Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Alchemical Curiosity Cabinet - Interior

I spend many hours experimenting with my chosen 'alchemy script' photographs to get the look I wanted for the interior of the storage bookbox.
The original photo's and documents are quite grey in appearance, as you can see here below.

I had something different in mind, more sepia or brown. So I changed the picture in PhotoScape, a program on our PC a bit like Photoshop, to create a Sepia look.

I then created a digital collage from several pictures with the idea of creating my own designed 'scrapbook' paper.

Although it looked alright on the screen when I printed it out it was more like pinkish brown, which I didn't like. It also seemed to lose the kind of authenticity I was after. I really liked the inked script of the original 17th century documents, written with a quill.

During one of our meetings at HALS we were introduced to the Archives Conservator Jeff Cargill, an incredible knowledgeable guy, who explained us a lot about how they conserve the documents.

One of the things he showed us was a document in which the ink had created a chemical reaction 'eating' the letters out of the paper. (When you click on the photo, you can see it better)

Although in itself a fascinating topic for further textile/stitch exploration I wanted to do something with ink.

A while ago I had bought a bottle of Walnut Ink Crystals for staining and distressing fabric and paper, giving them an antique look. I still hadn't used it, so I started some experiments with that and liked the look of it.
I ended up inking several A2 size good quality paper, which I then cut into a series of A4, ready to put through my printer. It sounds really straight forward (and it is) but I spend quite some time working out how many papers needed a horizontal/vertical orientation of ink movement on the paper.
Think wood grain in relation to the script fitting in the cabinet - all becomes clear in the end....

To get a 'pure' walnut brown I needed to get rid of the 'colour' of the original photo's, so I manipulated them in PhotoScape into 'grayscale' with further enhancements of sharpen, brighten and contrast,

 so they looked like this.

 They were then printed onto the walnut inked hand cut A4 papers, ending up like this.

After that I sprayed them all with hairspray and left them for a few days.

In the mean time I prepared the bookbox by lightly sanding it on all surfaces and applied a primer (Colourfix). I also cut two 'shelves' from mount board and primed these. I further cut some balsa wood square strips and died them with walnut ink.   Then came the scary fun bit of cutting the papers to size and gluing and sealing them with ModPodge into the box.

Et voila

an 'alchemist' cabinet containing pages of alchemy documents written by someone of the Wittewronge family in the 17th century

Curious for more?
Watch this space.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Threads of Time - my personal Alchemy

Finally another post.
I have been working on and off on my Threads of Time project amongst other things.
So here is a little update on my progression.
During one of our meetings for the project we visited the archives storage rooms at HALS.

Lots of storage boxes and interesting old looking books.

This got me on to the idea to use a 'storage box book' I bought at TK Maxx and alter it into something 'alchemical'.

I purely bought this box because of it's picture, as it has such a powerful and emotional meaning to me. Any picture with a bicycle on it reminds me of my daughter Kiama. She loved France and was planning to cycle with her friends from London to Paris, after their graduation in 2012. As she sadly died a few weeks before, her friends decided to do the bike ride in her memory and scattered some of her ashes from the Eiffel Tower.

Although the box will be fully covered and no one will see the original decoration I know it will be there, like a secret message from my daughter telling me to keep on transforming my grief into something creative. My personal alchemy, if you like.

The inside is full of text, which prompted the idea to somehow use the pictures I took from the handwritten documents on alchemy and astrology and line the box with it, like this page.

It is written in French and refers to the 'Elixer of Life', an alchemical solution equivalent to the Philosophers' Stone, which would bring eternal life.
I will show in another post the process of what I did with the photographs.

I had decided to alter the inside into a kind of Alchemical Curiosity Cabinet, so I spend a considerable amount of time searching charity shops, my own 'found object' draws and keeping an eye focused on 'alchemy' where ever I went.
Here are some of the curiosities which will be included:

I love keys, especially old ones, they are such a strong symbol for keeping or unlocking mysteries. They can be precious and you are very fortunate when you are giving one that opens doors to the most unimaginable spaces, where you can discover the secrets of life itself.
I was given this one as a present from my friend Kate, who is very talented and successful as an artist/maker/illustrator. For me this key symbolises friendship and unlocking my own talents and creativity.
The cute little bottles I found in a bead shop in Covent Garden will be filled with things representing the 7 metals, used in alchemy: lead, tin, iron, copper, mercury, silver and gold.

Some vintage bottles I found or actually bought in a lovely vintage barn shop at Battlers Green Farm near Radlett. Well worth a visit if you are in the neighbourhood.
I also want to create a few miniature old looking books to go onto a shelf in the cabinet. The little book here belonged to Kiama and is full of 'Positive Thoughts', which may have, in part, inspired her 'My Bucketlist'. I want to give the cover an 'old' makeover to fit the overall look.

The little Balsa wood cabinet was a 'must have' from a craft shop, a cabinet within a cabinet, it will present my spiritual journey through meditation, for me the true alchemy.