Sunday, February 12, 2006

To Ride A Cock Horse...

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes

That Elizabethan story seems somehow apropos for recent days... Here is our mountain, Tahoma, several mornings ago in one of those hats which she sometimes wears as Our Lady of the Sunrise...

Chapeaux & scarves, necklaces of mist & halos of linticular clouds, lifting in vertical series above her, all can be parts of her drag in our daily views of her from Soundcliff... when she isn't hiding altogether for weeks behind her foggy dressing screen. Is she having bad hair days? Or is she off visiting her sister Shasta for tea? I do suspect she travels in some manner, being volcanic at root. But what a cosmic white horse that mount might be!

All those nursery rhyme bells & rings suit my version of this story to accessorize her further. I love playing jeweler in a mythology of her court! I am working on both ring designs & bells at present... One is the original wax study of the ROCKING HORSE BELL which is currently already in production as a smaller version. This older, too large wax has been sitting on my desk for several years beckoning with a certain elan which the production version lacks.

Its original deep purple color has faded to a faint translucent blue in the sunlight... It was beginning to crack. It has often wished to be saved into metal, if for no other than archival reasons, like a drawing. Even for that degree of preservation it needed some repair & further resolution, so I've enjoyed following the impulse to pick it up again this week.

Each year as I begin the design process I go into a box of waxes, put away during the clean-up for Open Studio, which did not reach completion during the last season. These come out again on the desk to stimulate new consideration. Often designs have joined this lineup for several years before finding enough fullness of attention & maturity to become part of the production line. Some, like this horse, are studies or preliminary stages. This wax seems to have retained some deeper values, even as it has another version already in production.

This original carving was always a bit too big for wearability, but it has a wonderful aspect of "toy-ness" to it... rocking quite nicely! I recall an era when I was working with a play therapist who turned me on to the notion of archetypes which is so important to my thinking ever since. I discovered Jungian validation for an old habit of playing, well into high school, in the sandpile on the farm, making architectural models when some of my uncles believed I ought to be working in the fields. I discovered my own version of farming as I made arrangements in sand trays with toys & objects from the therapist's collection about which he would later make lively analysis.

I love playing in the real with objects which have aspects of importance for holding deeper idea. Sacred play. Important toys. This bell wax seems to have taken on some of those values, so I find energy to bring it along with more attention toward casting.

I have fallen in love with this wax all over again, as I must in order to do such intimate work.

Perhaps this view of the translucency in the faded wax, contrasting to the new dark wax additions will defend my emotion. I am reminded of the term the Chinese use to describe one color range in jade carvings... muttonfat. All this light filled quality will shift after casting into the weight & surface reflection of silver... literally lost in translation.

Enjoying this moment seems indeed to be its own sort of aesthetically important sacred play...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I am aware of a sweet rarity this morning which I remember with such appreciation because it has to do with an exterior quality meshing with an interior receptivity to allow my hanging... suspended in silence.

Nothing absolute... I hear the odd bit of birdsong now or again of a plane somewhere far & low. I know the world has not stopped... so what is different? It is first about my not really having "started"... yet, other mornings my brain is nattering or nearly booming, even, before I open my eyes to the big picture which unfolds just beyond the comforter.

Another aspect for appreciation of quiet is solitude. It has long been rare to share quiet. I remember that from days hiking in Arizona, taking the pulse of a relationship with a companion on the trail... Some times we would find the sweetest conversations with our eyes & ear open & our mouths shut. But that was a rare thing.

Most humans seem to need to fill time with chat. Silence has come to suggest a lack of connection, when it could also be filled with the subtle discernment of absolute connection through such awareness it need not be sullied by the clumsy translations into words.

That applies to written words as well, I come again to know. Perhaps I ought to stop & listen without feeling compelled to write about my rare enjoyment...

Stephen left very early for a two day travel to Spokane, calling me just as I was enjoying having discovered the pot of coffee he'd made, but didn't have time to bring up, as usual, to be waiting on my bed table when I opened my eyes... It was just as happy a love-gift found on the kitchen counter!

So I have the solitude & the silence. Now comes a bit of the sun he reported having in that call from beyond the Cascades. It was dark & soggy when he left. Our rains have been reluctantly giving over to the promises of a clearing break. What we have been experiencing here is not so different than the monsoons we would avoid if planning a trip to the tropics...

Solitude, Silence & Sun breaking through what remains rather overcast. Solitude has changed by the arrival of my bookkeeper, now working at the studio's computer... I have thus also broken the silence with another conversation... So, the moment, it would seem, has passed. Yet as I return to my bed & laptop I find a second calm. I must be working this from within... Hurrah!

This depth of quiet is part of studio... That word so vague because it describes a vast variety of containers for so much, having so many forms in creative endeavor. It is, in this sense, a state of mind... a state of soul. It is receptivity. It is, like the roots of the word, about study... I feel content to stay open even as I practice again losing the delicacies of the early mood, while yet retaining as much as I can of such a gift in awareness. Having had it has reminded me of possibility. Having had it, it is mine again & now I can move with more grace into the middle processes of actually working to live my creativity.

That middle is so very different than the liminal state where one works such ephemeral possibilities so easily toward such fabulous probabilities... all without lifting a finger... Unless like some cartoon of the Biblical Godhead Pointing! But my artist ultimately must involve herself with so much more of the mundane stuffs... the middle place is to struggle with both ideas & materials.

I have brought these words through a passage which has attached the need to actually go to work in the studio full of wax, metal, & tools, yet I encourage trying to hold moments like the beginning for the energy which comes when one can allow oneself to sit for awhile gorging on quiet. Work happens best when it works through both places...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The ABC's Of It...

The week has passed with some progress at the wax desk, even as I am reminded how difficult it is, in the best of timing, to focus down into those small spaces from the infinitely larger scale of processes in ordinary life.

The scale of systems involving weather patterns, for example: weeks of incessant rain; recently with notable wind storms in addition; watching the drainage systems on the soils of our road & cliff... seeing movement; hearing in addition the fell sounds of major tree trimming work, which feels murderously unsettling... even as I look forward to the change of light for new planting; then going two evenings into the city's McCaw Hall for performances of both the ballet & the opera within the same week; all making major distractions even before those I can so easily invent for myself inside the very space that is studied to creatively isolate me.

I must travel large distances to get down into those realms inside the magni-visor's magnification where a millimeter is ten times the size of the tool I must wield... micro climates can evidence weather patterns as well.

The wax showing the most progress is a revision of a popular design, the ALPHABET bell. The original pattern suffers from a weak skirt, or sound bow, which rarely stays easily round & sturdy through the production processes. There are often designs which suffer from the fact I do the work in the real time/space of a single wax, so that it contains, like a painting, all the processes of its changes & repairs coming into reality.

The word palimpsest comes to mind even as it isn't quite so directly applicable as in a painting.

Still, the vicissitude of doing repairs in wax does leave a shadow of less solid physics in the form of wax structure weakenend by my remelting & re-fusing the material. The texture suffers into what is softer, mushier, lacking character & refusing in turn to take & to keep detail like the original.

This shows the beginning: a new, slightly smaller wax blocked to the basic shape of the original bell, with the drawing of the first glyphs. I am keeping the composition, I am simply recarving it with the production considerations in mind to make it stronger & smoother in the flow.

There is the necessity to think of the several parts of the process when the design must function in liquidity. The wax must flow out of the investment mold, the molten metal must flow in to replace the wax. Then again the wax must flow smoothly into the rubber production mold... so a good design must not unduly obstruct such important procession of such material. In fact it must do all it can to promote smooth & efficient flow, minimizing the rough surfaces & deeper porosity which can result from such turbulence.

One must begin to turn one's thinking inside out between the positives & negatives in which these processes exist during various stages. During the mold cutting I am dealing quite literally with a palpable version of such negative space as it has become filled with rubber vulcanized round the bell. Inside that shell one must imagine the liquid wax flowing. Flow is important to what wants ultimately to be sturdy in stasis...

The technique I prefer is one of subtraction rather than addition... carving away in a hard, dense wax more like a plastic than anything candle-like... so I often answer the question as to whether I draw my designs first by saying that I do nothing else. I mean, first I must prepare a sculptural ground upon which to do the drawing which would be impossible to put onto a single flat paper... so I sculpturally draw the form in the wax material, bringing it to the basic size in space of the concept, giving it the rough configuration in three dimensions. Is not even that "drawing" at some level?

I need this form to conform to the idea, even inside the search toward the resolve of that idea, before I have what corresponds to a piece of drawing paper as it would relate to a canvas if I were painting. I need a three dimensional "canvas" on which to begin composing the arrangement of, for instance, the glyphs of the alphabet which make this bell's composition.

Of course, I can grab the notion of a sculptural concept on a sheet of paper, often with some useful facility to show much which can be extrapolated or groked as a larger idea having fullness in the round. I do draw in that way as well, but sculpture obviously has not just a front & a back, but exists equally at where paper has only invisible edges....

Thus a finished wax exists as the result of hundreds of drawings made on material no longer there... erasure as drawing, perhaps. Or would that be some sort of negative palempsest? I'm deliciously wallowing in these concepts while you are probably confused while I attempt to share parts of my play during these deep nights working...