Friday, April 29, 2011

Abtu and Anet, Chapter 2

Abtu and Anet, Chapter 2- Copper and Brass
From Borges- "As all Egyptians knew, Abtu and Anet were two life-sized fishes, identical and holy, that swam on the lookout for danger before the prow of the sun god's ship..."

The brass sun, hand cut after all the process photos were done, acts as a slide, holding the mask ribbon in place. Like so: (it is difficult to take a photo of the back of one's own head. This will have to be redone. I won't make a whole blog post about it.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

**Work in Progress** Abtu and Anet, Chapter 2

Abtu and Anet, Chapter 2, more progress shots.

Once I have the pattern drawn on the copper, the fun begins. I first cut the mask off the main sheet, keeping the lines as close as possible to the pattern, with my sheer. I then come back and cut as many of the long, exterior lines as possible with the sheer. It can do fairly sharp curves, but it is very hard to get the saw in to finish any uncompleted lines, so I'm careful in what I attempt. The first shot here is post shear. The rest of the cutting is done with a jeweler's saw and a scroll saw. The hand saw is rather faster, but the very deep throat on the scroll saw is sometimes neccesary- the long tails on the fish in this mask made it one of those times. I was unable to do much of anything with my 5 inch jeweler's saw.
Once the mask is cut out, every edge has to be sanded. This is the largest single chunk of time in the making of a metal mask, but any unsanded edge will cut, so it must be done, and done carefully. I sand and bevel all the edges with my flexshaft and sanding disks, and follow after with my bare finger to check on things.
Only then does the forging begin. I work my copper cold, but in order to prevent cracking, anneal often. So I anneal, then texture, then anneal, then form, then anneal, form more, etc. This mask had a whole lot of texture, but no complex forming, and I got away with only annealing twice.
The texture on this mask was made with two hammers- one is my go to forming hammer, the other I made just for the scales on the fish. I modified the end of a very old hammer I've had around for a while. In fact, it's the one that I usually carry around in my bag, but it was in the studio, and I used it. I filed it to shape, then sanded it to a bright finish. The finish on the mask is defined by the finish on the hammer, so the better polish I have there, the less work I'll have later.
After texturing, I annealed again. I knew this was the last pass with the torch, and so was very careful with how I heated everything in order to get the precise coloration that I wanted. I wanted a bright, symetrical nose, with darker, red/purple on the bodies and tails; I annealed everything, then came back with a bushy flame, swinging back and forth across the bodies, in diminishing swings till settling right on the nose. I heated the nose up to bright orange, turned of the torch, let everything cool for a split second, and quenched in cold water.
This is still only the third picture. After that, i bring a stake, and start forming the mask to a face shape. This means punching out the nose, bringing down the cheeks, and taking the inner corners of the eyes in. Not until the nose is perfect to I start forming the rest of the face- and this last bit I do with my fingers, using a hammer only if necessary. Once complete, I wax the whole mask, inside and out, heat it a tiny bit, and buff it shiny.
Abtu and Anet still need a sun, but the mask part is complete. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Animals in the Form of Spheres, Chapter 7.

Animals in the Form of Spheres, Chapter 7. Copper, Various Agates and Jaspers, Mother of Pearl.
I had fun with this one. I think I may make a sun monocle, just for kicks.

From Borges-
"...Plato thought the world to be a living being and in the Laws(898) stated that the planets and stars were living as well, In this way, he enriched fantastic zoology with vast spherical animals and cast aspersions on those slow witted astronomers who failed to understand that the circular course of the heavenly bodies were voluntary..."

I had never heard this before, in having studied what I thought was a great deal about classical interpretations of the cosmos. And I love it- this is by far the most logical and concise explanation for Mars in retrograde I've found- excepting, of course, allowing all the planets to orbit the sun.

This also marks the first time I have ever made and used my own bezel wire. The current silver market made it worthwhile to make copper bezels.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Behemoth: Chapter 15

Behemoth, Chapter 15: From Borges- "We give the ten verses in the translation from the Latin Vulgate by Father Knox(XL:10-19): 'Here is Behemoth, my creature as thou art, fed in the same grass the owen eat; yet what strength in his loins, what lustihood in the navel of his belly! Stiff as cedarwood his tail, close-knit the sinews of his groin, bones like plates of steel! None of God's works can vie with him, no weapon so strong in the hands of its maker...' "

Behemoth is generally considered to be an elephant. I made him a dinosaur because I am, by nature, contrary.

Monday, April 25, 2011

**Work in Progress** Abnu and Anet, Chapter 2

This is the basic process. I have almost the whole book annotated, already. I'm starting with some of the simpler masks- and most certainly with masks I don't need to order parts for- but also trying to stay sortof in order. Chapter one requires some research and development, so I've got chapter 2 going. Fairly simple, fairly straightforward- two identical fish, swimming.
If I do sketches, I do them directly onto the mask form. This one started from my smallest form, and, wanting fish to be identical, I only drew half. Then I inked that sketch, traced it onto white paper, cut that out, and used it as a stencil (twice) on the metal. When tracing onto the metal, I put down the mask form, under the fish, in order to make sure the alignment was all correct. I never did a full paper form for this, and never fit it to the face-I am, however, quite certain it will.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

**Work in Progress** Animals in the Form of Spheres, Chapter 7

Work done yesterday- I'll perhaps finish today, but then, maybe tomorrow. A mask in the form of Plato's universe. Because it turns out he thought planets were animals, just wandering around up there.

Friday, April 22, 2011


The Carbuncle, Chapter 18: Copper, Broken Mirrors, Rooster Feathers, Uncut Ruby

From Borges-
"In mineralory the carbuncle, from the Latin carbunculus, "a little coal" is a ruby; as to the carbuncle of the ancients, it is supposed to have been a garnet.
In sixteenth-century South America, the name was given by the Spanish conquistadors to a mysterious animal- mysterious because no one ever saw it well enough to know whether it was a bird or a mammal, whether is had feathers or fur. The poet-priest Martin del barco Centenera, who claims to have seen it in Paraguay, describes it in his Argentina only as "a smallish animal, with a shining mirror on its head, like a glowing coal...."...."

Monday, April 11, 2011

and continueing

I still have not made so much as the first mask for this series, and half a month has gone by. The budget for the project is just about where I thought (and feared) it would be. I looked into trying Kickstarter, but that requires a video- technology I do not have. The thing to do would be to just go ahead and start on the cheaper, simpler ones, and work my way up.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Just mucking around on a beautiful sunshiny day at the end of March, I picked up "the Book of Imaginary Beings" and laid down in the hammock. Six hours later, with underlined passages and sketches on many of the pages, I was on to something. I decided I would do it before looking at the logistics of the thing. This is the largest endeavor I've taken on since my thesis work in school, if not larger. Assuming I complete this, that will be 197 masks (161 different creatures, but one will need 36 masks). My thought was to start on my birthday, April 1 and try to finish by my next birthday. One year, though, is very little time, considering that I also own and run a small business. I'll try, though. So far I've not begun a single mask for the project. I have, instead, been very adult. I've looked at logistics, and written up a budget; I've also found that the copyright of the book is a bit difficult. There are newer versions published, but the Giovanni translation/collaboration is the one I fell for, and I plan to stick with that one. I've daydreamed quite a bit about the finished collection and what I could possibly do with, where I could possibly hang, so many masks.

I'm in love.