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I need to write it, in sharpie, on my benchpin: “This wax is here for a reason, leave it alone.” Why does everyone assume it shouldn’t be there? I had to make a new pickle pot tonight. The newbies were throwing huge copper bowls into the good one. Sharply ionized, the heated bath was aching for a steel scrap to plate everything in copper irrevocably. I just mixed that one fresh last night! So I made the “Big Pickle,” and all was right with the universe, or at least with the small metals shop, after I had neutralized that spill.
Many art students know how to sniff out the on-campus opennings and time the groaning in their tummies to the kick off time of the reception. I usually had a hard time being one of these people, but tonight I just couldn’t help myself. Unfortunately, all there was to offer was sugary goodness. Brownies. Chocolate covered bread thingies. “Maca-maroons,” as Tam called them. It’s hard to fake being interested in art while doubled over in the stomach-ache position. The sugar high helped me back to my studio, but the joy was short lived. A sugar crash is painful, slow-motion business.
So much for that pickle pot. At first I thought that someone had attemped a “double-boiler” -type situation. I’m not sure how much sodium bisulfate was released, undiluted and non-neutralized into the sink before I noticed the big crack through which hot pickle was draining . I switched old for new, placed the oval pot under the vent hood, and added baking soda. I forgot about it and went to Mold-making. By the time I got back to it, the inside was covered with a crusty white flake. Whoops! I polished my dapping block and punches recently. Nice shiny metal.
The new die blew out at about 6500 psi. I’m getting a little too cocky with the press. I punched one up to 6000 before i realized I hadn’t flooded the pinch with solder before the press. I could see the stress on the seam, I bailed out just in time, and took both sides to the annealing bench, but it was all for naught. The next one, well flooded, got pushed for 8 G’s. The sides blew out. That curve is tough. I should take baby steps. 2.5k, 4k, etc. Give the metal time to regain its composure. Ayuh.
Must remember to go to the studio every tuesday afternoon. Josz has got all the cuties in his classes. Today was no exception. Today I worked in circles that got me nowhere. Started to feel like I was getting a bit of the Metal Dust Fever as I was grinding the sprue off that casting. I put my respirator on, like I should have done in the beginning. I’m trying to arrange for a camera and videographer for thrusday. I was told that JD is a bastard and probably wouldn’t allow it. What will I do, sell bootleg mokume tapes?
We all witnessed a really great presentation today in the trustee’s room. The desire afterwards was to combine new materials into the work: steel, gold leaf, slate. I went back to an old issue of
and read a rather ass-kissing article. Either way, Flynn was a valuable experience. Picked up a video camera for the JD demo tomorrow. He was ok with the idea. The
boys talk about him like some kind of god: “JD seemed in a pretty good mood.” Later I heard one of them say, as JD, about themselves, “I made these people.” Jealous? Disgusted?
That Mokume Gane is some tricky shit. I heard that the first attempt ended up being a splashy, burnt up mess. Just a pile of very expensive and very useless metal. Adam pulled his billet off with very minimum melting. He said it was like christmas when that sucker fused successfully. I read up on a method to solder join the billet, and see no problem with doing that. I’ve got to get my ass in gear. Next week is spring break, which gives me a lot of time to just plug away in the studio. Me and Bonny Doon.
I am beginning to believe that solder bonding is the way to go with the mokume gane. I talked with Clint about it, and he said to expect bubbles and pits. I expected as much. But coming into the shop today, Adam was furious over his “correctly fused” billet, as it was rife with pits and cracks. I was coming in as he was going out. When I finally patterned and rolled out my meager billet, I was pleasantly surprised. Sixteen layers is not nearly enough, but I got a great sunburst pattern from one section. Sheet-solder sandwich, next stop.
If there is one thing I love doing in that shop, it’s repousse work. I love every facet of it. I love the smell of pitch, the feel of it: warm, sticky, fragrant, and black as sin. I love the feel of holding that tiny chasing tool in hand, the gentle yet rapid tap tap of the chasing hammer. I love watching the metal contort and shift to the parameters I define. Chasing and repousse really give an appreciation for the elastic quality of the metal. I love watching those volumetric forms blossom out of the bland and featureless sheet.
I love it when I dream about sculpture. This morning’s sculpture dream was particularly cool: Graduated glass spheres, with steel rings separating them, and a heating element, properly engaged, running throughout. Not neon, neon is too cheesy, but light, yes, and heat, if the glass will take it. Funnel shaped copper end caps. Really cool. Now all I have to learn to do is cast glass, and familiarize myself with electricity and its workings.
Thinking about it now, it’s simply a huge, unwieldy beaded necklace. I hate beads. Crap. Back to the drawing board, or, in this case, pillow sketchbook.
I think I have a plan now for the wedding rings. I tried it out in silver and it went pretty quickly and easily. I basically pour a donut ingot, clean off the flashing, and forge it on a round mandrel. First along the face, and then on the anvil, along the rim with a round-faced chasing hammer. It’s a decidedly primitive approach, but well suited for this job. While forging, I thought that anybody could do this: I’ll host a “Make your own wedding ring” workshop. But then I thought better about it. I’ll keep my job for myself.
Thought I was about to blow up the shop today. No kidding. So did the class that was in progress. They scattered.
I was finishing up this repousse project and my damn benchlight starts flickering. Again. I’ve had it. I removed it and plucked the light from the bench next door. Nobody really works there anyway. But this new light has a half-inch stem, while the slot is 3/8. I find a drill, half-inch bit, and proceed to make a new whole. Just as I wondered how deep that air-line was, I found out: WHOOOOSH! My ears are still ringing. Whoops.
I’m pretty sure I’ve got that air line thing patched up. Now let’s never speak of it again. Made it down to Cohen’s to pick up some sheet solder, and made up another billet today. It’s an awful amount of work for a tiny chunk of metal. And to think that it could easily melt at any time or end up simply looking like shit in the end makes me wonder why I’m doing it at all. After the first firing, I decided to do without the binding wire. Too much lengthy clean-up involved. Clamping with a fire brick works.
Parts of the new billet are great, but all in all, it adds up to a square inch of usable metal. Worth it? Hardly. I feel that I tapped a valuable spring today though: Had lunch with Chevy. Her studiomate Tim happened by. We discussed
Making Bad Art
and stitches. I went back to my last sketchbook, and found some great drawings and even better notes on some writings. I’m gonna scrap everything up to this point and start fresh with about 7 weeks to go. Hoo Boy! Working on a grant to Go West Young Man, all expenses paid.
I found a way to make the bruise bracelet today while I was vacuuming rtv rubber I had pilfered. There is a goddamn vacuum casting unit, and I have never seen it used properly. So I stuck my wrist on the hose a couple times, and it brought out quite a nice set of deep purple bruises, with no pain at all. Gotta find a photographer. I showed it to Joel while we were riding out to Somerville, and we nearly rearended a Volvo. He showed me his black eye from a skiing collision earlier this week. Coupla tough guys.
It fades rather quickly, however. I plan on shooting slides on tuesday afternoon, and to have that thing sucked out by then. I need to find someone to shoot those slides for me. I’m not flexible enough. I also need to reshoot all that wood and metal stuff. The plan is to have them ready to go for thursday afternoon, when I have to get the applications for the grants in. It’s gonna be tight, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s got to be more stuff that I haven’t shot yet.... I’ll have to take inventory tomorrow.
So it looks like I’m headed back down to the woodshop. I need to do a few more inlays. Maybe that coco bola into the mahogany. Yeah, that will look nice. I will glue these up and then cut down to the proper shapes I need. I haven’t decided if I’m going to bezel set them or find another way. Somehow bezels don’t seem appropriate here. I’ll have to try to work in a couple tube settings as well, although that could easily get over-played. What I really need is to go back to late January and start all over.
All the guppies have come back to the shop now that spring break is over. I have conflicting feelings of guilt and a sense of power when I have to chase someone from my bench when I come in. I try to leave it kinda messy, so people are less inclined to go to it in the first place. When I was fold-forming, I would simply leave a large chunk of copper on the steel plate with a note that said “HOT!” That worked like a charm even if the copper had been sitting there for days. Back to work...
It’s been a few days without writing. I’ve been writing a lot, but not for this project. I did a fake interview with myself for Art in America. It was actually rather beneficial to me. I had to ask myself questions, come up with the answers, and then ask follow ups. It beats the hell out of just sitting there and trying to figure out what the impetus of my art work is. I just make stuff, ok? I’m not a conceptualist, I’m more of a materialist, as in, I dig materials. I like making them do what I want.
Seminar was a huge drag today. The juniors were presenting their “sources and inspirations” slide talks, although most everybody brought in books instead. Except Suze. She had four carousels. Four. That’s about ...what? ...240 slides! Too funny. She had a few slides of fashion shows she had designed for, and it was really good stuff. I kinda think she should be focusing on that and not on metal. But she won’t listen to me. It was amusing to watch Adam’s face while she kept interupting him with stupid shit. I felt I had to step in and redirect the conversation.
Well, it nearly killed me, but I finished that grant proposal. I was surprised to see how few entries there were in the bin. But I was there about 3 hours before the deadline. I’m sure there were probably 400 at 4:59. I’m all fired up about my travel proposal, let’s hope the review board is as well. Looking at past winners’ applications, the choices seemed rather arbitrary. Almost as if they had drawn a 1 foot wide circle on the floor, thrown all the packets in the air, and awarded money to the one that fell inside the circle.
I just need to be able to hold my hands in that T position and yell: Time out! Or better yet, I need to be able to yell: Do over! I don’t know what to think about this funk I’m in. I’ve got a huge show coming up, and I could really care less about working in the studio. I’m there nine days out of ten, but I don’t get anything of value done. I think I just go so I won’t feel guilty of not doing anything. And while I’m there, I just putz around doing nothing of value.
Me: We’ve had our diferences in the past. I’d like to clear the air.
You: Me too.
Me: I would like to vent pressure between us...
Me: I would like to bury the hatchet....in the base of your skull.
Me: Sorry. I’m trying to suppress my urge to murder you.
You: Well, let me know if there’s anything I can do...
Me: Suicide would be such a help to me. I’m running low on Suppressitol.
You: How’s that going anyway?
Me: Great! I can’t remember anything.
You: But you remember to kill me...
Me: Weird, huh?
Ah Sunday. Day of rest? Not on third floor Collins, no sir. We’re lucky if Emily hasn’t gotten there first and seized control of the radio. She likes to listen to the college station that plays kids songs for two hours, then a capella for two hours, then show tunes for two hours. During the week, from 10 to 12, they play a punk show, which I listen to during my monitor slot. It serves two purposes: to drive unwanted worker-bees away, and gives me a “woohoo!”. I suppose Emily gets the same feeling from the All A Capella hour.
I haven’t felt this crappy about my work in some time. Joe ripped me a new A Hole during our crit today. I talked to Adam later, and he said that he had never been in such a negative crit before. Everyone was talking about how things weren’t working out, how wrong everything was. My turn was brutal. I remember thinking “I’m getting crucified here.” I’m not about to say it was undeserved, because it’s not. I deserve it. I made a bad choice early in the semester. Now I’m paying for it. Will be for the next seven weeks.
Inspiration struck like a bolt from above last night. It’s amazing what a stern talking-to and a thorough public humiliation will do for the old work ethic. It took two months, but I finally have a good idea that I can carry out and is not too far-fetched. I need to keep chanting those words Dean gave to me: “simplify, simplify”. It’s easy to let art get out of hand. The real challenge is keeping it simple and uncluttered.
UPS delivery tomorrow: silver stock. To work! The further I go, the more stock I need. Rectangle wire and thick sheet.
For the home:
Needle nose pliers
Power drill (cordless preferred)
Set of drill bits
For the metals shop:
Improvised hard solder feed conveyance
Jeweler’s saw frame
Second cut file
Needle file set
Flex-shaft attachment and mandrel kit
Boxes of sanding disks
Wax booger stick
Copper vise-jaw liners
Parallel jaw pliers
Round nose pliers
Serrated jaw pliers
Flat jaw pliers
Got the Rio Grande order in today. That sheet of silver is too pretty to mar up. I don’t know why I ordered the square tubing. Desperate times, I suppose. Or the Bezel wire, for that matter. I’m clawing and gasping these days. They say a drowning man will drag his rescuer down while trying to save himself. I’m breathing water and thrashing about. I can’t make out which way is up. The only urge is to kick my feet and fight out against my surroundings. I want to punch the faces of those who tell me to trust them.
The monitor slot today was three hours of uselessness. It takes three hours to get wound up. By that time I have to shut it back down. Teeny Tiny Tuna and Holly Bear were wearing matching outfits today. I told them they looked cute. If I was wearing Levi’s, I could have fit right in. It’s Julia’s birthday today, and those two are having a party in her honor. Got the call from Mac to gallery sit on sunday, I suppose that is good news. I finally sent him the grant application copies today, minus some information for privileged eyes.
I have the new wearable box just about finished. I changed the pickle bath yesterday, and should have kept it. I need to copper plate, so now I will have to wait until the bath is blue and ripe. I’ve been talking with newbies lately. One of the questions I got was “Does everything take so fucking
to do?” I said “Of course not. They won’t teach you all the tricks at first. You have to learn them by yourself.” It’s a good thing, I know. A solid foundation of fundamentals can’t even sweat solder anymore. Learn Your Fundamentals!
At the end of the month I should look back, but all I can do is see what is ahead. This is not an enviable position, as what lies ahead is a lot of difficult and frustrating work. I have no one to blame but myself.
I have no real desire to remedy the situation. I was thinking to myself today: All I really want to do is:
get drunk and
get high and
jerk off and
watch TV and
not think about it and
just die really soon and
That would make me really, really happy.
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