Beauty and Burden Continued…

Here are the results of the first part of the Cinba project where my initial aim has been to create creatures which have unappealing textures and deformed shapes. At the same time I hope that the birds intrigue the onlooker enough to persuade you to pick them up and care for them.

I felt like I still had further to go with this project therefore I decided to continue with it into the personal investigation project but to place my work into the field of contemporary crafts. I needed to consider costs, value, time keeping, marketability and appeal.

The results are below:

ABOVE:    The characters of the birds change when placed within a group. They become stronger and less vulnerable. The mother carrying the baby on her back makes them appear independent and purposeful.

BELOW:   The gold beaks enable the birds to get attention quickly and they have evolved into rather beautiful creatures despite the fact their surfaces and shapes are based on disease and deformity.

The gold lustre and the porcelain increases the value of the birds, I have used less surface decoration which has reduced my time spent. The pieces have also become more sculptural and abstract which provides greater interest but unwittingly also reduces time spent making. Despite the reduction in decoration, I hope I have managed to retain the exquisiteness of the birds.

I have used black thread to try to stitch the deformed and broken birds back together. This is a recent outcome and one which requires further investigating. I hope to look at the link between textiles and ceramics next term within my own project.

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The Hunters Brooch

Brooch form 1

Brooch form 2

Brooch form 3

Brooch form 4

After going through my collection of spiral forms, I chose four that I created recently as my final brooches. I spent my time in the workshop cleaning up the pieces getting rid of the excess wire and creating the pin and hook for each brooch in turn. I found that in one of my earlier inquiries that I was not able to make the brooches produces sound as successfully as I wanted. Through exploring the spirals in wire, I was able to create some work that looks like notes of music, which made up for the unsuccessful conclusion to the “Sound in Movement” post. I liked where this was going so the four I chose were based around this idea. In producing the brooches I found that I did not know how much wire I needed for the pin and hook until I was able to put the finished beads and teeth on, so I had to wait until the ceramics were finished firing before anything else could be done.

Brooch 1 final

Brooch 2 Final

Brooch 3 Final

The mix of bones, feathers and beads compliment each other well on the brooches. I have had many comments on how my Bronze Age work relates a lot to the Native American Indians, which is not surprising as both cultures have so much in common in the way they live and dress as mentioned at the Wiltshire Heritage centre whilst on my visit there. I feel after been told this that it could be my next starting point for a new range of items, this idea of the hunters and what they wore and used. It appears that I now have a story behind my brooches as well as something to guide me in my practice if I choose to take it forward into my personal project.

If I do choose to take it forward, I would like to explore the tools they might have used whilst hunting and what they could have been carried in, this might have been satchel of sorts.  We dont know what they could have used to retrieve teeth from the wolves, which they decorate themselves with as well as other trophies of the hunt. This could be a key point to explore in the work, I would like to,in the end build a visual background of the hunter. By using influences from the Bronze Age and Native American Indian, culture.

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Animals and Bones

Exploration of the bird symbol

Animal development

Animal collection, left: Air dried clay, right: Ivory Stoneware.

Since Bronze Age people were so obsessed with the sun horse and bird symbols I found it only appropriate to start exploring how I could interpret them into something special.

By looking back at images from the Heritage centre I was able to start creating animals and beads, seeing how they could be made out of Ivory Stoneware or Porcelain.  I also looked at bones especially teeth, which appears to be what their culture used to decorate themselves with during that period.

Wolfs Teeth from Wiltshire Heritage Centre

Hanging objects

Teeth development

Collection of clay objects part 1

Collection of clay objects part 2

Due to the price of Porcelain I chose to stick with Ivory Stoneware as it was the cheaper alternative. I crafted each piece individualy by hand using clay tools to create the appropriate detail. Next step was to use Manganese oxide on the clay, applying a heavy amount so that it gets into the cervices; the excess on the raised areas was washed away. Finally they go through a process of sanding down using three to four grades of Wet+Dry. Producing a bone like surface, that looks and feels smooth; this is as close as I can get to bone without moving onto Porcelain. All the clay pieces in my work are created through this same process.

Beads image from CINBA Image collection

Bead combinations

Through drawing I explored how the beads might fit onto the wire, looking at order and size whilst the actual beads were getting fired. Also made a few from air drying clay to try out on some wire.

Clay beads, left: air dried, right: Ivory Stoneware.

The fired beads turned out quite interesting though they don’t make as much sound as I hoped leading me to believe that porcelain or metal is the only way to apply sound to my work. Although I have no time to do this now, it may be something to explore in the future if I wish to take that area further.

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Project conclusions and starting points…

I wanted to post some images from the last group tutorial of the project period – for many ideas are starting to come to fruition and resolution is very close. Some have even chosen to continue to pursue further lines of enquiry for their next project, which is self directed. I hope they will be posting about their finished pieces and that they will reflect on the project as a whole through the Blog.

Some of April’s work and bits of Dave I think (or is it Dave’s robot clone? – I’m not sure, I can’t tell them apart!), I’m really keen to see if he solved all his issues surrounding the ‘Sun Delivery Service’ and his lack of employment – these are difficult times!….

Miriam’s neckpiece with it’s clever use of removable elements…

Vassiliki’s beautiful pewter cuttlefish castings….

Inspired by Bronze Age artefacts such as the razors and her own fictional stories that surround the objects, Vassiliki has created whole scenes and visual narratives packed with activity…


Fabian’s pins in progress…I must keep pestering him to post more as he’s finished these pieces beautifully and started a new realated project…

The variety, detail, scale and abstraction of Marie’s bird forms are fascinating….

Dominika has explored a variety of processes in ceramic inspired by Bronze Age textiles and woven surfaces…

Sadaf discovered she had an affinity with metal working processes during the course of this project, which was a surprise and delight for her and me…

I couldn’t include examples of everyone’s work in this post (mainly because I forgot to bring my camera to some of the sessions!) so I’ve tried to focus on those students that perhaps haven’t yet posted – hope the others will put up more images of their finished pieces. I’ve been delighted by the breadth of response and the commitment and enthusiasm that all the project participants have shown – it’s been a joyous teaching experience for me!

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Casting workshop – belated update!

The students have been far better than me at posting regularly! It’s several weeks since we did our first casting pour, but I thought I’d show the results anyway. Our first results with the new equipment were mixed, but we’re learning all the time. With all our sophisticated kit you would imagine it would be all be very easy, fancy working all this metal technology out in the Bronze Age – amazing!

Casting grain and getting the flask out of the kiln – the flask must be hot so that the molten metal is able to be drawn by vacuum into the mould…

Pouring, quenching, retrieving….


Some of the students have pursued the process through the project, which is very exciting, I look forward to finding out more from them…

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Castings and things

Continuing with my wax castings, I have been working with the Lost Wax Casting process. The first of these was a solid Brass elephant. It is extremely heavy and there are lots of bubbles of brass on the surface, this is from the air bubbles in the plaster.

Original Brass Elephant

I have tried working out the kinks, to continue with this process. However, I wanted to make the brass animals similar to the wax ones, I wanted to make them rattle. This meant they needed to be hollow. This is a hollow elephant, it is much lighter and there are evidently less roughness on the surface.

Hollow Brass Elephant

Unfortunatley my attempt at making hollow brass animals didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped it would. This may not have worked how I wanted it to, but I like the results. I am interested in looking into how these half animals can be turned into jewellery and I will be doing more with this is the near future.

To remedy this: Make them less hollow, let the wax dry more before releasing the excess. This will create a thicker animal, which should allow the melted metal to flow more freely through the form.

I will be continuing developing my knowledge of this process to create wearable pieces.

Examples of the brass birds I have made which I will be turning into wearables

Since my last post I have also been continuing my ceramic work:

High fired ceramic Rhino

This is the more life-like ceramic Rhino from my previous post. The colour has changed and it is a lot paler than before. I like the layers on this animal and how it is instantly recognisable, this is something that I am keen to continue developing throughout my work

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Beauty and Burden

Since starting this project I have been inspired by the weight and expense of jewellery owned by people in the Bronze Age dependant upon their status in society. I was particularly interested in the effect that heavy necklaces, fistulas, leg rings etc would have had on the posture and physical appearance of these people who were supposedly lucky enough to have them. This led me to consider the idea of wealth and high status as a burden which would show on a persons exterior and within their persona.
I decided to use the water bird as my vehicle to express my meanings due to its high status at the time and also because of the contemporary and very popular use of the bird in crafts today.
Through experimentation I broke the water bird down to its bare skeleton, examining the interior of it before considering an outward appearance.
I have explored a variety of surface textures and patterns initially aiming to produce a creature with an unattractive, diseased looking exterior that is still endearing to the viewer.
The scale of the birds is very important as I wished to keep the birds small enough that they fit easily into the palm of your hand to encourage the viewer to pick them up and care for them despite their unusual textures and unappealing rough surfaces.
Small amounts of shiny glaze has been added to aspects of the birds such as the upwards facing beaks enabling the birds to seek attention quickly.
The wheel has been an interesting tool to me as is often associated with the water bird in Bronze Age objects. It fascinates me that this wheel with the bird should help and assist movement but in actual fact could be heavy and hinder movement leading me back to my idea about burden.
The way the birds appear to interact (or not) with one another when placed together has been a recent interest and I am currently exploring the birds appearances and personas in these groups.
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This week Dave applied to go on Changing Rooms

Robot Dave, stressed out and crazy eyed

Dave’s been working too hard. His flat’s a mess and he’s been staring at the computer screen way too long.

So, in a moment of brilliance, he applied to go on changing rooms, and shortly after the very smiley Carol Smiley and her mate Linda Barker came round with some MDF.

modern furniture designed for Dave's flat, will go in corner between bookshelf and orchid

Dave really needed a way of organising his space, so these sun and moon parking bays were just perfect for him.

wall mounted - to brighten up Dave's dank hallway - will go nicely next to horse-shoe rack

They also put up a few family photographs on the walls

Dave's old uncle, McTerminatorLeg

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Are you a wearable?

Starting to think about incorporating the useful objects I had in mind at the beginning of this project in with the wing inspired parts to create something which could possibly be worn. Again, this is not the first aspect I want people to think about each object, the suggestion of the wearability should be an after thought.

Here I have started to use larger thread pieces to give me the opportunity to make more of a three-dimensional shape, it starts to move off the object of the body if it is worn…

The simple hook allows it to catch on different areas of clothing. Maybe I need to think about a pin to secure it, if it is to be worn?


The fragility of the thread is also given structure by the stickiness of the fabric when washed away. This allows it to hold the shape of the wire I have wrapped it around.

Somebody said the thread looks a bit like what you might find when you clean the hoover out! I like that, it is not just suggesting delicacy, but also a slight grotesque quality, just like the dead bird was originally.

I was also thinking about leaving the objects to seem as if they are half finished, or in the process of being made, leave the tools attached etc.

By bending the wire of the structure this would also sit up off the body or page.

I am now starting tho think about other objects which could inspire me to take this further. I am also going to start to think about scale, what would these look like scaled up 10 times?

Maybe start to think about the skull or other parts of the bird which could take these objects into a more three-dimensional state.

Although I have used the story about a ‘Fixer’ to start this project, it has now become more about the story of each object, it will now be the objects which inspire my new pieces.

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Update on the bronze age jewellery

As I wanted to create a detachable necklace, that you could build up layers to increase your status I have been designing the necklace on illustrator, as the material is plastic I decided that the lazer cutter would be the best option to cut the design out.

I tried to design hooks as a feature into the necklace, so that they are functional to slot the metal onto the necklace, and work as a aesthetical feature on the necklace. I placed the necklace in the oven to go soft in order to fold the hooks out. the plastic cools very quickly so it has to be done very quickly.

this is fly pressed brass that slots onto the necklace, and I’ve made hooks on the metal to slot the next layer too, and tried again to make them part of the design, and work as a aesthetic feature.

the second layer is oxidised copper, which slots onto the brass. the best thing about this design is that its possible to change and wear which ever combination you like to suit yourself!

I also wanted to design earrings, see how this design works on a smaller scale, therefore I took a piece of brass sample that I made on the fly press and developed it into earrings.

I also made some plastic earrings too to go with the theme of the necklace, using techniques and successful samples from the fly press that I wanted to use.

I wanted to design one pair of earrings that hooks around the ear that are rather sculptural, with bronze age swirl design on them. and I think the earrings worked out rather well only I wished I had twisted the wire more tight, but it fits around the ear rather well.

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