How do I identify and use the various manufacturing processes that exist today?
Bianca and Oliver blog about the ups and downs of manufacturing in Australia and overseas.
Well I've been absent from the blog for a while...juggling becoming a mum and maintaining my practice has been more consuming than I anticipated. Actually I think every new parent probably makes a similar discovery.
Blog writing has been an interesting new experience for me, I have especially enjoyed reading everyone's posts and I have been glad to contribute some of my own thoughts. Thanks to the Craft Australia team for putting together this initiative, it's fantastic.
Well, this a short update before I sign off...
In the next couple of days, installation of the 'starry starry night' pavement artwork will be complete. The 3000 parts are being drilled and fitted into asphalt footpath.
Despite our die modifications, a small percentage of parts failed during the final casting process. We ran a 'remake' batch that was pushed through in time for the installation. What surprised me most was that which had taken months of preparation and problem solving and constant communication to achieve could be streamlined into a three-week turnaround.
With the 'starry starry night' project I have taken an object small in scale (as big as a button) and multiplied it 3000 times, so that it simultaneously operates at a much larger scale of public space design. The pavement insert was developed with a specific space in mind, but the success of the object is that it can operate in many different scenarios.
...Here are some pictures of the 'stars' being cast. I will post more pictures of the installation in a little while.
If anyone is interested in discussing these processes and outcomes further you are welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To everyone out there in craft blog land - keep making, thinking, sharing.
by Bianca Looney | 10 December 2006 | permalink | 0 comments
Here's a shot from the OSP Xmas bash!
All the very best for Christmas and the New Year.
by Oliver Smith | 9 December 2006 | permalink | 0 comments
The blog draws to a close. I've enjoyed getting on my soapbox every week or so. In fact I plan to keep the ball rolling: one of the first jobs on the list next year is to get my website up (give me a couple of months then check out www.oliversmith.com.au) and I'll include a space where I can add monthly diary entries.
Cheers Gaida, it was really nice to finally meet you too. Thanks for all of your hard work making this project come about! Cheers to my fellow bloggers too!
'F!NK & Friends' opens at metalab this Friday December 8th. I just dropped off my work today.
Now in stock at metalab my generation II products in their new packaging - great for christmas presents!
You can also find my production work at Object's 'collect'.
If you're looking in the ACT I've got some "Arc" cheese knives and "Petal" condiment spoons at CraftACT,
and will in the very near future have products at 'Workshop BILK' in Queanbeyan and 'Gallery X' in Bungendore.
Over the next little while I'm planning to expand this list of stockists,
and remember you can also contact me directly to order work (just email: email@example.com).
2007 promises lots of excitement - 'freestyle: new Australian design for living' opens at Object in March and coincides with the Powerhouse Museum's exhibition and symposium 'Smartworks:Design and the Handmade'. I'm really looking forward to these events. Meanwhile I've got some new design work in the pipeline, I won't give away too much but I think cast iron, pressed sheet metal and injection molded plastic will be involved...
Oh, I'll also find plenty of excuses for hammering!
I hope I've shed some light on the manner in which I run my craft and design practice and illustrated the way in which I outsource aspects of my work to industry. It's not the only way to do it - apply your own creativity to develop your individual approach and put your heart into it. Work hard, work smart, work respectfully. Strive for excellence! Let things add up, evolve and be patient - the learning never stops!
Last call for questions / comments? - as in the next, and final entry I'll be making a toast to the silly season!
by Oliver Smith | 4 December 2006 | permalink | 0 comments
Assessment always brings to my attention the need to finish things in order to make an effective appraisal of each project. I feel that this is important in order to capitalise on each experience, learn the inherent lessons and to then refine your approach. It is also very rewarding to get the job completed, and this emotional satisfaction helps lift the energy levels ready for a new project (nothing drains the spirit like something left undone). Getting the new labels back for my products illustrates this point. For the first generation of products I did a lot of work with Ben Manson developing the graphics for the labels. We were very pleased with the results, but a moment of resolution is the starting point for the next step. Indeed, the second generation was then a matter of looking at what then needed to be developed/improved. I feel the results are now much better, but they build on the first generation. An end is also a new beginning!
A small hiccup in printing raised some interesting issues. I've gone for uncoated paper on all printed matter for aesthetic reasons, basically I like that it feels like paper. However due to some confusion the printers printed the box inserts on a coated paper. I had to look at the result and consider my options: demand a reprint, accept the coated paper and ask for a discount, think about the environmental issues of throwing out something that is good but slightly different from my original intention, ...
In the end I thought the coated paper was the best solution anyway - it has saved me from having to include a piece of tissue paper between the product and the insert. A simpler, more practical resolution - I did get a small discount too just quietly.
On the subject of environmental issues I feel that it is essential to pursue ecologically sustainable practices. This will be an area of much discussion and debate in the future. My first thought is avoid making rubbish! It is very easy to get the job done, focusing on speed of resolution in order to pocket the cheque, and not addressing the lifespan of the object made, energy required in manufacture, material sources, and so on. A friend gave me a set of sterling silver George III tablespoons made by Elizabeth Tookey in London in 1769. They are beautifully functional objects that balance in the hand exquisitely. An absolute pleasure to use. To me this is an inspiration, 237 years and still going strong!
Next week an exhibition opens at metalab 'F!NK & Friends' showcasing the collaborative projects between Robert Foster and Gretel Harrison of F!NK and other makers. I've got to get some new work finished this week ready for Monday - I think my opening line has come back to haunt me!
by Oliver Smith | 28 November 2006 | permalink | 1 comments
I'm getting organised for the week ahead. I mentioned my job list earlier - well I usually put it together slowly over Sunday in between vacuuming, washing, and so on. It's assessment week at SCA so I'm preparing for that. Although not my favourite part of lecturing, assessment is essential not only for the academic system but also as an opportunity to give valuable feedback on each individual's progress. Thanks Gina, Rosary and Karen for taking the time out to participate in the blog at this hectic time of year.
Gina, you mentioned wholesale prices and the opportunity of slotting into an existing production system. Obviously getting away from retail prices when you're buying materials is important but the real advantages here exist only at appropriate economies of scale - that is, you save on the big orders. So until you are running a business of an appropriate size it can almost be a pain to buy a large amount, not least because you must store it (you should see the amount of packaging material in the spare room at my place!). As for adapting existing systems, to me this is good thinking. But don't overcommit early on. It is important to build up slowly in order to get a good feel for the market you are moving into, otherwise you might end up with a warehouse full of lemons. The financial realities of working in the design realm can be creatively restrictive. These limitations make you work/think harder but don't look for them too quickly - enjoy the creative freedom studying allows you. The experience you gain while in an academic institution is something you draw on for the remainder of your career. I often jokingly describe my honours year as 'those salad days' - five days a week in the workshop focused on one project. I can't imagine such a luxury now, but I still look at the results and the process work I made then when developing my current projects. Perhaps study can be viewed in this way as an investment.
Karen you might try Krupp VDM for monel wire - they are based in Melbourne. They'll have a minimum order which will probably mean committing to a larger amount of material than you may need. Again I'm very happy you enjoyed the year - I've earnt my salt. As for the book, maybe one day, but an audio series might be the best way to capture the droning voice! A cure for insomniacs? Seriously though I find teaching a pleasure and learn so much by engaging with each person's approach to making.
Yesterday I was in my workshop, and although I've got a few more pressing projects I just went back to basics and did some hot forging making silver spoons. I'm always impressed by the subtleties that exist within the relationship between material and process. It is an improving exercise demanding focus and commitment every time I lift the hammer. I know! I know! it sounds like a surfing video!
Also this week the new improved labels for my products should be done which I'm excited about. I picked up the rubber stamps last week and the box inserts will go to the printers in the next few days. The complete design will look great - I can't wait to pack and stack all those units! I've been working with Ben Manson of 3blindmice and he's done an excellent job with the graphics. Partly due to my craft background, in the past I've been guilty of the common crime of trying to do everything myself. Chef Tim Pak Poy gave me good advice when he told me to be aware of your own limitations and to consult with experts to obtain the best results. True. I'd even go further to say that experts will demand more of you, making you strive for better outcomes. It can be as simple as clarifying your vision or be elevated to seeing a whole new level of possibilities - it's inspiring to work with someone who is passionate about what they do and highly skilled. Like tennis, it makes you lift your game.
by Oliver Smith | 5 November 2006 | permalink | 0 comments
I'm so pleased to get some replies.
Don't hesitate to write something readers, and please ask questions, otherwise I just ramble on about the sort of things I'm interested in.
Gina thank you for the positive thoughts about the year at SCA. It is very nice to hear that you got a lot out of it. I've really enjoyed it too. I've been privileged when I think of the many excellent teachers and mentors I've had contact with and therefore feel it is my job to pass on some of the things I've learnt in order to repay their gifts to me. I also think of teaching as talking about my favourite subject to a captive audience - I know I can talk and talk but there is so much to say!
I do have another Alby Mangels story Gaida, it may lead to a defamation case but here goes:
I heard from a reliable source that on a long weekend Alby went to stay at a B&B which provided the food as part of the package. The proprietor loaded the fridge, freezer and pantry with what they thought was sufficient grub for the 3 days. Alby knocked on the owner's door on the second day asking when the rest of the food would be delivered - he'd eaten 3 days worth of food in one!
Alby if you read this... respect!
Gaida the moral of the story is we must all be aware of energy input and output. fuel is essential.
Rosary I've got a lot on in the next few months. There are boxes of rumbled products waiting to be polished - I'm planning to spend a day and a half a week on this job and aim to finish a minimum of 100 units each month. I'm making a few exhibition pieces as well - more serving utensils, some in silver but I'm diversifying my material vocabulary a bit by moving into monel and titanium. These are destined for an exhibition at 'Metalab', you can ask Cesar about it (write another comment, go on). Next year I've got more production ideas. My current products are based on a cheap set-up/tooling cost but have a high unit cost. Next project I plan to reverse this by investing more in the tooling but gaining a cheaper unit cost. One day I dream of a cheap set up cost and a cheap unit cost. My Mum will celebrate her 60th next year - so I've also got a project in this area.
Last Thursday I gave a talk at Lanyon High School, where my wife Jane teaches 'Art and Technology'. I addressed a group of year 8 students and told them about what I do.
I enjoyed a coffee on Friday with Grace Cochrane. We discussed the essay Grace is writing about my work for an upcoming exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum 'Smartworks: Design and the Handmade'. I've been learning a lot about making objects by talking and writing about it. My involvement in this blog and a number of exhibitions has given me an opportunity to step back and reflect on my practice. This has, in turn, led to a desire to reinvent what I do - to do things better - to evolve. So my long term plans are flexible at this point in time, I'm consciously looking at what needs to change in order for me to make better objects...
by Oliver Smith | 30 October 2006 | permalink | 2 comments
As it is the last week of lessons at SCA and the students are working hard, I am very aware of project management and meeting dealines. The planning involved in making any object is often overlooked when it is a completed entity. I personally find the timespan for each project is slowly growing longer, and I put more emphasis on finding the best way of doing something. Previously I'd just throw myself into it and hope that enthusiasm and hard work would get me through. Now I do a lot more initial research, experimentation and testing. This is combined with an important lesson drawn from my design work - use the budget to help you achieve your aim. In the past I'd done my best to ignore how much it would cost and just used whatever resources I could to resolve the piece I was working on. In the world of production this is foolhardy thinking at best. I've now come around to seeing the budget as another tool to which I can apply creative thinking. Unifying this with good time management and you can make better objects for a better price!
Felicity - Here are some tips following your question on using industrial finishers. I'd recommend gathering a few samples of your work, finished and unfinished, and visiting some industrial finishing businesses: rumblers/sandblasters/polishers/electro-platers (look in the yellow pages/ internet search). Talk to the technicians and look at the samples that they'll have in the showroom. Be open minded about your desired outcome - you might see something better, more interesting, or, dare I say it, cheaper than your original intention. Then look at costings. Generally, outsourcing a stage of finishing is about working in batches, or production runs, at a scale that is suitable to justify transport etc. Another idea is to improve your own set-up: the best solution can sometimes be buying a new piece of equipment for your own workshop (I love buying tools!). I can be more specific... ?
Alby Mangels of 'World Safari' fame chucked his dirty clothes, warm water and soap powder in a 44 gallon drum strapped to the back of his 4-wheel-drive. A few hundred clicks along a rough track and Alby rinsed out his now clean washing in a creek. Perhaps the inspiration for a homemade abrasive cleaning apparatus?
by Oliver Smith | 25 October 2006 | permalink | 4 comments
Motivation and Goals
I visited Government House in Yarralumla during it's recent open day. This is the Governor General's Canberra Residence on the lake - beautiful gardens and grounds, architecturally of interest, and full of prime examples of Australian art and craft. Well worth a visit.
Firstly, I am impressed that this institution hosts an open day - it demonstrates something of the generous, public spirited nature of our society.
Now to blow my own trumpet - it was really satisfying to see the table bells I'd made in this setting. For me this is an ideal situation for an object like the silver table bell. Often handcrafted objects are expensive due to time in manufacture, material costs and the training involved in the career of the maker. The bells definitely fit these criteria and also involved a great deal of research and collaboration (both again involving time and expense). It is easy for these aspects of a project to push the object into a rarefied or, to quote Gollum, a 'precious' realm. This can be a good thing if something is valued, but for me it is worrying if it doesn't get used. A piece of craft comes alive through use, it's meaning is fulfilled.
So for me the bells are an example of living craft. They do their job!
Shifting my focus from the handmade to a broader approach to making objects is motivated by the same things. I want to make objects that people use, objects that work well and that enrich people's lives. Including design for semi-mass production in my practice means that I can do this more successfully. As well as something like the bell I can make objects like my stainless steel products which are accessible to a wider variety of people.
by Oliver Smith | 18 October 2006 | permalink | 0 comments
The launch of 'Freestyle: new Australian design for living' was very exciting. A collaboration between Object: Australian Centre for Craft and Design and Museum Victoria, this exhibition profiles 40 stories that explore the vibrance and diversity of contemporary design in this country. The art direction and exhibition design work of Vince Frost and his team, and the photographs of Anthony Geerneart are both innovative and excellent. They make the conceptual and curatorial work of Brian Parkes and all involved at both Object and Museum Victoria come alive. I am thrilled to have been included and enjoyed the opening very much. I have come away from the show inspired!
I attended the opening with my wife, Jane, and my parents Errol and Carolyn. I caught up with a number of fellow exhibitors and met some who I didn't know. Usually I think of such events as professional engagements but must admit that this one felt like a bit of a party!
I missed you in the throng Bianca - did you have fun too?
So after a glamourous few days in Melbourne it's back to earth this week. Reflecting on what I've written for the blog I become increasingly aware of the range of activities I'm engaged in as I make objects. This makes me think about ways to improve on my strategy/goals...
I haven't got my hands dirty for a few weeks but this will change as I begin polishing my products. Polishing is my least favourite job (I like hammering best) yet it is necessary to get the products just right. It is grubby work but rewarding when you have resolved a piece/s. I develop a sequence and strive for efficiency. Interestingly, in moving from craft to design, I am yet to find cost effective ways to industrially put those final touches to an object. Hand finishing, the refinement of a craft approach is still the best for me at this stage.
As consumers we all have such high expectations of the objects we select to buy. I sometimes get disheartened by the high quality of finish on a very cheap mass produced item. I have no negative baggage thinking such objects are inferior - expensive and labour intensive doesn't equate with good. However it can be difficult to match such levels of refinement without the cost blowing out.
My response to this quandary is to combine industrial finishes with hand finishes and to design objects steered by the characteristics of the material and process. My generation II products embody this philosophy.
Another avenue I investigated as part of my work for my MMM project was to get some product samples polished overseas. This is based on the economic advantages of cheaper labour costs. My experience was very positive - the opportunity to get my work made/finished offshore is now a question of production volumes and budgets. Basically, as soon as it's viable I'll get things made overseas.
There are a wealth of more subtle issues that I could expand on here but I will try to be brief. Paralleling the shift to semi-mass production that opened my mind to new possibilities, I can now also see that making objects on an international level is achievable. So then my thinking moves back to motivation and desired outcome. More about this next time...
by Oliver Smith | 9 October 2006 | permalink | 1 comments
The latest batch of samples of the pavement insert has been processed. We were able to successfully modify the tooling and prevent the part breaking during production. The relevant sections of the tool cavities were easily made larger. So I was lucky in that regard. Any other type of modification would have been very costly.
Approving the off tool sample was a bit daunting I had to triple check everything before I felt confident signing off on the part. We are now in production 3,000 parts! it's a big commitment. In a few weeks time the finished parts will be delivered to site for installation. But before that happens I need to meet with the contractor to walk them through the installation process. I will have templates and layout drawings prepared to help discuss the application.
I had a sneak peek at the Freestyle exhibition at last weeks media event. Looking forward to seeing you at the opening Oliver, it should be an awesome event. For those who are interested Freestyle will be travelling to Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide next year. It is saturated with amazing work - a show definitely worth checking out!
by Bianca Looney | 3 October 2006 | permalink | 0 comments
Today I picked up my rumbled castings and now the ball is in my court again to grind and polish my products.
Working with industry means that you've got to be as organised as possible so that what you do control goes smoothly and that you can then adapt to the 'challenges' that arise. The latest challenge for me was spending last week out of action with a crook back (following a weekend cleaning up all of my junk at my parents place) which put me behind schedule on a whole host of jobs.
A lot of energy goes into developing the sequence of any project. This is certainly true of a one-off handmade piece but is even more important when dealing with multiples and outsourcing elements of the making. Materials, supplies, deliveries, completion dates, pick ups, stuff-ups, orders ... it is a game of logistics.
My first thought is to leave nothing to chance. It also helps to be one step ahead in terms of time and to be flexible. I could write a long list of mistakes I've made in this regard. I always think learning the hard way is ok if you learn quickly. It is also good to get on the phone and to ask how a job is coming along. It is essential to be on friendly terms with everyone you're involved with and to be reasonable in regard to the problems that can arise. And finally, I do everything I can to make the desired result occur. In this way a good outcome is much more likely to happen.
The 'Freestyle' exhibition opens this week in Melbourne. I'm looking forward to celebrating the launch of the show and will report on the fun!
by Oliver Smith | 2 October 2006 | permalink | 1 comments
Hi, here's an update from my studio...
I spent the weekend helping a friend put together a prototype lamp for exhibition. I don't really know much about electrics, so was fascinating to be involved.
Last week I received more samples of the pavement insert. There were a couple of problems, which have since been resolved: some linishing (fine grinding / finishing) issues were overcome by trimming the object at an earlier stage of the casting process. About 60% of parts failed in the first test! The die was modified to allow for a stronger connection between the head and shank...more samples are to follow but I am feeling confident it is all working fine now. Once all the details are right the production process should be quick. Construction begins next month and we are still on schedule, whew!
I have started a new public art project and will be working closely with a landscape architect this time. The collaborative synergy is already working; it looks like the project is forming up to be an exciting one.
I haven't really talked much about how being a new mum has shaped my practice. Sometimes it can be quite difficult like finding some uninterrupted time to write this blog. The project teams I am working with actually enjoy it when I bring my 3 1/2 month-old daughter along to meetings. Though it can be pretty awkward tabling ideas with a wriggling, drooling 6kg person in one arm! Seriously though being a Mum is an awesome experience. It is a massive change and takes a lot of getting used to - but it motivates me and keeps me on my toes.
by Bianca Looney | 20 September 2006 | permalink | 0 comments
Here's an image of the pair of Table Bells:
Governor General's Table Bell
approx. dimensions 19x14.5x13.5cm
.925 silver, .900 silver, stainless steel, monel, delrin
commissioned by the Australiana Fund
photographer - Ben Manson of 3blindmice design/marketing/web
I've just spent a few days getting a batch of my cast products ready to take to the rumblers. Basically I'm using a linisher to grind off the sprue attachments of the stainless steel utensils. The rumblers then refine the surface of the pieces through a series of industrial abrasive finishing techniques. The main step involves placing the products in a large vibrating tub (the rumbler) which is full of stones (river stones from the Lithgow area to be precise). When this is done I then move onto the polishing stage to completely finish the objects.
The linishing is repetitive, physical work but it is very satisfying to see the multiples of the original design stack up. It also inspires the desire for the best approach to making objects in a series - the system is everything! So I get the music blaring in the workshop and time how long it takes to do five, then try to beat the time.
I remember doing a mad 30 hour session to get a batch of products ready for a launch. I was working with an industrial polisher and we had the music going loud to keep the energy levels up. At about 3am Madonna's 'vogue' came on the radio and the polisher was polishing and vogueing at the same time!
by Oliver Smith | 17 September 2006 | permalink | 0 comments
In response to Rowena Foong's comment - glad you spotted me as the first off the blocks!
There are many issues encountered in moving out of the studio and into an industrial context. A couple of big ones are finish and control. When making unique objects another hour or an extra day doesn't seem like much if the object is then resolved. When there are multiples this sort of thinking can get you into trouble (and blow any chance of making money, which when considered in-depth will potentially culminate in you being unable to continue your practice!). So compromises / shifts in thinking need to occur here.
To expand this further, when other people and processes are involved in making your work you need to communicate very clearly what you require (which is usually 'the best'). But you should also learn to listen. Most people are very skilled in their work and proud of the fruits of their labour, so I try to involve this knowledge in the design process. For example, when I'm working with an industrial polisher I'll ask what they think is the most efficient way to get the desired result and what some other alternatives might be. This is essentially about loosening my idea of authorship or control. Just as I, through outsourcing, don't have to do everything myself I also don't have to know everything myself. My job then becomes one of recognising opportunities.
As for material issues specific to metal such as tarnishing, rust, oxidisation ...
The majority of my outsourcing has been in stainless steel so no worries there. But I always re-polish silver prior to sending it out to an exhibition. So the big issue is finish. This then is about quality control. This is something which must be pushed rigorously, but I'm also trying to develop ways in which to do it more efficiently (picking up and re-checking 100 units prior to boxing them up can take some time).
My collaborative design work with F!NK relates to another mode of outsourcing and design. Robert Foster and Gretel Harrison approached me with the idea of creating a product to add to the F!NK range. I have known Rob and Gretel for a number of years and they have always been very generous and encouraging in helping me to develop my practice. I consider them pioneers of Australian craft and design. I was thrilled to get involved in the collaboration and the outcome was 'Fatware' - a pair of cheese knives and a board. Check out the F!NK website for more info. Anyway, this product is now produced by F!NK while my role was focused on the design and tooling stage.
Sorry Rowena I planned to be succinct but have banged on a bit!
Oh Gaida as for the juggling act - multi-tasking and scheduling is the order of the day. I use a big 12 month wall chart and weekly lists but sometimes this is a headache. A palm pilot is probably a good idea. It took me a while to learn to balance making with all of the other facets of being a craftsperson and designer. I'm always striving to improve my current approach. A constant challenge.
Short diary update:
The bells are photographed thanks to Ben Manson of 3blindmice.
I was on ABC radio in Canberra talking about them and ringing them yesterday, which was fun.
I took some time out and checked some shows last Friday - Patsy Hely"s 'Pastoralia' and a contemporary jewellery group show 'Baubles, Bangles and Beads' at Craft ACT, and then 'The Crafted Object 1960s-80s' at the National Gallery of Australia. Sometimes things are so hectic that it's hard to see every exhibition so when I get a chance I try to see what's on.
Finally, I enjoyed some R&R on Sunday and watched the Yass Magpies defeat the Queanbeyan Blues in the local Rugby League Grand Final at Seiffert Oval (the original homeground of the Canberra Raiders). A real spectacle!
by Oliver Smith | 5 September 2006 | permalink | 1 comments
Stainless steel samples of pavement insert produced using investment casting (lost wax process)
Similar to my approach to Z-series (3D ceramic tiling systems) I want to talk about another project using casting techniques and tactile surfaces.
At the moment I am working on a couple of public art commissions that have consumed a lot of studio time in recent months. There is a lot of research, factory tours and communication that occurs before I establish a working relationship with the right manufacturing partner. Sometimes I learn about a specific process or material along the way and l discover different techniques that shape the project.
We have been able to develop entire projects or prototypes within a 2km radius of our studio. This circumstance may be unique to Melbourne and is perhaps becoming endangered as some Australian manufacturing industries are downscaling and moving offshore.
My experience has been that sometimes the smaller workshops are more willing to engage with designers/artists in helping them to develop their ideas. These workshops are part of a huge network of Victorian fabricators and manufacturers some of whom collaborate to produce parts for the same client/project. I have benefited from these networks at the R&D phase of my projects. My studio can effectively 'grow' to include the size and capability two or three factories.
Here are a couple of images of a pavement insert that I have designed for a public art commission. I am working with a local company on the tooling and casting of the part.
by Bianca Looney | 30 August 2006 | permalink | 0 comments
Slip casting the 'slipmap' tiles at the .ekwc
My making process is fairly research intensive - it has to be - as I am constantly exploring different materials and processes. Sometimes I work with printed textiles, sometimes investment cast steel, sometimes slipcast ceramics... object/processes change scale from the handheld/made to urban environment/manufactured.
In 2004 I worked for a period of three-months at the European Ceramic Work Centre (.ekwc)*. The .ekwc encourages experimentation in the field of ceramics by embracing non-ceramicists. Lead by skilled technicians I had the opportunity to work with ceramics for the first time.
I wanted to develop the Terrain project further with a family of ideas based on reconfiguarble landscapes. Part of my process of working with ceramics and technology involved the development of 3D CAD models in my Melbourne studio. These were then programmed into the CNC machine at .ekwc to mill master models of the tiles. I eventually slip cast multiples of the tiles.
At my final presentation I meet a Dutch manufacturer who was interested in developing the tiles further. Armed with the MMM grant, I revisited The Netherlands the following year to follow up on the proposal and visit the Cersaie ceramic trade fair in Bologna. Before travelling I prepared myself by reviewing the proposed licence agreement, seeking legal advice, conducting product research and market analysis, packaging samples and preparing promotional material.
The trip was more or less a success, I returned to Australia with a lot of leads and several companies had shown interest in manufacturing the series under licence. A note on international communication: getting a response takes perseverance and patience…I have waited three months for replies from Italian, Swedish and Dutch manufacturers.
Now after recent success working with local manufacturing industry (more about that in another post) I am starting to refocus my approach. The series is undergoing a reassessment to determine its future viability. I am exploring other mediums and processes through local manufacturing industries. Also I am enlisting the help of an agent to explore more manufacturing and distribution options overseas.
* Supported by the Australia Council VAB and Ian Potter Cultural Trust
by Bianca Looney | 30 August 2006 | permalink | 0 comments
At SCA the Open Day was a success - and I couldn't help but think of my visit there in 1992 as a Year 12 student looking at the options for tertiary study.
I'm pleased to say the bells are finished and that I've scheduled photography later in the week.
Now I'll concentrate on getting my products finished in volume and out on the market. To give you some background I'll include some text compiled for the launch of the Australia Council's 'Maker to Manufacturer to Market' Initiative (MMM) in May this year:
The support of the MMM Grant has enabled Oliver to develop his stainless steel production cutlery. He began work in this area in late 2003:
"Seeking to combine the beauty and warmth of the handmade with the strengths of industrial production methods, I began to investigate production techniques that were compatible with my hand making skills. I approached John Kell, Managing Director of Hycast Metals - leaders in the field of investment casting. The result was a partnership in which we created a series of stainless steel utensils produced in multiple through the ceramic shell casting process."
Today we see a preview of the next generation of Oliver's production designs: Arc cheese knife, Dorsal serving blade and Petal spoons. These embody a refinement in the union of industrial production and hand finishing.
"My passion is for making. In moving into the design realm I have found this enthusiasm must inform all aspects of the process of producing multiples. That is, I have quickly found that I need to apply the same creativity and problem-solving I use in making unique objects to all aspects of the production design process. Conversely, aspects of the creation of multiple objects now steers my thinking in exploring functional and aesthetic questions in hand-forged silver objects. The best of craft and industry is my ideal."
My challenge now is to establish a sustainable business which enables me to work both as a craftsperson and designer. This is a significant task with many facets, but in essence it comes down to making things and selling them. I feel comfortable with the making part but the selling area now needs attention.
In terms of making, for me one of the attractions of silversmithing was its universality - you could shift in scale and material, it covered functional and aesthetic aspects, toolmaking and problemsolving were addressed. I felt that from this foundation anything was possible, I could make whatever I wanted. By broadening my approach to making objects to include industrial processes and outsourcing this is only more true...
So on one hand anything can be done, yet I also try to use limitations as guidelines for what I create. More about this next time...
by Oliver Smith | 28 August 2006 | permalink | 0 comments
To begin my contribution to the Youth@craft.design online forum I thought I would outline some of my recent activities.
Last week was heavily focused on my teaching commitments in the Jewellery & Object Studio at Sydney College of the Arts. I teach the practical program for the 2nd Year students. As well as the two days of lessons in the studio I also travelled to Melbourne with the students on an excursion. We visited the NGV's Ian Potter Centre to view the 'Cecily and Colin Rigg Contemporary Design Award' and hear several of the exhibitors speak. This was followed by a tour of the Gold & Silversmithing Workshop at RMIT. The remainder of the time was spent gallery hopping - CraftVictoria, Gallery Funaki, Studio Ingot, Pieces of Eight, ...
I really enjoyed the trip.
Over the weekend I was in my workshop at ANCA (Australian National Capital Artists Inc. - a collective of artist’s studios) in Canberra. I'm currently working on the final stages of a commision for the Australiana Fund making tablebells for the Governor General. The bells are destined for the dining tables of Government House in Canberra and Admiralty House in Sydney and are to be rung to call the diners attention prior to the speeches at formal dinners. The bells were cast in silver by Anton Hasell of Australian Bell and I'm making the forged silver handles and stands. I think I'm almost finished - just a final polish to go! It has been a long project requiring a lot of research, collaboration and design development. I'm certainly looking forward to delivering them and am excited to think they'll soon be in use.
Once this job is resolved I'll be working again on my stainless steel production cutlery designs. This area of my practice represents the shift from craft into design and is something I'll go onto describe in detail later. My subject for this online conversation is 'manufacture' and I'll talk about the issues surrounding this apect of my work indepth over the course of the blog.
by Oliver Smith | 25 August 2006 | permalink | 2 comments
G'day! I'm Oliver Smith from Canberra, and I'm best known as a silversmith. My interest in taking part in this initiative stems from wanting to share some of my experiences over the past few years.
Since 2005, when I was awarded a MMM grant, I've been seeking to combine the warmth of the handmade with the strengths of industrial production methods. I am keen to share all aspects of my practice, particularly about retailing and export.
Take a look at the video clip specially produced for this blog.
by Oliver Smith | 20 August 2006 | permalink | 0 comments
Hi, I'm Bianca and I make a range of different work - from sculpture, ceramics, textiles, graphic and product design to urban design interventions.
I live and work in Melbourne sharing a studio with my partner, architect/designer Lucas Chirnside. We also have a new baby - Eva who is now nearly 10 weeks old. Life is pretty hectic as you can imagine!
My recent work experience has included spending time in the Netherlands at the European Ceramic Work Centre where I am co-developing my Z-series family of tiling systems to a market-ready stage.
by Bianca Looney | 20 August 2006 | permalink | 0 comments