It's an interesting process to review this module's work highlighting the creative path that will lead eventually to an accessory. Part of this story is this image of a University of Anglia (UEA) spiral staircase: an upwardly curving column of concrete wrapped in a metal turquoise handrail. Practical and elegant, its proportions appeal very much to my eye.
A further link with UEA, and again on the same creative path, is the events progamme for Sainsbury Centre featuring "Standing Woman" by Alberto Giacometti, an artist whose work I have always admired. I like the exaggeratedly long, lean proportions of the woman and her stillness. The texture of the piece is attractive too, looking as it does as if the surface has been built up little by little. It is cast in bronze which has a warm finish which is not a single colour, but an intermingling of tones.
A divergence here in my thinking about Giacometti and on to artists generally. Like others I have spoken to, I don't always complete the chapters in a module in the order in which they appear. In the excitement (and relief) of coming to the end of this module I decided I was in the mood for Chapter 12: Research Three Artists. And what a revelation they have all been: their work ethic, their continual drive to develop and improve -- it's what I read about and value in Giacometti's work. I am sure this lesson about the way artists work is one I have registered before, but this time it is sufficiently memorable to make me want to change the way I do things and so in Module 4 I'll be researching Cas Holmes and Lois Walpole at the beginning, leaving, of course, my own choice of artist to much later in the process. It is not that I want to copy another's work or be overly influenced by them (though that may be for others to say), it is more about having a conversation with myself but using them as intermediaries.
To return then to Giacometti who Sian suggested I could use as inspiration for this piece.
Below then, in images 10:3 and 10:4, are the next stepping stones on this particular creative path. Both show elongated structures wrapped in a number of expressive ways. Originally I'd though they might be suitable as brooches and it may well be that that's what they become at some other time. I've already learned the Zandra Rhodes lesson about what a rich source sketchbooks can be a. For now though, my thinking is leading towards a neckpiece made of a number of elongated shapes, probably graduated and as in image 10: 5 made out of Tyvek. Applying a heat gun to Tyvek is, as I've written before, a magical experience, though knowing when to stop is a finely balanced decision.
Bead Making: For the Giacometti beads I chose to combine two weights of Tyvek. One is light weight, its surface is fibrous looking and the Old Brass Light Body Metallic Acrylic which I've chosen to use is difficult to apply. This version of Tyvek simply absorbs the paint at the first touch, even the addition of water to the brush makes no difference. The result is very uneven coverage, unless you want to use the whole pot. The slightly thicker weight of Tyvek is smooth and no such problems occur, though both sides do need painting.
I put pieces of both types of Tyvek together and rolled then tightly round a knitting needle, fastening it with two dressmaking pins until the heat has begun to take effect.
In order to try and graduate the beads I measured the Tyvek taking shrinkage into account. Unlike my initial euphoric experiments this was a more painstaking proceedure with plenty of stop and go, in an attempt to give some uniformity to the beads beyond that of using the same materials and colours.
Then there was the question of winding thread around each bead and whether this added to the look, giving an extra element of texture, or whether it restrains the way the Tyvek melts and morphs into different shapes.
I decided to make a completely new set of beads, using a shorter piece of Tyvek and wrapping it round a thinner knitting needle (size 11). Spiraling the Tyvel made for a very "produced" look that I didn't like. I also decided not to use thread. The set of beads I made in the end are organic looking, graduated and the right sort of mis-matched. It does seem to be important to make them all in one sitting.
Threading: The beads need holes before they can be threaded. When thinking this out I had considered putting a hole through the Tyvek before heating, leaving a thin metal rod in place during the heating process. This isn't really practical. My next thought was to use a small drill on the finished beads. Having spoken to Alice Fox at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show about this (she uses a drill on the shell brooches), she suggested that an awl or bradawl would work and this in fact was what I did. No easy task as the heat gun can melt the Tyvek creating too arrow a waist at exactly the place I want to put the hole and these I did want to be evenly positioned. It had also become clear in the bead-making process that each one had a top and slightly tapering bottom.
A further consideration at this point was the cord on which the beads would hang. It needs strength without bulk, so I combined fine wire with very fine rayon (hand-dyed) and what I've taken to calling tiger thread, a brown and metallic combination made by Madeira. It should be possible to get this combination through the eye of a medium needle and the double thickness will slide through the hole. If this isn't successful a Beadalon collapsible eye needle may well work.
Spacers: This subject hasn't been fully resolved yet, as it seems to be dependent on the personality of the neck piece. However, spacers are necessary both for practical reasons as well as aesthetic ones. Practically they give weight so that the piece hangs in the right place and they allow each bead to breathe; aesthetically they add a extra textural dimension. So this is where the neckpiece's personality comes in. Is it a classic, quite stark looking piece of jewellery true to the Giacometti sculpture, or could it be pretty?
The length of the cord may also come into play here. Should the neckpiece sit on the collar bones, or mid-chest, or nearly waist length?
What should I use as spacers? They need to be in proportion to the Tyvek beads; they also need to compliment them in terms of colour and texture. Although I've used metallic paints and they do have a gleaming quality I had hoped for, maybe the Tyvek beads look a little flat.
Image 10: 6 shows amber coloured beads as spacers, image 10:7 shows the addition of gunmetal smaller beads either side of the amber bead. Image 10: 8 shows the amber beads interspersed with Tyvek circles which have been head-treated, resulting in a lacy slightly distorted shape and finish -- an attempt at prettiness. Neither is completely successful though think a classic look is much more to my taste.
A Shopping Expedition Yesterday I went into Norwich on a bead hunt. I did not have enough amber beads in my bead collection, so needed to replace or supplement those and perhaps look for another possibility.
Hobbycraft first, where I did find some amber beads, but unlike the ones a home, saved from some craft buy years ago, these were mass produced and without any colour variation. I bought them, in case I found nothing better.
The next stop was Raphael Crafts, a wonderful store of beading treasures. There I found the perfect thing -- hematite discs in two sizes, a gorgeous bronze-brown. The material is just right and complemented the Tyvek beads.
The piece has rhythm and that is what delights me most. It's as if my beads and the hematite ones are speaking the same language, though there is a downside to using them -- anyone with a pacemaker should not wear them as they are magnetic.
A Downside and a Dilemma
The main downside has been using my lovely cord. I was able to make good sized holes in the Tyvek beads with a fine awl from Hobbycraft therefore an ordinary needle worked well. In order to pull the cord through the hematite beads, particularly the small ones, I needed to use the collapsible eye needles. The metallic tiger thread became caught up and sometimes broke as the threading process continued. I threaded the beads from both ends thinking the cord would be less worn in the process, however, little by little I had to cut pieces off the cord and even though I had made a metre long piece, it's now less than half that length.
The shortness of the cord leaves me with a dilemma. I can leave the cord short (that is suitable for a collar length neckpiece) and make a bead and loop fastening with what cord is available. I could try to attach an additional piece of cord either side using beads as a disguise. This may be attractive and echo the rhythm of the piece, but I don't think it would be strong. Alternatively I could start again and thread the beads on a fresh piece of cord, being very conscious only to thread each bead once so that it is less likely to become snagged or frayed.