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.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Inspiration...

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:

http://io9.com/5671818/10-great-science-fiction-and-fantasy-stories-that-deal-with-death

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

progress

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.

Surprises

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.


video

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


video

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...

video


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.