well, there's a link in my mind. Peering at all these samples though the framed perspex lids leads me to imagine these tiny samples as butterflies, lifeless, pinned to card and preserved for future generations to observe and study.
Again, links... there are links to nature in my work - the use of leaves, for example. Also, the whole process I have employed is (I hope, as this was my intention) somewhat scientific - photographs and notes at every stage, some of the boxes demonstrating the evolution of a particular design or idea. There is order, too... the contents of the boxes arranged according to material or technique.

So... some images of the construction of these boxes. There ARE a lot, but they are very much integral to my work. Thankfully, they really weren't at all difficult to make, thanks to the laser cutter...

some box pieces... the sight of which lead to this conversation:

Mum: That's a lot of scrap wood.
Me: ...that's not scrap.
Mum: Oh. You've got a lot of construction in front of you, then.
Me: *sigh* Thanks. For pointing. That out.


Lid: 1cm wide frame (visible from top), with internal
0.5cm wide frame to support perspex layer.


The sides of the boxes are held together with short pins, not nails.
A layer of PVA glue is then applied to all of the joins.


Done.

PS. This is my last post... just had to get the boxes thing off my chest before assessment tomorrow!


video

Short video of mixing and casting silicone... here I've just poured it into an ice-cream scoop. This is the first part of creating the 2 part mould used to press and shape heated acrylic.

It's really not a great video - poorly edited to remove my flailing hands from in front of the camera, but you do get to see the process of seeing the silicone going from gooey to bouncy rubbery goodness.


video

I had extensive videos of other construction a couple of weeks ago... but the files must have been WAY TOO BIG, and couldn't get them off my camera for all the effort I put in.

So, there is this... hopefully it helps clarify any processes I've mentioned in my blog!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Last Words (ish)

One of the pendants I have created is essentially a time capsule... miniature photographs and a letter to the future contained beneath an acrylic dome.

For interests' sake, here is the text of the letter I'm enclosing...

My name is Allison Louise Bell. Or at least it was. Does one keep one’s name, once one is no longer alive?

This capsule contains parts of me; things that made up my life... memories in the form of photographs and journal entries… aspects of my DNA, left by the touch of my fingers upon the surface of this pendant. I made it, after all.

It is strange, writing this, knowing that I’ll no longer be around by the time this is unearthed…if it is ever unearthed. That is one of the hardest things about dying, I feel – the not knowing. Having to give up our earthly treasures, not knowing how the lives of our loved ones will turn out or continue. Not knowing what will come after, for me…if anything…

I wonder where my atoms will end up, how they will be recycled after a period of time in the earth. 98% of the atoms in out body are replaced every year. Did you know that?

It probably isn’t correct to write about ‘my’ atoms, but consider this, dear reader… perhaps the atoms that were ‘me’ at the time of my death are now a part of ‘you’. Strange thought, isn’t it?

I hope that whoever finds this will look upon the contents of this pendant and think about what is contained within. Perhaps try to piece together an idea of who I was. But at least by having my name read out in some indeterminable part of the future, part of me shall live once more.

From the Vault, Part II

Was looking through what I thought was a pile of blank journals I have (there are quite a few, it's a bit of a thing with me), trying to find one suited to pasting some images of my dissolvable garment in it. Turns out quite a few of them have stuff written in it, stuff I've forgotten about. A lot of it, like the word document I blogged about a few weeks ago, is about death and consciousness. I find it interesting that:

a) these issues have been occupying my mind for such a long time...
b) that I'd forgotten about these things that I'd written.

It reminds me of the fact that one day, someone will be going through my things when I die, wondering what to do with them, why certain things were kept and held on to and treasured, getting what they might consider insights to someone they thought they knew as they sort though an assemblage of objects that made up my life and as they read these strange thoughts I have tried to marshal on paper.

I know that it is ME that has written these things... but not quite me, somehow, as I have forgotten about them. I am revisiting myself - with who I was at a certain moment in time. Parts of me are coming alive again. I'd like to think that this is what happens when someone looks at my things when I am gone.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Well...

... that was interesting. Had a look at my old journals, and apart from it being a really weird experience, reading over all of my entries, I didn't really come across anything I'd want to include in a time capsule. I think the reason is that they are old entries... and I no longer identify with the things I wrote back then. They're not me.

So I'll just have to write something new.

Miniatures

A couple of my pendant designs incorporate some very personal effects... or they will do, once I figure out exactly what these elements will be. The pendants were designed with spaces for these elements to be included. The intention always was for photographs or other ephemera (bits and pieces that we collect throughout a lifetime), but I have to decide on some specific images now.

All of the photographs or writing will be scaled down - miniature photographs and letters. The miniature aspect is very important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there is a great tradition of miniature painted portraits in mourning and memorial jewellery, going as far back as the early 1500s.

To quote:

"From this time, the sentimentality behind the miniature portrait is in its subject. Full size portraiture of people wearing miniatures of their loved ones is the greatest form of memorial. It is a true symbol of intimacy, keeping the picture of a loved one close at all times, and it is this tradition that is maintained right through until the advent of photography."
- From The Art of Mourning (http://www.artofmourning.com/miniatures.html)

The second reason the 'miniature' aspect is so important is simply that miniatures have a real resonance with me... childhood memories of my dolls' house, something I still treasure because my Dad made it for me. I think, now, that a lot of this connection simply has to do with the absolute detail contained in anything that has been 'miniaturised' - somehow concentrating the essence of what something is into such a small space.

As such, I am now going through photographs, selecting significant ones to scale down and include in my pendants. I've also made the somewhat brave decision to include pieces of writing from some of my journals. I'm feeling as though there is not much point in making these pendants if they aren't personal in some way.

One of the pendants, too, is specifically created in a 'remember me' theme... something of a time capsule that tells a story about who a person once was. In this case - me. So I have a little bit of writing to do as well, a letter to the future... thoughts about life and death and something about me. I'm not planning on dying anytime soon, but writing this letter, I feel, will be a good way to bring together a lot of thoughts and feelings that have been evoked by this studio.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Sorting it all out...

Last night I had a very useful and productive online chat with my sister... all about my work and the trouble I was having with it. It was really good to get some perspective on it all. Who says being on Facebook is a waste of time?

So... I'm including a transcript of the relevant part of the conversation... it is, after all, part of my design process. And it really helped to get some things clear in my mind.

22:35
think i need an opinion that's not mum's

22:35
LOL

22:35
oh yeah
mum just says it looks pretty

22:35
can you ask my opinion or do I need to 'see' something to give it
lol

22:36
which is nice, but not helpful
um, maybe.
it's more articulating the concept that I find hard

22:36
Ok, try me

22:38
Ok, so am creating a series of pendants that are based upon the connections we create with people as we go through life. As such, the pendants are able to be split into separate components, representing the disconnect that occurs in death or even with the physical separation that occurs over long distances.
make sense so far?


22:39
yes

22:40
Therefore, even though the pendants might be split in two, the fact remains that they can be rejoined - a representation of memory and a reminder of the other half... your other half...

22:40
yes
or reconnection in another life, yes?

22:41
ooh, yes, that too

22:41
k

22:42
Actually, that's what I'm struggling with... how 'literal' to I make these things. Does every aspect or component have to represent something? Or can I just work with themes and shapes inspired by certain concepts, and let a little bit of interpretation up to the viewer?

22:43
Well what are your assignment instructions? If you have free reign I think you 'should' think about symbolisms

22:43
like now... the afterlife thing was your interpretation, and something i hadn't given much thought to.
the brief is VERY open, which is good

22:44
ok, do you need to write a report or something about the pendants?

22:44
it's up to us to be able to explain the concept and justify all our decisions
no, nothing like that
we have to present in front of a panel of lecturers

22:45
so what is the opinion you need? Do you want advice on what aspect to ficus on?
focu*
focus*
gah

22:45
no, more like what i just said... how literal should i make it?
does each pendant need to tell a story, does everything in it need to symbolise something in particular?
should it be a little bit open to interpretation?

22:47
I think you're better off making it less literal, especially considering the fact all this is coming about due to the concept of death. Death may in fact be a literal thing. Somethin we can see. But we certainly can't see what happens afterward. So that should be open to interpretation. Therefore, the reconnection of the pieces after separation can symbolise whatever is relevant to the person who possess them. Just like song lyrics speak to people on different levels depending on how they are feelling.


22:48
ok
thanks :)

22:49
ok um, also
plants reproduce after they die, they either leave seeds, or turn into mulch etc, so even after death the live again. so the reconnection of the pieces could be a rebirth, or a new formed life

22:51
:D
I love you for that

22:51
for what?
:)

22:52
LOL for being on the same wavelength as me. so much of the other stuff I've done for this studio has been about cycles of death and rebirth.

22:52
:)
well there you go. You have your answer. The constant separation and reconnection of the pieces can easily represent the forever expanding generations of life
and that's both literal and symbolic

22:55
:) again, that's another aspect to what I've been doing that i hadn't considered that much... the focus has been on creating pieces that can be left with the dead, and the other part with the living.

22:55
oh!

22:57
i guess you could create a pendant for a child, too, for example... empty on the inside, ready to be filled with ephemera collected within a lifetime, all those bits and pieces we keep and hold onto that tell a story about who we are

22:57
hm, that's a really nice idea. That's kinda like a locket

22:57
the inverse, too... a pendant full of a lifetime's worth of memory

22:58
hm nice

22:58
yeah, have made a locket... basically 2 hearts that connect with magnets

22:59
well I don't think you should limit yourself
can't you list an array of possiblities>
?

23:00
i guess this STUFF, all the conceptual stuff has been in my mind as i've been designing/making, but i haven't gone, 'this pendant will be about this' and then made it... I change my mind as I go based on what physically works or what re-inspires me as i make these things
the thought of making a list is overwhelming
LOL

23:00
lol
I write like that
I decide on themes as I go

23:02
it just gets a bit much, sometimes... all the possibilities, as well as the weightiness of the subject matter
i'll get it together eventually
thanks so much for your thoughts.
:) :D :*

23:03
I see what you mean. You feel overwhelmed then and think you should have a clear cut reason for each thing?
:*

23:04
yeah
that's exactly it
lol
you just summed it up, took me 10 mins to try and communicate that

23:04
You can have different reasons for each piece right?

23:04
oh yeah

23:04
lol

23:05
that was always the intent

23:06
allocate one reason per piece you have. no matter what reason, because I'm sure they all work symbolically. Then you evaluate them separately and expand on each idea accordingly.
just give each piece a reason to start with
so their purpose isn't lingering in the midst of indecision

23:06
hmm
OK
that sounds good to me

23:07
at least then you won't feel so lost

23:07
all the designs have the same function behind them... the splitting

23:07
you have something solid in front of you even if it is going to change later on

23:07
there is a vague idea behind them all, too
i guess i just need to consolidate it somehow
thanks :)

23:08
ok what's the one idea that links them all? The splitting?

23:08
yeah

23:08
draw a spider graph

23:08
lol a what

23:08
you know what that is?
when you write the central them in the center and then from that central idea, you link other ideas. and from those other ideas you link others, so it lookd like the shape of a spider, legs coming out everywhere

23:10
oh
i just never heard it called that
lol

23:10
might help you get all you thought in one spot

23:10
i think that would help

23:10
its ELT terminology ;o)
lol

23:10
ha!
thanks so much

23:11
no worries! any time! :)

23:11
i should put this conversation on my blog
lol

23:11
lol go for it:o)

... and now it is. The conversation on my blog, that is. Apologies for slight incoherence, typos, excessive use of 'lol' and smileys.