Friday, 18 July 2008

Art in Action

Yesterday we attended Art in Action, a local annual 4 day 'festival' of the arts, where artists of all fields display their work and perform demonstrations of their art. The boys were rather bored to start with as we wandered through the marquees of paintings on display, but after a while we found a demonstration of glass blowing which caught their interest. Other 'hits' with the children were the copper plate etching/printing, the artist demonstration of neon sculpture, woodworking demonstrations and soap carving.

This is one of the guys who was demonstrating glass blowing. You might not be able to tell from the film, but he was making wine glasses. The demonstrator explained how he sometimes had trouble with people ordering wine glasses as wedding presents as they had to understand that not everyone wanted a set of 6 glasses where no two glasses were the same! 'If you want identical glasses, go to Waterford!' he said. This is on a much smaller scale than the other demonstration below, where they were creating this fantastic vases with pictures on it. Apparently this technique is called painted Graal.

Vic Bamforth demonstrating the Painted Graal technique

According to "The Painted Graal Technique presents a new and exciting process that fuses painted images and blown glass together.The word graal (pronounced grawl, and meaning cup or vessel) dates back to the time of the Holy Grail."

[The demonstrator's web page, , gives some idea of the sort of items produced. ]

Copper Plate Etching (actually the lady was using zinc, not copper)

I was trying to deal with barking dog, large granny trolley and small child determined to trash some very expensive work of art, so I couldn't hear everything the deomonstrator was saying. I think the gist of it was that acid is used to etch on the metal plate, which is then inked up, sandwiched between a sheet of paper and some soft looking cloth and then put through this squishy press which looked rather like an adapted clothes mangle.

The Resulting Print

Here's a slightly better explanation from

"The technique of etching appeared at the beginning of the 16th century. This "indirect" process consists in obtaining engraving on metal either by scraping directly with the help of a tool and then plunging the plate into an acid bath to get a selective bite, or a metal plate is covered with a varnish intended to protect it from the acid, in which the artist makes his design with a point or needle. The acid will attack the parts of the metal that are exposed when the plate is 'etched' in the acid bath. The duration of immersion determines the depth of the grooves and hence the intensity of the features on the paper. The engraver then rinses the plate of metal with clear water, cleans off the varnish, and carries out the inking and printing in the usual way. The first etched piece was the work of Urs Graf of Switzerland in 1513. "

As I knew the boys would find a whole day of trudging round marquees all day a bit of a bore, I signed them up to two practical workshops - 'clay handbuilding' and 'copper enamelling' - both of which they thoroughly enjoyed. Ds1 made an owl and ds2 a crocodile in the handbuilding. They both made pendants for necklaces in the copper enamelling workshop.

Clay handbuilding

Putting the pendant in the little furnace during copper enamelling

The Korean lady, Meek Young Shin, who was demonstrating soap carving, apparently recreates ceramic works of art in soap. She makes soap-copies of Ming and Qing Chinese vases and life-size sculptures resembling white marble Greek figures. She had a big bucket of boxed bars of soap. I'm still curious as to how she joins each bar to another one to make the big sculptures.

Yes, those are really made of soap!

If you fancy having a go on a much smaller scale, this is one for the kids:

And this site will provide some more ambitious examples for you to copy (ha ha). They also have a link to fruit and vegetable carving (see my previous blog entry on the vegetable carving we saw at the Eden Project)

Sarah Blood ( ) was demonstrating sculpting with glass tube which would later be filled with neon or argon gases. She was fascinating to speak to and happy to explain things to ds2 who had seen someone making neon signs on tv. He asked about using powders to make different coloured lights and how she put the gases into the tubes. In the video above she is blowing air down the glass tube to maintain the pressure inside the tube while it is being heated. If she doesn't blow, the tube risks collapsing and will then be too weak and fragile for filling with gas. If she blows too hard, then it forms a bulbous area in the tube. The kids were interested, but I did pull them back a bit away from the sculptures on the table when I overheard Sarah telling an art dealer that her sculptures normally go for around £1400 - gulp!

The textiles marquee had some interesting displays. Seeing people with stalls selling handknitted jumpers - very nice ones - for £50 plus, pleasantly surprised me. Perhaps on those dark winter evenings I could be working on a future fortune with my knitting needles?

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