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.


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


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.


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


... 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.


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.

think i need an opinion that's not mum's


oh yeah
mum just says it looks pretty

can you ask my opinion or do I need to 'see' something to give it

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

Ok, try me

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?


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...

or reconnection in another life, yes?

ooh, yes, that too


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?

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

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

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

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

so what is the opinion you need? Do you want advice on what aspect to ficus on?

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?

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.

thanks :)

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

I love you for that

for what?

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.

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

:) 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.


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

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

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

hm nice

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

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

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

I write like that
I decide on themes as I go

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 :*

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

that's exactly it
you just summed it up, took me 10 mins to try and communicate that

You can have different reasons for each piece right?

oh yeah


that was always the intent

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

that sounds good to me

at least then you won't feel so lost

all the designs have the same function behind them... the splitting

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

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

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


draw a spider graph

lol a what

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

i just never heard it called that

might help you get all you thought in one spot

i think that would help

its ELT terminology ;o)

thanks so much

no worries! any time! :)

i should put this conversation on my blog

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.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Was feeling a bit stressed this morning about workload, etc, wondering how/when everything that I want to do will get done, and also wondering just why I was doing it as well. Have been so caught up in the making of things and worrying about pendants being cast in time, and the resin having enough time to cure that I'd lost sight of the meaning behind my work...

But this reminded me...a look at how death is dealt with in science fiction/fantasy stories, with some fantastic quotes to go with it.
Here is the link, if anyone reading this is interested:


Here are the quotes that really resonated with me:

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so as long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away.

- Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

I love this quote for the simple reason that it is a beautiful meditation on what we leave behind, all the little touches and traces that we leave on the world even after we are no longer in it.

This is very much a part of my work... creating little mementos that are essentially monuments to people we love, that encapsulate aspects of them, whether this is literal (the use of hair or other 'DNA things'), or more abstract, such as photographs. Not only do the pieces show the connection between people (given that the pendants can be split into separate components), but they contain some physical aspect that is immortalised. Ah, now that's the word. Immortal. By existing in this world, (as long as we are remembered, or the work that we leave behind reminds the living of the fact that we once were here) we create our own version of immortality.

I feel that this is the crux of this quote... the idea that something of us will always be left behind.
Below is the other quote that I couldn't resist posting:


The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.

When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in the particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments.

- Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

Having recently completed reading Slaughterhouse Five, there are actually a whole pile of quotes that I've been meaning to blog about for ages.

This quote is one of the main ones that really got me thinking. It is a musing by the protagonist about a race of aliens, who see the universe in four dimensions - they can see the past and the future. It is an interesting thought - that although someone may be dead, they are very much alive in the past. A strange comfort, perhaps, but I suppose to us mere humans (who can only sense three dimensions!), it is a reminder to not just mourn the dead, but to celebrate the lives they lived as well.

While I have still yet to come to grips with the idea of immortality through time travel (it does hurt my head a bit), it does make sense. In fact, it is just an extension of the idea that we leave traces of ourselves behind as we live... as we move through time in a linear fashion. However, if we were able to go back in time, live our lives in the 'wrong' order, then the paradoxes created would mean we always existed in certain moments... we'd be immortal for as long as the universe existed!

But I'm going to stop writing about this now, my brain is having a bit of a hernia. The only thing that remains for me to do is to consider how such thoughts might be worked into a pendant... maybe Mobius strips? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%B6bius_strip) Or patterns containing interconnecting circles (which represent eternity)?... Hmmm...


Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Just a quick post with some images of my latest experimenting...
Am now feeling that I can really just start making as many pieces as possible, as have refined techniques and silhouette/shapes/motifs/materials to a point where I'm actually quite pleased. :)

This 'pendant' divides into 2 separate parts, and is cast in resin and gilded in silver leaf. The silicone mould was cast from a composite laser cut card 'template' - different shapes were layered to create the borders and so on. Leaf patterning was also silicone cast in a thin layer (from a previous mould made cast from real leaves), and then cut to fit into the recesses of the cardboard pendant. After casting in resin, all the components become one, with no joins, etc.

As for keeping the two components together, I will likely recast the pieces so that one part of the pendant is the whole teardrop shape, with space within it for a smaller component. I have some very small, very strong magnets which I will cast in the resin - this will be the mechanism by which the two components are held together.

Below is the second pendant I have been developing... The small teardrop (separate) component is also cast in resin, with acrylic as a cover. Hair or other mementos could be placed beneath. This will be developed to be a separate pendant which attached onto the parent piece with magnets as well.

I have yet to refine how these pieces will be hung from chain... Below is one of my developmental sketches outlining thoughts on how the pendant might be finished.

I had been experimenting with creating silver wire lacy bits from silver clay, but with little success. Am currently developing a pattern to be laser cut from acrylic - shapes along the lines of tree roots or tendrils, so that the long parts can be heat shaped to extend over the pendant itself. Having this as a separate piece will also allow it to be treated (oxidised) separately to the rest of the pendant if I choose to finish in this way.

Stay tuned for more stuff as it happens, y'all!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

organic material...

Whenever I start experimenting with a new medium, I get fixated on finding out all the different ways I can use it. I also try to use it in a less obvious way than might be expected, yet still work with the strengths it offers.

Have been feeling that using metal clay to just create typical pendant shapes, etc, is a bit obvious, and something that could be achieved simply with plain silver and basic silversmithing skills (of which I have none). The advantages of metal clay lie in the fact that it can pick up exceptional detail from moulds and so on... and the shrinkage that occurs can be used advantageously - the detail becomes even finer. See below for an example:

Silver clay was pressed into a silicone mould I cast from a sage
leaf, dried (with the aid of a heat gun) and then fired to burn away the
organic binder and leave the silver behind.

The other advantage of silver clay is that it can also be used to create hollow forms by layering metal clay slip over objects that are then burnt away during firing.

So... am going to try creating silver pieces for jewellery by firing organic material (dead leaves, etc) that has been coated in metal clay slip. Not sure if it will work by firing it on a stove top, but is well worth a try. Anyway. Will update with results later.

Here is a pic of the leaves and things I collected for my experiment.

If all goes to plan, I should end up with hollow silver replicas of these things. The beauty of this, too, is that the silver left behind (99.9% pure) is quite malleable. If I'm creating thin, fine pieces from roots and leaves, I should be able to reshape it one fired - entwine it around other pieces and so on.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My brain: let me show you it

Well... the inner workings of it when I'm designing, anyway.
Just a couple of developmental sketches for a pendant designs, and some scrawly notes about how I might construct it.

Are opposites opposite?

Yesterday I wrote about considering the opposite of something in order to be able to understand it... thinking about life to understand death, and vice versa. I also wrote about discovering a whole pile of writing and thoughts from a couple of years ago. So, without further ado, here is a little snippet of it:

Even the most pure things are not pure at all. There is always a darker aspect; a shadow, the streaks of dark pink in a white petal. For any given absolute, there is also an antithesis. Within love, life, beauty and light, there is also hatred, death, decay and darkness. We inevitably juxtapose the pure with the tainted. They cannot exist without the other; they can never be mutually exclusive. In order to know light, we must know dark, and in knowing this, we taint that which we know to be pure.

I'm pulling this out from the vault for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it illustrates the idea of considering opposites in trying to understand something. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is shows that perceived opposites aren't always opposites at all.

We might think of life as being the opposite of death, but is this true? Perhaps at a biological level. But if you think of life as the act of living, the collective actions of people on this planet, then death and life are inextricably linked. Every action and choice we make has to do with our inevitable death.

Everyone knows that everyone dies. So we break up life into discrete chunks: school for the first 18 or so years, perhaps another few years at university. Marriage, children, mid-life crisis, retirement, grandchildren, death... everything from expected social norms to social security is structured around the fact that life is finite. Tainted, tinted. Life is coloured by the knowledge of death.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

some stuff and a poem

I have decided to use shapes and patterns derived from nature in my final collection (pendants) as a way of symbolising life cycles - tree, root, flower, bud... as well as the fact that these are also some traditional symbols used in mourning jewellery. For example, dead leaves indicate sadness and melancholy, and flowers indicate the fragility of life. I also think they look like veins or sometimes even a heart.

Just now, as I was sketching some ideas, I thought of the poem Transformations, by Thomas Hardy - really beautiful ideas about cycles and nature and reincarnation...
The fact that the yew tree is mentioned is significant, too, as it is traditionally associated not only with sadness and lament, but with eternal life. (See, everything is connected!)
The poem be here:

Portion of this yew
Is a man my grandsire knew,
Bosomed here at its foot:
This branch may be his wife,
A ruddy human life
Now turned to a green shoot.

These grasses must be made
Of her who often prayed,
Last century, for repose;
And the fair girl long ago
Whom I often tried to know
May be entering this rose.

So, they are not underground,
But as nerves and veins abound
In the growths of upper air,
And they feel the sun and rain,
And the energy again
That made them what they were!

Every time I read it I love it more.

PS. Turns out even the background I selected for my blog is significant in terms of symbolism. I had no idea when I picked it, but it turns out that birds in flight symbolise 'the winged soul'. How very apt.


Was going though old folders of work on my computer just before… a futile attempt to try and get rid of extraneous files and folders I don’t need. I stopped, however, when I came across a document that was called (most unhelpfully) ‘essay draft’. As things turned out, it was not an essay draft at all, but a compilation of thoughts and writing (spanning from 2007-2008) which I had pretty much forgotten all about.

More surprisingly, I found some of the stuff I’d written to be… OK. Not like when you read over stuff from a couple of years ago and wonder what the hell you were thinking.
The most surprising thing was that so much of it was about death. Not in a gruesome way, but more as a way of trying to understand life.

I started a blog post a couple of days ago (still in the drafts folder – don’t think I’ll bother posting it now), saying that the trouble with studying death is that you have to study life as well. I think that to be able to get a grasp on anything, you need to look at its opposite. Well, a couple of years ago, I was thinking about life but looking at death as a way of understanding it. Funny the way these things go. Despite the morbidity of much of the subject matter, so much of what I’d written is pertinent to the same thoughts and themes that I’m attempting to address now in this studio.

Over the next couple of days, I’m going to post some of this stuff, with my current thoughts alongside. Might be a good way of clearing thoughts up once and for all, but there might even be some therapeutic benefit to it too.

Stuff about blogging

This blogging thing is dangerous. The few times I’ve sat down this semester and really thought about stuff and then written something have been… exciting. And possibly that’s why it’s only happened a few times. I’m a little afraid that if I keep going for too long, it will be like floodgates opening and I’ll never be able to stop. Too much I want to say, and often not the right words to say it... or the thoughts not coherent enough to even be formed into words.

But… bugger it. If there’s going to be a flood, maybe I’ll just have to deal with it. Get sandbags for my brain, or something. Because this works for me, I think. Words are sometimes (well, pretty much constantly, actually) the best vehicle I have for conveying whatever is going in my life or mind or with my work. And in light of this, I’ll be doing some retrospective posts of my class work to date. I think writing about all of it will help to clarify a lot of things.

So, blog. Prepare to become more than a place for my random thoughts… the thoughts that have overflowed from whatever my work has inspired in me and don’t really quite fit anywhere.

While I'm here...

I thought I'd post a couple of videos that have been sitting on my computer desktop for a while now. Have been meaning to post them but I keep forgetting.

Both are from the TV series Torchwood. Yes, it's sci-fi. Yes, I'm a nerd. I'm the first to admit that it's not the greatest show ever produced, but the strong central themes of death and human nature always appealed to me. That and the Welsh accents, which always make anything more awesome.


The second clip (below) is set later in the series, and I just love this conversation between the two women, driving though the night.


So yeah. I guess these had been preying on my mind recently as I'd been writing about near death experiences and the possibility of an afterlife. The first clip, too, because it is just a tiny bit horrible and that stays with you. I suppose it shows that life is finite, and to bring life back once it is gone is unnatural and against the order of things.
When you stop and think about it too, what would you realistically say to someone who was dead - and only alive again for 2 minutes?
And finally - I think that if I'd been dead, and then brought back temporarily, I would be pretty damn cross. Remember this? This whole living thing? Well, you can't have it. At least if we just stop completely when we die and there is nothing else, we wouldn't be able to reflect on the unfairness of it all. Having to die again knowing that there is nothing... like I said... horrible.

Monday, October 4, 2010

purge (and black holes in b flat)

So... The thing on my mind the most at the moment is my final collection. Have been doing a lot of stuff with materials exploration, and getting some really good results. Will post images soon.
But at the same time I get so distracted by thinking about the creative process, or more specifically, wondering just what it is to be creative. Why do humans want to make or write or draw? What is it that lends to us this urge... sometimes so overwhelming and powerful that even if you were able to etch something of yourself into the very sky it would never be enough?

If life is just 'a quirk of matter', or an accident of chemicals and evolution, then why do we need to create as well? Maybe deep down (and this is me being a little cynical here), we know that there is no meaning to life, and we attempt to fill our lives with stuff to distract us from this otherwise horrifying fact. Perhaps all of our actions are dictated by a deep seated knowledge of our own mortality, and the desire to create is our way of saying I was here, I saw this, I experienced it... I won't be here forever, but maybe my impression of this world will be.
Or perhaps we are just echoing the natural state of things - the universe creates (and destroys) in never ending cycles. Humans can be pretty horribly destructive, too.

There was a great documentary on a few weeks ago about humans and music, and the incredibly important role it plays in our lives. Throughout most of it, I was asking myself why music has this pull on us, and why wasn't the documentary addressing this same 'why'?

Coincidentally, I'd been thinking about this very thing a few days before. I'd been reading about mathematical equations describing decay (as you do) and the natural number e, which is associated with decay as well. As I'm sure you all know, the internet is a weird and wonderful place, and I stumbled across an article about how e was associated with the guitar playing in U2 songs. It was then that the idea that everything might be connected at some level began to take seed - music to maths to wavelengths and echoes possibly going back to be beginning of the universe.

But I digress. So, there I was, getting fed up at the fact that this fundamental question was ignored, when the documentary veered into the territory of physics. Suddenly, there was Brian Greene (a proponent of string theory), explaining that the universe sings too. Suddenly, that little seed of an idea started blooming in my mind. How amazing - there are black holes that emit the precise pitch of B flat. If string theory is true - if the most fundamental components of the universe are tiny strings, each resonating at a different wavelength or pitch, then that makes us part of a giant symphony. Sometimes harmonic, perhaps discordant at times, but we'd always be tuned into something wonderfully bigger than we are.

Um. So, yeah. It is these kind of thoughts that can distract me from doing stuff sometimes. I get too caught up in the why of it all. But I shall persevere.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Consciousness and freaks of technology

So, I have now progressed from quoting Doctor Who to posting clips of it.
This scene was on my mind the other night as I attempted to get my magazine article together - a piece about near death experiences and whether or not consciousness can exist independent of the body.
I remember getting shivers the first time I watched this...


Also... "There's a neural relay in communicator. Lets you send thought mail."
Thought mail. Slightly disturbing concept, but being able to record your thoughts and play them back later would be pretty damn useful at times.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Too much and not enough

Had one of those my God I’m alive moments before while I was doing the dishes. You know the feeling – suddenly struck by your own being and consciousness and it's almost too much to bear.

I was suddenly so aware of the warm water, the bubbles sliding over my hands and the feeling of my skin beginning to pucker and wrinkle from prolonged submersion. Strange evening light shining though the window and everything wonderful and too much, overwhelming and you want that bittersweet pang to stop but never to end at the same time.

When the moment had passed (as these moments inevitably do), I began to wonder what, if anything, had triggered it. Was it the strange quality to the light outside? The music playing in the background? Both of those things, or perhaps none?

I wonder now, as I’m writing this, if these moments are so fleeting because we can’t handle them. Some kind of self-preservation thing, perhaps? Maybe our brains cannot cope with being aware of ourselves for too long, somehow hyperconscious, so it shuts down, turns away, and we start to think instead about what’s for dinner. The moment is forgotten, and we are somehow less alive than we were in that moment – just going though the motions of living instead.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Quote of the Day Part III

"What's life? Life's easy. A quirk of matter; nature's way of keeping meat fresh."

- The Doctor, (Doctor Who)

While thinking about life and death (more so than usual - this happens when it is part of your studies), this quote popped into my head. It was a few more moments before I remembered it was, in fact, from Doctor Who, and not some source of well-known literature. So I share it with you all knowing that I shall be revealing the depths of my geekiness in the process. That aside, what do you think? Is life just a quirk of matter?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Fountian

Just watched The Fountain. Wow. Feel as though have just woken up from a dream. Unfortunately am way too tired to comment on it apart from that, so I'll leave that for tomorrow, maybe after a second viewing... Or a third.
In the meantime, look at the pretty picture from the film instead.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sparks of life

Soul, psyche, life force... Whether or not these are merely human constructs, I can at least understand why people would think that they exist.

Sitting in QV the other morning, a sparrow flew right up to me, brave and timid and inquisitive all at once. While watching it, it struck me just how full of life it seemed. I could easily believe that there was something, some force lending to this creature such animation...

...Perhaps a little spark of life within, or marionette strings in constant motion, controlled by a puppeteer of the universe. If this is the case, then death would be the snuffing out of this spark, or the severing of these strings. Certainly, death is as sudden and absolute as either of these motions.

I see this 'animation' now all the time... when I watch my cats, or birds outside, or even children running down the street. Perhaps this liveliness and animation has something to do with self-consciousness, or the lack thereof. I rarely see this spark of life in adults. Perhaps we have become too accustomed to the world. The only time I really see it is when people laugh. It is known to some as the language of the soul, after all.


Just as I had hit the 'publish' button for the previous post, there was a knock at the door. Stupidly, I answered it. Note to self: nothing good comes of doing such a thing if it is one in the afternoon. I was faced with a man and woman from who-knows-what church, trying to tell me about the Heavenly Mother, Jesus, the Bible...

In the end, I gave up any pretense of politeness and simply closed the door on them. There are only so many times you can say 'I'm not interested' before this segues into stronger language, so I decided not let it get to that point.

Perhaps it was just unfortunate for those two that I'd spent the best part of the morning thinking about death, the soul, about love and life and all kinds of other metaphysical concerns before they arrived on my doorstep. Mind you, I don't think that at any point in my life I would be prepared to believe that answers come pre-packaged in the form of... whatever they were preaching.

I respect that people's beliefs differ from mine. Everyone is entitled to believe what they want to, and if these beliefs offer comfort to them, that's great too.

What I don't respect is peddling these beliefs as though they are electricity, loft insulation or anything else that is generally for sale by people at your doorstep at one in the afternoon. Surely that just cheapens the whole thing. Isn't there meant to be some kind of spirituality associated with religion? Doesn't trying to sell it as though it's a commodity fly in the face of personal introspection and soul searching?


While thinking about what elements I'll incorporate into my final collection (jewellery based), I came up with the idea of 'companion pieces' - smaller pieces of jewellery that fit inside a larger item, a way of representing a connection to a loved one.

I'd initially considered the idea of having pairs of an item - identical pieces - one to be left with the deceased, the other to be kept with a friend, lover or family member.
However, I think I much prefer the idea of creating two distinct pieces that fit together in some way.

Death immutably alters life for those left behind in its wake. With death, cherished connections become severed at a physical, practical, day to day level. We know that that we'll never again see the deceased in this life; perhaps never again for all eternity. However, such connections continue in thought and memory, and cannot be severed as long as life continues for those left behind.

The two (or more) pieces of jewellery may never again be physically connected, but the fact remains that there is the potential for them to be. Perhaps there is some comfort to be drawn from this thought?

Anyway, to cut a long story short (too late, I hear you cry!), these thoughts reminded me of the following poem by e. e. cummings. 'i carry your heart with me' is a testament to love that knows no bounds. To me, this could mean love beyond death as well.

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in

my heart) i am never without it (anywhere

i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear

no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want

no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)

and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

- e. e. cummings

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hello Again, blogland...

So, I've been very bad and abandoned my blog for a little while. As a result, I have a lot to post about in the next few days.

Found myself sitting in a cafe yesterday making lists of things I want to write about while I was drinking my coffee. So many things to try and wrap my head around! Unfortunately, I'm now having a little trouble deciphering my own handwriting and untangling my train of thought. Still, I shall persevere!

These thoughts will be appearing dribs and drabs, along with photographs of burying my garment and a lot more...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why do I have to put a title for each post?

So, for the past couple of weeks I've been really thinking about the remainders that a decomposing garment would leave when buried. This is something that has been the focus or aim of my burial experiment - to leave the 'wreath' that is worked into the hood of my garment as something that is left behind after the rest of the cloth breaks down.

But what about inverting the idea? Instead of focussing on the disintegration, what about looking at ways that the buried garment could create something new? Perhaps there are ways of treating the garment so that it beautifies or changes over time? Or maybe seeds could be part of the garment, helping to make new life from old?

Some things to consider, anyway...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Quote of the Day Part II

"Depending on how we look at it, we may hold onto the hope that death is a sort of bonus. For what happens to us at death is one of two things. Either the dead person just ceases to be, losing all senses in a sea of nothingness; or else, as many people believe, it is a change, a migration of the soul towards another place.

"Well, if death is simply the end of our sense, then it is like a long dreamless sleep, and therefore a sweet prospect. If you can recall that rare night when you slept so deeply that you were undisturbed by dreaming – can you remember anything more pleasant? If that is how death is, then I for one am looking forward to it – for then eternity will me like nothing more than a single night.

"But suppose that death is, indeed, a journey to another place. Suppose the destination is a commonly imagined, and contains the spirits of all who have died. I ask you – what prospect matches that? Who would not want to travel to that other world?"

– Socrates, on his impending fate after being sentenced to death.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Jewels and Precious Things...

Shiny things rarely fail to capture my interest. I can't help it. Jewellery has captured my attention for a long time. It was looking over my own photographs of jewellery from the site of Mycenae that led me to further investigate the burial rites of ancient Greece.

I was in Greece just last year, and there are relics from thousands of years ago all over the country. It is often said that there is beauty in that which is broken, decaying, or incomplete. Perhaps that, coupled with my love of 'shiny things', was what attracted me intensely to worn down pieces of jewellery from the remains of old cities and civilisations since gone.

Having looked into the burial practices of ancient Greece over the past couple of weeks, I have been starting to wonder how many cultures consider what will be found in grave sites in hundreds or thousands of years to come. It has been quite tricky to find out precisely what the ancient Greeks dressed their dead in - while there are general descriptions of 'rich garments' or 'ankle length shrouds', there is nothing specific enough to leave no doubt as to what was placed in the ground over the body of the deceased. Of course, all of this having occurred so long ago, there is no physical evidence remaining - fabric (from natural fibres) left in the ground for centuries will not endure the test of time.
What is left, though (and then found many years on), are pieces of pottery left as offerings, or items of jewellery which adorned the bodies of the (rich) deceased.
Of course, it was unlikely that there was consideration by those burying their loved ones as to what would last longer in the ground - every element that was left in the ground with the body had to do with respect or safe passage for the soul in the afterlife.

All of this has led me to developing 'lasting' aspects into my burial garment - permanent tributes into things that typically last in the ground, anyway... buttons, fastenings, and of course, jewellery can all be reworked in such a way that when they remain (but the clothes or even the bodies do not), there will be something meaningful left many years on. Jewellery, in particular, may be reinterpreted and worked into the garment itself... perhaps as decorative elements made from materials that will last much longer than the cloth. The beauty of this, too, is that these decorative elements can be replicated into other forms as a memento for the family/loved ones of the deceased - a way of remembering and maintaining a connection.

Quote of the Day Part I

"Life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all"
- William Goldman

Friday, July 30, 2010

Who (or what) are we, anyway?

Is our body really 'ours' in the way we think it is?
Every year, 98% of the atoms in our body are replaced. I am not the same 'me' than I was at the age of five, or at the time I was born.
Our bodies are ever changing vessels for our souls or consciousness - an ever changing array of atoms held together by a series of physical forces, containing whatever it is that makes us 'us' upon this earth for as long as it can endure.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Life, love, and what might come after...

I've been doing a lot of reading over the past few days... or rather, re-reading... revisting books or stories where death is a central theme. One that has particularly stood out to has been 'The Orange Girl' by Jostein Gaarder. The story focusses on a 15 year old boy, Georg, who discovers a letter his now deceased father wrote to him before he died, when Georg was four years old.

The following excerpt comes from the letter itself - a really beautiful reflection on life, love, and what might come after.

'We can sit for hours just holding hands. Once or twice I've peered down at her hands, so gently and lovely, and I've stared at my own hand, perhaps just at one finger, perhaps at a nail. How long will I have this finger, I think. Or I've lifted her had to my lips and kissed it.

I've thought that this hand I'm holding now will be the same one I'll hold in my final moments, perhaps in a hospital bed, and perhaps for hours on end, until I finally cast loose and slip away. We've agreed that that's the way it will be, she's already promised me. It's good to think about. When I slip away from this universe, it will be a warm and loving hand that I let go of, the Orange Girl's hand.

Imagine, Georg, if there were a hand to grasp on the other side as well! But I don't believe in another side. I'm almost sure that I don't. Everything that exists only lasts until everything is ended. But the last thing a human being often clutches is often a hand.

...I'm scared, Georg. I'm scared about being thrust out of this world. I'm scared of evenings like this that I'll no longer be able to know.

Post the First

I hadn't originally planned on having a blog for this class, but am finding that I'm thinking about death related things all the time.
So... here be a blog for my thoughts.
I'll most likely do a bit of reflection here, as well as post passing thoughts, should they occur while I'm seated at my computer. I suppose it'll just be an addition to the rest of my developmental work, but this could change and evolve. Stay tuned...