Puppets in Prague

A slight diversion into different material – wood. Loyal followers will recall that I have made marionettes in the past at the Prague workshop of Mirek Tretnjar. This spring I went back to Prague to make a family puppet theatre and the puppets and scenery for a production of the Snow Queen.

puppetheatre1

Family theatres are a tradition in the Czechia (remember the Sound of Music and the Lonely Goatherd, yes I know not Czechia). Above is an example of a family theatre.

pipworkshopThe workshop took us through the marionette carving, scenery painting, theatre painting, Marionette dressing and using the marionettes to tell our story. Above is a photo of the workshop with everyone working.

It was a fantastic group of talented people and I negotiated a jewellery commission which I’m so looking forward to making.

pipgangStarting with four blocks of wood, I carved the heads of my four puppets for a show based on the Snow Queen. Other blocks were carved for the hands, shoes and legs. Everything was then painted and clothes made. Mirek Trejtnar, the workshop leader, assembled the puppets and they were ready for the theatre. Lots of people helped and advised, including Marcella, Vaclav and Sota.

For some reason I can’t upload any puppet photos, above is a photo of some of the puppet artists at leisure.

It took a week to get the puppets almost complete. We then moved on to making the theatre. Dora and Svetlana helped plan and develop the performance. I was really pleased with the final family-story telling performance that we devised. I’m looking forward to sharing it with my grandchildren for their fourth birthday. Hopefully they will enjoy doing their own performances soon.

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iron lintel casting

lintelfurnace

The day dawned bright and by lunchtime the mould was finally finished; Eden had mended the furnace and the ‘bull ladle’ was also fixed; the fork lift was in place to take the weight of the ladle; Michael had cracked the scrap iron (thanks Michael) and weighed the bags of coke and iron. Eden must have laid the bed of coke in the furnace when I was working on the mould indoors; the air blowers and gas tanks were in place. It was decided by the tech team to go ahead with the pour.

The furnace was lit and the air blower turned on to force the temperature up to melting point; the gas blower was turned on to the ‘bull ladle’ to heat it up ready to receive the molten iron when the furnace was tapped.

The photo above shows Michael adding a charge of coke and scrap iron to the top of the furnace. As the iron scrap heats it becomes molten and drops to the bottom of the furnace. When enough iron for the pour (over 65kg) is molten at the bottom of the furnace the bung is broken so the iron can run into the ‘ladle/crucible’.

lintelbullladle

The weight of the iron is taken by the fork lift and Michael and George manoeuvred the bull ladle into position and tipped it to pour the molten iron into the mould. There was a delay when the fork lift wouldn’t start and an alternative lifting device was tried before reverting to the fork lift.

lintelpour

Towards the end of the pour the bull ladle got caught in some way and the pour was aborted. The mould was showing metal through the air vents, so the general view was that the pour could be complete. The team have reviewed the equipment and made safety alterations since.

The metal needed to cool before I could peek inside, so I left it for the weekend. On Monday I removed the mould pieces to reveal an iron lintel, yeah

lintelcast

Thanks to Scottish Sculpture Workshop tech team and George Beasley.

Iron lintel – mould making continues

lintelmouldwax

The silicon mould and plaster mother mould that I took on the headland at Clachtoll made it safely to the Scottish Sculpture Workshop for the next stages.

Firstly I re-constructed the plaster mould so that I had one complete cradle for the silicon. Then I pinned the silicon into the plaster support mould and coated the inside of the mould with wax. I stippled the first layer on to capture the detail and and subsequent layers were brushed on to build up a firm mould a centimetre or so thick (thicker at the top edge) I then built the wax up as far as possible to remove undercuts on the inside.

lintelmouldi

I removed the wax wax from the silicon ready to start taking the resin-bonded sand mould.

I built a temporary box and used petrobond sand to build up the base to the wax. I did not do a good job on this, so had to make extra mould pieces at the penultimate stage (note to self to do better next time).

The resin-bonded sanded is mixed and rammed into the box around the wax, taking care to avoid undercutting.

lintelmouldii

lintelmouldiv

When the top part of the bonded sand mould was complete the whole box was turned and the ‘rescue pieces’ added. The base of the mould could then be made.

lintelmouldv

This makes a particularly uninspiring photo (above), but it over took a week to get there.

lintelwash

The mould came apart as planned and was built up into the base and the top parts. I cleaned the joins: Michael (SSW’s assistant technician) helped with the core wash; I found the bars to hold it closed and Eden (SSW technician) working with George Beasley drilled the pour holes and air vents; the piece was moved outside; the cracks were glued; the pour cups glued on; the clamp bars put on and it was ready to pour.

Unfortunately I only have video footage of this stage so I can’t show it. The next post will show the pour.

Wade Gallery and Fisher Gallery Summer Exhibitions

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However, if you want to see my work there are several pieces at the Wade Gallery in Elie, as shown above. The Wade Gallery opens at weekends until August 18th.

Jan and Richard at the Fisher Gallery have re-opened for the Pittenweem Arts Festival and have several pieces of mine in a silver copper alloy and in iron.

So although I’m not at showing at Pittenweem Arts Festival this year there is an opportunity to see and buy my work in the East Neuk over the festival period.

Keny, Fraser and Nicola are also at other venues this year.

East Neuk Open Studios 2019

2019’s open studios has been and gone. The weather was lovely and lots of people visited; and several people bought pieces or commissioned new work.

flower

Commissions included a charm bracelet as a gift for a niece in Canada, which included a dolphin from the Firth of Forth; and a neck piece using an piece of carved peat that was a brooch from my childhood. I’ll show progress on this piece in a later post.

bronzeseabowlA sea water patinated bowl went to a new home as did a sea drift necklace.

sea drift 3

It’s always good to show people my work and studio and I particularly like new commissions.

Clachtoll broch proposed iron piece

Finally I got a weather window to start work on the second piece of my residency.

linteltent1We got a tent erected near to the broch, in the lee of the stones from the rockfall in the broch that the restoration project removed in season one. It was surprisingly easy to heave the stone lintel into the tent on Day 1 and surprisingly uncomfortable working in and out the tent. A lot of climbing in and out bent double and kneeling on uneven rocks was involved over the week. Some days were sunny and some grey and cold, nearly all were windy, with the wind battering the tent onto you as you worked.

tentStoer

So the process was:- firstly brush the bits off, then a layer of oil, which with hindsight was a bad idea; followed by a thin mix of silicon to pick up the details – because of the low temperatures and maybe insufficient mixing of the catalyst this seemed determined to follow gravity onto the groundsheet. However there was no choice but to continue, this time with a silicon layer with thickener. By then it was time to call it an end to Day 2. Although there were plans to return that night it was Day 3 that was spent putting on the third and final silicon layer with thickener. There was now a mighty fine silicon mould, but no way of knowing whether layer 1 had worked out.

siliconlayer

Day 4 was onto the plaster and jute mother mould. I had a long and supportive conversation with the super helpful guy from Special Plasters before starting out. The first layer again seemed determined to make a mould of the ground sheet, but then we discovered that it was going off in the plaster puddles and this mix was perfect for the jute layers. I was paranoid that I’d make a plaster mould that couldn’t be removed, or carried out over the beach cobbles, so I designed a 6 part mould. I made little clay walls for each section and we filled them with three layers of plaster soaked jute with support straps.

lintelplaster1poolWhen I removed the clay wall on each piece I oiled the surface and designed a wedge to ease the separation of the sections. After the third section there was a mishap with the scales and we swapped for a different set. This seemed to hugely improve the consistency of the plaster from there on; and the job speeded up because there was no need to wait for the pools on the groundsheet to go off. The number of sections meant that the work went on into Day 5.

siliconremoveHowever the plaster mould came off in sections as planned. Then the moment of truth, would the silicon mould have laminated, would the first layer have been successful? It was an anti climax, but a very welcome one, when it just lifted off and there it was, the first phase of a long process successfully completed. Perseverance paid off and I came away with a silicon mould that nestles in a plaster mother-mould.

Clachtoll Broch residency

I went back to Assynt for a week in May; and the weather was kind, so lots of work was done.

With the invaluable help of Nigel Goldie, we got the Community Bronzes installed in the bedrock around the Clachtoll broch. A lot of lugging in and out of generators, drills, glue and the bronzes themselves was involved. I had agreed which rocks were outside the historic area, but on land where we had permission, and Nigel did the drilling and glueing.

bronesClachtoll1I’m hoping that they will weather and patinate over the years, I started the patination process with sea water and beeswax resist. They are mainly on the Stoer approach, but there are a few on the Clachtoll side. So if you are on the site do try and find all forty four of them.

The main group of thirty-five include all the ones designed and carved in beeswax by the Clachtoll school pupils at a workshop in the Glen Canisp art studio. They also did pewter casting in sand, the same process as Iron Age casters would have used, and which I used for these bronzes (although in updated materials). Please refer to earlier posts for more on the bronzes.

Thirty five is the estimated size of the extended family group who lived in the broch at any one time. The design choices reflect the range of ages and interests of the people involved, a local community working together.

bronzecombCan you find the bone comb? Maybe a plan of the broch? A panda or a Pod?

It’s a great collection of designs and styles and I hope it’ll give visitors to the broch pleasure, stimulate ideas and trigger narratives; celebrating the local community and the people who have been involved in the broch project.

Perhaps some people will think of the metalwork and how the broch residents will have traded for cast bronze products, even if they didn’t smelt and cast bronze themselves.

bronzebee