Archive for the ‘Materials’ Category

Slat Book in Progress

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

I snagged some Pandorea jasminoides seed pods from a friend’s garden. They are woody and beautiful.


Open Pod

Open Pod Exposing Seeds

Pod Interior

Pod, Seeds Removed, With Interior Part

The pods have been used in my Change series.

Change Series

I kept the interior bits and seeds for possible future use.

Interior Bits


Curious if the seeds were viable, so I planted a few–


I kept thinking about the interior bits. How could I use them? Recently ran across reference to slat books in one of my sketch books.

So, I selected the bits with the most interesting light lines.


The plan is to stitch a letter on each bit, then stitch them together. I had thought about using Ogham or A-tom-tom code, but for various reasons they didn’t feel right. Instead I made a stitch pattern based on Morse code. I actually made three versions. This is the phrase: Long forgotten memory.

Code for Long Forgotten Memory

For the slat book, I am deciding between the phrases, link with the past and accustomed to being invisible. Probably will use bamboo cord or Egyptian cotton thread for the stitch work.

When I quickly searched for the two types of code that I decided not use, I realized that both times I hit Omniglot, the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages. It is a great site with loads of information.

Strip or Slat books were made of a variety of material–bamboo, bark, and palm leaves. The material was cut into slats. The slats were either bound together or holes were made and cord was threaded through binding the slats together.

Information about the history of books and slat books can be found on the
Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin website.

Slat Book

Information on Horizontal and Vertical Writing in East Asian Scripts can be found on Wikipedia.

Writing in vertical columns from right to left facilitated writing with a brush in the right hand while continually unrolling the sheet of paper or scroll with the left.

A brief description about slat books and a nice image can be found on Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord’s website

Slat Book

Information on early Chinese inscriptions can be found on Jeremy Norman’s website

A Nice Surprise–Bird of Paradise Seeds

Monday, September 14th, 2015

I have two studio spaces: one in the house for fairly clean work, and one in the garage for messy work. I keep most of my plant cuttings in the garage.

Recently, I took some cuttings from a giant bird of paradise. I thought it would be fun to remove all of the interior bits and do some stitch work on the remaining vessel.

Bird of Paradise Cuttings

They have been drying for nearly a month. Today I found the seed pods dried, open, and gorgeous seeds were visible.

Bird of Paradise Seeds

Nature has many colorful surprises. The orange covering on the seeds feels a bit spongy.

I was curious if I could have success planting the seeds. I read several articles and it seems easy peasy. Pop the seeds in water for two to three days. Change water daily. Then drain, remove all of the orange fiber, dry, and scar the seeds. Pop them in some soil and keep moist. Maybe in a month of so there might be seedlings.

So, I removed all of the seeds and placed them in a jar.

Bird of Paradise Seeds

Empty Seed Pods

The empty seeds pods are lovely.

Seeds in Water

Seeds in water day one.

Eroded Contours

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Some 20 plus years back I made a series titled, Eroded Contours. It was a process oriented series. The pieces were meant to be hung on the wall, but one of the pieces found a home in my garden.

Eroded Contours

The Process–

1. Made a plaster mold of a large philodendron leaf. Used it dry as a press mold for a mid-range stoneware body. Pulled several pieces. Fired them in a high bisque, cone 5. Broke them into pieces.

2. Used the same plaster mold wet to pull waxes.

3. Inserted some of the broken ceramic pieces into the waxes keeping in mind that the ceramic pieces could shift when the wax burns out.

4. Gated, then invested the lot.

5. Sent the investments through the burnout.

Potential problems–
1. Would there be a shift in the position of the ceramic pieces as the wax burned out?
2. What would happen to the ceramic pieces when hit with molten bronze?
3. What would happen when the bronze and ceramic pieces cool?
4. What would happen to the ceramic pieces embedded in bronze during the breakout?

Everything went quite well. Better than anticipated. Some of the fired ceramic pieces did fracture. A few bits were lost in the process.

When the fracture was more than I wanted, I mixed up a batch of Egyptian Paste to use as a filer. The plan was to glaze and fire the lot, so the addition of a cone 016 paste was compatible with the glaze temperature.

This is how the piece looked when removed from the garden. The pieces are long and quite narrow so a bit difficult to get a decent image.

Eroded Contours

The majority of the piece is bronze. The whitish areas stained with rust from the oxidized wire. I had forgotten that some of the pieces also had wire. The wire was bound on prior to the glaze fire. Firing the wire made it a bit fragile and after years in the garden, some of the wire was broken and missing.

I was curious if the rust stain was permanent, so I washed the piece with a solution of water and epsom salt.

Washed Piece

Washed Detail 1

Washed Detail 2

Some of the wire has vanished, but left its mark.

Washed Detail 3

This is how the piece looks after it dried overnight.


This is the detail of another piece in the series–

Blue Piece Detail

This bronze vessel has been moved around in my garden several times. Can’t quite figure out where to put it. It was constructed of palm cuttings and jute twine. Waxed the twine, then gated and invested the piece.

Bronze Vessel

There is always the possibility when doing a direct burn-out that some of the material will not burn-out completely or some ash will remain and prevent a good pour.

After the pour and break-out, a low-fire glaze was applied. Then the piece was fired to cone 015.

These are a few of the photos that I took the day of the Eroded Contours pour and break-out. A chain was used to pull the investments from the pit. And a fork lift was used to remove them from the foundry.

The length of the largest piece was 4.5′.







Sticks and Stones Finally Done

Monday, August 10th, 2015

I spent several months deciding how to complete this piece. Attempted several borders, finally decided to make a coco fiber border. Coco fiber is pretty, but it is sharp and prickly.


The piece has bundles of bound twigs used in place of Morse Code. The dots are bound to the hardware cloth vertically, and the dashes are bound horizontally. Each 4×4 square block represents one letter. And each block has a stone.

The message in the piece is: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?

Yep, it does have a question mark in the code.


The piece has two layers of hardware cloth and a layer of coco fiber between.

I have included an image of the back of the piece. Even though the back can’t be seen, it still exists. Also the back piece of hardware cloth has ready made hangers.


Detail of sketch showing the code and a detail of the front of the piece.

Sketch Detail

Front Detail

The finished piece is 32.5″ x 16.75″ x 2″.
Materials List: hardware cloth, stones, coco fiber, cotton fabric, wool, hemp, stones, and starch.

I am seriously considering including the materials and code layout in a small cotton pouch attached to the back for easy access.

As for signing the piece, I will use some type of stitch work. Here are some examples of previous signatures.


I have also used stitched perforated discs. The code starts from the left and spirals in. The code is in brown and tan. The rest is spacers and fillers.


They are rather nice because they are about the size of a quarter. There are a few patterns that can be used. This attempt was to be a bit willy nilly.

Back to Sticks and Stones–I need to sign it and hang it.

Miscellaneous information–the twigs are from a birch tree. Some believe that birch represents health, wisdom, and safety.

I select materials for what they bring to the work visually, but also culturally. Sometimes a material is selected because it has a connection to my personal history.

Does anyone need to know that when viewing the work? Probably not. Will knowing all of my reasons for making a work and selecting materials change how a work is viewed? Maybe…

Wool Bowl–Update on Rust Promoter Test

Monday, July 27th, 2015

The test piece is still a bit damp and continues to change.

This is how the test appeared yesterday–

Test 1

This is an image of how the test looks today. The piece next to it shows the original color of the cream wool yarn and the safety pins.

Test 1 Day 3

Don’t Piece in Progress

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

I started the Don’t piece after watching Blink one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who. The episode introduces the Weeping Angels, sculpture that isn’t really sculpture. When you blink or look away the Weeping Angels move. When they move they are dangerous.

In the episode Weeping Angels also known as the Lonely Assasins are explained:

“You die in the past, and in the present, they consume the energy of all of the days you might have had-and your stolen moments. They live off potential energy.”

What if you approached viewing art in the same way? Well, not with the fear that you might be sent back in time to die, but to really look. To see what is there, you must look. Not give the art work a passing glance, but really look at it. What about being a version of the Weeping Angels by snagging some of the energy put into the work by the artist…

I started a piece that has coded into it, “Don’t turn your back, Don’t look away, Don’t blink” some of the warnings in the episode.


I used color for the dots and dashes of Morse Code–rust yarn for dots, gray for dashes, and cream for spacers.

I cut the squares of mirror in half because after wrapping the hardware cloth with cream wool they were too large. And I like the idea of sharp edges.

Dont Code Detail

The frame will be bound to the coded piece. Actually the frame has code as well. The frame has the repeated word, see.

Dont Frame

The plan is to age and wax the coded piece and the frame. Then bind the two pieces together and the binding.

Dont With Frame

Wool and Safety Pins

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

What happens when you find a stash of safety pins? What do you do with them?

Safety Pins

Had just make a rope and wool yarn bowl for a birthday present.

Birthday Bowl

I enjoyed making the bowl. A nice break from making wall pieces. I wrapped rope with cream wool yarn so the cotton rope would not peek through.

Formed the bowl by binding it with cream wool. Added additional binding in cream, gray, and brown. It is code for the person’s name and their date of birth.

Back to the safety pins–I decided to make I-cords, full them, and then pin them together to make a bowl. I pinned the cream wool I-cord together and took it apart 3 times. Just couldn’t get it quite right.

Cream Bowl

While I was working on putting the cream bowl together and taking it apart, I made two smaller pieces.

The I-cord is made of gray and cream wool yarn.

Gray Bowl

The exterior of the bowl.

Gray Bowl

Then I flipped it inside out.

Gray Bowl

I tried the same process using two kinds of brown wool yarn.

Brown Bowl

Exterior of the bowl.

Brown Bowl

Flipped inside out.

Brown Bowl

Flipping the bowl inside out was the solution. After finishing the pinning of the cream bowl, I flipped it inside out.

Cream Bowl

Once the bowl is aged and then stiffened I think it will be done.

How to age the bowls?

Test 1 Rust Promoter
4.0 parts white vinegar
1.0 part peroxide
.5 part salt

Test 1

Test 2
1 Tablespoon epsom salt in boiling water. Submerged the piece. Then added another tablespoon of epsom salt.

Test 2

This really did not work. It seems to have cleaned the oxidation off of the safety pins. The result brought to mind the ugly surface of silicon bronze when it is sandblasted.

Test 2

Rust and bleeding onto the wool is definitely necessary.

When I finish adding some age to the bowls, I will most likely add an application of faux beeswax. Adding an all over application tends to help integrate the materials.

After the wax is applied a heat gun can be used. With some wax a hair dryer can be hot enough. It takes longer but, it is worth it to keep the integrity of the wool. I have found that microcrystalline wax requires a higher temperature and the wool can appear plastic.

I have attempted making cold wax, but still need to heat the piece to smooth out thick areas.

Rust Promoter Formula

It occurred to me that I did not give credit to the person who posted the rust promoter formula. I found the formula several years ago. I looked through my notes and sketchbooks, but I could not find reference to the formula or the fellow’s name. He made beautiful bells and used the rust promoter to give the appearance of age.

While writing this post, I googled bells and rust promoter, but did not find his site. When I find it, I will post a link.

Palm Nuts Work In Progress

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

I have a great stash of palm nuts. Different sizes and colors. I was wondering what to do with them. Kept looking at them. Touching them. They are such beautiful little bits of nature.

Containers of Palm Nuts

Sunday I drilled holes vertically through the nuts, inserted wire. I bound four together to make a frame.

Palm Nuts Frame

Even if I used patina on the brass wire, I still don’t think I will like wire with the palm nuts.

I stitched a 9×9 using brown Egyptian cotton. The thread is barely noticeable, but when it is, looks natural.

Palm Nuts 9 x 9 Mat

Last night I drilled holes in 240 nuts. I need 218, but always make extra just in case. Tonight I will begin stitching them together with the Egyptian cotton.

Palm Nuts and Egyptian Cotton

There will be 99 connected little frames with a mirror in the center of each frame. Yep, I am making a grid using palm nuts.

I am not sure if the cotton thread will be strong enough to support the weight of 218 palm nuts and 99 pieces of mirror. I will address that problem if it becomes an issue.

Of course there will be a coded message. This time the message will be: another mirror held up to me.

First Harvested Palm Nuts

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

On January 25 I was given some palm cuttings. This is one of the small cuttings.

Palm Cuttings

Over the weekend I harvested the first of the palm nuts.

Palm Nuts Detail

Palm Nuts

So many possibilities. I could use them for coding. I could stitch them together. Have want to try using a water soluble stabilizer to hold bits together for stitching. Or I could use straight pins to attach them to a surface to make fabric.

Work In Progress–One and a Half Years

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

I was diagnosed with Pernicious Anemia several years back. Each month I receive an injection of B12. I have been saving my B12 vials and syringes thinking that they might become art materials. Now, maybe some of the vials have found a place.

I was working on a design for a woven piece to cover a bathroom window. I looked at several materials that would be the least likely to mold. While looking through my materials I ran across the B12 vials. Unfortunately, I did not have enough for the window design. Got to thinking about the importance of those little vials, each vial represented a month in my life.

For whatever reason I tend to use certain numbers: 3, 5, 9, 11, 18, any grouping of 3 or 9. When I looked at coding the word life, I could use 18 vials. Each vial would be bound in a square that 9 spaces by 9 spaces.

One and a Half Years Layout

Recently ran across the Medieval Mosaic embroidery stitch and liked it quite a lot, but it is four long, 4 short. Not one of my numbers. I added an additional to each.

Slightly Altered Medieval Mosaic Stitch

The stitch would cover nicely if I had not planned to use waxed linen. This is a work in progress using waxed linen.

Waxed Linen Stitches

Waxed linen didn’t feel right with the vials. so, got out a skein of cream wool. I laid in a background of a zig zag stitch, then added the Medieval Mosaic stitch over it. This is the result–

One And A Half Years In Progress

And a detail–

One And A Half Years Detail

There needs to be more of a difference between the yarn color used for the dots and dashes. I have some lovely bamboo yarn that might work better.

I suspect that when the border code is completed the current yarn binding the vials will be more apparent. The border code will be: One and a Half Years. The code will start at space 17 on the top, and procede clockwise each space a dot, dash, or spacer. The rest of the border will be stitched in cream wool. There is also a 3/4″ border that will either be bent and stitched to become a frame or bent the opposite direction to elevate the piece from the wall.

When the stitching is finished, it will be time to age the piece.

Some information on pernicious anemia:

Johns Hopkins Medicine

National Institutes of Health–National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute