Thursday, 21 February 2008

Kyoto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum

My friend, Ataru Maeda, a very talented netsuke artist, sent me this link;

The site is self explanatory and offers a beautiful view of some of the refinement of old Kyoto.
The image has nothing to do with either Maeda San or the museum, I just thought it might add an elegant atmosphere .

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Raising Iron Pebbles

This is what I've been wrestling with recently and why I've not posted anything for a couple of days. I'm raising steel sheet into a large pebble! The early stage was shown in the photo of my newly made stake and stump a few days ago. This particular pebble is only 9cm long and was made a couple of years ago as part of my search for a meaningful "canvas" for my work. Placing one's design elements on a pebble to create some sort of sculptural piece is not a new idea in itself. I've seen wooden pebbles and even real rocks with lacquer work applied.

As an artist working in metal though I felt the need to make the entire piece an expression of my approach to my work and my aesthetic sensibilities. The idea of forming such an intractable material in this , almost, counter-intuitive way excites and challenges me. To create the stone-like surface I use a somewhat damaged hammer and the countless rounds of hammering required to coax the steel into it's ultimate, rock/pebble form leaves a very honest and subtle skin that is, in it's own way, natural. It's an odd thing but even though it is a hammered piece of metal it manages to convince people of it's "naturalness".

The positive, and quite intimate, reaction to this first little experiment, particularly in Japan, convinced me to pursue this format. Despite the effort required to make forms like this I am really enjoying the work. There is something calming about having to apply oneself for days on end, with progress only being seen in very gradual changes in shape. There is no rushing this sort of forming, any attempt only results in wrinkles and distortions. It's a gentle and steady application of controlled and precise hammer blows that ultimately yields the form I'm looking for. In some ways this reflects my own journey to this point in my career as a craftsman cum artist.
The finish you see in these photos is just the scale from the iron being heated to a red heat, to soften it prior to another round of hammering.

Zeshin's hare

This is a little piece I made about 9 years ago. It's based on a lacquer piece by the celebrated Japanese artist Shibata Zeshin. He was a friend of the metal worker Kano Natsuo and seemed to take great delight in simulating various metalwork effects and techniques in urushi. I have always appreciated Zeshin's work for the elegant way in which he uses colour and texture. In this exercise I tried to simulate his lacquer technique in metal. The plate itself, is shibuichi . The hare is shakudo and the moon is pure silver. It measures just over 25mm across ( 1 inch ).