Saturday, 16 June 2012

Exit Interviews and good news...

So over the past two days I, along with the rest of my year, have been meeting with people from the creative industries. Basically gallery owners, members of the crafts council etc, who offer advice or possible work placements.
I saw five different creative persons and every single one of the interviews went really well! I think these chats are really good for finding out how other makers promote their work, how gallery owners choose work, and how to make it the business world.
So far I have one confirmed commission and a few other 'maybes' so I'm really happy!
I also had some rather good news sprung upon me on the last interview, as the lady I was chatting with pointed out that I had won an award which had been placed on the wall above my artist statement!! It's a really great honour that I was picked, and I am so happy that my hard work has paid off!
Thanks to all who helped me get through this degree and to everyone involved in the show!

Degree Show Set Up!

So it's been a long time coming, but the degree show has finally been set up!
It's an amazing feeling to know that I've actually finished my degree because if I'm honest, there were a few times where I thought about giving up...
However, thanks to a number of people, I stuck it out and have made it to the end!
Thank you to everyone who has helped me over the past three years.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The three rivets from hell...

Okay, so sometimes when you are making something, you make a mistake with what you think is a very insignificant detail, which is what I thought a week ago...oh how wrong I was.
I had a few weeks where my back was playing up, which means I have to work a lot slower and not do anything too strenuous in case it gets so bad I have to stop working for a few days to recover. Anyway, I ended up rushing one day to finish the top section which I thought would be quick and then connect the top section with the middle bar, and the middle bar to the base. Simple.
Well not so simple because I made the mistake of riveting three wee rivets on the top section when I was suppose to do them last, after connecting everything else.
Due to where they were placed, it ment that the bar did not sit flush with the middle bar, so did not line up correctly. I had to then move that whole section up, then reshape, then move the section next to it and finally reshape what was a very nice little detail on the end termination of the bar (the bit on the left which holds the edge of the music score). Then I had to re-position the 'ledge' so everything lined up...
It's taken three full days to sort the top out so that the music is held and is supported enough on the left page. It's still not the way I would have liked, as it does lean a lot to the right, however it is done and looks good enough.
Somehow I still have my old bosses voice in my head saying 'Just enough isn't good enough'...but I think I've done what I could do with the time I left myself.
Some pictures will follow, so watch this space!

The worth of a jig...

So, sometimes it's worth taking the time out and creating a jig for the work you're doing, even if it's just a one-off. The general rule of thumb is that if you're going to be making more than two of a component, then you should make a jig so that it's easier and quicker to repeat...however, when you're working on something a little challenging to forge then think about how much time you will save later on if you take the hour (or however long it takes) and make the jig. I decided against making a jig for the base section of my music stand which I realise now was a mistake.
Even if the jig you make doesn't look great, and has a few kinks and bends it doesn't matter because when you bend your metal for the first time, it's going to want to take on a smooth, flowing shape.
Below are a few shots of what I ended up stayed like this for at least a week as I tried to get the right shape with the gas torch. I think a lot of people were looking for clamps and grips that week...
I had to weld a long length of bar onto a plate, then hold it on the workbench so I could then clamp my work to it to keep it straight while working on the curves with the gas torch.
As you can see, this was a lot of trouble, and even if the jig had taken a few days to make, it would have made the making so much easier and quicker. However, you can see the shape beginning to take form and I love this particular design because I managed to incorporate the visual pattern of the time signature of my music taken from the movement of my hand while conducting the piece!
It's not very noticeable, in fact I don't think anyone has seen it for themselves, but it's the wee details that I've managed to add which I think make the piece for me. As Richard Seymour said in his talk on how we feel beauty, it's the personal details attached to something which can make it beautiful. In this case, what you might see is a piece of curved bar, but when I explain where it's from, then you may have a new appreciation of that curved bar. Just a thought.
Have a good day!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Unexpected support...

So earlier this week I had to pick up a parcel from the sorting office because I was out when the postman delivered our mail. I thought it was some letters from home being sent down, but I was wrong...
I received one of the most thoughtful gifts ever from someone who obviously knows me too well. I got a large, leather-bound sketchbook 'To fill with all of the designs you haven't yet made in uni' and 'To show I support you in your endevours' (learning a new instrument each month) a set of handmade pan-pipes!!! This has definitely made my week and a huge thank you to C.K. It's amazing to know that there is always someone who's got my back and can offer support when I need it most. I strive to do the same so to those of you that know me, I'm here for you!

The designing of the top section for the music stand has gone very well and is now complete! The base is well on it's way to being finished, then forging it will begin tomorrow. I am in high spirits because I managed to get quite a lot of work done today at the forge and am ready to bolt a few sections together. Then I'll make the rest of the piece, see how it looks and finish with handmade rivets.

Last week was a bit of a set back because I got ill and didn't manage to get much forge work done, however I did do my sketchbook work, with a few new ideas for future developments/projects added in there. I also sent off my artist statement, worked on my website, thought about my portfolio, wrote some more music, optimised my laptop, applied for a blacksmithing job, packed more of my things for moving out and read a really good book...This is my work station at the moment complete with cups of tea and lemsip!

Anyway, here are some photographs of the piece that I took earlier today out at the forge. Since then I've done a bit of work on the bars, but this is a rough idea of what the piece is going to look like (ignoring the sellotape...).

Thanks and have a good day!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Artist Statement

I have been thinking about what I'm going to write for my personal statement and I want to try and include my own personal statement about my thoughts on music. I have it stuck to every space I work in...

'Music is one of the fundamental forms of the self-expression of the soul for which no words could ever hope to describe'

I firmly believe this. For me, I can express myself through music, but I can express music through my blacksmithing work which is something not many people can say. I love the way I work!

I have also had some excellent news concerning various work experience chances and now have the opportunity to work with a professional violin maker in Edinburgh for a short while. I have the chance to study with him in the workshop and learn everything I need to know to help me in the future for making musical sculptures.

Just wanted to share!
Have a great day.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Ater the Easter Break...

Okay, so I had a wonderful Easter but did little in the way of work due to travelling and the fact that I left most of the things I needed in Hereford...
Anyway, things have progressed in the past week or so. The business plan was finished in the airport lounge in Edinburgh and handed in with a few days to spare and I have made a few more enquiries concerning premesis etc. and have come up with some very exciting options which I am not going to bore you with!

The music stand has come a long way since first playing with the idea. The measurements have been taken to suit me sitting comfortably with my cello so that the music will sit at the right height and look in proportion to the player.

I have decided to go back to some of my original sketches of a sort of 'swan head' likeness. These shapes kept re-occuring in my sketches and I think they are important to me visually and conceptually. I had thought to make the entire piece from long sections of forged bar, but had a reality check when I made a full sized model of the main a little under four meters it would simply be too much to lift, heat and forge without a large gas furnace and out came plan B. Instead of forging ridiculous sections of bar and then welding thicker pieces on throughout to give the spread I wanted on the curves, I have decided to split the bar into several easily forged sections. I had a tutorial at the forge with A.B. and he helped decide exactly what I wanted the top section to look like which then made it easy for me to design the base to suit.
Splitting the bars up has the added bonus of creating a continuing aesthetic throughout the entire piece and save my back from any unessecary heavy lifting. I think it also looks more like a forged object than a fabricated one as well. Here are some of the designs and a small scale example of how the bar will look in steel.

Balancing work and life...

So sometimes you have days where you're just not interested in work and nothing seems to excite you anymore and all you can think about is getting home...
Well I have these kinds of days every so often and it always annoys me when I realise the reason I've been feeling like that is because I've forgotten why I'm here and what it's all about. What brought me out of this downward spiral was a few choice comments from my tutors. I began explaining again what my work was about and realised again that I had stopped playing music! (This month is purely cello theory).
As soon as I got home I got the guitar out and played to my hearts content, then fired up Sibelius and wrote a tango and finished a section of an orchestral piece I've been working on in the past few months. I remembered exactly what I was all about and why music is so integral to my work - It's who I am and what inspires me!!

Never forget to enjoy your work and remember why you do it!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Song of the day...

I love listening to music everyday when I get the chance in the early hours of the morning, and for me the song of the day that I want to share is 'The Last Polar Bear' by O'Hooley and Tildow.

As it's Earth Hour I think it's fitting.

Have a great day!


So this morning I awoke at 5am with a feeling of determined purpose and a new guitar riff in my head, so for me it was a musical morning! I think that every day should start like this because it makes me feel so alive, so happy and I know that no matter what happens I'm going to have a great day.
It is the last day of the flute for me, and I'm really happy with my progress. I still need to work on my breathing skills (lung capacity needs to increase a lot if I want to play more than five consecutive notes...) however I am teaching myself the Godfather theme which has been in my head all week for some reason...


I love giving gifts to people, especially at the end of a long week or the beginning of a new one. I think that there's nothing more special than making someones day a bit brighter, so with that in mind on Thursday and Friday I used some of my savings from my job at the college to purchase what seemed like half of Thornton's chocolate eggs...I went in three times throughout the day to get Easter eggs for everyone in my year, but ended up buying them for a few more people who definitely deserve a wee Easter gift!! (The young man in the shop must have realised they weren't all for me and kindly gave me a further reduced price, so thank you Thornton's man!!)

My college work has been going quite well as I have finally managed to convince myself that making a soloist music stand is the right thing to do. I think that most of the time the person that stops you from realising your potential, is you. It's hard to admit, but for the past two years I have been stopping myself from actually moving forward and increasing my creative skills!!! Now I am focused and ready for the hard work ahead. With the stand design that I'm making I am going to be working a total of eight meters of 20mm round bar for the main sections, with an added length for the top section where the music sits (and some other details on the main body) and at least 200mm of 10-12mm square copper bar.
I love forging copper every now and then and I like to think that I have managed to get my copper forging skills to an acceptable level. I think it looks great next to mild steel if you get the right finish and I think it's appropriate for this piece to have a least one dissimilar metal just as the piece of music I'm working to has different ideas and sections.

Some photographs will follow tomorrow as today is a day of Spring cleaning, music writing and relaxing because I feel I deserve it!!

That's all for now because the Internet in the house is too unpredictable at the moment!! I would say that to anyone reading this, please support Earth Hour which is happening today at 8.30pm and details of what it's all about can be found on


Monday, 19 March 2012

Final designs for 'Confirmation of Practice'...

Okay, so I realise I never actually posted about finishing the last project, so here is a brief summary of what I did...

Basically the last project was all about music (all of my work for the immediate future is going to be inspired by music), so I listened to a lot of instrumental work and drew along with it. I deconstructed pieces so that I could draw the different ornamentation e.g. mordants, turns etc. as visuals which then became the foundation for my designs.

I decided to pick a product for my design rather than make a sculpture because I liked the idea of making a music stand which could reflect the music on the score.
Below are some pictures of the design process in my sketchbook and then the final items displayed with music scores/books at my college space!!

Below is a picture of my book end/stand, designed to hold a particular book to display the front cover. In this case I chose 'The Scottish Students Songbook' (printed in 1897!!!).

Below are some photographs of my finished music stand.

Long weekends...

Okay, so first I feel I should apologise for the lack of any posts in a while. With the dissertation handed in, I can finally start to work my way towards final designs and final business plan!
The past two weeks have been quite stressful, however I had a wonderful day out in London on Friday 16th March to attend the New Designers Prepare Day.

The day started at 5am for me so that I could pack, shower and collect my tickets from Hereford station. Having never been to London, I was a bit nervous about changing at the right station...Worcester Forgate, or Worcester Shrub Hill...? Luckily the train only stopped at one, so after that it was a straight journey to Paddington Station.

On the two hour journey I managed to write a bit about some of the issues/stories that I could hear around me, from the 'Kindle' to 'The difference between Value and Worth'...I love writing about things when I'm travelling.

I got into Paddington for 11am and made my way to the Tube Station, and I can honestly say that it was my idea of Hell to begin with. There were people rushing around everywhere, there were queues for the cash machine and the ticket machine and then I had to figure out which kind of ticket to get...
Luckily for me one of the other students from Hereford College of Art was attending the Prepare Day and so I phoned her and she came to meet me, then from there it was a quick trip to Angel Station and a five minute walk from there to the Business Design Centre.

My first impression was that it was almost like a shopping mall, and the (Victorian?) design of the building was absolutely beautiful!

After taking a seat near the front there was about two hours of talks about the show, what needs to be presented and how, then a break with the chance to talk to some of the speakers, and then another hour and a half about costing and pricing, copyright and marketing.

I have to admit, that at the beginning of the talk I thought I was going to fall asleep (going out on a pub crawl the night before was not exactly the best thing to do, even if I only had a excuse is that I got a free t-shirt, so obviously had to go!!!), however I kept taking notes and found the entire talk to be really informative, well presented and although a few of the speakers ran over time, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

I think I will be getting the blacksmiths together for a meeting so I can present the information I have and just generally explain what the place is like, what to expect in relation to the stand etc.

I do feel a little guilty for taking the entire day off, however I think it was a good use of my time and I can always make up the time over the next week.

As for today...I am in bed. I think I may have picked up a cold from London so have spent the entire weekend in bed and right now it hurts to move and swallow...However, I am not giving up on the day!!! After I finish blogging, I think I may try and go into college or a least do some sketchbook work and try to get a final design!!

I will leave you with some photographs from London,

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Restful Days...

Sometimes you just need a rest day, and I can think of no better way of relaxing than spending the last day of the working week restoring a violin! Here's a few pictures of the violin as I started to take it apart. As you can see it is quite scratched, so what I'm planning to do is take it right back to the natural wood finish and use a mat laquer to protect it when I'm finished. I may even take one of the side sections out completely (because there's a bit of damage on one side) and put in a pickup then replace the wooden section with an etched brass or copper plate on a hinge so I can have the pickup running off a 9v battery :D
That's for later though. Right now I'm concentrating on getting the varnish off and smoothing out any bumps and scrapes.

I found this violin by a chance enquiry at the local music store where I buy new strings and generally just hang out when I have nothing better to do (not that I've had much free time lately with the dissertation looming...).
I got it free because it had been sitting in the back storage space for so long and isn't anything 'special'. In my eyes, it is very special because it's what inspired my third year work!!

It has been sitting in a corner in my room for too long and last Friday I decided it was time to have a day to myself working on something which isn't all about the final grade. This job lets me think about my work; why I do what I do, why I work to music and why I'm here!!!
I got in for about 9am and the workshop was so quiet, I found myself spending a good four hours sanding away thinking about what I'm going to make for my final project. There's something wonderful in a realatively simple, repetative task which lets your mind wonder and I ended up having a few break-throughs for my next design.

I haven't finished the violin yet, but it's a work in progress and I'm spending the time and effort in making it as good as can be because it's an object that represents the heart of my work and I guess my life as well. After all everything I've ever done has revolved around music in some way and it's about time I start paying attention to all aspects of my creativity lest I forget what I am all about!

The next time you feel drained and can't think straight, have a day to yourself. Do something that makes you happy and nine times out of ten you'll feel better and probably have a break-through whether it's to do with your personal life or your work!
That's all for now,

P.S. It's day four of learning the flute, and I've just about learned how to play all of the notes on two octaves. Though I'm going to admit that sometimes I accidentally shift to the lower octave...I need a bit more practice, but hopefully soon I'll be learning some tunes!!!

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The early bird...

Okay, so first off I should appologise for the delay in an update!! I realise it's been a few months since my last post and a lot has happened...

I had a major breakdown in November/December which affected my work and my general mood. However I had a break of three weeks over Christmas and the New Year and have started off this year on a very high note!
My main resolution for the new year is to learn a new musical instrument every month. In the morning I say goodbye to the chromonica and hello to the flute :D
Now you might think that this is a rather strange resolution, but it brightens my day to think that I am actively trying to learn new things outwith my degree and as all of my work relates to music anyway I feel it will only make me happier than I already am.

For the past month or so I have been getting up at 5am and doing my back excercises then working on my dissertation for a while before heading into college for about 8am. I love the early mornings there because I can do sketchbook work in peace, listen to music if I want to, whistle or even sing out loud to myself without disturbing anyone :D
I handed in my last project on the 6th February after a lot of hard work at the forge. 8am start with the longest day finishing at 9.45pm!!! Not recomended for any length of time, but the hard worked paid off as I was able to hand in a finished piece of work along with a few other pieces which could be considered as final design outcomes.

After the hand-in my dissertation has become my main focus, and with only two weeks remaining I have been putting in the hours to make up for the lost time during 'the breakdown'...
I have started some initial research into what my final project is going to be, though it is 'Resolution of Practice' so really just resolving any issues and pushing towards creating a final body of work which (for me) will be a continuation of the last project.

Above is an image of my working drawing of my final design for a music stand. Although the final piece was altered a little, I think it's a great wee sketch on some sheet metal out at the forges! This next photograph is just some of the forged bars positioned in a shape which I was considering for a panel or partition of some kind, either for a fence or gate or even the back section of a bench.

Below is another simple formation of the forged elements I was working with. Sometimes it's good to just play around with the bits of bar you have because 9 times out of 10 you'll spot something which really works!!

There shall be more photographs to follow, but for now I think it's time to get the sketchbook out and do some work!