When you need a tool, sometimes you have to make it.

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The best part of being creative is that you make things from simple materials.

The annoying part of being creative is that every once in a while you think up things that need tools that you don’t have.  Well, maybe more often than every once in a while.

There are a ton of tools that could find a home in the ‘Werks – literally a ton because I’m thinking an anvil – but money is an object as well as the considerations of space.  At some point I’m going to have to make good on my promise that the two car garage will actually house our one car and the studio, but not today.

Some tools get bought because I know that I am going to use them at some point and they are obtainable at a great price, not that I really need them right now.  One such item was the dapping set that I bought from Harbor Freight.

There’s been a lot of articles about dapping over the last year and I do want to make more domed items, but really I use the dapping punches in a different way and I hadn’t used the block at all.  I figure that it was time to use the tools together and make something domed.

I had some etched Celtic Squares, so they became pillow beads and buttons.  The dapping went pretty well, but it was sort of predictable.  What I really wanted was a flat dome.

The dapping block only makes spherical domes, not flat topped domes.  There were a couple of ways to make a flat topped dome that I could think of, but I had already etched the metal and the shaping would harm the etching.

From an earlier project, I knew that I could carve a form out of basswood and sink the metal into the form with the dapping punches.

Wood carving is not a skill that you would think that a metal worker would need, but understanding how to use the carving tools and how wood needs to be shaped can dictate the success of making a form, so I have learned some rudimentary wood carving skills.

I’m not in any danger of making anything pretty out of wood, but I can at least put a divot in a piece of basswood.  And I can make wood shavings to start a fire.  Just in case.  You know…..zombies.

One skill that carries over from metal is sanding.  I sure do know how to sand!

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Once the form is as done as I’m going to get it for now, I can sink the etched piece and move on to making the back and bail of the pendant.

 

The completed pendant is pretty much what I had envisioned although I will go back and reshaped the bottom of the form for a little better end result.  I had to work the face of the pendant a little which I should not have to do with a better form.

Etched Copper Flowers Pendant

Making or repurposing  tools to solve design challenges is part of being a skilled craftsman, part of the journey from hobbyist to apprentice and from apprentice to journeyman.

It is the hidden part of craft and art that observers rarely get to observe – the small creations that are needed to be made before the final project is even begun.

The next time you look at an artisan’s work, try to think about what challenges needed to be solved to make that item the very first time.

Better yet, ask the artist.  Having people appreciate the process and the work behind the piece is validating for many artists.

Then again, coffee is very validating for busy weasels.  Just a thought if you are visiting the new Weasel Werks location in Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 

Is it Art?

Recently, there was a suggestion to the Blogging101 class to write the first post that we would have written when we first thought about blogging. This isn’t really that post, but it is in a way. There’s a weasel for you!

By the way, if you feel like you need some help blogging, the wordpress Blogging101 class has really impressed me so far. I highly recommend joining a session and that’s a pretty unusual thing for me to do.

Way back when I was a little weasel, my parents set a pretty good example of being outside the box thinkers. Both parents found ways to
bring in a little bit of cash in addition to their regular jobs. Mom did some embroidery on shirts that my aunt sewed, Dad made some flowers out of wire and a liquid film and they both did some rug making with yarn, burlap and a metal punching device. Mom also painted. She mostly did Pennsylvania Hex Signs, but also some painting on shirts and mailboxes. The two of them would bundled us into the car on Saturday mornings and we would go to a local craft market and they’d sell what they could. It wasn’t a lot, but it did make a difference.

I always remember Mom painting, often taking classes or belonging to a national painting group. She entered county fairs and won in her categories, she sold her work often and really mastered many different mediums.

This was passed over as not right for a gallery.

This was passed over as not right for a gallery.

Both parents encouraged me to try different things – weaving, tatting, sewing, embroidery of many kinds, etc… Painting however was beyond me and drawing was a real stretch. The process of making something made all of us happy, even though none of us did the same things.

After a while though, Mom wasn’t happy about painting anymore. She had run into that segment of the art world that has definite ideas about what Art is and they had informed her that she was not an artist. Mom quit painting for a while, but eventually she started again. Again, she ran into people who told her that her work was not art, but it was really well crafted. Even to this day, her art gets looked down on as Quality Craft.

Apparently, not Art either.

Apparently, not Art either.

I’ve encountered the same prejudice many times, in many places. So many times, in fact, that I got fed up and decided that I didn’t want to make art; I wanted to make things that people use, things that people liked touching and wearing, things that people interacted with and felt good about doing so. And so I did just that.

Oddly, now I get critics who identify some of my work (usually things that I have to make for an actual class – things I put away and never look at again) as Art.

Fold formed Copper, glass pearls on stainless steel nuts, hand forged bar links chain and a 10mm Bar Cut Silver Topaz.  This is Art Jewelry -  as described by a teacher.  I won't ever wear it.

Fold formed Copper, glass pearls on stainless steel nuts, hand forged bar links chain and a 10mm Bar Cut Silver Topaz.
This is Art Jewelry – as described by a teacher. I won’t ever wear it.

I started WeaselWerks with William Morris in mind. Art Historians identify Mr. Morris as a friend of the group of artists who labelled themselves The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood when they think to include him at all. Sometimes he is identified as part of the founding of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Actually, he’s the man who created a business that brought the artistic endeavors of his friends into the homes of people as things to interact with, not just things that hang on walls and stand on tables or pedestals.

Morris felt that the things that are in your home should be beautiful and functional, well made and pleasing to see and use. This weasel couldn’t agree more.

Craft is so important, so critical to the process of creating Art that without Craft, Art wouldn’t be. Basic Craft is pretty identifiable, but as the creator persists, skill increases and the crafter masters the use of their tools, their perceptions, their medium and their bodies. Quality and Value are present in the crafted items of journeymen, while the items produce by a Master Craftsman are often breathtaking. Given the passage of time, those same masterfully crafted items get treated and displayed as Art, even if they are not actually labelled Art.

Without that first watercolor paint set in the hands of the child, without the sidewalk chalk drawings outside of family homes, artists never emerge. Every artist has to learn their Craft, even if it starts with gluing macaroni to construction paper to make a picture of a building.

I don’t worry about the label anymore – Art or Craft – I aim to produce value, quality and pleasure in items that are used because they are satisfying and fulfilling to the owner. I know that the value and quality are because of the craft and the pleasure is the result of the art.

People love these.  I love these.  They are fun to make, fun to see and fun to wear.

People love these. I love these. They are fun to make, fun to see and fun to wear.

Someday , if something of mine ends up in a museum as Art, I’ll probably be glad for the thought, but sad that the piece is just sitting there collecting dust instead of being used for its purpose and, in doing so, making someone a little happier.

After all, weasels hate dusting!

Collaboration

Talent lies in each of us, often in a dark, unexplored corner. A while ago, I had an artist friend, CAL, over for the weekend and we played with paper, ink and paint all day long.

Now, our talents lie in opposite directions- she is very fluid thinking while I’m more of a straight line. When we work together, I do things like base coating or tracing while she does the interesting things if we work in paint, dye or inks. If we work with fiber or material, she does the cutting out of numerous little pieces and I do the folding, stitching and embroidery. She does the beading, since I get mad when beads fall off.

She wanted me to do some paper marbling and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be any good at it. We were both surprised that as long as I used a color wheel to assist with color choice, I turn out some amazing results!

Pretty soon, every flat surface in my living room and balcony was covered in drying rice paper, copy paper, coffee filters and even manila folders that now had the strangest, yet compelling, images we had seen.

We divvied up the loot and went about our pursuits according to our interests. I used some stamps on some small scraps and incorporated the results into bracelets (riveting paper onto metal is an interesting process), earrings, pendants and whatnot.

A month or two later, we got together again and she showed me what she had been doing with her part of the loot.

Seascape of Dreams -Pen and ink on marbled paper.

Seascape of Dreams -Pen and ink on marbled paper.

Red Tide - pen and ink on marbled paper.

Red Tide – pen and ink on marbled paper.

Framing was now up to me. I’m working on a frame with copper and red brass elements for the Red Tide and a frame with patinaed copper and silver for the Seascape of Dreams.

It’s hard work since each time I get these out for reference, I can get lost just looking at them.

Prints of both Red Tide and Seascape of Dreams are available at DeviantArt under my Hawkston account. Hopefully, the frames for the originals will be done in time for the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival (September 27 – 29) in San Pedro. I’d like to have the originals out for public viewing at the event.

Something old and something new

Sometimes the best part of a project is starting it. It’s exciting to think about all the possibilities, but it is less exciting once you are down to the repetitive part.

I like to do small, repetitious things for the most part, but sometimes I’m not so sure of the end result that I start to lag. Then the project sits on my bench taking up room and silently rebuking me every time I move it so that I can work on something new.

A very good example is the gas mask pendant.

Work in progress.  Going to remain in progress until I cut another billion jump rings

Work in progress. Going to remain in progress until I cut another billion jump rings

All I need to do is finish the chain (which means winding some 18 gauge copper wire and sawing about 100 more jump rings). The problem is that I ‘ve been unsure as to what kind of closure I want to use.

An S clasp seems sort of dumb and lately what I really want to do is a small biohazard symbol as a toggle clasp. I’m pretty close, in my mind, to knowing what that toggle would look like, so I’m ready to get back to doing the jump rings.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on a couple of things, mainly this soldered link chain.

22 gauge copper wire.  individually soldered.

22 gauge copper wire. individually soldered.

That’s 22 gauge copper wire, in case you were thinking “Hmnnn… that looks pretty tiny.” The pattern is a single weave Roman Chain. Most Roman Chain is double weave done with a 2 link base, although I also have a 3 link base chain that I need to make end caps and a closure for. Hmnnn… maybe that should be my next post.

In any case, I’m trying to combine one UFO (Un Finished Object) with a new project to keep me working happily as well as clearing my bench.

If that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll bribe myself with ice cream for each UFO completed.

Bats are a few of my favorite things

Working, working, working!

I’m a fan of bats and have been trying to incorporate some bats into some earrings.

Missing bas

Sort of a full moon and flying bat in negative space.  These were hand sanded and are really very shiny.

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I also wanted to have something smaller, since some people don’t like big earrings, even though these are very light. Also instead of a negative space bat, how about a positive space bat….

Bat bridges

Again, these are very shiny and have been waxed to keep fingerprints off. In the background are three of the finished rings stacked up and waiting to be put away.

Bat bridges 2

So there’s some fall themed goodies ready for the show! I do need to do two more sets of each, but at least the first ones are done. Yay!!