Archive for the ‘Materials’ Category

Slat Book and the Bead Loom

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Last night I was looking through some work in progress and saw a bead loom. It was a gift that I never used, but thought it might come in handy for something, some day.

Bead Loom

A bead loom is basically springs attached to a wood frame. In my limited use of springs, it makes sense that a larger spring would work when weaving thicker fiber.

Something that did occur to me when removing the piece from the loom, it would be a good idea to place a rod next to the spring and wrap the fiber around the rod before placing in the spring.

Bead Loom With Rod

After quickly trying my idea, I found that there was a need for clamps to the hold the rod in place.

Back to the weaving experiment: I strung the bead loom with some nettle and started weaving. I used cream wool, nettle, and Tecoma pods.

Bead Loom Result

The result is exciting because it might be the solution to my slat book problem. I plan to use Pandorea jasminoides parts, stitched with a letter in code.

Plant Bits

Slat books typically use regular shaped pieces for each of the slats. The Pandorea jasminoides parts are a variety of widths and lengths. I really like them because they bring to mind shields.

If I were to use a similar weaving process, I think it just might work. I plan to try using three strand of nettle on each side leaving the central section of the Pandorea jasminoides parts open for easy reading of the code. Well, maybe not actually easy reading. It will be code.

Slat Book with information about the plant materials and code posted on September 17th, 2015

Slat Book with information about glycerin and code posted on October 11th, 2015

Serendipitous events can result in great ideas.
Or, discovery makes making art so much fun.

Potential New Art Material–Tecoma stans

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

I have been watching this plant for a few months.

Tecoma Leaves

Tecoma Flowers

When I first saw it there were thin bean-like green pods. I thought that they would be a possible art material. Curious about the pods. How would they change with age?

Tecoma Flowers and Pods

Tecoma Seeds

Tecoma Parts

The reddish-brown speckled pods bring to mind young birch branches.

Tecoma Pods

Hope to weave them with wool and cotton fiber. Unfortunately, they are quite fragile. In the past I would have used hot wax to make them more usable, to give them strength to withstand the stitching and weaving processes. Thinking about giving them a soak in glycerin.

Glycerin Test Results

Monday, October 12th, 2015

I removed the plant parts from the water and glycerin solution after 4 hours.

Test Water Glycerin

The next morning after they dried, I noticed they were definitely more pliable.

Test Water Glycerin Bend

Not easy taking a photo with an iPad of your own hand while holding something.

I removed a test from the denatured alcohol and glycerin solution after 16 hours. It was inflexible and snapped.

Test Alcohol Glycerin

I suspect the alcohol solution would be better for preserving the plant parts, rather than for my purposes. The jar does not take up much space so I will check them daily for improvement.

Sticks and Stones

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Yesterday I hung Sticks and Stones, but immediately realized two things: the piece is far too small for the space, and the lower right corner tends to bow out a bit.

Sticks and Stones

It is nice having something in that space. Need to start planning a larger piece.

How to fix the bow?

The piece is constructed of two pieces of hardware cloth bound together.

Sticks and Stones Back

Sticks and Stones Front

Bending should be an easy fix for the bowed out corner, but when I gave it a go, it did not change how it hung.

It really should be bent a bit toward the center, but I do not want to risk breaking the sticks that make up the code.

Sticks and Stones Code Detail

The plan is to let it hang until I figure out the bow problem.

Slat Book Progress…

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

I have been planning to make a slat book using the middle bit (ovary) from Pandorea jasminoides seed pods. I planned the code, “accustomed to being invisible” that will be stitched onto the plant bits.

Invisible Code

Holes in Pandorea jasminoides

I used a needle tool to make holes in one piece. The piece fractured in half.
I then used a Dremel to drill holes. When I started stitching, with nettle, part of the edge broke away.

This is what the nettle twine looks like with the Pandorea jasminoides bits.

I decided to give glycerin a go to soften the pieces and to make them able to take the stitching. I am trying to solutions–one with hot water and one with denatured alcohol.


The jar on the left is a solution of 1 part gylcerin and 2 parts hot water.
The jar on the right is a solution of 2 parts glycerin and 1 part denatured alcohol.

It is interesting that many processes do require waiting. Sometimes a process can be sped up, most of the time patience is required.

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