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.