Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We could form some kind of alliance, we could do what we wanted to do

On Monday I attended a felted beads workshop with Carol Cypher, courtesy of the ACT Textile Arts Association, which generously allowed me (a non-member) to attend.

Carol Cypher

Carol's long, dreadlocked (essentially felted), beaded hair seemed very appropriate.

We started with a basic bead. You start by making a sphere, and then when it is about half-felted, you can begin to mould it into a more interesting shape such as a bicone. I went with a sort of rectangular thingy... which I ultimately found very uninteresting.
A basic bead

Then we got onto more interesting methods, making and felting 'cigars' and then cutting them up in different ways. I had to play catch-up a bit here to learn the technique, as most of the others had attended the workshop on Sunday as well - they made lariat necklaces. The picture below shows a the fibre before any felting. These are quite small (abandoned part-way) and could probably do with more layers of fibre.
fibre cigars
And here is a felted cigar which I didn't quite finish during the day - it needs a little more felting and fulling* (bashing against hard surfaces - very primal and satisfying) before I cut it to see what's inside. I really can't remember, so that should be fun.

Slicing cigar sides 1
To make cube beads, you cut the roll of felt on four sides, exposing the inner layers of colours.
Slicing cigar sides 2
Mine are a little bit funky, not strictly cubes. It takes a very sharp knife and a sure, decisive hand (err - and brain) to do them well.
Now, I've never been in love with felted beads. As jewellery, I think they're often in the category of 'just because you can, doesn't mean you should'. Not always - of course there are exceptions. Anyway I really enjoyed having a go at these techniques (and felting in general, I mean the kind you don't knit first). I also thought there might be a way to make felt buttons.

Generally you can't slice the felt thinner than a couple of centimetres, because if the fibres are too short they will fall apart, regardless of how well they have been felted. There are ways to artifically stabilise them with an acrylic medium or other clear glues. However, the side slices (leftover from making the cubes) are stable AND thin. And they could make very cool buttons, which I why I cut them to roughly equal sizes. As they are, they would be ok for decorative buttons; if they need to actually function they might yet need stabilising, to make them hard enough.
slice buttons
Here's another roll I made, only getting around to cutting off the ends. I will mostly likely slice the rest of it into about four beads. You are probably starting to notice I didn't have a big range of colours! Just enough to experiment with.
Pink slice
The grand finale was the 'complex cane' beads. This is comparable to cane techniques for glassmaking, and people do much the same thing with modelling clay too. Basically we made tight rolls of two or three colours, then bundled them into a bigger roll. Well, that's what I did, I wish I had managed an extra level of complexity with smaller rolls and different sizes bundled together. As it is they're somehow meaty looking, and with practice I hope I could get a finer and prettier result.
Complex canes

*Ah. What to do with the term "fulling". Yes, I am aware that the kind of felting I do (knit-then-felt) is 'properly' termed fulling. Traditional feltmakers seem to be VERY quick to correct me on this point. But then I find that 'fulling' is also used to describe the processes used to harden felt in the later stages of feltmaking. (The bit where we bashed our 'cigars' against tables, the floor, the concrete outside, etc.) As far as I'm concerned, knit-then-felt techniques are a way of creating felt, therefore it can be called 'felting'. I'm leaning towards just saying 'knit-then-felt' when I need to make the distintion.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

My beats per minute never been the same

Almost two years ago I embarked on a project to make buttons. I had a collection of these nicely rounded, flattish shells, and all they needed was holes drilled into them to make a quirky present for my mum. Mum loves buttons. That might even be a small understatement.
shell buttons

The drilling of the holes turned out to involve perhaps a few more frustrations than I expected. After some trial and error I worked out a method that worked acceptably. Each hole was started using a 'grinder' drill bit (one meant for a Dremel tool but it goes in the normal drill just fine) to sand away the shiny surface and make a small depression. Then I was able to drill the hole with a standard drill bit. It took a LONG time to drill through each shell, especially as I discovered that the last stretch should be done at low speed so that I could stop just before the bit broke through the shell, and then use the grinder from the other side, to make a neater hole.
SBJ 2_img_9599
When I finally gave the set to mum last year, at least a year after I had started the project, I didn't think she would necessarily use them but I thought they would at least be an interesting and novel addition to her collection. So it was a thrill for me when she made herself a new jacket recently, and used the shell buttons. Smoother side out for the main buttons, and ridged side for the cuffs.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Boys and things that come by the dozen

Black Crowes

Last week we were lucky enough to have free tickets to see the Black Crowes at the Royal Theatre. Good show, not the music that gives me the greatest thrill but they are pretty good at what they do. The drum solo certainly could have been a good 10 minutes shorter.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Though I've never been there I know it's always greener

I've put up a set of photos from V festival 2008 in Flickr. I haven't managed to find a new angle for festival/gig photography yet. Shots of the big screens are still keeping me amused.
Air at V Festival

We spent a shorter day at the festival this year. We arrived about 3ish and the whole thing was over earlier this year, all done by about 10pm.

When we arrived, Cut Copy had a huge crowd (huge considering the early hour) bouncing wildly. They sounded pretty good but we went wandering. We ended up mostly seeing halves of various sets.

First I sought out Modest Mouse because of the allure of Johnny Marr - but they were disappointing. So we quit early and moved on to Roisin Murphy, who sang that huge hit for Moloko 'Bring it back'. None of her solo work is quite as catchy but she has a great voice and I enjoyed it, including her crazy hat - a cross between a formal hat and a Devo flowerpot.
Then there was The Jesus and Mary Chain - great music, although not particularly animated musicians. Yes they used to be famous for some kind of mayhem though, it appears, from the fans as much as the band. I know it's kind of the wrong way around but I was just staring at the screen thinking it's Christian Slater! The sunnies, the hairline?

I was keen to see Air, and we tried them for a while. But the crowd was just wrong. I couldn't get into the music for all the loud talking of the people around us. It didn't help that it started raining lightly. Apparently they were doing a show at the Opera House, and I think that would have been a much better way to enjoy this kind of atmospheric and sometimes quiet music.
QOTSA at V Festival
Queens of the Stone Age was the main act of the day for K, and this was the only full set we saw. Once again the festival crowd made things less than ideal, and strangely the sound was not turned up nearly as loud as it had been for JMC and others on the same stage. With this kind of band you DON'T expect people talking near you to be a problem! Regardless, I really enjoyed the set, and now I think I would go and see them if they tour again.

We arrived at Duran Duran's show halfway through and struggled through the unfamiliar mid-section of the set until they returned to the greatest hits catalogue. I don't know if it is just his stage persona but Simon Le Bon is pure ego. Kind of fantastic, and repulsive at the same time. As a lead-in to playing Girls on film he did this whole bit about having met with the 'Chief of Police' before they came out that night and ascertained that it 'if any girls wanted to take their tops off, that would be ok'. Sigh. And with one camera trained on the crowd, a few pairs did bounce onto the screen throughout the rest of the show. Also during Girls on film, Simon introduced band members one-by-one in suitably over-the-top fashion. Finally, with finger to his lips he shushed the crowd, paused, and yelled at the top of his voice, 'What's my name?!!!'. Like I said, pure ego.

Finally we wandered off to catch a bit of the Smashing Pumpkins. I did love the long skirt that Billy Corgan was wearing. They played the Star-Spangled Banner which seemed a bit misguided while touring Australia. It might have made sense if it then morphed into Waltzing Matilda, but no dice. After that we heard only the end of the Presets last song, and it was time to go. Overall we felt a bit flat about it after the huge highlight of last year. I'm happy though, to have seen bands like Duran Duran and the Jesus and Mary Chain. And of course QOTSA.

Edited to add: I found a couple of pics showing Billy Corgan's long, tiered, metallic skirt. Though it didn't look as shiny as that from where I was sitting.