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Homespun Living in a New England

MAC Class, Week Three

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
As mentioned previously, my Multnomah Arts Center class on hammering/forging has been quite the enlightening (and, at times, loud) experience.

Allow me to present week three: the curved forged line fold.

Ta da!

"The Craftsman"

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
The Craftsman, Mark Rothko, 1938-39
I love this painting, for obvious reasons. 

There was a retrospective on Mark Rothko at the Portland Art Museum last year, and I snapped a photo of this painting there...and then promptly forgot about it, until I went absent-mindely searching through my iPhoto albums today. And then I remembered it.

Edith, by Mark Rothko (1930s); Source
So-- Mark Rothko was raised in Portland, OR. He's probably the most famous artist our city has produced. And, evidently, he married a jeweler/sculptor, named Edith Sachar. This painting is presumed to be of her; the marriage didn't work out. That's about the only information I can find about this work online, to be honest.

What a bright little glimpse of the creative process, though. If I ever had a portrait painted, I would be perfectly happy if it came out like "The Craftsman."

Forging Class, or Metal Origami

Annealing a folded piece of copper sheet.  
My workspace at the MAC studio. 
So, yesterday was week two of my hammering and forging class at Multnomah Arts Center. I thought it might be a fine moment to provide an update on what we've been up to.

Foldforming is really fun--and, essentially, quite straightforward. It's all about: bending, hammering, annealing, unbending. There are a lot of variations to be done within this fairly simple set of steps, but that's what it comes down to. You create lines and shapes in metal with folds, which you then set in place with hammer blows. Then you heat the sheet to soften it back up, and unfold it to see what you get.


Here are some of the samples our instructor has had us working on. My head swims with the possibilities these will present in finished jewelry work.

Next week we'll begin working on bringing more three dimensionality to the process, adding curves and spirals and flower-like shapes. So. Excited.

And on that note, check out this beautiful piece of inspiration: Marie Charpentier, "Polypores" ring, made of anodized aluminum.


How to wash a fleece...

Saturday, January 19, 2013
(as presented by someone who only sort of knows what they're doing)***

So, you'll perhaps recall that I picked up a 10 pound bag of unwashed border leicester lamb's wool at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival, some months back? No. Well, take a look:

These photos, obviously (?), show the wool in its natural and pre-washed state. Fleeces can be purchased at a number of different cleanliness levels, effectively allowing the spinner to decide precisely how dirty they want their hands and workspaces to get, in this process. If a fleece is described as picked and skirted, it will have been cleaned of vegetable matter and other possible grossness like skin flakes and dung (picked), and some of the inferior wool will have been removed (skirted).
Diagram of skirt-able parts of a fleece. From
The fleece I purchased was skirted but not fully picked, so the wool was mostly good, but there was a lot of dirt to deal with. You can tell in the before and after pictures here. My wool was pretty lanolin-full and dirty. The color went from yellowish brown to nearly pure white. 
How was this accomplished, you ask? I did 5 soak and rinse cycles in the utility sink in my studio, with very warm water and Oxiclean

Steps I used:

1. Pick out obvious veggie matter and dirt, or areas that are excessively tangled;
2. Soak for fifteen minutes with warm-hot water and cleanser; 
3. Rinse, carefully--don't agitate too much or you risk felting the wool;
4. Drain the water; 
5. Repeat, until rinse water runs clear.

This way of cleaning is kind of a pain, but it definitely works. If you want to try a cleaning method that is a little more hands-off, a lot of sources I looked into recommend the washing machine method. I am a renter, though, and scared of security deposit loss, so I can't personally speak to the efficacy of this technique. 

I put some of the cleaned fleece directly into the dye bath, and the rest I started drying to use in its natural color. 

I use a collapsable clothes rack (like this one) to dry yarn and roving. To dry loose fleece and fibers, I just lay a window screen over the top (you can get these at hardware stores for around fifteen bucks). This lets air circulate fairly well. Even in the damp-aired Pacific Northwest, my wool is usually dry in a day or two. 

The drying apparatus. Cleaned undyed fleece in the middle. 
Close-up. Pretty clean--the carding takes care of the rest. 
Ta. Da. There you have it.

Next step--combing/carding. To be continued.

My carder. Hooray.
Also, I don't believe I mentioned that I finally got a drum carder! Bless you Craigslist.

***For the advice/opinions of some people who seem to actually know what they're doing, check out these tutorials:

(how to wash raw wool in the washing machine, video)

Another Robert Ebendorf Inspiration

Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Image source (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Man and His Pet Bee, 1968--Copper, silver, tintype photo, stones, brass, aluminum, other found objects. Truly hilarious and wonderful. 

The East Coast, recently

Just a quick photo dump opportunity really, but: I went back to Philly for work a couple of weeks ago, and had the lovely chance to see family. And, also, to head up to New York (Greenpoint, Brooklyn specifically).

Al Capone's cell, at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia

Near the baseball field, Eastern State

Brooklyn, NY. Commandante Bigge

A work in progress--Badges in the Craft Revolution

Just getting started; top left to bottom right: 1. Gandhi, 2. John Ruskin, 3. The European Guilds, 4. William Morris
I have been planning this project for some time now, but I've finally made some genuine progress in the new studio setup.

I was a history major (useful!), and the major historical moments in craft and politics remain a pretty key interest of mine. I will gladly read anything that talks about Gandhi and the homespun movement in India, William Morris and John Ruskin's Arts and Crafts Movement in England, etc... My senior thesis, after all, was about Southern Appalachia and the Settlement/Folk School movement in the early-mid 1900s. Good stuff.

This series will be a set of pseudo-military badges honoring some of my personal heroes in craft history, particularly when they set their sights at influencing the societies in which they lived.  There's a lot to talk about, theoretically (but sadly I wasn't a Studio Art Major, so may be somewhat ill-equipped). Right now, though, I'm working on hand-spinning and hand-weaving a small patch to add to Gandhi's badge. It's a deeply satisfying project.

Image source
Incidentally, and speaking of Craft History (which I would have majored in, in a heartbeat), have you read Makers: A History of American Studio Craft? Do it, please. It's a great read, and a beautiful book. It was produced by the people at Center for Craft, Creativity and Design, in Asheville, NC--now on the campus of University of North Carolina, Asheville (from whence that B.A. in History comes; thanks, guys).

Some metalwork, of late (and hi, again!)

My highly practical silver spoon project, from Haywood
It's been a pause in posting, but not in working on craft--right now, I'm enrolled in another class at Multnomah Arts Center: forging and hammering and shaping metal three-dimensionally. It's wonderful, so far. Forging isn't something I'd had the opportunity to do in quite a while, and it's a skill set I'm very happy and excited to be exploring again. As I know I've mentioned before: back at Haywood Community College, my glorious metals alma mater, we covered so very many jewelry topics in such a short (feeling) time that some methods had a tendency to fall to the wayside, at least temporarily.

In my current class, we've been covering the basic moves in fold forming, with this text as a guide. I ordered it--so good. It's got clear step-by-step directions and beautiful, inspirational finished work; highly recommended.

Image source
I've also made some progress on studio setup, after a lot of back and forth and issues related to getting my oxy-acytelene torch going. Turns out, there was a break in the acetylene line. Helpful handy-dude Doug, at my studio space, came to the rescue and assisted in cutting it down below the break. Many thanks are due to him, 'cause frankly I'm always nervous to mess around with that stuff without moral support!

The basic workspace, updated.
I love this rug, and regret, slightly, that it will surely be ruined very soon.
Much to add, but a start! And credit to Peter, for the assist in getting the pegboard up and secure. Not a one lady job.