Sunday, January 4, 2015

Uncle Chet Makes A Bomb

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I don’t know how it is at your house, but around here New Year’s is the symbolic season of change when everyone in the family entertains good intentions for the coming 12 months. “Don’t worry”, we tell ourselves. It will all be over soon and we can get back to whatever we were doing before. 

New Year’s resolutions seem like such an inconvenience. Here we are, happily skipping through snow at Christmas time, eating like pigs, wallowing in gifts….having a good time!  And BAM! - New Years!! THIS SHIT HAS GOT TO STOP!!!! 

In atonement we will then go on an obligatory purge of gruel and sewer water for 3 or 4 days in the expectation that our bodies will shed 30 pounds just to end the 3-4 days of torture. It never ends well.

Now we do things differently.

Instead of looking in the mirror and thinking about all the major life changing things we’re GONNA’ do in the next 10 days, we look at the cumulative behavior of our immediate family over the last year and make a list of all the stuff we’re NOT gonna’ do. Not accomplishing most of the items on the list is made infinitely easier by the exemplary results achieved by family members who have gone before us. 

Even so, forearmed with best intentions and a list of things to avoid doing, we still manage to discover new and even stupider things to do. It’s a growing list, this New Years thing – a work in progress. 

Around this time of year we get an unaccustomed and unnatural urge to clean the studio. We looked back, took stock, and tried to recall why we had accumulated 234 pair of old shoes over the last 18 months. Surely it was a spectacularly brilliant artistic epiphany at the time. Our deep meditation on the meaning of 234 pair of shoes was interrupted by a phone call from Uncle Chet. He was in the throws of a not dissimilar dilemma.

Having caught the New Year’s bug going around, Uncle Chet had determined that he too had good intentions, and must divest himself of the myriad objects and treasures that had found their way to his garage/vault. This was colossal!  Uncle Chet considers it a mortal sin to throw anything away. His preferred disposal method is to transfer his unwanted stuff to someone else’s garage. This keeps balance in Uncle Chet’s universe and ensures that if he eventually remembers why he accumulated the stuff in the first place, he knows where to come get it.  Uncle Chet was wondering if we could use a half-gallon of “yellow liquid.”

This prompted one of those hurried discussions with one hand over the phone receiver you have between you and your spouse.  “Its Chet…want some yellow liquid?!...Dunno, whatisit?…. Who knows? Muriatic acid?, chlorine?, urine!........ its Chet!.... OK, I’ll find a use for…  NO!!!!  

Back on the phone this all came out as, “Uh…Uncle Chet we already have a big bottle of yellow liquid, we’re going to have to pass.” Chet replied we were the last call to a long list of family members who were all remarkably well stocked with yellow liquid at the moment.

This is when it occurred to Uncle Chet that he could at least save some of the containers. He would just fill all the partial contents into as few containers as possible.
This seemed to be going well until he got to the yellow liquid.

According to the police report, Uncle Chet, added “blue liquid to a half gallon of yellow liquid. Suspect then noticed the mixture becoming warm, and then quickly getting hot.  The mixture then began to bubble and smoke.”

At this point Uncle Chet allegedly ran out of the garage with arms waving and screaming for everyone to evacuate the house. This did not strike anyone as particularly odd...its Chet.  So, everyone assembled on the front yard as instructed, just in time to watch the garage explode in a huge fireball. This piqued the curiosity of the neighbors who joined us on the front lawn and wanted to know if someone was filming a movie and if any celebrities might be hanging around.

Everyone, including the town’s police and fire department, seemed quite disappointed to learn that celebrities were nowhere to be seen, and it was just Uncle Chet blowing up the garage. No one was injured, no celebrities were sited and nobody knows what the yellow or blue liquids were.  

Uncle Chet got a stern talking-to from the town authorities and then released to the custody of Aunt Robin. Chet had asked to be remanded to county jail for a few days but the authorities weren’t feeling lenient.

We have since added “Don’t mix blue and yellow liquids” to our New Year’s resolution list. Note to selves: If blue and yellow liquids ARE mixed, invite some celebrities over first, just to be safe. Lesson learned. 




Disclaimer: This is our January blog entry for EtsyMetal Blog Carnival, where various artists post their experiences on a shared topic. Unfortunately the characters and events depicted in this post are all true and no one's name has been changed since there are no innocent parties. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

NEVER ask an artist this one question.













Its Blog Carnival time again that international festival of intensely personal nonsense and babel brought to you by EtsyMetal.

As artists, we travel around the U.S. and the world a lot. We get to meet many interesting people, many of whom are also interested in what we do. We are sincerely grateful for and appreciate people's interest in our work, particularly when said interest is not instigated by police or tax officials.

Over the many years we have been doing this we have noticed that one question gets asked more often than any other.  Oddly enough, the question is almost never asked by other artists.   The question: "What is your favorite piece."

Asking this of an artist will often elicit a blank stare accompanied by muted stammering as the artist tries to process the unfathomability of the request. If the artist also inserts a finger into any orifice of their body (nose, ear, mouth etc.) while stammering, this is a sign that you have thrust a substantially large stick into the spokes of the artist's mental processing. It is probably best to back away quietly at this point.

Non-artists often find the artists response to this question equally unfathomable. It's a simple enough question. Except that artists don't think this way. At All. The disconnect is one of perspective and relationship. For example, any artist can tell you which is their favorite piece produced by another artist.  They can tell you this because their perspective is external to the object and simply based on personal preference of aesthetics. There are no other considerations or relationship with the object.

Now switch places with the artist who made the object. The relationship and perspective changes radically and is no longer dependent on aesthetics at all.  Intention and execution are often the standards of measure. You can see this at work with many artists by complimenting them on a piece. Many will respond to a compliment by pointing out where they failed with intention or execution.

The other big disconnect is picking a point in time. For example, many artists will say that their "favorite" piece is "the one I just finished."  This comment is far less connected to the aesthetic preferences of the artist as it is about the process of giving birth to a creative expression. For an artist to point to a single item and say, THAT ONE is my "favorite" is to stop time and completely deny their journey as an artist. The foundations of that journey are evolution and discovery. The criteria for intention and execution constantly change. Thus, many artists will express  that items they were satisfied with or found acceptable at one stage of their journey are no longer so because their perspective has shifted with experience.

So, if you must know, "what our favorite piece is?"  It's the one you want to buy.

Monday, August 4, 2014

How to put 10 lbs. of shit in a 5 lb. box

Welcome to another installment of Blog Carnival, the ongoing international blatherings of the artists of EtsyMetal, of which we are one (well two actually, if you want to get all technical like). Every month we pick a topic and each of who so chooses writes about it from their unique and often unfathomable perspective.

You, the reader, are thusly treated to a real time comparison of how one artist’s dysfunction stacks up against another’s on the same point of reference. This is our gift to students of psychology and snoopy people everywhere. You know who you are. Enjoy.

This month we are supposed to be writing about tools, a subject that all metalsmiths are obsessed with. We have “tool envy”. We look at “tool porn”. We compare our tools to the tools of others. And we fuck with out tools incessantly, changing them, modifying, making them bend to our will.  We can’t help ourselves.  Just know that the fastest way to seduce a metalsmith is invite her up to your room to look at your tools.

While we all like to talk about our tools, we don’t talk so much about the dirty little secret we all live with. Namely, where do you put all those tools.  Yes, we are all trying to fit 10lbs of shit into a 5lb box. As much as we all like tools, studio space and storage is the Holy Grail.

For our own part, we have literally built “floor to ceiling” shelves and storage into every square inch of our 4 room studio space. This has not even come close to providing adequate storage, so we built 3 additional outbuildings – and immediately filled those up too. Stick around for the super-nova sale that happens after we kick it. We’re pretty sure we actually DO have the arc of the covenant in there somewhere. Maybe Jimmy Hoffa too.






Here are two photos showing our individual benches. Take your best guess at which one belongs to Pig Pen and Ms. Lucy.
















The arrangements have evolved over the years to put the tools we use constantly within arm’s reach.






 


The area under each bench is also lined with shelves and drawers that pull out to provide easy access and additional work surface.











We are big on using every square inch of space to compactly store the small tools we use frequently. Such as this modular system for keeping the various flex shaft bits hands.











Revolving trays tucked into dead corners can store a boat-load stuff. Specially if you pimp them out like ours.











 Peg board is simply the most important discovery for artists since the invention of the automatic coffee maker and margaritas.  I would line my refrigerator with this stuff if Corliss would let me. One of the many things we are using peg board for is to store our wire stock. We picked up this remarkably efficient trick many, many years ago on a visit to another artist’s studio. See the pattern here? 





Sheet gets stored in an open filing system and smaller pieces migrate to sorted bins in the drawers.














Any wall surface that does not contain selves is lined with peg board. This one is over a bench and contains frequently used tools.  We have found that stacking the peg boards is far more efficient than having one tool per hook which in our case would require a building approximately the size of Hong Kong International Airport. And, its not for sale. We asked.
As you might imagine the daily workings of a studio creates a powerful swirling tornado of tools, materials and project in varying degrees of progress. This lends itself to an environment of barely controlled chaos. Considering the context, the word “controlled” is itself a variable term, open to a wide range of interpretation. 
By way of example here are two views of our “mini machine room”.  The room itself is most definitely a work in progress, much akin to attempting maintenance on the car while you are driving it. 


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Patina


Patina is a thin layer that forms on the surface of stone, copper, bronze and similar metals (tarnish produced by oxidation or other chemical processes); a sheen on wooden furniture produced by age, wear, and polishing; or any such acquired change of a surface through age and exposure. Patinas can provide a protective covering to materials that would otherwise be damaged by corrosion or weathering. They may also be aesthetically appealing.

This month’s Blog Carnival topic is “patinas”.   While the original intent of the assignment was no doubt the common practice of applying patinas to metal, patination also refers to the accumulated changes in surface texture and colour that result from normal use of an object such as a coin over time.


 Of course all of this can be said of people too. That part about  “may also be aesthetically appealing”, is where things get really interesting where people are concerned.

For instance, Billy Gibby here, who tattooed the web address of several porn sites on his face as part of a breakthrough idea to become a human billboard.  Don’t get us wrong, we love the art of tatau, particularly as practiced by indigenous cultures the world over.  And far be for us to dredge up that old saw “but what will it look like when you get old?!!” 50 years from now we’re all going to look like shit and people will still be watching porn.
 
The patina people exhibit over the years often goes far below the surface, and the accumulated age, wear, texture and polishing exhibits itself in so many strange and beautiful ways – or not.  In the worst cases, we just end up scared and damaged from years of abuse, frequently self-inflicted. In the best of cases we acquire a glowing inner light and perspective enhanced by accumulated experience and knowledge.

 
 And then there’s Charlie Manson who, in a supreme twist of irony, looks like someone’s grandpa, except …what’s that on your grandpa’s forehead!?   
Patina.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Art Versus Craft





This month's Blog Carnival Topic is "Art or Craft, to which we reply...

There once was a kingdom that had two villages. All the subjects of the realm lived in one village or the other.  Much ado was made by the inhabitants of each village that they alone were the favorites of the Gods, and thus obviously superior to the inhabitants of the other village. These frequent declarations led to constant warfare and skirmishes between the two villages.

Despite generations of warfare, neither side was ever able to win a decisive victory in their claim to superiority over the other. This did nothing to dampen the fervor and tenacity to which each side proclaimed its virtue over the other.

Now, as it happened, this warfare between the villages was carried out in full view of all the other kingdoms in the land.  Rather than taking sides, the inhabitants of the other kingdoms were confused and frightened because both villages seemed completely the same to them.  What are they fighting about, they thought, the people in those two villages must all be crazy.  And so, the people of the other kingdoms stayed away from the two villages, not wanting to get dragged into the fighting.

So caught up in the fighting were the people of the two villages that they didn’t notice that no one was minding the crops, and the people of both villages were starving.  Or that the people of the other kingdoms no longer came to trade at their village markets and fairs.  To make matters worse, the generations of warfare had left some villagers so confused that they no longer could tell which village they belonged to.
It was if they were all the same.

Of course, this could never be. For the wise men of each village had prophesied, in tongues no less, the certainty of their differences. More sacrifices were needed, said the wise men, so that we may prove once and for all throughout the realm, which village is indeed the best.

And so the villagers continued to fight and starve and sacrifice their children in a battle that no one outside the villages cared about and those in each village no longer understood.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

How does your ethnicity impact your art





This months Blog Carnival asks “What’s your ethnicity” and how has it impacted your artwork. Easy, we thought! Then again, what exactly does “ethnicity” mean? We looked it up. Turns out it covers a lot of ground.

Ethnicity or ethnic group is defined as social group of people who identify with each other based on common ancestral, social, cultural, or national experience.

Membership of an ethnic group tends to be associated with shared cultural heritage, ancestry, history, homeland, language (dialect), or ideology, and with symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, physical appearance, etc.

Larger ethnic groups will tend to form smaller sub-ethnic groups (historically also known as tribes), which over time may become separate ethnic groups themselves through the process of ethnogenesis.

Not so easy after all. Particularly if we are trying to draw meaning or particular influence on a lifetime of art work.




The Ancestors
John come from a very long line of seafarers. Norwegian Vikings as the parents pointedly reminded us as children. This was the way of the father and grandfather and great grandfather, etc., and was certainly the path proscribed for John from an early age.

Travel, looting and pillaging certainly had its appeal for a while, but participation in other groups of artists and intellectuals offered perspectives on life paths that were considerably different – and safer.

Corliss’ parents also had plans for her life. She was being groomed to take over the family floral business. Under the tutelage of her father, Corliss developed a strong creative voice as a designer.

Then John happened.

This had pretty much the same effect on the family plans as any standard Viking invasion. The odd twist of fate being that Corliss’ family tree stems from Germany, Ireland and France. An ancestral appreciation for drinking and brawling set the basis for an instant love match with John.
Oh yeah, and there was this art thing we shared too.




Cultural Experience
Hippies. Joining this tribe was a game-changer for both of us. By now all the parents were getting the idea that John & Corliss were straying from the chosen paths. This was a period of intense political activity made more intense by a massive quantities of sex drugs and rock&roll. As it turns out sex, drugs and rock&roll are just fine with everyone. Put politics into the mix and things can get violent quickly. Extensive travel during this period offered perspectives on other life paths that were considerably different – and safer.




National Experience
Duty called. Military service sort of summed up John’s life experience to date. It had it all. Travel, politics, looting, sex, drugs, rock&roll, and violence on government sanctioned scale that cannot be imagined until it is experienced. Being part of an invading army is a transcendent experience. Whatever ideas John had that there were any rules for anything, pretty much evaporated during this period. Moral ambivalence turned out to be just what the military was looking for however, and special assignments followed. Corliss became part of the military lifestyle in wartime – which is to say bat shit crazy became the new normal. By this time it was abundantly clear that just about any other path would be considerably safer than the one we were on.




Religion, Mythology and Ritual
Catholicism and the Mob. Both John and Corliss were raised Catholic- old school Catholic. In John’s case the parents were mobbed up AND staunch Catholic. Two groups that share a lot of similarities in an many odd ways. The kinder softer church was still half a century away, and corporal punishment was accepted, encouraged. The mob never did make the transition.

Both the mob and the church were a big part of growing up and each organization had a very dense mythology and ritual. Sometimes they overlapped. This all seemed like the natural order of things growing up, even if it led to some truly bizarre nuggets of parental advice and guidance. Strange and beautiful advice it turned out, that provided a perspective on how to survive in an unsafe world. God works in mysterious ways.




Tribe
Art - Our tribe through all of the above. Art embraces everything, expresses everything. Art has been a shield and a weapon, sometimes both at the same time. Art is our way of seeing, our way of doing and our way of being. Everything we have ever been and want to be comes out in the art. It has always been safest path – even when it’s not.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Santa's Elves


This month’s Blog Carnival burning question is: What do you do to celebrate the holidays? Which holidays do you celebrate? What foods do you make? What special holiday jewelry do you make?

Glad you asked. We asked Santa’s elves once how they celebrate Christmas. They replied in a chorus of tiny voices, “How the fuck do you think we celebrate Christmas!? We Work!!” Elves are a little edgy that way.

And so goes our own steady descent into Christmas Elfdom. The madness starts each year in September when the Christmas buying season starts.  That is when the stores buy that all stuff they will use to hype you into a month long frenzy that would make a hungry shark blush. Of course, we’ve been toiling steadily throughout the summer to support the madness and frenzy. We’re team players.

The madness typically continues all the way through the holiday season, and crescendos on Christmas eve. Each year and every year for the last 20 years we have had a stranger knock upon our door on Christmas Eve. Usually around 8pm. Always a man.

He’s terrified, this man. “I need a Christmas gift”, he blurts out. “You’ve come to the right place” we discretely reply, while checking the street up and down, “come in quickly”.   We always wonder how these hapless souls find their way to our doorstep, but we’ve learned not to ask any questions.  Cash and goods quickly change hands and they vanish into the night, off to bestow thoughtful gifts to beloveds none the wiser.  So goes our Christmas Elfdom tradition.

It wasn’t always this way. As children we had different holiday traditions. Like going to Grandma’s house. Grandma ran a gambling parlor in her rural Indiana kitchen and also had a booming fruitcake business on the side. Gram and Gramps we’re also moonshiners, and at Christmas time you got a fruitcake with a gallon of shine. Gram had a secret recipe for the fruitcakes and they were awfully popular at Christmas parties. 

A few days before Christmas all the Uncles and Cousins would gather at Grams to deliver fruitcakes. This was always done after dark and would take all night until the last cake was delivered.  It was also the occasion for Gramps to make his traditional Fuckyouuppo holiday punch.  Gramp's Fuckyouuppo punch was much like Gram's fruitcakes. Nobody new exactly what was in it, but you sure recognized the effect once you had some.  

Delivery parties were always occasions to test the products to ensure quality. It was the consensus that it was “mighty good shit”, which I believe is the very tippy top highest accolade awarded by Good Housekeeping or Journal of American Moonshine or something. Once adequately fortified with shine and fruitcake Uncles and Cousins roared off in their hot rod sleds like so many sotted Santas  to deliver gifts till the wee hours of the morning.

We come from a long line of Christmas Elves. 


*Note: 2Roses makes jewelry. While many people testify to the stunning and intoxicating effects of our jewelry it is not a substitute for a good martini. We do not make moonshine, so don't ask. Not even on Christmas eve.