Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Funaki guest posts on materiality 3: Concrete

And finally, here's my third offering in the guest post series for Funaki, last winter during the early days of the pandemic when the gallery was closed and we were looking for alternative ways to communicate and interact. I wrote about materials I use, know and love: enamel, steel and concrete. Here's concrete! 

I was fortunate to discover this interesting character almost by accident. Some years ago, a bag from Bunnings was my leap of faith (yup, a panic solution) while planning a sculptural installation with no equipment to fabricate metal in a large scale. Concrete offered an alternative to work without heat or special tools, and allowed free experimentation without financial concerns. Soon, there was no return. 

At first glance–feel–concrete is heavy and dense, cool to the touch. It carries associations of construction and the industrial; of urban structures and surfaces; of my immediate world and visual interests. It can be rough, or polished like smooth marble, and is a reliable protector of fragile materials, such as glass, embedded. - From an intimate distance, concrete also reveals its sensual and sensitive side. Toned with natural pigments, the shades resonate with things I keep returning to: The light at dusk and dawn; the changing skies, seasons and weather patterns … all somehow connected to our own human emotions in flux. This poetic nature of concrete keeps surprising and captivating me. 

Finally, I think it’s great concrete is used by thousands of DIY enthusiasts, for all sorts of objects and ornaments. This gives it a democratic, joyous quality. Anyone can use concrete, giving such obvious satisfaction to those who may not otherwise be creatively engaged. It’s the material of inspiration and possibility! 

Images (including the floor of Funaki on Crossley St): Inari Kiuru, 2015-2020 


Funaki guest posts on materiality 2: Steel

Last winter during the early pandemic days of 2020, the physical gallery space closed, Funaki's artists were invited to create guest posts in Instagram, about anything we liked. Here's my second entry on materials I use and love (please also see the previous blog post about enamel). 

Let’s talk about STEEL. I love steel. It’s a metal that’s been with me from the start, for practical and aesthetic reasons. 

First, I love the applications of steel in our urban environment: The intricate metal structures and tall cranes at construction sites; huge diggers like strange animals; ships and sea containers, the battered back doors of trucks. I love the ordinariness of this material and the divinely beautiful way it surrenders to its environments, accepting scratches, stains, rust … the marks of time, never losing its integrity. 

I can weld steel, making jewellery pieces and vessels structurally safe while subjected to high heat in the kiln for enamelling or colouring. Soldered seams will reflow and collapse in temperatures over 800 Celcius whereas welded connections (metal joined to itself with electricity) remain intact. Anyone who works with steel also knows it can be temperamental as it rusts (maddeningly!) easily and is harder to cut and clean than precious metals. Sometimes its sharp edges make you bleed. But all is forgiven for its amazing scale of expression: I love the deep blues of heated mild steel, the chemical, snowflake-like zinc patterns on galvanized surfaces and the elegant grays they turn into when heated (although this process is toxic.). 

I love the shine. precision and strength of stainless steel, as well as the warm rusted tones and quiet stories told by old, abandoned pieces. I love the way stained steel sometimes looks like silk, sometimes like a landscape–but always still like steel. 

Images: Inari Kiuru 2008-2020, Mild and galvanized steel 


Funaki guest posts on materiality 1: Enamel

Last winter during the early pandemic days, Funaki's artists were invited to guest post in Instagram, about anything we liked. I prepared three entries, each about a different material I use and love. Here are those posts, each as their own, starting with ENAMEL. 

I thank my location stars for learning this art, as I studied silversmithing here in Melbourne at RMIT University. They, uniquely, have a long history of enamelling with masters such as Helen Aitken-Kuhnen and Debbie Sheezel having taught there prior to my own brilliant teacher, Dr Kirsten Haydon. 

As patience and fine motor skills are needed in the traditional techniques, my beginnings were naturally full of tears–and this was just the teacher ;) However, a 2010 workshop with Prof. Elizabeth Turrell introducing liquid enamel (also referred to as industrial enamel, see below) was a turning point. The application of a fluid mix and drawing onto it allowed a freedom I’d craved, and eventually gave me enough confidence to keep working with the ultimately very satisfying powdered enamel. 

The traditional vitreous (Latin ‘vitreum’ means glass) enamelling dates back to the 13th century BC. Coloured glass powders are carefully applied onto a base, usually metal, and fused by heat into a strong luminous surface. From the 19th century, enamel began to be used industrially: A liquid glass mix is fired in huge kilns to form a durable coating for everyday domestic wares such as our familiar bathtubs and fridge doors. It’s worth noting too that enamel paint (“cold enamel”) and liquid enamel are two very different things. 

The images (IK 2010-19) show you samples of enamel on steel and copper: Shifted (earrings, pendant); liquid (samples, brooch, vessels), and decals (images in enamel). 

For beautiful pieces in different styles, please also see the work of the artists mentioned in this post.