Category Archives: How-to-do-it

TARDIS sighting in British Columbia

Daytime TARDIS

Daytime TARDIS

Note: The premier of Season 8 of “Dr. Who” airs today with Peter Capaldi as the new doctor. The last time I saw Capaldi, he played the young Danny Oldsen in “Local Hero.”  I liked him then and I’m excited about seeing him in the role of Dr. Who now. It seemed fitting to re-post this blog piece today and I hope you enjoy it. The show starts in minutes few!  – Jan (first published Nov. 14, 2013.)

Dr. Who must be skulking in the neighborhood, because the TARDIS has landed in Metro Vancouver. We didn’t hear it cascading down, but there it is, sure enough. It landed two months ago, so the Doctor’s mission must be taking him far and wee. The Doctor, a Time Lord over 900 years old, is the main character of a fantastically inventive BBC science fiction television show which began airing in 1963. TARDIS is the acronym for Time and Relative Dimension in Space. A TARDIS is the time travel machine used by Dr Who. It was designed to blend into whatever landscape it landed in, but this particular machine went wonky and only ever appears as a police box. An example of art deco architecture, the structure is modeled after the British metropolitan police box, which, at one time, dotted the landscape throughout the UK. All London police boxes were built of concrete and had teak doors, but some in outlying areas may have been wooden. The BBC’s police boxes are wooden and, as opposed to the actual police box, it’s right-hand door swings inward.

TARDIS at night

TARDIS at night

There is a lot of buzz about the Doctor at present and, because of it, one wonders why he has chosen to land on a quiet street in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Maybe he’s escaping the limelight. The BBC’s “Dr. Who” is 50 years old this year and the 50th anniversary of the show is being celebrated throughout the world. On November 23, the BBC special “The Day of the Doctor” will be simulcast across the globe. In addition, lost episodes of the BBC show have been found in Nigeria and fans everywhere have rejoiced. The Doctor is no longer just a character on a television show. He’s an integral part of the British psyche…it’s hopes and dreams. Much has been written and theorized and criticized, but I like the Doctor. Why? For starters, the Doctor doesn’t have a macho build, isn’t pumped up on steroids. Then, the Doctor

BBC Blueprints

BBC Blueprints

carries no weapon; he only has a tool, a sonic screwdriver, which can open things. The Doctor is a romantic figure…he’s adventurous and he spends his time fixing things and, well, saving the Universe. The Doctor isn’t sexualized; he’s on a mission and he takes his missions one-by-one. He does have traveling companions, but only platonic relationships are depicted. Doctor Who is a refreshing alternative to a lot of what you find on tv or in the cinemas these days.

Original UK metropolitan police box blueprints, A

Original UK metropolitan police box blueprints, A

When “Dr. Who” first started, it was extremely low budget, but now it has a blank check, or so it seems, and with that $, the BBC fashions tv shows that show an intelligent use of special effects. The writers are splendid, in addition. And nothing could be better than the original theme, written by Rob Grainer, but brought to life by the genius of Delia Derbyshire of the amazing BBC Radiophonic workshop. What came to be known as the howl-around effect, the graphic sequence of the original Dr. Who intro, was created by Norman Taylor. According to the Independent, Taylor said, “I got the usual effect of diminishing images of the monitor disappearing into limbo when, suddenly, some stray light hit the monitor screen and the whole picture went mobile, with swirling patterns of black and white.” Everyone who has ever watched and liked Dr. Who has ‘their’ doctor. While getting on in years, he doesn’t necessarily have to age that much bodily, as he is able to regenerate a new body. The Doctor has recently enjoyed his 11th incarnation in the form of Matt Smith. The 50th Anniversary will usher in the 12th incarnation of the Time Lord, played by Peter Capaldi, who I first saw in “Local Hero,” in the 1980s. ‘My’ Dr. Who was Tom Baker, mainly because I began watching the show in the 1970s, when Baker was cast in the role of the fourth doctor. He remains a favorite among many fans and was notable for his long curly hair, big beak, and wonderfully long scarf.

Original UK metropolitan police box blueprint, B

Original UK metropolitan police box blueprint, B

The television show died out for a period of time but was resurrected and revamped in the 1990s. Since then, there have been new generations of fans, Whovians. I’m rather partial to David Tennant’s Dr. Who, as he was rather swashbuckling, yet, at the same time, sensitive as the 10th doctor. His altruism and passion really come across. But, back to the TARDIS…on our block… Some months ago, we were planning on building a triangular garden shed to set on the corner of our deck, but after researching plans, I kept coming across a British garden shed trend: Dr. Who’s time travel machine. They were large enough for what we wanted, but even more than that, they fit into our sense of aesthetics. So, my husband began researching, by using internet forums and web surfing. He wanted to find out about the origin, the history, so he went back to the advent of the police box. He found blueprints of the original British boxes, then ones from the BBC of successive TARDIS’. After much study, he began developing his plans, customizing the dimensions for our needs but

retaining all the design elements. The Jane Street TARDIS is 1o’x4’4′.  In every way, it looks like a British police box. It has a light, illuminated signage, a St. John’s Ambulance decal, a Yale lock, and police box telephone instructions. Because we live in SW BC, he used rubberized paint to seal it and opted for the original police box lip at the base of the door, which will keep the rain out (added after the photos above were shot). Original British boxes were about 10’x5’x5′, but we decided that was too big for our deck. It’s still mammoth; no photo shows its true scale. The deck floor is strong, the box was braced, and it’s extremely well-built. I’m posting blueprints, in case you want to build one of your own. Note, it’s a big project and not inexpensive. It’s also very heavy and needs a couple of people to place the top on the walls. Good luck with your endeavor, if you should choose to take this mission…

In the end, Dr. Who is about creativity and Jane Street Clayworks gives that a big “thumbs up.”

Leave a Comment

Filed under Featured Artists, Fun, Home and Garden, How-to-do-it

DIY Kiln Bead Rack

DIY Bead Rack

Bead rack made of insulated kiln brick

Thanks to some good advice, I made a sturdy bead rack for glaze firing. Sadly, the Amaco Bead Tree I bought was problematic at best, so I desperately needed another solution. An alternative was suggested by Dan Severance, pottery guru and ceramics tech at the Port Moody Arts Centre. I’ve taken his advice a step further, customizing it to my needs precisely.

How to make a Kiln Bead Rack

Materials: an N95 face mask, safety glasses, work gloves, one insulated kiln brick (the lightweight kind), a rip saw or hack saw, a ruler, a pencil, narrow chisel or flat blade screw driver, hammer, and short lengths of 11 gauge nichrome wire.

Your basically going to cut a valley in the brick lengthwise. Dan suggested I make a ‘V’ shaped cut, which I will do with another brick, but for my purposes today, I made a ‘U’ shaped cut.

Directions:

  1. Set up a work station outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Use a sturdy table or flat surface. Place brick on its side lengthwise.
  2. Determine the width of your ‘U’ shape. Allow for adequate clearance on either side for the bead or pendant you are making. I decided on 7/8″.
  3. Draw two lines the length of your brick, keeping the area you’re going to cut out centred. The two walls of my ‘U’ turned out about 6/8″ wide.
  4. Determine the depth of your cut. My ‘U’ is about 3 1/2″ deep, leaving about a 1″ base.
  5. Put on your safety gear: mask, glasses, gloves.
  6. Using a rip or hacksaw, start making an even cut down through one of the cut lines you made. A rip saw cuts one way: pull it through the brick as you saw, move it back and start again. A hack saw works both ways: use even pressure and saw back and forth.
  7. Saw evenly through the length of both cut lines.
  8. Set aside your saw, then turn the brick over and shake the dust out of the cuts.
  9. Using either a chisel or flat blade screwdriver, carefully chisel out the middle part of the ‘U’, starting from the ends and working inward.
  10. After chiseling and removing debris from the ‘U’, stand it on end and do some ‘clean up’ of the bottom of the ‘U’ with the screw driver or chisel, making a flat surface on the bottom.
  11. Put your tools away and turn the brick over and shake out the dust.
  12. Measure out the lines indicating where the wire will sit on the top of your rack. I measured even lines about 3/4″ apart the length of the brick.
  13. Take your saw and cut crosswise over your ‘U’ to make indentations on either side of the ‘U’. I made mine about 1/8″ deep.
  14. Put your saw away.
  15. Gently widen the grooves with a nail by carefully raking it through the groove.
  16. Take nichrome wire and cut lengths to fit in the grooves. I cut my wire in lengths of about 2″. If you want, bend the wire into a very slight ‘V’. This will ensure your bead or pendant remains in place while firing.
  17. Test the wires out…place across the ‘U’ to see if they fit snugly. Adjust groove to fit your needs.
  18. Voila! Be careful with the insulated brick; it’s slightly fragile but makes a great bead rack that doesn’t take up too much kiln space.
DIY Bead Rack, end shot

DIY Bead Rack, end shot

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles and Interviews, How-to-do-it

The Maltese Falcon, old and new

Different renditions of the Maltese Falcon chatting atop our Victrola

Different renditions of the Maltese Falcon chatting atop our Victrola

Maltese Falcon prop used in the movie, which recently sold for over $4 million.

Maltese Falcon prop used in the movie, which sold for $4.1 million November 25, 2013.

You may have heard that the Maltese Falcon, the original screen-used prop from the movie, “The Maltese Falcon,” just sold for $4,085,000. Auctioned at Bonham’s  in New York City,  the winning bid came over the telephone, an anonymous purchase. It was part of a sale of famous movie props. Historically, there were three authenticated falcon props from the movie: the lead one that just sold, which was in the movie, a backup lead version, and a resin one used in publicity pictures. The sculpture was originally created by an unknown artist, possibly Fred Sexton, a friend of Director John Huston. The resin one was likely sanded down to give the smooth, worn appearance of the prop seen in the film.

Humphrey Bogart, by Karsh, National Archives of Canada, via Wikimedia Commons

Humphrey Bogart, by Karsh, National Archives of Canada, via Wikimedia Commons

“The Maltese Falcon” star Humphrey Bogart described the bird as ‘the stuff dreams are made of,’ paraphrasing Shakespeare. The movie was based on Dashiell Hammett’s book about an iconic statue traced back to the time of the Crusades, a golden bird encrusted with precious jewels. In the book and movie, it turns out that the falcon in question is made of painted lead, that the buyers had been duped into purchasing a decoy. Character Joel Cairo offered Sam Spade $5000 for the black bird, so the value has certainly appreciated, since the movie was made, in 1941, and since the book was written, in 1930.

The bird begins to take form, April 2013.

The bird begins to take form, April 2013.

Well, the black bird is something that is part of our everyday life here at Jane Street and, in fact, there are six Maltese Falcons in our house. One is made of painted  plaster and likely linked back to the Sexton statue before it was altered for the movie. Another from that mold is made of resin, but has feathers smoothed down to match the movie version. One is a purchased bird made by a sculptor who copied photos of the resin falcon. The rest have been sculpted by my husband. The first is made of wax and was sculpted when he was in his 20s. Then, we have the newest versions, based on a masterpiece. A paper clay master was sculpted last April, from which four were cast and finished in the fall.

Making the mold; casting the clay master.

Making the mold; casting the clay master.

Pouring black urethane resin into the silicone mold.

Pouring black urethane resin into the silicone mold.

An exciting moment! The Maltese Falcon!

An exciting moment! The Maltese Falcon in raw form.

Since, the bird is in the news, so I thought you might be interested in this story, newsworthy in itself. The detail on the replica clay sculpture is incredible and the proportions are perfect. Mark started off by studying printed off, blown-up movie stills and other photos of the bird. He used them as references for his sculpture. After that, the actual work commenced. Beginning with a 25 lb. block of paper clay, he began marking out the design. Day-by-day, he worked on the sculpture, spraying it down and covering it with paper and plastic after each session. He was meticulous in his work and the resulting sculpture looks exactly like the Maltese Falcon in the movie. After completing his clay master, he built a mold out of MDF, sprayed the master with mold release and cast it with Smooth-On Sorta-Clear 40, a semi-transparent food grade silicone. He then cut it apart, removed the sculpture, cleaned it, sprayed it with mold release then put it back together for the next step. Cinched tightly with ratcheted straps, he mixed black urethane resin and poured it into the mold. The chemical reaction creates much heat…the bird was very hot when it was removed from the mold. Next, he fixed defects with automotive filler and covered the bird with many coats of black primer, which he then buffed with fine steel wool. The paper clay sculpture is unweathered. So far, he’s cast four birds from the silicone mold, sanding each down to give the trademark weathered appearance. He did a great job!

“Mr. Spade, have you any conception of how much money can be got for that black bird?” — Kaspar Gutman

The finished replica of the Maltese Falcon.

The finished replica of the Maltese Falcon.

5 Comments

Filed under Current Events, Featured Artists, Fun, How-to-do-it

Raku workshop this weekend

Horsehair Vase Judge's Special Award Mashiko 2006 Swanica Ligtenberg

Horsehair Vase Judge’s Special Award Mashiko 2006 Swanica Ligtenberg.
“Horsehair Raku Technique: taking out of the kiln at 1350F and putting horsehair on the pot which burns into it. Putting the pot on a tissue will give smoke effects on the pot. The yellowish color is from spraying ferric chloride on the put while it is hot.”
By Swanica via Wikimedia Commons

You know how you feel when something exciting is about to happen? Well, I can barely contain myself! I am taking part in a raku workshop this weekend. It is being taught by Dan Severance, of the Port Moody Arts Centre. A pro with much experience, Dan is also fun to be around. He’s perfected his techniques over the years and I know this all-day workshop will be terrific. We’ll be learning special raku techniques using horse hair and feathers, along with ordinary methods. I’ve worked with raku since the early 1980s but have yet to learn these advanced techniques. It’s perfect timing, as I’m going to start concentrating on raku.

450px-Raku-pottery-kiln

Raku pottery coming out of the kiln. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Western-raku-vase

A vase glazed and fired using the Western Raku technique, showing the soot, crackle glazing, and random oxidation typical of this pottery form. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

 I like the primitive nature of a raku firing…red hot pieces lifted from a kiln and plunged into organic matter. Crackle glazes and smoky blacks. It makes me reflect on the history of raku, on the Japanese and Koreans artisans who have fired pottery this way for centuries. One reason I’m stoked is because, while I’ve used traditional raku glazes on sculptures and vessels, I’ve yet to use the metallic oxides which result in beautiful coloration and patterns. So think of us this weekend. We’ll be working inside a gorgeous two-storey Arts and Crafts-style building, then firing outside alongside it. We’re enjoying a gorgeous fall here in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Perfect for a raku firing: sunny yet crisp.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Ancient History, Current Events, Featured Artists, Fun, How-to-do-it, Videos/Photos/Slides