Thames foreshore

I felt I needed to explain why I haven’t been posting for a while and to, hopefully, start recompensing. I’ve been unable to write partly because I’ve been trying to get to grips with a rather overwhelming obsession with the Thames foreshore. Before I moved to Deptford in 2008 and discovered that we were within a stone’s throw of the access stairs known as Upper Watergate I had always loved the Thames whenever I saw it .. as most Londoners do .. but had never considered getting that close to it. That started to change on realizing how very ‘interesting’ everything down there could be at low tide! We quickly became so accustomed to spending time there so when in 2009 the photographer Brittany App wanted to take some shots of us in our favourite environment there was little question about the choice.

David Neat and Astrid Baerndal photographed by Brittany App

St George's Stairs, Thames foreshore 2017

What made our local ‘beach’ so appealing was the wealth of options! We could go down there with a camera or a collector’s bag, most often both .. either way we knew we would almost always come back with something of value. We could go down there to think, mentholated by the unbelievable peacefulness of the place .. but equally we could benefit from the opposite when we didn’t want to think, when we needed to take our minds ‘off’. We could go to experience a semi-natural habitat shielded from the human bustle above, hearing only wind and water, sharing it for the moment with flocks of seagulls, families of swans, solitary herons, cormorants or the occasional fox .. or we could go for reminders of our own human past amongst the decaying jetties, fragmenting ironwork or even more ancient timbers. Often we would go there just to be amused .. it’s strange how regularly the foreshore offers up images or objects in seemingly deliberate opposition!

Heron at Deptford, Thames foreshore 2016

Plastic duck, Thames foreshore 2017

The foreshore collective constantly plays tricks! Objects often appear to be what they’re not .. little scraps of red-brown rubber will often sit amongst the pottery sherds; white cable stained with age will poke up amongst the pipe fragments; smoothly rounded ‘pebbles’ of brick most often outnumber the naturals they’re imitating. Even the knowledgeable can be fooled by the chalk i.e. knowing that this part of England lies on a massive chalk foundation .. but this chalk hasn’t risen from underneath the London Clay, it’s what remains of the chalk that was shipped in and laid down as more stable beds for the barges. The presence of most things to be found on the foreshore, and the reasons behind their abundance in certain places or their absence in others, can often be illuminated by a little historical detection. But there are unsolved mysteries too .. for example, why so many of the oyster shells have holes in their centres (apparently this is not jewellery) or where the strange green stones found around the Rotherhithe shoreline come from.

When I put it in these words .. no wonder I’ve become obsessed!

But this present obsession is much stronger than before because for the last few weeks I’ve started to think seriously about how I can use it, or in better words .. what I can make out of it! So I started by interrogating what the attraction was down there, what thoughts it was generating .. what was the sculptor in me thinking rather than purely the person? I wasn’t just scanning for historical fragments but seeking out aesthetic ‘favourites’ from the multitude of shapes on offer, regardless of what material they were or their social significance.

Pipe bowl, Thames foreshore 2016

Whiting Stairs, Thames foreshore 2017

So I’ve thought a bit more about that act of searching .. of scanning. The brain conditions the eye to pick out the ‘otherwise’, that which doesn’t belong .. but only in terms of visual distinction, of colour and form. In other ways that whole idea of ‘belonging’ or not is debatable .. because for me as the finder all these things are ‘meant’ to be there and according to the intricate gameplay of the foreshore one thing can be as ‘natural’ there as another. It would be similar saying that the snake in the grass doesn’t ‘belong’ there

photo courtesy of marleypeifer.com

Above courtesy of marleypiefer.com

But certainly one’s looking for visual ‘otherness’ .. a contained colour or tone difference; a noticeable pause in the surrounding visual activity; anything to do with repetition especially if it’s regular i.e. evenly spaced parallel lines or divisions; smoother geometry i.e. better circles or squares than nature usually needs. Often one gets only the last-departing hints of these differences because the Thames has already had many years of ‘taking them back’. Whatever they looked like when they were newly artificial, the river invests them in camouflage, almost as if once accepting them into its folds it takes part in their concealment.

old padlock, Thames foreshore Greenwich 2017

In other places, especially higher up the beaches, there’s so much ‘otherness’ in the melee that significant others can often hide in plain sight. The fragment of pot which one can just about make out within the scrap metal frame turned out to be Tudor!

Deptford junk, Thames foreshore 2009

So I’m sure that searching the Thames foreshore has greatly enhanced my appreciation of the full formal spectrum as I like to call it ( though I have to find a better term). I mean the range of likely form types, including their usual colours and surface patterns, from mineral through organic animal/vegetable to artificial man-made. As a boy hunting for fossils I became familiar with part of it .. the lower and oldest part of the spectrum from mineral shapes and pattern coincidences to true signs of life. Physical forces may have shaped stones or given them surface patterns that look uncannily ‘designed’ but usually one gets to be able to distinguish these from the more conclusively deliberate and organised trace-forms left behind by living creatures. These have a different formal style .. almost always involving some form of equal repetition and very often showing some form of symmetry. If the fossil is more than an impression, rather a cast of the original lifeform transmuted in mineral, then there is also local colour to differentiate it from stone.

After that this formal spectrum would continue through lifeforms themselves .. especially in this context their surviving parts i.e. bones, horns, teeth, shells, driftwood, seed pods etc. Then it’s onto the artificial .. starting with stones which have been shaped as tools; including animal bones which have been modified or decorated; through to early pottery and metalwork .. and onwards! What would be at the end of this spectrum then? One might immediately think of the number of smartphones that end up on the foreshore .. but no, they’re just tools, they don’t deserve such a significant place, and in any case the spectrum is not strictly chronological. Here, and I’m just suggesting for the moment, one should place the symbolic .. forms which have no practical, everyday function other than to represent something greater! This final portion would embrace both ancient and modern .. fertility figures, talismans, religious symbols, offerings to the Thames ( of which there are many present day ones ) .. pieces of fine art, if any.

So far I’ve just been describing, and at the same time organizing, the basis inspiration for what I now want to create out of the experience so far. I have plans and I could say more, but I’d prefer to let this evolve more naturally, less deliberately. What I am compelling myself to do is to create a separate Thames foreshore section in the above main menu strip. To start it off I’m writing a more practical guide based on various places I’ve visited so far, for anyone interested in doing the same.

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Furniture drawings

Louis XV period 'duchesse brisee'

Does anyone living in the London area own a cherished piece of antique or ‘classic’ furniture, willing for it to be photographed and measured in order for me to produce a complete technical drawing of it? I’m looking to record the exact dimensions and details of ‘classics’ which were common to their time so they would have to be authentic .. not repro .. but it may not matter in what condition they are, in fact this may serve as a more interesting record of how and where they ‘wear’. But also I’ve included these two examples here just to illustrate that the piece doesn’t have to be ‘mainstream antique’ or particularly valuable, as long as it has some general significance, and dating from anytime up to the 1970s.

1930s school desk, possibly French

In my article Template drawings for furniture model-making in the Methods section I make reference to a gem of a book Masterpieces of Furniture by the American architect Verna Cook Salomonsky which features a clear photo and a measured drawing for selected examples from the 16th to the 19th centuries. This was published first in 1931 and then taken up by Dover from 1953 onwards .. but as far as I know there has been nothing quite like it since!

The drawings in Salomonsky’s book are in Imperial and in any case rather difficult to read due to the book format. She also chooses not to include anything from even the early 20th century, and it may be that some of the ‘masterpieces’ are American versions of classic patterns .. which I have to check once I get my only copy of the book back! Nevertheless it’s an invaluable book, and it deserves some form of transcription into metric .. with better drawings, and covering some of the craft pieces or everyday ‘milestones’ in furniture since!

If you do have something you think would be suitable and you don’t mind my spending a few hours there recording it .. please let me know! Once the measured drawing is finished you will receive your own copy for a start. If you do get in touch via WordPress I won’t publish the post .. because you probably don’t want it advertised if you own something like an original Chippendale!

Did families really do this in rural Holland?

dutch-rural-dec

Is there anyone out there, particularly Dutch, who could tell me whether this is real or not?

I’ve had this photo for a long while because it’s really inspiring! But I’ve lost touch with where it came from .. all I remember is the info that families in the rural Netherlands would imprint their feet into the last coat of new floorboard varnish before it dried. That’s all I know! Nothing like it comes up with a Google image search and I’ve never found any reference to the custom. If you think about what sort of imprint a real foot would make .. it doesn’t really convince. If anyone can say anything definite, maybe I can finally lay this one to rest!

A day later! Many thanks for all the responses!

These reflected very much what I thought myself .. the footprints didn’t look real; too flat and clean .. not to mention the question whether covering feet in floor lacquer could ever have been a popular one! So at first it seemed to confirm that this was some stylist’s invention, with no basis in historical fact .. because the Dutch people who replied (or those some of you consulted, including a couple of historians) had never seen nor heard of this practice before! But following up the lead provided by Jeroen De Vries about the discovery in a 19th century house in Leiden ..

http://bouwhistorie.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/kindervoetjes-vloer.html

.. it became clear that there was some factual basis, that it was actually done, though presumably not very often. A further example is this piece of floor which was recently uncovered during renovations to the Town Hall of Grootschermer, Alkmaar.

https://monumentaleinterieurs.nl/nieuws/bijzondere-kindervoetjes-vloer-ontdekt-raadhuis-grootschermer

photo1-sm

As far as I can understand, having struggled with some very dodgy Dutch/English online translation, it was a method of floor decoration practiced by house painters from the 17th century onwards .. inviting children to walk around in the wet topcoat of a prepared floor surface creating a varied marble-like pattern. Hence it is known in Holland ( maybe only to a few though) either as blotevoetjesmarmer ‘barefoot marble’ or kindervoetjes vloer ‘childrensfeet floor’! If you Google either of these terms in Dutch you will see some other examples, including some being done nowadays

http://www.walraad.com/projecten/voetjesmarmer-vloer-op-de-herengracht  

photo2

photo3

Two-dimensional luminescent beans

I have rediscovered the excitement of two-dimensional space again! I usually get the urge a couple of times a year and usually as a ‘break’ when the 3D work starts getting too laborious .. which it tends to a bit too often! For these ‘beans’ I manipulated beetle-shell photos in PaintShop Pro and then exported them into Procreate on the iPad to further paint, add layers and refine.

beans_final02websize

beans_final02,websize.jpg

beans_final01websize

beans_final01,websize.jpg

beans_final03websize

beans_final03,websize.jpg

I hope I’ll be writing about the combination of PaintShop Pro and Procreate sometime later, because over the past few years these two have given me everything I could possibly need in terms of image manipulation and ‘physical’ touchscreen painting.

What I’m not yet sure about is whether these finals can actually be the final artwork, either existing only in digital form or suitably printed, or whether they are just detailed prototypes waiting to be resized and copied in real paint. I’m not happy with even the best quality printouts. On the iPad or promoted to a bigger screen (assuming I can correct the colour and contrast changes) they’re luminescent .. literally composed of light .. and surface doesn’t come into it! But even the best print is just a pale imitation of the third dimension it no longer has, and suddenly real surface is there .. but it’s without any character! The magical third ‘dimension’ in 2D work needs to be re-invented and re-introduced by hand. For the moment, for me at least, digitally created has to remain digitally viewed.

Some of the most precious ‘artisan’ films online

I happened to be putting this collection together just before June 23 and our nation’s misguided effort to reaffirm its island status. I didn’t manage to post it back then and the moment has gone .. not the issue of course, just the collective moment. In a way I’m glad I didn’t because with hindsight I’ve been able to skim away much of the embarrassing vitriol and lack of understanding.

Here you will see examples of WORLD craftsmanship, the best of which is demonstrated not only by the final outcome but also by the manner of working and the attitude, the demeanour of the maker. In many of these you will sense the true spirit of sharing.

I’m proud to be British! We can be proud that British craftsmanship ranks amongst the best in the world but it has only achieved that by assimilating the best from other cultures and it has been able to do that from a position of priviledge. We can visit other countries relatively freely and a great many of us have the financial means to do it if we put our minds to it. We have learned a great deal and have been profoundly inspired by the wider world but there is still so much more that would do us a lot of good. How are we returning the favour? Many of the artisans featured are in no position to learn anything about us, let alone benefiting from our accumulated knowledge yet from our vantage we can access almost all that we want. I want to feel fully part of this greater WORLD we live in, not separated from it. Neither craftsmanship, nor artistry, nor knowledge really ‘belongs’ to us .. it’s shared .. and we should face up to the fact that the same could apply to many of the other things we value as our own.

But to get to the point now .. here I’ve listed either treasured examples of craftsmanship on film which I’ve known about for some time or those I’ve newly discovered. More can be found on portal sites such as Reddit, particularly if you seek out the group https://www.reddit.com/r/artisan and of course YouTube if you’re prepared to risk your time and patience with a Bertie Bott’s ‘Every Flavour Beans’ experience! For more specific quality on Vimeo you can find collections from the V&A and the Crafts Council at  https://vimeo.com/vamuseum or https://vimeo.com/craftscouncil

I’ve made a selection of those short films which have truly made me feel something .. whether it’s admiration for the seeming effortlessness of a perfectly refined skill; comfort in the affirmation of the power of handwork .. or it could be any one of these in combination with the pleasure of a well crafted film.

Good craftsmanship really needs equally good film-making! Bad film-making can make the beautiful seem dull .. just as good storytelling and camerawork can elevate the dullest or most reluctant personality. But fortunately the ‘personalities’ in many of these films, whether the objects made or those making them, are anything but dull or shy to begin with, as you will soon see!

Please note! Previously I included the proper video/links in this post but it was interfering with the loading of my ‘Home’ page so much that I’ve removed them. If you want to see any of the films you just have to go to my links section where they will be stored permanently. So don’t try to click on the image here, it’s just a ‘still’ I’ve chosen!

 

Balan the Blowpipe Maker

Balan the blowpipe maker

A very sensitive portrait of a blowpipe maker belonging to Borneo’s Penan tribe, using his own words. Balan is the last in his village to practice the craft .. but he keeps on smiling!

 

Guy Reid, Making Andrew

Sculptor Guy Reid making 'Andrew' in limewood

We follow the sculptor Guy Reid through the whole process of creating the figure of Andrew in limewood. A film by Margot Donkervoort.

 

Woodturning and painting a Japanese kokeshi doll

Japanese kokeshi dolls

Yasuo Okazaki demonstrates making a ‘Naruko’ style kokeshi doll, a skill handed down to him from his father.

 

The painting of a Scottish Opera backcloth

Kelvin Guy of Scottish Opera shows us the painting of a backdrop

Head Scenic Artist at Scottish Opera Kelvin Guy talks us through the painting of a large backdrop for the set of Donizetti’s ‘Don Pasquale’.

 

Moroccan mosaic art

Moroccan mosaic art

You’ve got to witness their complete control when shaping pieces of glazed ceramic tile and making it look like chipping shortbread! Turn the music off though .. unless ambient lift music is your thing.

 

Sugar sculpture by Jacquy Pfeiffer

Sugar sculpture by Jacquy Pfeiffer

Jacquy Pfeiffer of the French Pastry School talks about his sugar sculpting.

 

Making cricket balls

Making cricket balls 1956

From a time before ‘high tech’ manufacture .. 1956, the year I was born.

 

Making a lacquer vessel

lacquer vessel1

Korean craftsman Chung Hae-Cho demonstrates all the stages of his method for making a vessel using layers of lacquer.

 

A ceramic teapot on the wheel

Throwing a Japanese teapot on the wheel

Tokoname Master Craftsman Genji Shimizu ( artist name ‘Hokujo’ ) demonstrates making a kyusu  (Japanese tea pot) on a wheel.

 

Skakuhachi – One Man’s Meditation

Kelvin Falconer makes a shakuhachi

Kelvin Falconer makes and plays shakuhachi ( Japanese vertical bamboo flute ).

 

Turning chess pieces using a bow lathe

Making chess pieces using a bow lathe

Woodturner Mostopha Dnouch working in the street in Marrakech. Filmed by Stuart King in 2007

 

The art of marbling

Art of the Marbler 1970

Art of the Marbler 1970

The technique of marbling shown in this film makes use of a bath of ‘thickened’ water (using a carrageenan, derived from seaweed) because the paints used are water-based and they would disperse or sink far too readily in straight water. The method developed in Central Asia and became most popular in Turkey .. the Turkish word for it is ebru. The other common ‘marbling’ technique which came more from East Asia, particularly Japan, uses either inks or oil-based colours which will sit on water, as demonstrated in the other film on ‘suminagashi’ included in my links entry.

 

 

 

New Blades 2016

Once again 4D modelshop and the colleges taking part (see the list below) have come together with a truly excellent show of graduating work .. unique, inspiring as ever and unmissable .. if one could make that single June 9th! I could have easily spent a week of my life there and considered it both a lot of fun and a valuable education, especially if it included the chance to talk more properly to the exhibitors who are always so approachable!

This post is just a sample because I want to include much more eventually, but it will take more time to collect together the right information i.e. more images, proper titles and some background info from the makers involved. There was so much that was praiseworthy .. I felt there was even more inventiveness this year, and consequently more of the unexpected. I congratulate those who received awards on the night and accept that these were deserved .. but I have to say that these choices were much at odds with what I personally found most noteworthy or inspiring in the show!

New Blades 2016 featured 120 graduates from the Arts University Bournemouth, University of Hertfordshire, University of Bolton, City of Glasgow College, University for the Creative Arts and and Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology. For the complete photo album of the 2016 show .. pretty good photos under the circumstances! .. go to:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/newblades/albums

 

Annette Larsen Skjetne

Above Annette Larsen Skjetne below Emily Bowers

Emily Bowers

 

Alex Wilson

Above Alex Wilson below Christine North

Christine North

 

Becky Marsh

Above Becky Marsh below Alex Lanfear

Alex Lanfear

 

Luke Black

Above Luke Black below Sophie Magern

Sophie Magern

 

Where to look for ready-made forms

I’ve compiled a new page List of sources for ready-made forms which I’ve put in the Materials section under ‘shaping’. If you’ve ever searched for something just the right size for puppet eyeballs, wondered whether you can get mini ‘taxidermy’ domes or whether there’s maybe a ‘magic’ way of making model bottles, you may appreciate this list and some of the tips included. I’ve copied the introduction and a short extract from the list here.

inside 4D modelshop, London

There are many instances where being able to take advantage of a pre-formed shape could not only save a lot of time but also opens up exciting possibilities .. promoting the work beyond one’s technical means. But often the thought of having to take the ‘time out’ to hunt down the right something is a dissuader, as is the notion that somehow using something ready-made is a bit of a cheat! I started this list originally to encourage myself to make more use of the ‘ready-made’ by having a quicker overview, but also because whenever I came across useful ‘things’ I never knew where to note them down for the future.

I’ve tried to divide the list into categories as far as possible, so here is the ‘Table of Contents’:

Discs especially small, in various materials; Domes flattened or semi-circular, whether thin/hollow or solid, including taller display domes; Spheres or balls whether hollow or solid; Ovals in 3D; Wheels and cogs; Teardrop shapes; Cones mainly solid; Straight dowels, rods, cylinders i.e. solid, circular in cross-section; Small rigid tube mainly plastics and metals; Larger round tubes including cardboard and plumbing supplies; Patterned rod or tubing because there are some; Curved or bendable rods, flexible tubing to include foams, Pvc and silicone, cable supplies; Rings; Trumpets, funnels etc; Eggs wooden or polystyrene; Blocks  ‘off the shelf’ and lastly Other forms for the rest.

Each section is organised by supplier and the underlined product titles are from the online catalogues so you can find them more easily in searches. The fact that this wording is sometimes specific and unpredictable is the reason why I’ve bothered to make a separate list in the first place .. after all, one could just do a Google search as/when needed .. but unless one uses many different search words some possibilities would always be missed! Prices were last updated in May 2016, all adjusted to include VAT. I haven’t just listed the cheapest, rather those suppliers who seem to offer the most useful range. If you have anything to add to the list your suggestions will be welcome!

 

Trumpets, funnels, ‘bottle’ shapes and superglue dosers

Heatshrink tubing or ‘sleeving’ is made from polyolefin plastic ( i.e. polyethylene, polypropylene ) and commonly used in electronics/electrics for wire insulation or bundling. It shrinks uniformly when heated with a heat gun, usually in the ratio 2:1 meaning it becomes half as small. It comes in different diameters and the clear versions are ideal for making small-scale ‘bottles’. Finer heatshrink tubing also makes very good ‘dosers’ for superglue work, to attach around the existing nozzle if more precision is needed (Poundland includes a few already in their packs of superglue bottles). I should note though that you will need a heat gun (preferably a small one) to shrink the tube uniformly as shown below.

clear-heat-shrink

www.cablecraft.co.uk

Easi-Shrink’ Heatshrink Sleeving available in small diameters 1.2 – 6.4mm, and bigger sizes up to 100mm. 3.2mm diameter is ideal for 1:25 scale bottles (since these are commonly 8-9cm wide). Price for clear 3.2mm £0.83 per metre.

heat-shrink tubing

www.e-deala.co.uk

1ml or 3ml pipettes e.g £10.99 for 500 3ml pipettes

1ml and 3ml pipettes

I’ve included these because there are sections that can be cut to make reasonably good model bottles (from the thinner 1ml) or glasses depending on the scale you need. Bear in mind that this polyethylene plastic is never ‘glass’ clear, it has a slight frosting.

www.modelshop.co.uk

Plastic funnel set 50, 75, 100 and 120mm diameter £1.85

plastic funnel set

www.partypacks.co.uk

Plastic party glasses are a good source of shapes, but online suppliers don’t usually list measurements except capacity in ml.

Clear Brights Plastic Champagne Flutes’ 148ml (like image but clear, uncoloured) £4.14 pack of 10

plastic flutes