Clachtoll Broch post 1

I have just started work on the Clachtoll Broch Art Project.

I have come to Assynt for a few days now (still working on Stone to Bowl) to make contacts, experience the place and continue thinking about design and outputs.

looking backThis is the evening view from the broch over towards Assynt

Summer 2018 excavations ended today, so it was a good chance to meet people and set up meetings.

beachnbrochThis is the view towards the broch from Stoer beach

beachStoer beach

The broch was lived in by Iron Age people for a few centuries, but has been in disrepair for a long time. The dry stone engineering required to make a broch several metres high on sloping bedrock site proved very challenging. Much of last year was spent making it safe before excavating the main area and some side chambers.

http://clachtoll.aocarchaeology.com/

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Stone to Bowl model making

waxfingersprued I make my models using beeswax from a beekeeper who lives near St Andrews. She and her bees make lovely wax that smells delicious and is just right for making models.

I  started small but wanted to make fine models to challenge the techniques. I made finger tip rings by dipping my fingers in the melted wax. stonetobowlJuliaCowieThese then need to have pouring stalks added (sprues). They are then ready to be dipped in the clay mix to build up the mould.

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After successfully casting finger tip rings I moved on to small bowls which were made by dipping clay bowls in wax and adding pouring stalks.

 

The allure of copper – Stone to Bowl

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Alongside the traditional copper casting project I have done a copper/silver cast; using plumber’s copper and silver.

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and two-part sand moulds. This is partly sustainable, with all materials being recycled; but the heat used is gas.

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One of the pieces sold unfinished at ENOS 2018. The bowl has a metal ‘pebble’ inset, a blue heat patina and is almost clean copper on the exterior because I used a different greensand on the outside.

Some learning – try different sands to give cleaner surfaces but retain textures, cost in the silver, keep experimenting, copper is an attractive metal although challenging to work with.

Stone to bowl – finger tips

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A bit of a leap forward in time. These are the first pieces cast in copper from beeswax lost-wax models dipped in clay mix. I’ll explain the process more later.

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The finger tips are a simple development of the work that I was doing in Munich and were a good test of the process, being very fine but also small. I like that they are handmade by me for my hands; and exemplify the whole process- having been made using environmentally-friendly, traditional processes.

The surface finish is pitted, but I like this and I plan to make more. It would be fun to do a community finger project.

Takako Selway and I will do some filming of the process for her film about “Hands Making”

Stone to Bowl. Copper smelting

Finally I am three weeks into my Stone to Bowl residency and I feel that I should share progress.

One element of Stone to Bowl is to develop a replicable way of smelting copper from malachite/copper ore in a traditional way that means that I can work in the landscape anywhere.

First task was to source some Scottish copper ore. The mine in Bridge of Allan is long closed, but I found some copper traces on the waste heap. These photos show the mine entrance and the pieces that I collected.

After initial smelting experiments I have been putting the ore in closed ceramic  balls with added charcoal to give a reducing atmosphere for the smelt. (While I was on my residency another artist was successfully smelting malachite using oxy-acetylene.)

The furnace is charcoal burning; and for these experiments I was using an electric air blower, although I will use bellows when I understand the process more. The dry ceramic balls are made of a local refractory clay mixed with fibre -horse dung, and sand. Inside is copper ore in pea size chunks  with 25% charcoal. The balls are placed on the furnace charcoal once it is burning well and the furnace is run until the ore is to a high enough temperature to smelt, hopefully. The balls are then plunged into water and broken open.

The first smelt was not a complete success. Some copper was formed, but a lot of this was pelletised rather than consolidated and some had to be panned from the ashes of the furnace.

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However I reheated this copper to consolidate it and a reasonable amount of copper was retrieved. Again I used an electric furnace for this process while I am experimenting.

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I am not sure that a chimney furnace is needed, a horseshoe hearth might be as successful as one can see what is going on. The chimney furnace is made of a refractory clay mix similar to that used for the balls.

I tried another smelt later in the residency of which more anon.

100 days and Stone to Bowl

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This photo shows the difference between a two-part sand mould and an open pour. The level of detail on the two part mould is far greater than on the open pour.

I had read that this was the case, but I’d not experimented myself previously.

Both pieces are ‘my-smelt’ copper with silver alloy, cast in oil sand. The piece on the right is made in a two-part mould. The piece on the left I heat-patinated after I’d cleaned it up. Both are from the same former, which is an Edwardian mourning brooch. I will make the more detailed piece into a necklace; the open pour piece is too heavy to wear, but is very tactile.

Stone to Bowl

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The second casting that I did with my first-smelt copper produced the ‘Manx cat’, a mouse, a pudding charm of the Christ child and two partial shells.

The mouse and the pudding charm were the more successful pieces. I have ordered a different kind of casting ring for the shells, to see if that is more successful. The shells are too fine for a conductive metal like copper, which tends to cool before completing the mould.

It is exciting using metal that you have ‘made’ yourself.