18 November 2015

album et pellucidatum

The turning point came as the new year of 1708 dawned. A handwritten sheet in Böttger's eccentric mixture of Latin and German dated 15 January 1708, recorded a list of seven recipes: 

N 1 clay only
N 2 clay and alabaster in the ratio of 4:1 
N 3 clay and alabaster in the ratio of 5:1 
N 4 clay and alabaster in the ratio of 6:1 
N 5 clay and alabaster in the ratio of 7:1 
N 6 clay and alabaster in the ratio of 8:1 
N 7 clay and alabaster in the ratio of 9:1

The results of the test firings were more startling than even he had dared hope. After five hours in the kiln, Böttger records, the first sample had a white appearance; the second and third had collapsed; the fourth remained in shape but looked discoloured. The last three held him spellbound.
These small, insignificant-looking plaques had withstood the searing heat of the kiln; they had remained in shape and intact. More importantly they were 'album et pellucidatum' - white and translucent. In the dank, squalid laboratory the twenty-seven-year-old Böttger had succeeded where everyone else had failed. The arcanum for porcelain for which all Europe had searched now lay within his grasp.

Gleeson, Janet. The Arcanum: The Extraordinary True Story. Transworld Publishers, London, 1998, p. 56.

09 November 2015

the glass fur project

Skin protects our bodies, and skin coverings reinforce that function. Maybe the cats have anything to do with my fascination of fur and how a mass of hairs becomes an entity of its own... Fur is vital for animals and in archetypal symbology it has the ability to foresee danger (see the quote below, from C. Pinkola Estés's Sealskin, Soulskin tale).

Carefully cut glass stringers, heated in the flame of a candle and prodded into the wax model.
Glass is very thermoplastic; it deforms and distorts in intense heat and can melt into a puddle...but it can also just subtly start to move, under the influence of gravity in a heated kiln or in the flame of a burner. 
I love how the surface seems to be dissolving when see through this mass of stringers!

I want to find out how the heat of a kiln will calm down these hairs; whether gravity will enable them to relax onto each other. But before that is possible there are a few more steps to go! It will be cast into a mould (or rather, I'll build a mould around it), the wax will have to melt away so it can be filled with pâte de verre, it will be fired a first time...the mould has to be broken and washed away very carefully and then I will put it back in the kiln, and let gravity do its job... Who knows, in a later stage I can manipulate the slumping fur in the kiln myself.

fur (featuring Assepoes)
a little detail of Assepoes's nose, showing how her fur "flows" in several directions.

If we delve into the symbol of animal hide, we find that in all animals, including ourselves, piloerection - hair standing on end - occurs in response to things seen as well as things sensed. The rising hair of the pelt sends a "chill" through the creature and rouses suspicion, caution, and other protective traits. Among the Inuit it is said that both fur and feathers have the ability to see what goes on far off in the distance, and why an angakok, shaman, wears many furs, many feathers, so as to have hundreds of eyes to better see into the mysteries. The sealskin is a symbol of soul that not only provides warmth, but also provides an early warning system through its vision as well.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Women who run with the wolves: contacting the power of the wild woman, Random House, London, 1998, p. 267.

A little inspiration: my board Skin, fur and scales shows how other artists and designers explore this theme!

04 November 2015

I'm listening

On a lazy sunday (which seems rare these days) I've been painting the walls in the hall. I decided to finish the nearly empty bucket so I wouldn't be greeted with any more unexpected painting opportunities...

So while I was busy I decided to catch up with some of my favourite podcasts. I don't always have time to listen, but some tasks - like painting the walls, or when I'm knotting or stringing beads - are so inviting to listen to other people tell stories. I kind of miss the days of the radio plays... I remember taping a radio play about Felix Mendelssohn who wrote his first opera as a teenager and my nerdy 14-year old self thought that was so cool...and it prompted me to try some composing as well. I loved discovering composers, artists and other famous dead people and how they were as kids. It was reassuring that they were often just as awkward and weirdly obsessed with music or art or whatever their thing was.

Now I still love to discover how artists live and work or what makes them tick, and if they're alive and well it's a big bonus! Hehe. So I listened to The jealous curator, who has a conversation with a different artist each week. I love how relaxed the conversations are although there's room for the more challenging aspects of creative life (like that pesky inner critic)...but that's often exactly what appeals to me. The artists are usually new to me, mostly American or Canadian but there are some Belgians on there too (not on podcast though). It's great to discover new artists!

There are a couple of other blogs that also feature artists: for Dutch speakers there's the excellent blog of Hilde van Canneyt, Gesprekken met hedendaagse kunstenaars, and I also check Freunde von Freunden. In this international blog a wide range of creative professionals over the world get interviewed and pictures of their home and studio are shown, but I don't always feel a connection with them. I guess it has to do with the more formal style of the interviews, the focus on success and confidence, and the often incredibly gorgeous interiors. I mean, they are fabulous and to some extent inspiring, but the they don't always feel lived in.

This was so different in the On your desk photo series on author and artist Terri Windling's blog, which consisted of just a few personal snapshots of the studio work table or the writing desk of writers and artists who visited her blog, often with glimpses in their book cases or the pinned up inspirations and their feline or canine companions... It felt way more real to me, and intimate. Our (creative) lives aren't polished, nor should they be...

thesis assistants
On my desk (or rather next to it), a few months ago:
my thesis assistants Assepoes and Isaura
(and Takkie, my trusty USB dog)