Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Journal of the Brigantine Flora of Whitby

I have spent a very enjoyable day reading a journal of voyages made between 1766 and 1769 by the Brigantine Flora.  I understand that the notes and readings (or are they measurements?) would have been made during the journey and then written up afterwards, maybe while the ship was at anchor.  The entries about the course and the winds are shown every two hours around the clock with a short summary each day.  Some entries are a bit difficult to read but mostly they are in beautifully formed hand writing, full of abbreviations and flourishes.  One in particular caught my eye and says, for the 15th May 1767 "Had our deer skins up on deck to air in the sun and beat the worms out".  I feel that I want to incorporate this somehow into a piece of jewellery, an encouraging thought as this is the point of my residency!  I don't have an image relating to the Flora but did find a model of a brigantine in one of the display cases in the museum, so have added it here as I had no idea what one might look like.  The journeys the Flora made between 1766 and 1769 included Whitby to Yoconeur on the coast of Lapland and Whitby to South Carolina

Almost Spring?

At the weekend I decided I had better get on and try the bronze clay.  I have had a sample since last autumn but only recently bought the firing pan and charcoal.  I have to say thanks to The Little Bead Shop as when I ordered charcoal from them it arrived in a stunning black and white spotty wrapping paper and my receipt had a pretty heart shaped bead tied to it with pink ribbon, it felt like a present!  I had been warned that I may not like working with the bronze clay.  Some of my friends know that I don't really like to get dirty....... and I can't say that I was very keen.  My first attempt was to roll out a long sausage and wind it to make a bangle.  Needless to say I could immediately see that fine cracks were appearing in the surface of the clay but carried on.  I think perhaps it was a bit over-ambitious to start with this kind of thing but I wanted to do something that I could do with art clay silver.  I also made a big chunky 'c' clasp and a few beads.  The firing schedule is quite lengthy and when I opened the kiln I was not exactly thrilled by all the flakes of oxide dropping off the outside of the firing pan.  I say it is being an enameller that makes me obsessively clean around my kiln - this may just be me making an excuse for myself of course.  I wasn't initially very keen on the colour of the finished pieces either, but polished off some of the patina and like them better now.  I had been thinking I would use the clasp to make a beaded necklace, perhaps with the coral and transparent beads I made a few weeks ago.  Unfortunately they don't really go together...... typical!  I am now going to have to make a set in greens or maybe topaz?

Friday, 20 February 2009

New beads and bronze clay

Mid week I realised I needed to make a start on some new work for a gallery I show in.  I am now thinking about the colours of later Spring and early Summer, even though it is still quite a long way off judging by the state of my own garden.  I have experimented with a wider variety of colours and produced a varied selection of juicy looking beads (let me know what you think?)

I have also begun my first experiments with bronze clay.  I was warned by friends who know I don't like getting messy that I may not enjoy the experience and have to say I didn't like the colour of my hands!  It is not at all like working with art clay silver and I haven't seen the results yet as my first experiments are still in the kiln - and will be for quite a while as the heating schedule is also much longer than the silver.  Here are the first pieces still wet though..... I will just have to wait and see how they fire.

Friday, 13 February 2009

More beads

I seem to have spent too much time catching up on paperwork today, but it needed to be done and now is up to date again.  I did try rivetting a few piece of aluminium together which is something I have been meaning to do for a while.  I still need more practice though before I will start using rivets regularly in my work - they would need to be consistently perfect to be part of a piece of jewellery.

Earlier in the week I had made a few more glass beads, trying different combinations of glass colours and here are the results.  The pale grey on white was inspired by shadows and tracks in the snow.  The large and irregular bead is hollow and has Nyx flashed so looks metallic.  I was intending to start a whole lot of new colours for Spring but got distracted by the combination of black with the silvered plum and made a whole batch of them, lovely but not exactly Spring like.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


At last I managed to get back out into the world again yesterday.  There is still plenty of snow on the ground here at home but the roads were clear enough to get into Whitby so I made another visit to the museum.  I spent quite a bit of time wandering around between the display cases looking at the different varieties of jewellery displayed in the collection.  Obviously being Whitby the museum has a stunning collection of jewellery and other objects made in local jet.  When I start to look more closely though I realise that there is a huge variety of other types of jewellery and that quite a lot of it is colourful.   This has reinforced my understanding that I am working in a well established tradition.  Occassionally over the years I have asked myself whether there is a real demand for coloured jewellery - or whether people are really just looking for something in silver or gold.  Looking closely at the collection as I am now doing I can see that there has always been a demand for colour and that it is rooted within the jewellery tradition.  There are examples of Anglo-Saxon and Roman glass beads in the collection and even slight traces of red enamel on one of the Anglo-Saxon pieces.   This is a theme I will no doubt return to during my residency.

At the moment members of the Whitby Museum team are preparing for a forthcoming exhibition on the Anglo-Saxons.  This is really exciting - there is obviously a wealth of interesting material available and I am looking forward to seeing the exhibition when it opens in a few weeks time.  In the meantime I have been exploring the way in which the tiny penannular brooches are made and really enjoying hammering and forming these tiny pieces in copper.  The largest of the ones I have made is approximately 25mm across.  

Sunday, 8 February 2009

More snow

The sun was shining this afternoon making everything look absolutely brilliant.  I would say that I am really sick of the winter weather now except that the snow was full of tracks; there were loads of really graphic patterns made by the hedges, plants and by the dry stone walls in the landscape.  I have posted a little slide show of some of today's photographs - I hope they will inspire some new ideas in my work.  

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Thread things

Like everyone else in the country my week has been slightly disrupted by the snow. Only slightly really though as I had a student here for a few days doing her Level 1 Art clay silver course and she managed to get here to start on Wednesday and got everything done and away again before more snow arrived this morning. It did mean I missed my day in the museum on Tuesday though and I am having withdrawal symptoms.

Nothing much keeps the postman away though and I had ordered a book on Hair Work and another on Charles Horner, both of which have arrived safely and are being consumed and enjoyed in between my visits along the path to the studio. The advantage of my studio being attached to the house are that I can still get to work (is that an advantage?) although all I have done is test a few enamels this week. I have made a necklace of crochet beads in the evenings though, while watching tv and am quite enthusiastic about working with thread again.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Graduated beads

I started this set of graduated beads a couple of days ago and got them out of the kiln after annealing them this morning.  There are 38 of them in total and I am quite pleased except that, after I had begun them I realised I had picked a difficult colour to match or tone enamel with.  I had thought that I would make a piece in art clay silver, enamel it and then thread with the beads to make a big necklace...... maybe I will have to re-think that one.  I should have started with a set of beads in blue or turquoise as blue enamels always behave so well whereas this coral pinkish orangey colour will be very tricky.  Anyway, I will put them to one side for a while and think about it a bit more!  Meanwhile, I have had one of those odd paperwork kind of days, I don't know where it has gone and the sun is shining, brilliantly reflected off the snow and am I spending more time looking out of the window than I should.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Snow and enamelling

Well yesterday I worked really hard to enamel a batch of work and it is all ready to send out, pretty spring colours and all.  Of course there is now a great deal of snow and absolutely no way I will be able to get to the post office until it clears.  Here is a view of the road from my house, taken at lunchtime.  It has continued to snow since then - pretty but not very useful!