Friday, April 25, 2014

Knitting Hard for Warmth.

Mum (creator of the Zombies, embroidered iPhone case, Advent Calendar, Kindle cover  cross-stitched Sage Francis pieces and penises!) has pulled off yet another knit-tastic piece with her woollen cover for our hot water tank!

Although insulated, our tank doesn’t have an airing or linen cupboard and we’d started to notice that it lost way too many degrees overnight. When your hot water is generated solely through the wood you burnt in the wood burner the night before, and can’t be ’topped up’ with gas, this is a big deal.

There was a huge amount of calculation, mockup-making and working-out of the possible problems and logistics before she could even think about the knitting part. We all had a go at designing it - me, Leigh, Graham, but in the end, she worked it out herself. Just as she used to make my dolls’ clothes, by sitting the doll on her knee and basically starting to knit round her, so the same system was applied to the tank. Knit the top, knit the main hanging parts, then sit by the tank and knit the other bits to fit, starting with a medusa-like network of copper pipes (bit of a theme lately those things!)

Then there were agonies over the colours. Our bathroom is all white with a bit of turquoise on the fireplace. I wanted white, Leigh fancied primary colours; Mum wasn’t sure. Then Leigh hit upon the idea of the colours of electrical cables for the pipes, which are pretty distinctive, with an all-white tank. She started knitting sock-like tubes in an array of stitches for the pipes, offering them up as they were completed, and then The Massive Needles, the like of which we’d never seen before, arrived of the rest of the tank.

Here’s how the finished tank looks complete with surprise residents. And yes - it’s solved the problem of heat loss overnight! It was a mega-effort. Thanks Mum!
(She can’t stop, by the way - she actually can’t. She’s done me a white crocheted bed blanket since…)

A fine palindrome, letter-presssed for Katie Wirsing.

It’s been a musical period indeed. As well as drawing the illustrations for Sage’s Copper Gone album and the art for our own 7” single released last week I did this illustration for US spoken-word poet Katie Wirsing. We’ve only just been able to rub our eyeballs over the finished product and we’re deeply impressed by how beautiful the print is! I’ve been waiting quite a long time to share this.

We know Katie via her place in the extended Sage-based circle of humans, as a compatriot of Buddy Wakefield and Andrea Gibson, Leigh having toured with them a couple of years ago. She asked if I’d do an image for her new album and of course I saw the opportunity for some hardcore pen action and went for it. It’s all nib pen and ink, no fineliners this time. The idea is taken from the title - an exquisite revolver pre-loaded with love, but you have to squeeze the human-heart handle and trigger hard before it’ll fire. And even then, you never know if it’s going to be a Yes or a No. So…are you gonna take the risk and make someone’s day?

The CD cover (no vinyl on this one, though it’d make a fine cover) has been letter-pressed by Stumptown and you can see the wonderful silver and grey prints produced at the same time coming off the Heidelberg here:

Here’s the CD, and below it, the full art and sketch plus some lettering that wasn’t used.

While we're talking Sage…

My friend Tolaria Sphere Aprihop in the US has been a Mole / Strange Famous Outpost for years, and when he sent me these photographs of this quilt his Mum made him out of his old Strange Famous T Shirts I was well impressed!

Like me, Tollers has a Mum (sorry, a Mom!) in possession of mad skilz on the needles, and here you can see the proper old-fashioned quilting across all of the shirts used in this double quilt. She’s made him a little date tag as well with the remaining scraps of the fabric I had designed and printed for the If A Girl Writes Off The World show in 2006. Excellent!

I think of it keeping Tommie (his real name), his beard and his lass warm at night; Uncle Sage and the extended SFR family keeping the bed bugs and monsters out.

More Inkymole-Turned-Into-A-Quilt action here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Copper Gone: The Etching

Once the Copper Gone artwork was finished we had to turn it into a real copper etching. Although we weren’t sure at this point whether it was possible or even practical to use a photograph of a real etching on the cover (photographing shiny things is problematic), it had to happen so that we could see how the art looked in its natural, logical material.

A team effort, we ordered dangerous chemicals and donned aprons.

While I broke the artwork into parts so that it could be laser copied (back to front) onto the special blue paper used to make a black ‘resist' on the copper, Graham cleaned the surface of the little copper tests sheets supplied by Art Fabrications.

We then heated the copper sheets one by one on the hotplate of the woodburner and brought it over to the ironing board, put the artwork on its blue paper over the copper, and ironed gently, peeling back to check that the line work was fully transferred. We played with different temperatures and ironing times so that we had a range of test sheets to monitor.

After this, the test sheets were put into a chemical bath of ferric chloride and immersed for four different time periods in a tub outside - again, to check which length of time worked best. We didn’t want the etch to be so deep it created too much shadow or distortion, and neither did we want it to be a mere tickling of the copper’s surface.

Once we were satisfied we had a version we liked, we took the timings from the most successful test and started cleaning up the album-sized copper (well I say ‘we’ - Graham took this one for the team, with wire wool and sore knees) - check this ‘before’n’after':

Artwork was once again flipped and carefully positioned in two parts:

…and ironed on (the Glove Of Doom is because the copper is very hot at this point):

Then the paper’s peeled off to reveal…

After which point, the copper was lowered in its Heath Robinson-esque cradle of string and magnets into a much larger tub of ferric chloride, while the magic happened. This is how it came out:

And the last-but-two process - removing the resist with common nail varnish remover, to reveal glittering copper beneath! (Tip: don’t be tempted to use acetone free nail varnish remover to save your fingers - bike down Asda and get the real cheap nasty shit and put gloves on - it comes off in SECONDS!)

A final polish of the finished etching with lemon juice and salt:

And here is the finished piece:

Interestingly, despite a sealing with a special and expensive protective wax, we think there was another finishing stage to go through, as the piece continued to age and oxidise quite deliciously over the next few days - see how it changes:

Gorgeous eh?


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