I have been very much focused so far on the idea of having a series of medals, which interact or interlock in some way. However, I am beginning to have doubts as to whether this detracts from the over all strength of the piece? Would it not be better to have my message so clear and crystalised that it can be expressed very powerfully in a single medal? Does having it spread over a series give each medal a lesser impact?
Again, while I am not set on the idea of flowers as a motif, it is currently the best form of imagery I have to work with as an example. Here we can see my continued ideas of embedding ceramic into a bronze medal, with the ceramic surface being painted delicately and detailed with blue cobalt glaze in the style of classic ceramic pieces, against the polished surface of the bronze as a background. This difference in material between the bronze and ceramic gives the opportunity for creating a very clear silhouette of the image. In these examples the silhouette is kept either the same, so that when the medal is turned over horizontally it remains the same, or reversed so that it clearly is the back side and lines up with the front image. While these silhouettes would remain the same as the original image (potentially reversed, but otherwise the same) the image painted inside this silhouette would then be different between the front and reverse sides. In this example, on one side the flower is in full bloom, while on the reverse the branch is covered with unopened buds and leaves instead.
This is one of the qualities of the medal which is not available in other mediums, the ability to mirror itself. The two sided quality allows for a very particular dynamic to be made, a parralel or an inherent link being made between the two images rather than them being seen as separate. In my opinion it is often medals which make use of this quality that are the strongest. It allows for a form of pacing, a rhythm, in the handling, the turning over, the obeserving. It is also interesting that it forces the user to remember the previous image. Rather than having two images laid next to one another which can both be observed at the same time, a medal only allows the viewer to experience one side at a time, forcing you to hold the first image in your mind while you observe the reverse face.
It occured to me in my previous sketches that I was making little to no use of the background, other than a backdrop for the main image. Again, the interplay between the two sides of the medal is very important in my opinion, and perhaps this can be achieved through use of the background contrasted against the image in the foreground. Not only this, it gives a good demonstration and contrast between the two sides of the medal, with the smooth painted ceramic and the bronze which can be sculpted in relief and patinated, giving a contrast of texture as well as colour. I feel that this has the potential to be very visually appealing. Not only this, but it allows the development of narrative to be formed between the two sides, with new aspects being unveiled on the reverse side which were not evident initially; a look ‘behind the scenes’ as it were. This is something I touched on in a previous post, looking at artists who use the two sides of the medal in tandem with each other in order to progress a narrative.
While I think in some ways, having a single medal can be a very powerful piece, and is usually the standard format of the medal, I still find myself drawn to the idea of a series or a set of medals. This was something which even came through in my work last year, making a pair of medals, and I think it is linked to my enjoyment of the rhythym of medalsl and wanting to extend this across a series. Not just picking one medal up, turning it over, but then picking up the next, and turning that over, and the next after that. The unfolding of new information in order to form a larger narrative, and this keeps the viewer engaged for longer and gives them a curiousity to find out more. It cannot simply be glanced at and taken in, it needs to be experienced and considered by the user. Not only this, but if I am looking to express the building and development of self, I do not think that this is something I can capture in a set of two (or potentially three, using the side) images. It is an all too complex topic, which encorporates many different stages and experiences in life, rather than reducing it to simply a “before and after” image. While I am sure that it is entirely possibly to represent this level of complexity in a single medal, I certainly feel that the series expresses it more clearly, as well as playing to my own personal interest in a set of medals.
It is looking at the moment that I will indeed progress with making a series of medals, however, as with everything in this project, it is still open to change.
I have spoken in my past couple of previous posts looking at medal design ideas about the idea of having a transitioning image. However, I have been unable to illustrate this clearly without an image or motif to work with. Despite this, I think in image I have had in the back of my mind as a reference and basis for my ideas is a piece by M. C. Escher
With this in mind, I tried to apply this to my medal designs as a reference to how my designs might work
As shown here, I envisage the imagery spreading across the surface of the medal, from one side to another, with the picture gradually changing. While each medal’s image might be quite distinct on its own (in this example, either of fish or of birds), when put together the overlap becomes much more obvious and shows a more subtle pattern emerging that might not be noticable at any given moment in time. In this way, I feel it is representative of the human being; at any one point in time a person may present themselves in a certain manner, their personality and their well-being. However, when looking back at points in their past (recent or much further) they may be near unrecognisable, as well as many transient phases in between these points.
I then started thinking in terms of how this design would be applied practically, in terms of combining bronze and ceramic. The most practical solution I could think of was to have a bronze base for the medals, which then has the thinner porcelain layer embedded into the surface. This allows for each surface to have a combination of bronze and ceramic, as well as the oppotunity for the variety of textures between the two surfaces, and the ability to paint the ceramic with glaze. However, it does bring into question the aesthetic of the edge. Will it become very thick? Will it be visually unappealing having the ceramic cut into the surface of the bronze? Perhaps this could be covered up, with a ringed edge; but does this barrier then separate each medal from the next too obviously? Is the edge simply ignored, and acts as a means to an end for a practical purpose? These are all questions to contemplate, and that will hopefully become clearer as time goes on.
Exploring the idea of having a transitioning image across the surface of a medal, or a series of medals, I made some sketches.
There are several elements to these sketches which I think are avenues with pursuing. I am finding designing medals with the mixed media of bronze and ceramic very interesting, and the change in surface through a continued image is something that could be very visually appealing. While I have used a (rough) blue and white flower pattern as means of illustrating the medals in these pictures, this is certainly not a fixed motif at this point and is used mainly as an example to demonstrate a layout or dynamic for the medals. There is also room here for exploration of texture, with one surface being purely illustrated, for example the ceramic surface being flat and painted, with the bronze surface then being carved in relief.
Another interesting idea to come out of these sketches is the element of stacking the medals. As I envision them here, the medals would have an image or motif which would travel across the faces of the medal, and onto the side surface. This side surface, when stacked atop the set of medals in a certain order would form an image of its own. Potentially, the medals could be stacked in a variety of ways creating a variety of different pictures telling separate narratives. Alternatively, the medals could have a particular order in which they are meant to be stack, and the image would only be revealed when put in this order.
While not necessary to the notion of stacking, one way in order to get the medals to stack together is to have them physically fit and interlock, through relief and imprint of surface. This guarantees that the medals are arranged at least a degree of order, facing in the same direction. If the surfaces were flat, they would each be able to be rotated, and if they could then also be stacked in any order this would likely create to many possibilities to be able to create any cohesive narrative or image. If this were the case, it would have to be made very clear which way the medals were supposed to face, and intuitive in how they were arranged.
As I am looking at using the combination of bronze and ceramic in my medals, it seems fitting to investigate using the traditional imagery of blue flower print as a form of narrative. It has been suggested to me that I incorporate my drawing skills into my work with the medals this year, something which I have largely avoided up until this point and have kept the drawings purely in the form of sketchbook work as a means of planning ideas. Because of this I feel it is very likely that my medals will be illustrated in some form, and the combination of ceramic and bronze offers a good platform in which to do so, with the ceramic surface being prime for painting upon and exploring fine brush work.
While I certainly have an appreciation of ceramics, I have never done a huge amount of research into the area, and when I have it has been geared mostly towards individual artists, most of whom create sculptural work. However despite this, when thinking about illustrated ceramics the first image that comes to mind is the classic imagery of blue and white flower patterns on tableware, such as plates.
With this in mind, I did a water colour sketch of a flower pattern, which I translated into blue and white, as a visual reference for myself.
In terms of imagery, I feel that flower pattern could be promising. One matter which I am certain of in my medal design which I am aspiring to, is that I do not want the imagery to be literal. The subject matter which I am trying to depict are the various different stages, states of being, elements of personality and experience that are formed throughout life. These are often formed gradually, changing from one state to another, reverting to earlier stages, mirroring and reflecting back and forth in an ever changing development. Because of this, I want my imagery to be something which is changeable and can transition and change across the medal or series of medals. I would like these images to be able to be interchanged in order to create different images or narratives (as discussed briefly in an earlier post) but carry a running theme or image throughout as a narrative carrier. However, in order to do this transitioning imagery I feel that the subject has to be something relatively ambiguous and fluid, with various different states of being which can be naturally interchanged.
In these terms, flowers could potentially work well. They have a range of states which can be used as an analogy for states of well-being in a person; budding, closed, flowering, blooming, wilting, etc which quite intuitively can be related to emotional states such as fragility, confidence, strength, personal growth, triumph and loss. Not only this but there is already a large wealth of history of flowers being used as symbols in art to represent a variety of subject matter. This combined with the tradition of blue and white flower print in ceramics could be an interesting avenue to explore, taking traditional decorative imagery and applying a deeper level of meaning and symbolism in order to change its function from decoration to narrative. I can also see the pattern transitioning well, having blooming and wilting flowers next to each other in a sequence that can be arranged in any sequence while still looking seamless and fluid.
After some tribulation with trying to find a laser printer which I could load my own paper into, I managed to get my flies printed onto my ceramic decal paper.
I figured seeing as I only had one sheet, and I couldn’t print onto it more than once I may as well completely fill it, and this also leaves me with the option of making plenty of dead fly tableware in future.
After laminating it, I carefully cut out some of the dead flies. This was difficult as the drawings are hard to see between the two layers of paper, but holding it up to the light I was able to see enough to cut an accurate silhouette
First, the instructions said to turn the image so that it is “right reading”. I can only assume that this means opposite to the way it was printed? And then wet that side with a damp sponge. After 30 seconds, slide off the white paper on the top layer.
Then submerge the decal in water until soaked, and remove, then placing face down (revealed side down) onto your surface.
After this, leave it to cool in lukewarm water for 3-5 minutes. The instructions then say to remove the “clear plastic film” from the surface of decals, but gently trying to peel away at it I found I was only pulling the decal itself off. This is likely something that I’ve done wrong, but nonetheless the end product looks great
Before printing out onto my special ceramic decal paper, I wanted to first test out how various sized version of the flies looked, both in terms of quality and in the context of the bowl itself.
I think that the medium-small sized flies are the most effective, with the largest flies being to big and the smallest being too small. The flies which are closest to the real size of flies, if not slightly larger are the most off putting, with the potential to mistake them for real flies. While I very much like having a small amount of flies in the bottom of a bowl, when cutting them out I found there is also something very pleasing about having many flies of all different sizes laid out in a pattern.
Now that I have most of my ceramic houses out the kiln, I can finally get to the matter of wiring them up with SEDNA lights. While I originally planned to use a series of sensors and arduino in order to change the strength of the lights, causing them to be brighter and flicker the closer that a person gets to the piece, I have not been able to implement this due to nobody being available to teach me the basics of arduino.
I began with these basic components, and while this may be very simple to someone with any small degree of computing knowledge, for me this alone was extremely daunting.
Thankfully I have had some experiencing with soldering in the past on a handful of occasions, and while I wouldn’t say that I am confident with soldering I was able to manage on my own. This involved soldering the positive red wires together, and the negative black or white and black striped wires together to complete a circuit between the LEDs and the battery clip.
I was advised by a first year that by cutting a small section of plastic tube, and then placing it over the soldered wire and heating with a flame, it then seals so that it is more secure and no longer an exposed section of wire
Once the wires are connected up, I could then attach the battery clip onto the 9V battery which lit up the lights! This was extremely exciting to me, even if it is only a small feat, it felt like a real achievement for me.
Putting the lights inside the buildings was not such a technical matter, using masking tape to hold the lights and wires in place
With the lights inside, I must say I find these buildings even more appealing. The pieces themselves are quaint and I feel that they would sell very well, especially in a craft setting. With the lights, not only are they decorative they also have a novel and functional quality, which allows it to appeal to a market outside the art world.