Sunday 11 January 2015

Earring practice

I used the left-over Magician's Nephew beads on some earrings, to practice working with that copper wire a bit more. I think further practice is required...

Wednesday 7 January 2015

The final Magician's Nephew necklace, including my new double wrapped-loop technique

Here are some images of the final Magician's Nephew necklace. I am particularly proud of the technique I discovered by trial-and-error for making double wrapped-loops (to compensate for the softness and thin-ness of the copper wire). Using round-nose pliers, you make the first loop slightly bigger than normal and the second loop slightly smaller, and then you hammer both together for strength (don't attempt to hammer before making the second loop - this does not work), and then you carry on as usual.

Once I'd added in some co-ordinating beads from my stash, it ended up being a real mixture but I think it makes the design more interesting. The brass Celtic-style links are links from an old bracelet I've had for ages.

Magician's Nephew necklace. Note especially my novel technique for double wrapped-loops at the bottom right.

It is light and comfortable to wear - apart from the crystals and lamp-worked beads, all the other beads are either wooden, hollow or plastic, so they don't feel cold against the skin. The beading wire also helps keep the design light and flexible.

The jump-rings either side of the blue disc bead don't sit perfectly straight. I ran out of copper crimp covers, or I might have experimented with omitting those jump-rings and linking the beading wire straight to the wrapped loop - but, I'd wanted the sections to have maximum flexibility so that the whole thing would drape nicely and move with the body. 

Actually, when it's being worn, the necklace drapes much better than when it's hung up on the wall: the blue disc sits flat and those jump-rings look fine.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Magician's Nephew necklace

So, here are my first ideas on The Magician's Nephew necklace. It's a work in progress - so far I am just putting different colours and textures together and seeing what happens.

So I started with woods, gold faceted beads for the sciencey part, and blue/green crystals for peacocks and Art Nouveau. Copper likes blues and greens, so I started on a new coil of bright copper wire. Both the round wooden beads and the faceted gold beads came from a street market in Barcelona, which is nice because it reminds me of being there.

I spent a while playing around with the copper wire - this is the first time I've really used this metal. Compared to the silver-plated copper I have used before, it feels a lot softer - partly because it's only 0.6mm thick, and I usually work with 0.8mm wire. Even with hammering, it doesn't hold its shape particularly well. You have to twist multiple strands together to get anything that holds it shape at all.

First thoughts on what should go into the necklace
After putting all these together, I decided I didn't have enough of the right sort of green and blue beads. So I delved into my stash further to find some other green/blue beads to complete the effect. In my next post you will see how it all turns out.

Friday 2 January 2015

Sciency magic, or magicky science.

In the Singer household, we have now finished reading C. S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (published 1950), and now we're on to the prequel: The Magician's Nephew (published 1955). I have read some of the chapters aloud to my son, and my son has read some other chapters to himself in his head. It's always nice to come back to a book one loved as a child, and see it again through grown-up eyes. Caution: there be spoilers within.

Most published editions of the Narnia books, amazingly, still have the original Pauline Baynes illustrations. Pauline Baynes originally did some pseudo-medieval illustrations for J. R. R. Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham, a light-as-air don's frolic which is full of in-jokes and witticisms that I suspect are only fully appreciated by Oxbridge philology professors living in the mid-twentieth century). The illustrations are, I think, the best bit of the whole thing. Just look at the way the birds and animals dance through the design of this first-edition cover. Brilliant.

Lewis, who was great friends with Tolkien, was so impressed by the young Baynes' illustrations that he then asked for her to illustrate the Narnia books as well. The Magician's Nephew was in fact the sixth book in the series to be published, even though it is often labelled as the first in the publisher's "reading order". So Baynes was well into her stride by this point.

I gather that, in his writing of The Magician's Nephew, Lewis was also inspired by E Nesbit's The Amulet (another of my favourite illustrated children's books!) in which a queen of Babylon is dragged forward into Edwardian London and goes on the rampage around middle-class institutions, such as the British Museum. (A place well worth a visit, by the way, if you happen to be passing). While Nesbit's portrayal of Edwardian London is contemporary, Lewis' portrayal of the period is drenched in nostalgia ("meals were nicer; and as for sweets, I won't tell you how cheap and good they were, because it would only make your mouth water in vain").

The Queen of Babylon causing chaos at the British Museum. From The Amulet by E. Nesbit, illustr. H. R Millar.

In The Magician's Nephew, the character Jadis, who calls herself the Queen of Charn (she basically got this title by annihilating literally everyone else - explained further below), also gets pulled through to our world and goes on a rampage-through-London of her own, hijacking a hansom-cab in the process. The human characters are in proper Edwardian garb throughout, and I think the illustrations have a nice period flavour to them - for example, in the bird that Diggory finds randomly "roosting" in the Tree of Life.  Although "roosting" makes me think of chickens, Baynes depicts the bird rather like a peacock; and peacocks are a major Art Nouveau motif.

C S Lewis also wrote "sci fi" novels - Out of the Silent Planet, for example, although that was not a children's book and I don't think Lewis was much interested in the science itself. There is definitely a sci-fi-ish feel about The Magician's Nephew, with its many interconnecting worlds: including, but not limited to, our world, the world of Narnia and the world of Charn. The Edwardian children Polly and Diggory are able to cross between worlds by means of colour-coded magic rings - a technology invented by Diggory's Mad Uncle Andrew (except it does not always work quite as Mad Uncle Andrew expected it to). Travel is via an "in-between place", the Wood between the Worlds: a weird type of place that seems to be outside time - some magics work, others don't.

By the way, the reason I don't think Lewis had much time for scientists is that Mad Uncle Andrew is written as a proper baddie: a stereotypical Mad Scientist, complete with wild, white hair and overly thin body habitus, who works alone in a locked attic from which screams can occasionally be heard. He carries out "experiments" on guinea-pigs (early prototypes of the technology did not work out very well from the guinea-pigs' perspective). Mad Uncle Andrew is also a manipulative psychopath to boot - he cares nothing about other people, even his own dying sister, and is perfectly willing to use the children to test his new and highly dangerous inventions. I would be offended by this portrayal of scientists, except that unfortunately my offence at this has to get into the queue behind my offence at the way he portrays women, vegetarians, pacifists, teetotallers and people who think it is fine for boys and girls to attend the same schools. (Yes, really.) But my point here is that although he's called a "magician", he's written as a mad scientist.

So anyway. The city Charn is the capital of a planet of the same name, which is lit by a very large, red but cold sun - clearly a Red Giant. It is a planet for which time itself has run out, a post-apocalyptic landscape - a huge city, deserted and crumbling with no living beings at all - even plants or animals. Except for Queen Jadis. Jadis, in an evil-career-woman kinda way, had decided to undertake an arduous Quest to discover The Deplorable Word. This technology can kill every living thing in the world, except (conveniently) for the speaker - but after she had spoken the Deplorable Word, even she had to effectively put herself into suspended animation, only to be reawakened a thousand years later by the ringing of a bell. She reasons that the bell must have been rung by a living thing; she had already killed all other living things in that world; ergo, the bell-ringer must be an intelligent being who has travelled from another world. Sound reasoning so far: if you can wait a thousand years, even the highly improbable might become fairly likely. She also assumes, however, that the new arrival must have come to seek her out on purpose, having magically learnt of her stunning beauty; this of course could not be further from the truth, since the children arrived there pretty much by accident. Anyway, Jadis manages to impress the children by means of boasting a lot and then apparently opening a locked door by magic. The door appears to be made either of wood (ebony), or of some sort of dark metal unknown to the children.

Hearing about our own "young" warm, yellow Sun, Jadis is greedy to discover another world full of people to reign over, because it is not much fun having all the power if you don't have anyone to have power over. So she grabs onto the children and hitches a ride to London. Later, she also chooses to eat an apple from the Tree of Life, and in so doing gains her "heart's desire": power. A lot of it. Oh, and eternal life.

The multiverse of The Magician's Nephew reminds me of the way in which space-operas are often set up, with plots often hinging on technologies like space-ships and jump-gates that link planets or areas of space, but need a certain sort of tech to be able to use them (which of course often fails at crucial moments in the story, or at least does not always work as fully expected). Also, just as The Magician's Nephew has the Wood between the Worlds, SF has jump-space, which functions a bit like being outside time. In contrast to "hard" SF, in which getting the science right is Very Important, space-opera often treats science as a sort of magic: as a black-box technology which needn't correspond to the science of our world (not just physics, but also biology and particularly genetics; there is often a lot of playing around with ideas about lifespan, rejuvenation, inheritance and so forth). Space-opera writers aren't necessarily interested in the science itself, but in the social consequences of novel technologies. So if space-opera science often has a feel of magicky science,  the magic in The Magician's Nephew feels to me like sciencey magic.

So: Edwardian nostalgia, plus magicky science (or sciency magic). The result could be viewed as a type of Steampunk, although I don't think this was officially a thing in 1955. And this take on Steampunk will be my starting-point for my next blog post.

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Getting Past Creative Block: Let It Grow

This is what I did to get past my creative block and get started making things again.
  • I took inspiration from something with real emotional content for me
  • I tried to communicate that emotional content in my work
  • For the purposes of getting past creative block, I told myself that it is not relevant whether the work was good or not-good. The only important thing, I told myself, is whether the work speaks.
  • I had a lot of fun hammering wire.
I think actually that last point was probably the most important one.

Let it Grow Necklace

Where this started from was actually the wire-hammering and combination of elements that I described in this blog post. The curling shapes were meant to represent the thaw of the frozen forest, the sudden blossoming of flowers and the  growing of wild vines in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - especially the scene when Bacchus arrives and they all have an enormous party! Then at the last moment I added the little blue ceramic bird from BlueBerriBeads, left over from the Bead Soup Blog Party.

It is quite a riotous necklace. If worn with very sensible clothes, it might be called a "statement necklace", except that the statement usually made by statement necklaces is something like I spent a lot of money on this necklace whereas the statement I was trying to make was more like


Which reminds me. I really ought to get round to watching Frozen one of these days...

Monday 22 December 2014

Inspired by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

My inspiration currently is C. S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I'm reading this to my son at the moment. One of my favourite parts of the story is the thawing of the frozen forest, when the streams start to flow again and the flowers all begin to appear.

So I tried curling some 0.8mm wire to embellish acrylic flowers, trying to capture the idea of new things growing. The rest of the wire can then make a loop, so that the flowers can be attached to something.

The other beads in the mix at the moment, apart from those green acrylic flowers, are:
  • glazed ceramic rings
  • pinkish-beige coloured rondelles of (howlite or magnesite? not sure…)
  • rose-gold coloured pearls
  • jasper stone chips to use as spacers
All the above from my local bead shop, except the jasper chips which were from The Internet (I forget where).

Here are the elements strung on a bit of spare beading wire - which is what I will have to use if I string them all together, because it's the only wire thin enough to go through the small holes in the pearls. And that means that the wire loop on the acrylic flowers will have to be a wrapped loop, as simple loops can too easily fall off beading wire.

Saturday 20 December 2014

Magical spaces and colours

Today I have had that rare thing, a quiet, reflective day.

For several months I have seemingly been able to exist only in two states: working (I include housework in this category, although alas it's not paid), and feeling guilty about not working. But today, I had a whole day of being in that space between those two states, where I can just be me without reference to work of any sort. Which has been rather lovely.

I have to admit that I haven't actually made anything for ages, since making only happens for me in that magical space between the working and the guilt-at-not-working, and that space hasn't yet opened up for long enough for sustained creativity.

But, I wanted to share with you these pictures taken from when my son and I visited the park in November. (That is actually the last time we have been to the park; the weather since that time has been shocking). The colours were so gorgeous, I had to take photographs: bright golds, misty purples, and emerald greens. Autumn is a sort of in-between, transitional space too, of course; every day the colours change, and every day is one day further away from midsummer and one day nearer to Christmas. All the golden colours have gone now; winter trees abound. More updates later.