Technology elegance, design elegance

What would I do without Google translate and Google maps? It has smoothed any rough edges off my first experiences of Sweden. It has delivered precious moments of warmth when I was disorientated by the whiteness everywhere, freezing my nose and fingers off trying to be an intrepid explorer, and discovering that the street signs were obliterated by snow.   I think that having an interactive map in my posession helped me see about twice as many beautiful objects full of Swedish design elegance.

I love the simplicity of forms, and the clear white space that intensifies the bright colour blocks that break up spaces.  One of my favourites, Marimekko, is actually Finnish rather than Swedish, but the style feels perfect:

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Marimekko

Marimekko

The design museum in Gothenburg was everything the brightly coloured heart desires:

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 There was also some 3D printed awesomeness:iphone Sweden Dec 240Swedish avant garde fashion design – nice suit!
iphone Sweden Dec 244

O God, my scarf

In Sweden, I fulfil a life-long fantasy of seeing the house of Carl & Karin Larsson.

I underestimated how much everything closes down in the winter, and I was lucky enough to come along at the same time as the only other tour that day, in Swedish of course.  My lack of language skills prevented the ‘no photos allowed’ message from getting through to me until late in the piece unfortunately!

It is as exquisite as in all the paintings, and almost every surface has paintings of the children, of Karin or delicate Japanese inspired flower patterns.  Geraniums line every downstairs window ledge.  The flower window looked EXACTLY like it does in the print.Carl Larssons House 043 Carl Larssons House 048 Carl Larssons House 053 Carl Larssons House 058 Carl Larssons House 060

Getting there and back was a journey through endless snowy pine forests.

Landscape flashes past, black and white. Black verticality of trees, white horizontal snow and sky, interrupted occasionally by an angled rooftop and the splash of burnt sienna yellow or Falu red, the traditional Swedish rich red brown of the copper mine.

Night falls at 3.10pm.  As the light leaves, the temperature falls down to – 13 and an icicle bristles out the end of my nose.  My glasses are completely steamed up by my breath, then the wet breath freezes on the lenses.  It’s such a relief when I get back to our room and my – 13 butt-cheeks hit the warm toilet seat that I sigh in happy relief.

I get out of my outside gear and go down to the dining room, examining the freeze-dried skin on my hands and eavesdropping on the pleasant rolling sounds of Swedish conversation from the table opposite me.  This hotel is for visiting academics, and I think this group is part of the small seminar being held here. Their voices remind me of a calm sea, bobbing up and down gently.

Outside, the snow is driven horizontal by the wind, into biting little needles.  Inside, the light is warm and soft. The soft ceiling light is augmented by many little wall lamps, and there are Christmas candles in almost every window. Where there isn’t a candle, there hangs a softly glowing paper star. Lit by a bulb from within, light filters through the pattern of pierced holes onto the table.

The woman in the kitchen is talking on her mobile phone.  I feel, tantalisingly, that I can almost understand her. It’s like a language filtered through a dream.

Having lunch at Domkyrkan Café I peruse a stray Swedish hymnbook that one of the senior citizens in the service next door has left at my table. The Google translate app on my phone is helping me out.  The title of the hymn I’ve turned to seems to be “Loving father God; my scarf”.  It goes on to praise “how hӧg he can be”.

I like the idea of god as a scarf.  In Uppsala in November, you really need one.

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It’s been a big snowstorm today; I took a step without thinking, and ended up thigh-deep in a snow drift.  So it was a good day to spend inside a museum. and the Museum Gustavianum in Uppsala is a real museum.  I started at the very top, in the anatomical museum and the museum dissection viewing room from the 1600s:

The dissecting room

The dissecting room

Forget political correctness, this place has everything from bottled siamese twins, fetuses from the 16th century, real skeletons, death masks of criminals, mummified birds, cats and people, stuffed vampire bats, ancient cannibis seeds, artifacts taken as war booty from other countries 500 years ago, the fruit of excavations of ancient Greek ruins in Cyprus during the 1920s.

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Uppsala & Gustavarium 021

The Viking room is filled with 10th century wonders like this sword.

Viking helmet

Viking helmet

This maps shows the known world in 1748 - to the bottom left is what the European's knew of New Zealand. Not much!

This maps shows the known world in 1748 – to the bottom left is what the Europeans knew of New Zealand. Just one vague coastline…

I spent hours examining the ancient Viking, Roman, Greek and Egyptian jewellery. I loved how bright the colours in the beads were, their beautiful unevenness, and the bright, soft gold.

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All this is without even mentioning the Augsberg Cabinet of Curiosities, the most odd, charming thing I have ever seen – a wikipedia for the 17th Century. It was made to be a receptacle for all the world’s knowledge.  How arrogant, how wonderful, how futile! My photos don’t nearly do it justice:

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Cheese fondue

You haven’t really lived until you have spent at least one evening that begins with mulled wine while chopping up artisan bread and fresh apples, includes a long time spent dipping, swirling, cooling and eating these delicious little morcels in a gently bubbling cauldron of garlic,white wine and mixed cheese, off the end of a long fork, and ends with Swiss chocolate cake, the darkest, richest, smoothest, most unctuous, creamy, delicate cocoa flavoured chocolate cake in the world.

That’s one of the things I’ve been doing for the past few days in Zurich while visiting one of my favourite people.  Other things include going to see the Agate windows by Sigmar Polke in  Grossmuenster Cathedral:

Agate Windows in Grossmünster, Zurich by Polke Sigmar  #Agate #Polke_Sigmar #Grossmünster #Zurich

and also the beautiful Chagall windows in Fraumunster church:

just as we were beginning to get tired, Santa’s tram came past, with an angel on board to re-inspire us:

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Back in Lausanne today, where it has started snowing!

The third dimension

I took my first (practical) steps towards 3D last weekend when I went on a course to learn the basics of Maya. By the end of the weekend I had made this seamonster:

my first image in Maya

Next, I turned it into this jungle:

 

I love Maya – I’m working on my first 3D model right now.  I am also excited that I’ve registered for FAB8 in Wellington (just for the public symposium on the 27th, and the Open Design workshop on Saturday 25th.  After listening to Neil Gershenfeld talk about digital fabrication on National Radio this saturday, I knew I needed to be there.

3D fabrication brings together so many of the things I’m interested in, even Information Technology, because of the way it enables the transfer of data ‘information’ into physical objects in the world.

Plastic

Lately, I’ve started noticing jewellery made of materials other than precious metal.  The first one I fell in love with was this beautiful necklace by Suzanne Klem.  I wanted to make something like this so badly! That was sometime last year.  Since then I have started working my way towards plastic.

I started researching polyolefin and came across more work I loved, and many jewellers working with materials I’d never thought of using for jewellery, like this exhibition at Facere. I found it hard to work out how all these amazing pieces were MADE. I wanted to make plastic jewellery, or work with stone, pumice, coral, wood and incorporate it into resin, perspex, polyolefin. What I was seeing reminded me of the sculptures that Louise Bougeois made in the 70s, but they were achieving effects with plastic where I just couldn’t visualise what the process would have been to make them.

I started by buying a grater from the second hand shop and attempting to grate, melt and reconsititute an old lemonade bottle.  When my hand got tired (after generating only a few crumbs of plastic), I decided further research and slightly more sophisticated techniques were needed.

It was a turning point when I found this paper on the Canadian jeweller Lily Yung. I  read it from cover to cover, and learnt about CAD, 3D printing and prototyping for the first time.  At least learnt about it in a way that I could understand, because it was applied to jewellery, something I am a bit familar with, instead of to massive industrial processes, cars and heavy machinery.  It was also a revelation that the construction element was completely automatised, although she was creating one-off original pieces, or very very short runs.  That appealed to the way I want to work – a strong design element, making complex organic forms that are very durable, yet removing the amazingly time consuming (and sometimes frankly impossible) task of physically creating an object I see in my mind.

This is one of my favourite pieces at the moment, by Peter Chang.  I did some good learning from reading this article from Peter’s exhibition at Walker Art Gallery, Unnatural Selection “Although some of Chang’s jewellery is fairly large, it is surprisingly light. The core of each bracelet is made from polyurethane foam carved to shape. Chang then encases this core in polyester resin, reinforced with glass fibre strands. He then applies acrylic and uses heat to mould it to shape. Several layers of resin might then be added and polished”.

Colourful bracelet in an organic design

Bracelet by Peter Chang.

Plans… and results

Yesterday, I proved to myself that a good print is possible (only possible!) if I’ve got… exactly the right combination of good quality, clean, new press blankets,  a thin felted blanket under the thicker ones, the right paper thickness, weave and colour, a lovely press, damp (not wet) paper, delicious Charbonnel oil inks for intaglio, Akua waterbased inks for relief, the right colours, using all inks neat, well-cared for rollers, clean paper, press adjusted correctly AND a meticulously wiped plate.

And of course it goes without saying that it must be a photopolymer image with the right degree of exposure, washed out gently for two minutes, cured in the sun.

Today, I tried exposing delicate images using a half-tone screen, which led me to question whether I’m the right kind of person for such precise, timed to the second, type work!

I left that behind and enjoyed chopping up giant dead leaves.  I spent all afternoon printing them over and under, in and out, relief and intaglio, on and off from cardboard to paper and back again, without having to think ahead further than the next roll of the press.  Much better.

Maybe I will try half tone screens and photographs again tomorrow.