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Friday, August 31, 2012

Steampunk Thinking

 Steampunk...what a glorious name ...but what does it mean? Are these components steampunk? This is a topic worth exploring. I saw recently a piece of plastic printed with a clock face called "soft steampunk" by the seller. I also saw a fantastic set of animals and birds made of watch parts. Is that another form or genre of steampunk? The classic definition is Jules Verne style Victorian science fiction mixed with fantasy elements of a future past.....neither of those items clock face or animal were really steampunk..and yet they could be used to create something else that is...The fantastic animals are really found art sculpture. Worthy of a title all on their own. The clock face is just a plastic cabochon. This next picture has what is often found in many steampunk creations and that is gears.

Parts like all of the above are possible Steampunk, because its the Making not the object that is transformative.If I see a clock gear on a chain by itself to me it just says industrial. If you add the gear to other elements and create something that looks like a machine...well thats steampunk, if the gears actually turn and things move thats magic.
More possible steampunk parts...that is the real essence of steampunk...you have to make something with something else. The making is the important part. Lately I have read alot about different artists and looked at the things they create in the steampunk genre. Often it is like a machine or tool or weapon involving a mix of Victorian style and mechanical innovation with time travel or transportation from both the future and the past mixed. Sort of like getting on a steam powered dirigible for a trip to Mars. Its really imagination come to life.

What follows is a small selection of steampunk pieces I have created over the last 3 years. The first is a mix of Egyptian Revival and 1930s clock or watch parts.

This is an original Graf Zeppelin uniform pin attached to a filigree from B'sue Boutiques and one of their silly propellers.

This is a mix of radio tubes from the 20's and watch parts that want you to believe they can transport you in time...

This is steampunk cheap...stick a watch movement somewhere it doesn't belong add an eye ..it relates to the "glue a gear on it and call it steampunk" movement. A little more sophisticated but still very minimal..and one of the Victorian Style essentials is complexity.

This is More complex and carries more of the Steampunk and Victorian style.

This is back to the assemblage of watch and key with a base, in this case a snake. Is it really Steampunk or just an odd grouping that happens to have elements common to found art and steampunk?

This last piece has transitioned to the very edge of Steampunk with hand formed metal and stone setting with found object materials. The real answer to the questions is possibly its all steampunk if you say it is.  But if you just hang a faux gear on an earring call it industrial...not steampunk...the same with the fake watch faces...If you take it beyond the most basic and transform the material..be it fake, reproduction, faux or real then you are a Maker and it is Steampunk.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Follow up on the Santa

So here he is all dressed in holiday red..

The contours were smoothed before firing for the first time and then 4 coats of red glaze was put on the bisque figure.

His smile is toothless but very happy and you can see how the bottom of the robe was formed over the shoes.

He looks up slightly as if asking to be picked up.

Fired in the same kiln was this little comical chicken in a red hat, a reproduction of a storybook character from 1850s Germany.

I am not sure what the sculptor was thinking here but it reminds me of the Cheshire cat from Alice. Also a vintage  German reproduction.

This is one of my latest creations..gas mask pendants. Each is hand made over a cast doll head. None are alike. All these are available through my shop www.etsy/shop/oscarcrow

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Birthing a Gnome

I know clay seems a bit far from jewelry, but with mixed media so popular...techniques like this can help you create in other media such as PMC or polymer clay. I was an avid wood carver years back and made a lot of gnome,dwarf, and santa figures. My mentor via a book  was Tom Wolfe. This book http://www.amazon.com/Santa-His-Friends-Carving-Wolfe/dp/0887402771/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345044034&sr=1-1&keywords=tom+wolfe+carving is what I recommend for a beginner to see more fully how the form develops. I start with a square 3/4x3/4 x3 inch block of clay.

Next using a circle cutter to mark the arc from top to side and an exacto knife to cut through the clay we arrive at this form. The point of the santas cap will start with this cut.

Rolling the piece one turn exposes the next side and we repeat the cut, leaving us with a structure that looks like a bow on a boat.

The reason for doing this is to make pulling the face from the mass very simple as we work on a diagonal the curved line becomes the center of the face.

Now we decide on the faces proportions and the angle of the face. Three lines are used to decide the top of the face in the hood, the bottom of the nose and the bottom of the chin. By cutting straight across the face in these 3 spots we establish the final look of the piece. A near the top of the curve position for the top cut will result in a face looking up, while a lower position will have the face looking straight out, and of course even lower and it looks down. These also function as stop cuts in that they indicate the depth of the nose and chin.

Using the stop cut as an end point cut back into the clay to make notches at the three points.

Unlike working in wood we can add pieces so clay is a little more user friendly. I fashioned a beard out of scrap and using liquid clay as cement put it in place.

Downward cuts define the shape of the nose  and eye areas.

Another cut straight down defines the brow and eye and the marks define where cheeks and mustache will go.

At this point it is important to note that placement of the mustache or upper lip will determine how the faces expression will turn out. An up thrust smile or a down turned mouth will form the character of the face.

I chose a smile with a large up turned mustache. Below the figure on the work mat is the roll of clay.

Once place on the face with liquid clay slip and scratched to give texture it begins to pull the face together. I also used the tool behind the figure to make eyes..it has a concave tip and when wet and rolled into the eye area creates an eyeball. a tiny ball of clay will work as well. A small lump was added to fill out the nose.And the mustache was wet down with a brush and pushed closer to the face. The same will be done to the beard.

 Next establish the waistline and the mittens or hands and scoop out for the shoulder areas. Smooth and round the contours of the robe.
Next we make an egg shape to become the shoes.

Cut it in half.

And press it flat.

Using more liquid clay glue on the shoe and form a rope to create the bottom of the robe as it fits over the shoe tip.

Further smoothing and then drying and more sanding will finish the figure . It is now ready for a night in the dehydrator and then final sanding and filing before firing.

Sometimes things seem to come full circle, when I studied ceramics in college I made figures and then 30 years ago started to carve in wood and made the red and blue gnome...as well as 100 others including these. the most recent is the little blue robed man. and now the clay figure..soon a few more will be born and when I get one I really like he will be molded and cast to share.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Using a papercutter for metal and leather.

My daughter is starting her first job as a preschool teacher soon. I was at hobby lobby getting some scrap booking supplies to help her start to decorate her class room. I noticed a large selection of Sizzix cutter blocks. Foam covers the sharp parts and when placed in a Big Shot or similar machine press they cut out shapes. I  new she would not need this but I thought of all that embossed 30 gauge metal I made for another tutorial and realized it would be useful.

I ran this copper sheet through after embossing...and the leather followed.  The cutter handled the metal perfectly and the leather was a bit thick but cut cleanly. I immediately thought of a bracelet as the pieces are about 6 inches long.

In my parts stash was this wide cuff from B'sue Boutiques http://www.bsueboutiques.com/item/2-Inch-Raw-Brass-Curved-Cuff-8022 and sure enough both fit. I will have to work the metal a bit before I glue the row of houses down. I will share the results in a later post.

You might wonder why the houses caught my eye...well I make house beads for my Etsy shop Oscarcrow. Today this was my output from the kiln and dryer.

This closeup shows the various items ,from a classic repro of a head and an elephant to rabbits masks and Christmas ornaments plus some little dog pendants. The house beads were fired through the final stage, these were in bisque...

And these are raw wet clay fresh from the molds. These days are very busy, the German doll diggers are in full swing with many sales up and so I am importing all I can afford. Today 30 animals arrived and were sorted and photographed. Tomorrow more molds will be made and new items created. I hope to get some design time in as well.