Saturday, 16 February 2008

My latest favourite site

This is a modern version of an apparently traditional sake dealers apron. I think it's gorgeous and I think it may end up being the next addition to my work wear. It's probably far too "special" for it's intended use but as a maker myself I think it might be OK to show a solidarity with the maker of the apron by actually wearing his work, as he intends. I certainly appreciate what he has made and hope that a little of his artistic touch rubs off on me. You can see more work like this, as well as other products, by following the link below.

I'm putting this link in a post because I don't want it to get overlooked and I think that you may really appreciate some of the work there. Here's the link;

The sort of contemporary work that artists, like these, are producing in Japan today is often more exciting and vital than much of what one sees in the usual tourist outlets. I suppose the more traditional, or historically defined products, are what most visitors to Japan want to see, or take home as mementos but for me, I really enjoy meeting with this younger generation of makers and artists and the work they produce. They're generally very respectful of the traditions out of which they work but they bring a freshness and very immediate relevance to what they do.

When I'm able I like to support this sort of work and the things I've bought give me a great deal of pleasure whenever I use or wear them. It's often the subtle attention to detail or the sensitive use of material that reminds me to stop and appreciate the moment. I'm also reminded to try and bring this gentleness of spirit to my own work. Perhaps this "gentleness of spirit" is the most valuable thing these gracious creators offer our hurried and distracted world.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

This is what I've been making lately

Here she is, the toughest bit of wood in Africa, I'm sure. It took quite a lot of effort to chisel the top and bottom reasonably level but this seems to work nicely now. The stake is formed from a cast steel panel beating tool which was welded to a 25mm square section length of mild steel. I did a lot of pre-shaping with an angle grinder and finished off with a hand file. As I'll be raising mild steel on this there was no need to polish the face of the tool.

The form resting alongside the stake is going to be a stone. It's 1mm thick mild steel sheet. At this stage I've only had one round of raising on this new stake and the shape is still a bit distorted from the hopelessly inadequate ones I was trying to use before I made this. It'll probably take a few more rounds to pull the metal back into the shape I want. Then the job of tucking it under begins...with a bit of a tail wind I might be able to show you a bit more tomorrow.
This is the stump, upturned, showing the depression I've chiselled out to allow me to more easily plane the rim flat and level. When I have some more time I'll shape the dip to a more even, semi-circular, one which I can use to preform metal discs prior to raising. The chisels I used are part of a set I bought from the French company Ariou. They held their edge very well and withstood the very hard wood and severe beating I gave them without the slightest complaint. That's a big thumbs up to Ariou from me.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The work of a geniune Master

This is a very special piece of work in iron. The maker, Kano Natsuo, is one of, if not the, most celebrated of Japanese artists who worked in metal. He was the first professor of metal work at the Tokyo Art school and was appointed as an artist to the Imperial Court. He died in 1898.

This little treasure is less than 4cm across and is carved in iron with the little bird inlaid in gold. The bowl is lacquered zitan wood. There is an almost identical version held by the Boston Museum of Fine Art. The design shows a partial view of the head of the great Buddha at Kamakura. I still marvel at the gentleness of the modelling and the serenity that the face conveys...and all that in such a reduced space.

If you stop and consider that this is entirely carved and finished by hand I hope you can begin to get a sense of just how masterful these great artists really were. As is often the case with these miniature masterpieces, photographs present but a pale imitation of the real thing.

The end of a sweaty and dusty day...

I'm pretty pooped this evening, I've been preparing a log, of the hardest wood you can imagine, to act as a support for some raising stakes. I used a chain saw to cut the ends level and have been carving the resultant surfaces to some sort of functional finish that won't rip my hands to bits. I'll finish up the base tomorrow and shape up the first of the stakes. This whole effort is to set me up to start making hollow forms in mild steel. I'll take some images and post them tomorrow evening so you can get an idea what I'm actually doing.

As for the forum, I'm afraid I've been far to preoccupied to dedicate any real time to working on setting it up yet. The manual I printed off sits beside me here, on my desk, waiting to be read. It doesn't make for very exciting bedtime reading... I've managed to get some bits for use in creating the forum's banner to my mate, Gavin, he of the spotty paintings. He's a bit of a whiz with photoshop ( he lectures on it, would you believe! ) and he's doing me a massive favour ( which will no doubt cost me some expensive sushi ) by putting it all together professionally. I imagine that once I have that part it'll motivate me to get the thing on-line so we can all get chatting again. It's been a little solitary here, apart from the occasional, most welcome comment via the blog.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

It aint half hot, Mum!

It's approaching the witching hour here in Cape Town ( that's midnight for the more prosaic of you ) ...hmmm, I think I need smilies on this blog, I'm sure half of what I intend to convey is lost in the detached appearance of the written word, but I don't think the world is ready for Talk-Ford Radio... just yet! Tonight would be perfect for one of those laid back, late night, phone in radio shows though.

We've had a very unusual few days in terms of the weather ( how very English...talking about the weather! ) . Yesterday, for instance, was 35 degrees C with a discomfort factor of 43, or something...not sure what that really means but it was pretty uncomfortable. The sky was grey and overcast and there was the feeling that a thunder storm was imminent. It's still like that, which is why I'm forced to cool off by drinking chilled champagne. Well, technically speaking it's sparkling wine because the French tend to get all sniffy if the stuff isn't actually made in Champagne. Still, it tastes just like champagne to me, and I have been known to be a bit of a fussy bugger when it comes to anything that passes my lips.

But I digress, the point is; we seem to be experiencing monsoon weather, although we could do with a bit more rain to be really authentic. I happen to enjoy monsoon weather, the way the rain utterly soaks you, you don't get cold at all, it's a bit like having a shower with your clothes on...only without the soap bubbles. And once it stops, or you get undercover, it only takes about 15 minutes to dry out. I just find this to be so amusing, and liberating. I reckon lots of up tight business types would do well having to operate under those conditions. You really can't take yourself too seriously when you look like a drowned rat.

I will confess ( very Catholic word, but appropriate in this context ) another, more philosophical, appreciation of rain. I was raised a Catholic ( but I'm recovered now;-) ) and although it may surprise many who know me, I was very "committed" to my faith. Like many boys, or young men, of my age I served as an alter-boy and prided myself ( sinful lad ) on my memorisation of the liturgy of the mass. If I am perfectly honest with you I must admit that very little of that ethos has any place in the person I am today. One phrase, however, will always spring, unbidden, from my subconscious whenever I see rain fall. It's the bit that describes Christ dying to wash away our sins. The phrase in my recollection ends; "washing away the sins of the world"

The sentiment I feel now is more akin to an almost animist conception. Perhaps even the Shinto idea of purification. The world, and our part in it, is never simple, nor would I wish it to be, but it does feel good once in a while to " wash away the grime", to take a deep breath of that clean, sweet air that follows a downpour and look around with refreshed eyes. Perhaps this is just the bubbles in my champaign talking...or maybe there is still an idealist lurking inside.

This wasn't meant to be a Sunday sermon,( it's far too short for a start! ) far from it. I had no idea what I was going to write when I started so there you have it, a bit of "train of conciousness" rambling. Now...where's that bubbly?

Namaste all, Ford