Wednesday, December 14, 2016

OAC Grant - Final Summary

Crafts Projects - Creation and Development : Final Report

A note to readers: One of the requirements for the OAC grant which funded the major portion of my six week research trip to Europe & Scotland Fall of 2016 was to submit a final report summary. In so much that it took me five hours to prepare that report - I've included it here as part of my continuing documentation of the overall project.

My original grant application was to fund one month’s work at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Lumsden Scotland. The amount covered return travel, studio fee and materials, lodgings, and maintaining my home studio in my absence. Two working sessions were planned. First was a continuation of the ‘Turf to Tools’ project started in 2014. This is an investigation of human impact and relationship with the local landscape, specifically through an exploration of historic bloomery iron smelting techniques. The second half of the grant covered personal study, primarily into small scale bronze casting techniques.

The core remained the two projects at SSW, from September 12 through October 10.
Turf to Tools 2 included three individual iron smelts, all assisted by other artists in residence. The first smelt used ore gathered on a field trip to the historic Lecht Mine. The second expanded on work from 2014, testing peat as a possible fuel. This smelt was held as a public demonstration, with artists and local people attending. The third was a teaching session for the SSW staff.
Preparing for extraction while the crowd watches at the second iron smelt as part of ‘Turf to Tools 2’. - Image by Kelly Probyn-Smith
As part of the personal project segment, I produced two small cast bronze pieces in the process of learning the base techniques and becoming familiar with the required equipment.
As an addition, some time was spend in the ceramics studio. Here two pieces were created, both based on ancient artifacts. I also was able to participate in two Raku firings, including observation of the kiln construction.
Cast bronze with natural stones, 16 x 13 cm, part of the proposed ’Memory Disk’ series (not polished). Inspired by the erosion of the cliff shore line at Dunottar Castle, utilizing wave polished stones from that location.
Cast bronze, 13 x 9 cm, outer and inner surface shown, part of the proposed ’Memory Disk’ series (not finished). Inspired by the Neolithic to Bronze Age stone line chambers across Scotland (several nearby Lumsden / SSW).
Wheel thrown ceramic, 8 cm tall, inspired by the ancient ‘Beaker’ artifact (seen as inset). This object used as part of the initial test of the ‘Tocca Ferro’ process. Image by Kelly Probyn-Smith
Bisque fired ceramic, 18 cm long, inspired by Roman and Etruscan votive figures (seen as inset). This object originally intended as a master pattern for use with bronze casting. Image by Kelly Probyn-Smith
A major unexpected element was the instigation of the ’Tocca Ferro’ process, working with artists Katriona Gillespe and Kelly Probyn-Smith. This was the first testing of what may be a new ceramic firing process, working in conjunction with the iron smelting furnace. A number of small objects were created.
Ceramic, bisque and Tocca Ferro. This grouping inspired by images of destruction of the town square of Ypres during WW1.

In all honesty, I never expected to receive a grant. Through late Fall and early Winter of 2015, a number of additional projects arose that could be combined into a single air travel from Canada to Europe. In the end, I extended the OAC grant to cover a total of 6 weeks, taking part in three additional arts projects.
First of these, from August 29 through September 6, was taking part in the Ypres 2016 Cenotaph Project. I was part of one of the working teams, under Scottish artist Shonna Johnston. Artisan blacksmiths (drawn internationally) worked in groups of 6-8 to create individual panels for the larger memorial, with all work done before the public. I was one of only 6 Canadians on the working teams. In addition to the huge impact the Ypres landscape has had on me personally, I also had submitted a design for one of the memorial panels.
Working with Peter Hill on an element of the “Two Brothers” panel, as part of the Ypres 2016 event. Image by Kelly Probyn-Smith
Two Brothers
The completed panel I worked on at Ypres 2015, design by / team leader Shonna Johnson.
Age Shall Not Tarnish Them : The design rough submitted for the Ypres 2016 Cenotaph
Second was an invitation to take part in ‘ARTEfakty’, the Pruszkowski Festival of Archaeology, September 7 - 11, just outside Warsaw, Poland. I was one of only two North Americans (the only Canadian) attending, demonstrating bloomery iron smelting methods. I was grouped with a team with members from Denmark, Norway and the USA.
The ‘Viking Age’ demonstration team preparing to consolidate the hot bloom just after extraction at the ARTEfakty event. Image by staff photographer
Third was a session at the Scottish Crannog Centre, from October 2 to 5. Here I worked with staff researching (and training towards) early Iron Age furnaces, for both iron and bronze casting.
Working with staff at the Scottish Crannog Centre building and test firing an Iron Age smelting furnace. Image by Kelly Probyn-Smith

The largest impact on my future work will come from this amazing opportunity to work alongside artists from a wide range of European countries. Additionally, most Artisan Blacksmiths work alone, so the ability to work as a team, and discuss work with people from such a range of locations and backgrounds, is significant. Certainly much was learned.
The exposure to related high temperature processes at SSW has lead to a deeper understanding of furnace construction overall. My intention is to build flexible use furnace system here at Wareham over this winter (allowing for both bronze casting and raku firing).
Close association with artists from many disciplines at SSW and other the other projects has refined my own understanding of the role of the Artisan within the larger artistic community. As always, the wide range of personal contacts from such far flung locations can not be underestimated.

At this point, the primary method the support of the OAC has been attributed has been through a dedicated series of blog posts, describing the overall experience.
Additionally the OAC logo appears on the fixed blog frame indicating the support via this grant.
As the individual iron smelt documentation is created and posted to the Wareham Forge web site, the OAC logo will be included.
A number of public lectures are in the submission stage, where support of the OAC will be mentioned and illustrated.
Currently a publication is being created that details the Turf to Tools project, undertaken by SSW. The OAC logo will be included on the sponsorship page there.

In conclusion, it is my feeling that the value provided by this Project Grant was greatly increased, both in terms of scope and impact, by the expansion to include the many extra projects listed. Personally, I have been increasingly involved with skills training. In this I feel the value of this grant personally will most certainly be passed along to others into the future.

Those following this blog over the last months have seen many separate postings, describing in some detail my exeriences over the Turf to Tools 2 / European Iron Project.

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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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