Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A dragon a day keeps the scorn of teens away

six demo dragon heads
The six dragon heads from the demo.  Two have horns. 

A couple with beards
     A couple of months ago, actually just before winter break,  my daughter's art teacher asked me if I could come to the school and do a demo.  It would take place right after winter break.  Without really thinking, I said yes.  Then I thought it through..  You know how you spend the first 25 or so years of your kids lives telling them to THINK ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR ACTIONS.   I should have paid attention to myself.  I guess the tone of my voice really is inaudible, although, it seems my kids did listen.  Where was I while I was blathering on about this crap. 

Side view. 
     I will admit that I have always been a girl who can't say no....sigh...get your mind out of the gutter.  I mean when it comes to work.  I very rarely say no when I am working.  There has to be a really good reason.  Like the plan defies the laws of physics or something like that.  Otherwise I will try everything I can to make it happen.  No is so final.  Final is done.  Done is beautiful.  Done without being right might be beautiful but it isn't satisfying.  It won't satisfy my customers and it doesn't satisfy me.  I'm a people pleaser.  What can I say?  Phooo...if you know me, you know that isn't true, but you also know how much I despise the automatic no response.
     No is easy.  Yes is a challenge, and a challenge met is a pleasure.  So I said yes to the demo.
I've never done a demo.  There are a lot of reasons for that.  I don't see work as a spectator sport.  I can't think of anything more tedious than watching someone work.  Also PERFORMANCE ANXIETY.  Big sigh. 

I like this one
     I said yes to this without having any details.  Yes can be problematic.  I found out after saying yes that it wasn't so much a demo as six demos.  One for each period of the day.  After hyperventilating for a few..well it seemed like days, I tried to figure out what I could possibly show.  What could I possibly demo.  I have a fairly wide range of skills, but some of them would be really painful to watch so forging something seemed safest.  The next question was what could I forge that would be magical enough to hold the interest of high school students.  

steps to make a dragon head
These are the basic steps to convert square bar into a dragon head.  Easy without an audience.

I don't know why I curved the neck
     A couple more days of panic and I finally settled on dragons.  I would forge dragon heads from square bar.   To forge dragons I would need a forge, an anvil, a vice and a few hand tools.  I could do this.  I felt that I should be as prepared as possible because there's nothing quite as unpleasant as the scorn of teens.  That's what a group of teens should be called.  A scorn.  A herd of cattle, a murder of crows and a scorn of teens.

Different lower lip
     It's impossible to predict all the problems you will encounter in any situation until you have lived through something similar.  My nervousness about this whole demo business led me to what I now call "A dragon a day month".  Yes, I did make a dragon almost every day for a month.  And yes, I now have a bucket of dragons that I will have to do something with.  It was actually a nice way to warm the shop in the morning. 

This is a nice trio
     A couple of days before the demo was scheduled, the art teacher asked what kind of power I needed.  I had been worried over the detail questions.  I told him I didn't need power.  I was honest.  I said I was bringing propane, an anvil, a vice and some hand tools.  I also said it should happen outside.  Apparently he had the sense not to mention to the schools administration that I was going to have any of these things.  He claimed nobody asked. 

     So...the demo happened.   

There are so many
     On the up side, I was able to make six dragons in front of six  groups of teens in the courtyard of the high school without lighting myself on fire, or drawing any of my own blood, or shooting a tool across the intervening space and skewering a student.  I consider that a win.  On the downside, there were so many things that I did not anticipate.  I work in a cave.  It's dark and there's no climate control.  Out in the courtyard in the sunshine,  I could not see the color of the metal.  I was never sure if it was hot enough.  I realized how much I rely on the color of the metal to gauge the heat.  Also I was staged under a tree.  I don't care what the poem says, it's not good under the limbs of a tree.  There are roots to trip over.  

     Also, high school is weird.  There are a lot of people, and these are adults, that just seem to aimlessly wander around.  They were distracting.  Oh yeah, and some kids were setting up for some event in the courtyard for the last three periods of the day.  I had probably practiced too much so I made my dragon heads too fast and had to fill.  That was a pain that will linger.  I can barely hold the interest of my own teen.  Other people's teens, there was just no way.

     All in all, though, it went really well.  That the art teacher didn't bother to tell the administration I was bringing a 100 lb bottle of propane, or that I would have a 2000 degree open flame made it much easier.  And nobody got burned.  That's a win.  Plus the final period kids helped me load the tools back onto my trailer so I could get out of there.  

     Now I have six more dragons to add to my collection. 

Dragon candle holder.  Black heat horn mishap
     I don't know if I will ever do a demo again, but at least now I have some idea of how, and in front of the toughest audience anywhere.  Six scorns of teens.  It doesn't get any tougher than that.  I can demo for anyone now. 
Dragon door pull



     This is a fairly bad video I made of the demo.  As you can tell if you watch it, it is really hard to see the color of the steel in the sunlight.  At 3 1/2 minutes it's also incomplete.  It was hard to get video without blocking the view of the kids so the angles aren't very good and a lot of the demo is missing.  The sound was horrible so I turned the audio off.  But it will give a bit of an idea.  I'm working on my video skills so maybe the next video will be better. 

If it doesn't load it's on YouTube.  Here's the link

  Ok, back to work.  Lots of dragons to process.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Can anyone tell me what art is?

Pin Up Girl
This is a piece I made several years ago.
It's currently in a show at the Las Vegas City Hall Grand Gallery.
Sounds fancy no?
I had to name it for the show because ART has a name.
I call it "Pin-up Girl".
It's hung on a little nail on the wall in my house for years.
I whipped up the stand for the show because it had to sit on a pedestal.
Can it be classified as "fine art"?  
I have no idea.

     I feel like I'm a little off my game this month.  I guess it's because I'm annoyed which has distracted me.  I've been approached five (I'm going to be specific about this) times in the last week by people asking me to show my work.  I don't mind showing my work.  What annoys me is that all the people who approached me want to show "fine art".  It's not the people who have gotten under my skin. They are all lovely and generous people.  It's the idea.  I find the idea of ART a confusing trap.  What is art?  My evolving definition is, art is any work that makes a deliberate statement about the human condition. This isn't necessarily a universal definition. What is fine art?  I have no idea.  Why would what I do in any way qualify as fine art or not?  Again, I have no idea.  This is what comes of fuzzy definitions and marketing constructs.  

wall decor
This is wall decor.  ???  Not mine

     Here's the thing.  For millennia people just made stuff.  They painted on cave walls, and made pots, and carved weapons from stone, and fashioned pelts into garments, and all the rest.  It was just part of what made us human.  Deep down, or for some of us right on the surface, we still have that drive to make stuff.  There are always needs to be met.  I wonder when we allowed ourselves to be separated from this basic human drive.  Also, why we value some forms of creativity more than others.

     A few years ago the musician Patti Smith wrote a book called "Just Kids".  In it she talks about her friendship  with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and being a young artist in New York.  My take from the book is that Patti is driven to create not by the need to create, or the desire to be an artist, but because she isn't capable of not creating.  She is fully in touch with the thing that makes her human.  She cannot live without creating.  This is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but it's a sentiment that I can fully relate to.  I feel adrift if I am not engaged in making things.  

     So?  Is it art?

     It's stuff and I am constantly working on my craft.  I am always challenging myself to do what I do better.  But just using the word craft reduces the value of my work.  Somehow in the 19th century, after the patronage system fell apart and ART was created as a marketing ploy, craft took a huge hit.  So now people who have not mastered a craft can be artists.  Yes, this is pissy of me.  I don't resent people who throw spit wads at plywood and call it art.  It may be art for all I know.  I just think that those of us who make functional things should get more respect.  Because I'm starting to think "fine art" means it can't have a function and it needs a way to have value.  And maybe that is why I am annoyed.  

Picasso.  I would hang it on my wall.

     Artists will often tell you that it's not about the money, but the whole idea of ART is designed to give financial value to work that has no intrinsic value.  This is fine with me.  I do think that many of those things that we see as art are important.  It is a way to communicate ideas, especially unpopular ideas.  However, much of what is called fine art is just pretty decor. It makes no statement,  deliberate or accidental,  about the human condition and often requires little skill. It's something that fills a space on the wall or in a niche.  It sells because most people don't want something in their home that never shuts up.  Something that constantly nags at them.  We want a peaceful environment.  I get that, but there seems to be an odd disconnect in these definitions.  And yes, this is about the money.  In a capitalist society, money equals respect.   Again back to why I'm annoyed.  I don't understand why someone who has little skill but makes colorful decor and calls it fine art gets more respect than someone who is highly skilled and makes useful objects that may or may not be called art.  Artisans need better marketers.  

wall decor
Not Picasso.  I would not hang this on my wall, but ?????

     Anyway, now I either have to tell the nice people no or I have to decide which of the things I make constitute "fine art".  In any case, I need to let go of being annoyed.  I can't change the world.  Plus, it probably doesn't want to change and we all know how that usually works out.   My hunch is that I will just not show.  The fine art designation is too confusing for me.

Chased elephant mirror
Detail of one of my pieces.  It's a mirror.  Is it art  ?????

     Maybe if I whine long enough and loud enough someone will tell me that they want to show things made of metal where the metal has been moved by hammers and chisels.  I could do that show.  

Time to stop whining and get back to work.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

Holiday musings and how to embarrass yourself with homemade gifts

This is a pretty good approximation of the hangers my mother sent
the 5 year old me to school with.
 I stole this from the internet because I thought you should see it.
 I think this is a plastic hanger though.  So not exactly right. 

This is a restrained version on a wire hanger.  Not nearly enough tulle.
And also my mother always wrapped the hanger in satin ribbon.
Photo also stolen from the internet.

          When I was a kid, my mother made "drip dry" hangers for my teachers for the holidays every year.  I don't really remember there being plastic hangers, so I'm pretty sure they were the metal ones.  She would take metal hangers and wrap tulle around them.  She also made pot scrubbers to go with the hangers.  Then on the last day of school before winter break, I was forced to carry these puffy hangers, which were approximately twice my size, to school.  

        I don't know if the teachers were happy to have these handmade gifts or just relieved that it wasn't another coffee mug.  I don't know if people gave coffee mugs then, but I'm guessing that hasn't changed.  I'm sure this is where I learned to torture my own children by making teacher gifts each year.  At least they knew nobody else was getting that for the teacher.  
This is actually a handmade pot scrubber from, and I'm not kidding...www.themakeyourownzone.com  Go there

                  So my thought with this post was this.  I would go into the local home improvement store and see if I could find some materials that could be made into something that could be given as a gift this holiday season.  I did this and you will see the results but I'm not altogether sure I succeeded.  There are a couple reasons for that.  The biggest reason is probably that I was trying to work without tools or clamps.  I mean, why would you have tools and clamps.  I do, but as I understand the world, most people don't.  Plus I might have had some sort of brain freeze creatively.  It really didn't work out the way I thought it would but it is probably pathetically funny. 

         So here we go.....oh yeah, I haven't ever tried to take moving pictures of myself doing things so I hope they don't make you sick.  Also, the phone kept falling over and moving during taping so this will probably be rough.  

All the parts of this project. 
You can take the sticker off  
          I suppose, actually, I acknowledge that this first project is cheesy but it's no cheesier than a hanger wearing a tutu and for the incense lovers in your life it could distract them from ... something.  In my memory these straps were $ .88.  Eh, I bought them more than a week ago.  This incense holder takes no tools and maybe you could make it better with a little imagination.  Start with a $2.08 (at Home Depot) downspout strap.  I don't know why they sell these in Vegas because nobody has downspouts in the desert.  We just watch the water rise from all angles as it cascades off every part of our roofs.  It's too rare for actual downspouts.  Anyway, the straps are steel, I don't know if that matters for this, and they are scored (this is the wrong word for it but it's what I've got) so that they will bend easily only at 4 points.  I overdid the bend to start and the incense stick wouldn't stand.  Don't overdo your bend.  Also it's not my incense.  I don't want you getting the wrong idea about me.  I don't own any incense. Just like the tulle pictures, I stole this stick of incense.

After I got the bend right it works ok.
I don't think the incense lovers will notice.

          I am sorry about that video, but the next one will be worse.  So the incense holder isn't very exciting but you can make it whatever you want.  Just add you. 

          For my next trick I will be showing you how to make something even less useful which is amazing because that last thing wasn't useful at all.  Honestly, this is probably one of the worst ideas I've ever had and that's after a lifetime of bad ideas. 

          I thought I was making a soap dish or something, but maybe it's just another incense holder.  Try to remember that I was trying to do all this stuff with minimal tools. 

Tie plates????
      I found these tie plates.  It's some construction thing.  I guess they use these to make wood longer or something.  They are galvanized steel so they aren't supposed to rust but I bet if you actually use them for a soap dish they might.  I guess I could have tested that for you but I didn't think of it until just now.  These things are pretty cheap and with more imagination than I was able to muster, maybe they could become something.  To bend the tie plates I used a hammer and a piece of 2x4 wood.  You could use any hammer.  I did have to clamp the wood down.  If you have to buy any of those things this probably isn't worth it.  I used the $ .88 and $ .54 plates.  That's where I got that 88 cents.  I also riveted them together.  I cheated.  You would probably need to use screws and nuts because I think most people don't have rivets and rivet tools.  The screws are pretty cheap too.  So I'm guessing you could make this useless thing for about the same amount as the other useless thing. .... watch and learn. 

           It's a bit harder to make the bend between holes than it is to make the bend at the holes.  Sponge, soap, whatever.  Candle? 

I don't know why I do angled pictures. 
If you decide to try either of these projects, or if you are inspired to try something else after wandering the isles of your local home improvement or hardware store, send me pictures.  I know you can make a pipe fitting lamp.  There are about 70,000 YouTube videos of that, but these little things can be fun because you actually make the metal move.  I'm all about moving metal.  

Enjoy your holidays, and if you like incense, I apologize for my insensitivity.  It's just not my thing,  

Now back to work