Winning at FX

We have this monthly competition over at DIY stompboxes and I’ve already won two times, the first time for something that didn’t end up working, the second time for something I haven’t actually finished, and I’m up for the third time for something that I quickly designed after talking to Paul crowther and possibly have no intention of building…

Admittedly the first two were quite long winded in their construction and may have been quite inspiring to some concerning the scope of their actions but the simple fact that they haven’t yet made a sound ranks me as one of the worlds few who seem to be able to win at things without actually keeping to the unspoken rules.

This morning I had a first look at the voting thread and had a bunch of laughs that a drawing has garnered the first vote… well, I haven’t actually checked the voting but lets re-phrase that… the first published comment. I do find it incredibly interesting that, with my incredibly limited knowledge of electronics, and believe me that it is limited, that I could have so much acknowledgement by what can only be the worlds most intense collection of guitar FX builders. I don’t mean intense in that they’re all beady eyes concentration freaks hanging out for their next fix of solder fumes but that as far as this tent is concerned a vast majority of the best are crammed into it… in – tent.

I think, if anything, it’s my constructional abilities combined with my efforts to keep doing things that are completely beyond my actual abilities, to walk the high wire line between patience and frustration that keeps testing my ability to keep at a task, and I think that may be the thing that this collection of fellows see as something worth… admiring?

I had a saying, I made up, below a drawing I did years ago “we chased away the apathy of modernity and … became the divine losers.” and that kinda sums up my life I suppose. Well, I hope it does.

The saying was at the bottom of a poster I drew with Shakespeare on a skateboard and I did it because a movie I was in, about the early days of skateboarding in NZ, had just come out and my old boss, Frank Edwards, had talked about doing a signature board and so I was doing an artwork for the bottom of it. Nothing happened but I did do a drawing.
hopes and dreams?
The name was taken from a Stranglers song which has that infamous line about Trotsky getting an ice pick in the back of his head.

Theres a photo, I’m rambling now, thats one of my favourites and it was taken in Mexico and features Trotsky, Diego Riviera and that guy who was the father of surrealism, thats him, Andre Breton. That photo, for me, is or sums up the greatness of the twentieth century. I’m not a great fan of Breton, nor one of surrealism ( except for the art of that Spanish woman who went to live in Mexico, really alchemistic and obscure, nope, can’t remember her name at all. She influenced a whole generation of woman artists but has never really found popular favour… alike Lee Bontecou… who is my favourite artist of all time. Got it! Remedios Varos! check her out. ), but it was a great thing to have happened when it did and tempered the excesses of materialism which were the all prevailing concept of that century of industrialism turned to consumerism. Combine that with the greatest social experiment to go completely wrong, socialism, and the peoples art of Diego Riviera and so that photo of those three men goes down in my personnal mythology as one of the best and inspiring things to highlight the meaning of an epoch. And each man got into lots of trouble during their lifetimes, they just wouldn’t hold to prevailing attitudes and kept pushing the envelope that was their own life. I suppose thats what I’m talking about when I say Divine loser. It’s kind of about winning by default I suppose, never actually winning within the time one lives, almost being onto another climb when the flag is finally raised, and the cameras are rolling, on the previous mountain of acheivement. Or maybe it’s about knowing when you can see the top that thats enough and actually standing up there to be seen to be on the top isn’t what its about at all.

Umm… now I’ve a little time.

Here we have the ottoman with material on it and below that the chaise lounge basically finished, constructionally, and awaiting cleanup and protecting layer. Easy as!
Today I did another bunch of work on the ottoman support structure and fitted it to the base. To come is the decoration and a little work to “spread” the support structure somewhat. Then I’ll sew up the top and it’ll be finished.
oops, bad light.

Batteries out!

So no photos… finished the construction of the chaise lounge and am beginning in on the tidy up ready for coating of the protecting coat which is called penetrol. Basically linseed oil with a few additives and it works really well. Refurbished one of the chairs I made way back in about ’94 and given it has been rusting away ever since, except for the initial coat of protection the chemist at the electroplaters put on it, it has built up a very, well, what can we say, tarnished coating of iron oxide (rust) which has eaten into the surface and upon cleanup it has an age to it that is really quite fetching.
Also go some 75mm foam for the Ottoman and have stapled a layer of black calico over it and have laid out the (to be removable) cover of black drill, black indian cotton and the black leather and it’s going to be really nice. I’ll start in on the metal substructure later today. Right now I’m off to the gallery to drop off the chair and to get out of the house for a few hours. Go a bit stir crazy just spending all the day long welding, bending steel and grinding.
But I’ve troved through my old photos and heres one I took of Kierans house, out in the bush to the right of Paparoa, from when I was up there helping him with some building.
The little house in the bush.

Time marches (skips unburdened?) on.

up on the shelves
So my oxygen ran out and I’ve been writing letters to my good man Pierre to fill up the well and by lunchtime today I’ll be able to go out and pay my gas bill and get some more bottles. Meanwhile I’ve gone ahead on a table thats been without a top for a while. I found a lovely bit of concrete last weekend, in a bin of course, that is an edge thats been cut off with a diamond saw. I’m going to use it down the centre of the table with wood on each side. I’ll line the sides of the cut, as it were, with galv sheet with little brass nails and hold the two sides and the concrete together with 6mm rod drilled into the wood and passing through the concrete. Should be quite nice.
it's going to be lovely.
And when I got bored with the table and all that sanding, rasping and grinding with the arbortech, I started in on the Ottoman for Aesthete.
boat building?
I’m really starting to tend towards a methodology with ply that owes more to boat builing and early aeroplane construction in that I use very light materials and strengthen them with ribs and gussets. This is from a artwork I made last year of a submarine where I used packing crate ply and no more nails exclusively to see whether I could build a strong structure that was also light… and it worked.
This is the finished base, well unpainted anyways, and though it might be a little heavier than a single thickness of 25mm plywood, which would normally be used for something like this, its at least two times stronger than a single sheet would be so it’s going to allow the steel work holding it up to be less structural simply because the base is rigid enough in bending that it won’t need the supporting structure to do more than suspend it at a given height.

It’s almost as if the aspects that make my stuff arty can only happen because I have an instinctual understanding of how I can get the most from specific materials and have that somewhat hidden by the art that it seems to convey. If anything I like to play with peoples ideas of structure and substance by keeping them to a minimum. I’ve often been accused of creating things that look flimsy and unsubstantial then I can shock them, the accuser, by bouncing up and down on the piece and shattering, well thats a bit strong, um..suspending their judgement and their ideas of what structure is and how it actually works.

Underneath the Art I’m actually more of an engineer I suppose because art is really quite boring but taking materials and pushing them to the edges of usefulness… thats interesting! The fact that in the process it tends to become Art, well thats just a side effect.

Part 2 of the flash stuff.

I have been enjoying this. No doubt about it, I’m a metal fabricator!

It’s really quite hard work; I may have already mentioned that and given it’s mostly relevant to the events that I partake in, namely making metal stuff, then I will no doubt mention it again, but it’s very satisfying and dangerous as well. Very hot metal, lots of sharp things to impale ones self upon and precarious positioning of both myself and the object worked on adds up to a level of blaise risk that really is quite dear to my heart.
And just look at the colours in the concrete floor! Aren’t they beautiful?
I’m well on my way here and may even have approached the half way mark.
This is the kind of detail that will end up all over the place. It’s at the top right corner.
And this is where the actual posterior meets the raw stuff of the earths centre… well, that’s supposedly nickel iron and this is iron with a dash of carbon, and the bronze which is a mix of copper and tin, mostly copper. Anyways, I’m thinking I might do some form of upholstered cushion for this as I have a bunch of sheepskin, both with fleece still attached and plain hides, that plays with the underlying structure. I really do like the idea of hiding one type of detailing underneath another even to the extent of having the finer sitting under the coarser. I suppose that, pyschologically, I’m speaking of my often coarse outward appearance and alluding to the fine details of my thought processes that lurk underneath. Whatever eh!

It’s bin a while…

It’ really has been rather a long time since I’ve done any pure straightforward art… well, other than a bunch of masonary stuff I did a week or two ago; and must get back into actually because I came accross a very nice bin on the ol’ mangere bus route round the back of Ellerslie, all those old well kept mansiony villa’s, full of all sorts of expensive broken masonary. What stopped me was a huge chunk of scoria jutting from the top of it but once that had been carried to the car, easily 40kg’s of it, I realised the rest of the bin was full of treasures too, so I put the car on it’s rubber for the ride home… anyways, this’ll be the patio out the front of the house, Mum gets the good stuff!
Meanwhile I’ve sold two pieces in a gallery in Parnell, Aesthete run by Pierre and Genevieve, a chair and a stool, which were both surplus stock, the chair only a few years old but the stole went back to the early nineties, and I’ve been encouraged, by the smell of dollero’s, to do some more stuff. So I am and I’m quite surprised I can still do it and especially how it’s getting harder physically but much easier creatively. I did this yesterday after getting home at about 2am and basically went until it was too dark to see what I was doing.
just plain ol' steel.
As always it’s really hard to get a good impression of how I fill 3 dimensional space with a 2 dimensional photo but what can you do. Model it in softaware to rotate and zoom? That’d take as long as it does to just make the dam thing… if not longer!
dada eclectic... what?
the chaise lounge.
Now if you know welding and metalwork you’ll see how much work I’ve got ahead of me. This is the easy bit, just bending , cutting and tacking up. Now I’ve got to go through and weld all the joins up and then work up the subsidary framework to strengthen it all up so if a fat bastard decides to sit in it… it’ll groan and squeak somewhat but it won’t take a dive to mother earth.
I’ve kinda figured it all out, where the solid sheet goes and where the sheet with holes in it goes and even where the cushion is and what shape it’ll be… as well as where the decorative bits will go. I’d say another two days of welding, cutting and grinding etc, then maybe two days cleaning it up and getting the protective coat on. I’ll post my progress as I go. About 5 hrs work so far.

Whats happening?

Basically nothing. I did the work to get it all going then delivered a progress payment invoice to Cath at the Library and nothing for, what, 6 weeks or so. I didn’t really mind because I wanted to do other stuff but it’s getting beyond a joke. I sent an Email to Cath about a week ago and no reply so I guess I’m going to have to go down in person to see what going on.
The thing is that I understand the way I work but I’m fairly sure not many other people do. I get a deposit to pick up a few materials then spend the rest so I’m committed to the project. I owe them. When thats gone, the money, I do some work so I can show some progress so I can get some more money. I still owe them but I’ve shown I’ve started. That kinda goes on until I’ve finished and if the commisionaires are quick with the progress then I’m quick with the work because it keeps me owing them and I always need more money. I only really start to work if I need to. I’m not one of those people who are disciplined enough to do work thats really quite interesting in the formative stages, when its about ideas, but not so interesting when its merely a dull and tiring drudge to the end. Theres much more interesting things to do with hardly any money than work. I am a victim of my own curiousity and unending search for interesting things and ideas that need me to love them.

That said I did go out last week and do a few hours welding and it’s all rusty again, after a clean up, but thats a good thing as the more often its cleaned then goes rusty the deeper the patinas are at the end. So for the artwork this delay is a good thing… but for me and the library patrons it’s merely time passing and nothing happening.

Not really good considering I sent a letter off to Len, the Mayor, the other day with a complaint about the stupidities surrounding how they spend their allocation of arts money… and here I am being the exact thing that has made them so close chested with the cash. Oh well, we are what we are. I’m happy, just sold off a bunch of instruments to keep me in the red.
But I will be welding again quick smart because I’ve now acheived a bit of spare cash to buy nuts and bolts and stuff plus I’ve started working around the house in preparation for Mum gettin’ back from holiday and weldin’ and drillin’, and all the stuff to do with buildin’ the box, is a hellua lot easier than diggin’ and haulin’ dirt, so I’ll be findin’ time of my own for the holiday (from diggin’) that is… bein’ conscientious (paid work).

It’s been a while.

Sorry about that Folks. The idea was that I’d do a bunch of work then hand in an invoice for a progress payment but over the last 2 or 3 weeks the MCC has been silent so I guess that means, oh I don’t know what it means except no money has come through which means, and this I have control over, that I’m going to now charge on regardless and with the impetus of more work under my belt will be able to go searching for an answer as to why they, the council management, have decided to ignore my request for a progress payment. I’ll now be posting again… because I’ll have done more work.

The Fresh Screen.

Finished up the storage and, God, what do I call it, put upper mechanism? What do we call those things that allow us to put something up… not a shelf though. Anyways I made a big screen for Fresh Gallery and then decided it needed a mechanism to store it in the gallery and as an aid to put it up when it was needed. Now that I’ve made the putter upper, ah!, installation aid, hows that?, it might now even be of any use. It might be but then again it might not. Thats the thing about building things you’ve never built before. You have to build them first to see if they’ll work.

Lets start from the bginning so this makes more sense because I’m fairly sure that at the moment it makes none at all.

Fresh gallery has openings, of an evening, once a month and they like to serve alcohol but there is a liquor ban on the Town Centre precinct so they required a screen made to partition the courtyard they reside in from the rest of the Town Centre proper. It needed to be 14mtrs long and 2mtrs high and of a lightish weight so Ema and Nicole could put it up themselves. Also it had to pack down so it could be stored in the gallery. Ema initially wanted Black Vinyl and with my initial realisation that full size frames on wheels would work and that a sail of sorts was required I told here we needed a fabric of sorts that would allow some wind passing through it because sails and sudden gusts are designed to capture energy and not dissapate it like we required. using Black, or any colour vinyl wouldn’t work. So by luck or circumstance I found a chinese copy of an expensive German Plasticy nylon, most probably polypropylene, fabric that was strong, light weight and was a mesh… that was also cheap enough to fit the budget.

Then I had to figure out how to string up this weight accross 14mtrs and not have it sag so I went looking for garden variety mild steel galv rope of the sort we used to put on clotheslines. In the rope departments all they had was stainless steel which was too expensive and a little too brittle for what I wanted it for. Stainless is good for kitchens and yachts and milk tankers but not for too much else as far as I can see but people seem to think its a good thing so thats what you find out there now. Anyways they still sell the stuff I wnted in the clothline dept, but for how much longer I don’t know, I suppose in a year or two we’ll be using carbon fibre string for clothlines given the modern fetsh for high quality materials in low quality settings to try and lift the game.

But I suppose you get the idea, I’m building a screen and I did, thanks to my Mum and her industrial sewing machine, and I put it up and it worked. But then I had the problem of how can these women who work in an art gallery put this up? Easy, build and installation aid… so I eventually did, but I don’t know if it’s going to be any easier than the way I did it manually. It might be but what it really needs, this storage device cum installation aid, is an additional steel guide rope so the small footprint on the holder of the screen can be adequately fixed at it’s vertical extreme. But today we’ll see if the girls can put the screen up themselves or answer the question of whether another little bit of work is required.

It’s always like this when you don’t really know what you’re doing but have done enough stuff of a similar nature to be able to push the bounds of what one is capable of acheiving.

Mangere Bridge.

I was down there last week and saw them demolishing the old toilets and so got off an Email to Priscilla at council, and who also lives in Manger Bridge and is part of an Art group there, who heads Art something or other asking about finding the people responsible so I might get a little work. This is in progress but it brought up the idea of drawing up a map, alike the London Subway map, to denote how council works and where and how departments interact and have control hopefully to enable outsiders to see where they should go to have these public servants… serve the public.

The thing is that as soon as you see the council up to something, in a concrete kind of way, it usually means they’ve been planning it for months, if not years, and the chance of making any changes is very slim at best. I’m not even sure what they’re accountability is in regards to this and whether or what things they have to notify about and where and how this notification takes place. Thats why a map is needed.

Yesterday and half of today.

Been welding like a banshee and the older I get the harder it is but it also feels kinda better knowing I can still do it. Metal work is hard, dirty and time consuming but it’s actually quite nice weather to be doing it in.
Weldied in all the cross bracing on thursday and spent most of the rest of the day doing electronics and getting my bike going again.
ta da!
ta de!
Then this morning I got up early, went for a bike ride, to get used to the cold and warmup, then welded in the thinner tubes and cut up the fillets.
yummy stuff.
Now it’s 12.39 and I’m going to make up a reciept and drop it off at the llibrary for a progress payment and of course I’ll be riding down in this glorious mid winter sun on my bike.
Modified GT with Sturmey Archer three speed hub. Phew Eh!

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