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SILVER BELLS – CROATIAN BELLS – CELEBRATING HOLIDAY RESONANCE…

As I post about Croatia during this holiday season I’m poring through the 1,700 photos made on the trip & realizing how many images I made of bells. I suppose I was thinking of the requests I get to do slideshows at ABA conventions. [The American Bell Association is an international organization for bell collectors of which I’ve been a member for 30 years.]

Of course the “silver bells” part notes my long time passion for making small bells, usually in sterling silver, which I market on the website: GRB BELLS  While I’ve been happily in thrall to the archetype of bells I celebrate them particularly at this season…

We trekked steep steps to the tops of several bell towers in the churches of the stone-wall fortified cities we visited along the Dalmatian Coast but we also discovered numerous bells stashed in museums or even stored in dead-silent crypts.

Stephen made these shots of the bell tower in Split & me on the way up… The Bell Tower is the name of the ABA’s journal.
These bronze automatons functioned as theater, 
miming striking the bells high in the tower yet visible from the pavement.
These originals, having been replaced, are now retired… 
relegated to stand at such attention for eternity.

Since they chimed the hours there was clockwork involved as well.
This apparatus was also replaced, allowing me to enjoy in the same museum it’s
mechanique antique 

Climbing into the throats of some big bells…
Wondering what the environment would be when they were ringing.
 Such art & engineering!
Stephen leads the way up ancient steps
fortunately retrofitted for safety 
along with the structure supporting the bells.
 They can be massive, mounted to swing,… or more usually be struck… pounding tones from their tonnes atop what becomes delicate engineering… comforting for the proof of longevity.

 One was tucked in a courtyard… seemingly to cap the well… 
Curious… thus sealing off the water, muting resonance”?
& this one is a resin replica… a big prop for what show?
 These seemed staged toward some installation
 developing an open space
A table in a street in Ston presented this conundrum on bell sound.
 I must invent stories for the bells relegated to a crypt in Split…
 While others get to hang-out in glorious exposure.
 I can only then wonder at the resonance here when the bells peal.
Solstice is Shifting.
Much Joy & Resonant Peace!

JAPAN [five]: THE GOLDEN TEMPLE & GARDEN…

 As first-time visitors we were following guidance of those before,  including our friend Terry, who first visited & lived in Japan during his college years… he is known for his cultivation of a large Japanese garden near Seattle for many years & now is known on our Vashon Island for his  garden & water-feature design with very sensitive rock work… quite wonderful!

He recommended the palace & temple gardens of Kyoto as essential destinations. They are, of course, well known… thus crowded!

An obvious example is the Golden Temple… too famous for its own good… not without reason. It is stunning. We joined the throng & took our turn to get our photographs…

I must explain that both Stephen & I were making photographs with our cameras & phones. We do not always know which of us took these images, so I give equal credit to him…

 This is the scene we met as we first approached the prime viewing terrace… a throng of mostly young people & students on field trips. Everyone was polite… taking turns to give all an opportunity to capture this favored shot. Of course, most followed the current custom of posing while flashing the first two fingers as a “v”, like the old “victory” or “peace” sign of times past. I don’t know what it means to them, but we saw it every where… even in the ubiquitous selfies.old

 Is this my shot? Or Stephen’s? Or… one of the hundreds of others made within that same hour hour?

 Landscape or portrait… with the island or not… minor choices!

 My favorite emanation of golden…
 Reflected light under the eaves was definitely catching my eye…

Wondering what the morning light does to this building…
We were there at the beginning of the full autumnal color-change. 
How might the light look then?!?
Most temples have bells or gongs, rung by ropes twined of rice straw…
We observed devotees punctuating prayers by ringing the gongs before bowing acknowledgement.
Were these school girls asking for confidence toward exams… or romance?
I postulate this couple was observing ritual toward their wedding… 
Playing with ageless ritual… into which runs a multi-patterned kid…

Tying The Knots…

It is long past time I’ve posted anything, so to break my silence I begin with an old ambition: to share an instructional video I made several years ago, showing the technique of tying the cords on my bells. I teach this to clients in the studio & now all can learn!

More news is in draft form, waiting for me to finally finish my year-end letter…
 

THIS IS IT, Master…

Here IT IS!

[Double click the photos to enlarge them.]

The bell holding the poetry of James Broughton about which I’ve been posting the last month has been cast & carefully finished out into its new metal state! There is always a huge relief to see the work of many many hours secured in a safely solid, more durable material than the wax which relative softness allows me to carve.

I wrote earlier this year about this stage of raw casting.

While this photograph is a bit brutal in showing the less than ideal surface…

The casting is basically sound & looks quite legible after I began working the surface. Here in mid-process I used ink to darken the background as a test to help see which details needed strengthening

I vulcanized the silicon molds around the masters, [about which process you may read more here] of the THIS IS IT Bell, the FROG RING & the MEDIUM LILY HOOP EARRING before making photographs of the finished masters. I cut those molds this evening & look forward to seeing how the first production waxes look when I begin injecting them tomorrow.

Meanwhile here is the FROG perching on the edge of new life in metal…

SCULPTURE IS DRAWING IN SPACE…

These images are either side of a wax
toward a bell design begun several years ago…
I have no idea whether I will ever finish it.

They become rather like “emoticons” for this post.

[There are numerous photos later in this post,
feel free to scroll down at any time you are tired of reading…
Remember: you may
click on any of these images to see a larger version.]

I’ve been silent of late. I arrive here now to show explanation…

Winter is design time in my calendar of decades’ habit. I go quite non-verbal as I dive into form… waxing, literally, along with the requisite equivalent waning, of course.

Wax being my medium… I struggle with both it & these words.

I come to some notion that music might often exist first in the physical form of its instrument. While I do not consider the bells “musical instruments” in any strict form, they do make sound… they have voice. Voice out of numerous, inexplicably variable, qualities a particular form my wax carved imaginations might acquire translated into metal.

The very hard wax that I prefer is even so quite a non-resonant material. Still, nearly all materials have resonance at some level, be that a sustaining ring or a thud nearer to the death of sound inside near silence of plush.

Or of that deeper chthonic time-space noise which is mama magma’s gift.

I must believe, then, that I can project, from what I feel in the “hearing bones” of my imagination, how the sound of this wax bell might resonate when cast… honed through subtle changes due to polishing of that master, then the shrinkages of second generation waxes replicated by a rubber mold… those parts of the involved translation of a production bell into my line… all resulting hopefully in a “good voice”…

That is some projection!

At this stage I am working with the visuals as sculptural form, both positive & negative versions which must consider the ways molten metal or wax will eventually flow into the several interim molds requisite for translation by the process of lost wax casting.

Ultimately it boils all down to flow…

Sound has much about flow in ephemeral ways. A tuba’s sound resonates with its physical form; a fat column of thus more slowly resonant air pushed from loose lips. A clarinet’s form produces a voice with a similar column of air yet quite different for its direct form… & its origination of breath through a reeded mouthpiece.

A violin, however, dances with air in different ways… horsehair scraping on gut amplified by crafty negative volume inside woodshape… more ephemerally about material vibration & less about breath.

All sound evolves from vibration of material form, columns of air, oscillating strings or the resonance resulting from a strike between two material forms… the strike of hand on a drum’s head or a bell’s clapper upon its sound bow.

Bell sound is then first of all… percussive.

So I play with wax as both sculpting the essential visual shape of the idea so as also to promote the flow of materials requisite for its production & then, to an even greater degree, the flow of vibration within the resultant form.

Such process rather becomes one long “negative” drawing by strokes of removal.

Drawing in three dimensions toward the center… A drawing on paper can never, no matter how many variations, accommodate very well the development of a design that must exist in fully rounded space. But by the time I have made all those drawings into my wax, I have carved a bell.

Beginning with a block of wax I “draw” first with a saw, then with files & burrs, constructing & construing a 3D “canvas” into which I can continue to draw with stylus & graver-like tools. I draw lines moving around the ever-refining wax form, erasing with broader strokes, refining surfaces for more drawing. Deeper into form then the ever more finely realized idea can find surface & form on & in which it can develop. Eye-mind-hand sees ever more completely what ultimately becomes, for me, a rather fully rounded universe.

I get to experience then how much less than god-like I am at creation. My waxes are such small universes, with such limitations. Yet they are 3D forms inviting sound… a possible fourth dimension.

I would only invite some fifth… that of delight in response to that sound… I get to observe a certain satisfactory proof of that, often while the bells collect their humans at the displays in my studio.

Drawing becomes whittling. I repeat the common story of Michelangelo explaining that his sculpture was simply removing whatever might be extraneous, releasing the form trapped inside the rough stone…

I must trust there is a bell inside my chunk of wax. I must celebrate the little bit of knowledge I have about what makes a good bell. I must draw it out… inviting solid chunk to reduce gracefully down into a shell thin enough to imperceptibly move, to vibrate pleasantly when its clapper strikes… all at miniature scale, still… audible.

So the bells have to do with time in intricate ways. Resonance, at base, is time.

Then, as I have danced with the bells these 26 years I have come to appreciate their archetypal rhythmic replication of the primitive calendar. After winter solstice comes gestation of new life toward the sexual market of spring. Then look forward to the various lessons one can take in the resultant long harvest.

So there is some pressure. My goal is now to produce what will support such ultimate harvest. What I am working on now might not come to market for a year or more. Still… I am more actively working to push it toward production in time for this season’s long harvest.

The MONSTERA DELICIOSA that fascinated me in Hawai’i broke my fast into this season’s creative spell… this wax is now waiting for me to refine my touch toward finishing it.

This constricted medallion, a detail on the BON MARCHE building in Seattle has long captivated me with its simple wheat & flower forms supported by dramatic deco spirals.



The CLADDAUGH bell I carved last year was legitimately critiqued for having a four leafed clover instead of a more proper shamrock. I have set out to correct that…

I would say more about my carving ruminations but for the knowlege that those are better & best stayed, sub-verbally attempting description of subliminal experience.

Most recently a new verion of GINGKO bell has been ariving, carefully reducing this popular design slightly into more comfortable size, as well as to explore evolution rounding the “cow bell” form into an even more graceful hand & hug…

I am exploring a repetition of ribbing in these designs, a pattern which affects & is much affected by flow: of material in casting as well as the microscopic flow of molecules along surfaces during polishing…

These last views, into the developing sound chamber, show the loop from which the clapper will hang… growing out of still too thick walls…

Resonance, visual & physical. Elusive. Ephemeral…

Studio Bell Display…

I am completing a project which was years in incubation & several recent weeks in execution. The bells have always been displayed for Open Studio on the same tent cards I take to the American Bell Association’s conventions. It was a temporary solution which worked for more than six years.

Now I have built two new panels which will double the linear space to display the sample line along the concrete walls of the Hold, my studio in the foundations of Soundcliff. While they are simple to the eye, I had numerous complications to build them with my amateur carpentry & my aged tools…

I used common materials from the local small box lumber/hardware place. I danced a Montessori… jigging minimal material into what promises more optimal form for the function of displaying the ever growing collection of bells.




Now many of the cords must be shortened to suit the new format… a process I will continue while enjoying the deep dive I’m making into reorganization &
cleaning the entire studio. I enjoy the spontaneous prescriptions I get from some unknown source which I seem all-the-more to respect, advising me to take another purge of the material effects I have such propensity to collect. I love practicing the yoga of clearity in space. I’ve practiced frequently, over many ages. I’m trusting once more that I can live better without all of those dusty contingencies.

I did save some few of those… again… trusting as well certain wisdom which has grown thus through many such cullings.


This was my sculpture in the pure present which now supports other function…