Things are certainly getting real in the third year, aside from our (dreaded) dissertation, we only have two practical projects. Which means the current project is my penultimate degree project. No pressure then...
I really didn't know where to start with this project so I looked back on past ones to see what worked well, what didn't, and what I enjoyed. With this in mind I decided to look in to rust and corrosion. Looking back, I see no real link between what worked well last year etc and rust and corrosion but I think I was like a deer caught in headlights and just babbled any random words to get the ball rolling. "Er yeah, its about rust and corrosion and bowls" I told my tutors, thinking I have totally nailed this. While they were probably thinking, what an idiot. But its my third year, they must be used to me being an idiot by now.
So with rust and corrosion in mind, I took myself off to Chatham Dockyard to get some photos to help my research.
A superb display of rust, I think my favourite image of the day
For one of my tests I decided to do some reticulation, a process which gives a finish quite similar to corrosion. It works better with brass than copper (copper is my usual preferred metal for testing with) and you basically heat it with a torch (flame) until it is bright red, quench it in acid, and repeat the process about ten times. The final time you "heat the hell out of it" (technical term, that) until it starts to melt.
Heating with the torch (annealing) until cherry red
One test does not make a project, so I decided to test some different processes using blanks made of copper, brass, gilding metal and perforated aluminium. After numerous tests, involving, cutting, forming, fire, acid and etching, I have finally worked out that my project is about folds and pockets. This will become clearer in the final pieces, which wont be started until next month.
For me, metal work is all about the connection between my hands and the metal. I enjoy other processes, but I really love using my hands to help manipulate the metal - usually with hammers, but folding and pushing too. It has taken me a long time to realise this, even though it was staring me in the face.
I have a tendency to overthink things and I think that is down to a lack of confidence. I think ooh I'll do X, then tell myself X isn't 'right' or good enough, and move on to another thing. And another. And another. Then usually I end up where I began, having wasted far too much time getting there. I have taken on board the repeated feedback from my tutors last year that I need to edit. Stop throwing everything at it. This year my tutor said its like I'm carrying lots of bags at the same time, and I don't need to do that, I only need to carry one at a time. I'm having to remind myself of this every day - focus on the task in hand, don't get ahead of yourself.
I had a tutorial this morning with my other tutor who agreed, and said she doesn't want to see me end up as a bag lady. So, with that in mind, at this point in my project it is still all about the testing. Other than bowls that fit in your hand, as yet I have no firm idea of what the final pieces will look like. I am allowing the processes and the metal dictate the form, to some extent, and trying to throw away any preconceived ideas I may have. Which is something else I have struggled with in the past. But I am determined to get myself in to a good working practice now, so I start my 'professional life' off on the right foot.
Every time I think it is too hard and I can't cope with the stress of everything we have to do this year, I remind myself that this time next year I will no longer have the safety net of regular tutorials with such experienced and respected tutors, and that gives me the incentive it suck it up, dig a little deeper and push a little harder.