album et pellucidatum

The turning point came as the new year of 1708 dawned. A handwritten sheet in Böttger’s eccentric mixture of Latin and German dated 15 January 1708, recorded a list of seven recipes: 


N 1 clay only
N 2 clay and alabaster in the ratio of 4:1 

N 3 clay and alabaster in the ratio of 5:1 
N 4 clay and alabaster in the ratio of 6:1 
N 5 clay and alabaster in the ratio of 7:1 
N 6 clay and alabaster in the ratio of 8:1 
N 7 clay and alabaster in the ratio of 9:1

The results of the test firings were more startling than even he had dared hope. After five hours in the kiln, Böttger records, the first sample had a white appearance; the second and third had collapsed; the fourth remained in shape but looked discoloured. The last three held him spellbound.
These small, insignificant-looking plaques had withstood the searing heat of the kiln; they had remained in shape and intact. More importantly they were ‘album et pellucidatum‘ – white and translucent. In the dank, squalid laboratory the twenty-seven-year-old Böttger had succeeded where everyone else had failed. The arcanum for porcelain for which all Europe had searched now lay within his grasp.
Gleeson, Janet. The Arcanum: The Extraordinary True Story. Transworld Publishers, London, 1998, p. 56.

the glass fur project

Skin protects our bodies, and skin coverings reinforce that function. Maybe the cats have anything to do with my fascination of fur and how a mass of hairs becomes an entity of its own… Fur is vital for animals and in archetypal symbology it has the ability to foresee danger (see the quote below, from C. Pinkola Estés’s Sealskin, Soulskin tale).

fur
Carefully cut glass stringers, heated in the flame of a candle and prodded into the wax model.

Glass is very thermoplastic; it deforms and distorts in intense heat and can melt into a puddle…but it can also just subtly start to move, under the influence of gravity in a heated kiln or in the flame of a burner.

fur
I love how the surface seems to be dissolving when see through this mass of stringers!

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I want to find out how the heat of a kiln will calm down these hairs; whether gravity will enable them to relax onto each other. But before that is possible there are a few more steps to go! It will be cast into a mould (or rather, I’ll build a mould around it), the wax will have to melt away so it can be filled with pâte de verre, it will be fired a first time…the mould has to be broken and washed away very carefully and then I will put it back in the kiln, and let gravity do its job… Who knows, in a later stage I can manipulate the slumping fur in the kiln myself.
fur (featuring Assepoes)
a little detail of Assepoes’s nose, showing how her fur “flows” in several directions.

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If we delve into the symbol of animal hide, we find that in all animals, including ourselves, piloerection – hair standing on end – occurs in response to things seen as well as things sensed. The rising hair of the pelt sends a “chill” through the creature and rouses suspicion, caution, and other protective traits. Among the Inuit it is said that both fur and feathers have the ability to see what goes on far off in the distance, and why an angakok, shaman, wears many furs, many feathers, so as to have hundreds of eyes to better see into the mysteries. The sealskin is a symbol of soul that not only provides warmth, but also provides an early warning system through its vision as well.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Women who run with the wolves: contacting the power of the wild woman, Random House, London, 1998, p. 267.

A little inspiration: my board Skin, fur and scales shows how other artists and designers explore this theme!

“The creative habit” by Twyla Tharp

Work? What I live for. 
Play? Work.

This is a little snippet from Tharp’s creative autobiography, one of the exercises in the book. It gives you an idea of how she writes: I love her direct and accessible language, and even just in the words you can feel the rhythm and movement coming through – she dances in her texts!

I’ve been looking for a certain lecture she gave (in the 90’s I think) where she was talking and started to make little movements with her hands and body as a companion to her words. It was fascinating! Words can only express so much, I love how she emphasised it with her movements. I can’t find it right now but will keep looking and post it when I do. For now, if you’re not familiar with her vast oeuvre, have a look at her homepage: www.twylatharp.org

Tharp, Twyla & Reiter, Marc. The creative habit: learn it and use it for life: a practical guide. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2003. Worldcat

De Napjesdrager: inspired by trees

(also check the work-in-progress @ flickr)


Ingredients for a fused glass panel of a face made of leaves:

++ tree leaves drenched in sunlight

Napjesdragers

Napjesdragers

Napjesdragers

Napjesdragers

++ my mother’s well-used and worn 1960 ed. Geïllustreerde flora van Nederland, an extensive field guide to recognizing plants and trees. Her book has dried leaves and strings as bookmarks and when I was young we used it to press leaves and flowers!

Napjesdrager

DBNL has the 2nd edition of 1909 online! The b/w illustrations are the same of the 19th ed. I love those drawings, although they’re very clear, they’re not technically perfect. It makes me yearn for a time without internets and computers and easy digital photography where everyone had to be able to draw to a certain extent…

This edition speaks of the Cupuliferae, de Napjesdragersfamilie. A tree family that included oaks, beeches, chestnuts, birches, hazels and alders. It’s an obsolete term, nowadays this family is split up in Fagaceae (Beech, oak, chestnut) and the Betulaceae (birch, hazel, alder,…). Napjedragersfamilie is still used to describe the Fagaceae and the cups that hold the seeds of these trees, and I fell in love with the word napje. It’s also rather archaic. I remember it mostly from fairy tales and Breughel paintings and the nursery rhyme of the Bibelebontse Berg, where people (and bears) ate from wooden bowls.

++ Tree lore, green men and Tales of the mythic forest

sint-baafabdij

While this fellow is not exactly a green man, heads covered in foliage can be found on medieval cathedrals and churches, much like this Mr. crankyface in the Sint-Baafsabdij in Gent. They’re said to be remnants of pagan, Celtic lore and are among others connected with tale the Robin Hood.

++ gorgeous transparent & translucent glass colors:

pencil box

I took this picture when I started to prepare this project months ago, in the meantime a couple more colors joined the palette, like Vetrofond Tapenade and Cosmic Storm and some ambers and browns.

red + green

The effetre dark and light grass green (I tend to call them glass green 😉 ) are my favorite colors. Just as plain and simple as they are, they remind me of summer and of the sun shining through trees and that just makes me happy. Years ago a friend gave me a gorgeous Henry Dean vase in this color. I also used it a lot on Nur der Mensch:

Nur der Mensch...

So now you know a little bit more… are you ready to meet the Napjesdrager? 😉

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edit: whoops, typo. There’s a beech on the beach. Silly me!

Winter tales

The dark days don’t ask for much, just a rocking chair, a hot beverage, a purring cat and a good book…

I was lucky to find a 2nd hand copy of The armless maiden, a book I’ve been searching for a long time! One of the authors signed it for its previous owner, who also scribbled across the margins here and there. I don’t mind at all -I love these little messages in 2nd hand books!

 When I was ten, I discovered a library book with messages in it; a previous reader had commented on the story and was reaching out to the next reader(s)… of course I didn’t dare to write in a library book (yeah, like I was such an angel, LOL), but I was extremely tempted to do so! Imagine a secret circle of kids communicating through scribbles in library books… I even suspected the librarian didn’t erase the notes because she silently approved of it! 😉

What would our own books be without those little notes? It makes them ours, doesn’t it? I am a fervent scribbler myself, though just in my own, deemed “work” books. And actually, the oldest piece of Dutch is one of those scribbles in a 10th century manuscript.

Also reading: The forest in folklore and mythology by Alexander Porteous and Warming the stone child, an audiobook by Clarissa Pinkola Estés on my I-pod. These are my winter tales…

wabi sabi: inspired by imperfection

This old plate (Boch/Belgium) is my newest find at the ViaVia in Gent. It has two missing stripes…for me, this is how it should be. Not quite finished, but you can imagine how. And worn out by time and use…

How I love this.

Years ago a friend mentioned this was actually the core of Japanese esthetics, which led me to explore the idea of Wabi Sabi (wikipedia).

Wabi Sabi for Artists, Designers & Philosophers by Leonard Koren (on amazon)