Monthly Archives: January 2016

…. Or a True Conceit

When I submitted the pieces for the interlocking project, I also provided a short video – short but not short enough to be uploaded here.  That video described the pieces and the background thinking to them.  I titled the video “Interlocking, or The Interconnectedness of All Things, or a True conceit” [now titles of the posts].  The video ranges from pre-history artifacts with maker’s marks and decoration to how some modern art exhibitions are curated by artists.  Along the way there is the question of “who defines what is art?”

Using “A True Conceit” in the title of the video was a play on meaning – a conceit maybe “excessive pride in oneself”, or “an ingenious or fanciful comparison or metaphor”, or “an artistic effect or device”, or “a fanciful notion”.  Which of these definitions was/were “true” for the video or for the pieces submitted for the project?  You, dear reader, get to decide.

So, to the last of triad of the three triads.  And again I have to disappoint in not producing three but only two and then refer to two other things.  You may recall that I questioned the shorthand of 3D in that it ignored the fourth dimension of time and what time gives us in the way of experiences and dimensions to our lives.


I suppose a small bottle with a label tied to its neck is usually associated with Alice in Wonderland.  But, instead of saying “Drink Me”, it says “Madeleine”.  Open the bottle and sniff.  There is a hint of vanilla, or perhaps something else.  Thing is, the old part of your brain involved with smell and emotion starts bringing up thoughts and memories associated with that smell.  I was trying to make a reference to Proust’s classic “A la Recherche de Temps perdu”, – In Search of Lost Time”.  Proust discussed how the taste and smell of a madeleine dipped in tea provoked involuntary reminiscences in the narrator:  there is an interlocking of smell and memory in time.


It’s a bit difficult to see but the piece of craft paper is loosely wrapped around a pair of scissors and a stone. On the one hand they allude to the playground game of “Stone, Paper, Scissors” [so there is again an interlocking with memory; perhaps reminiscences of playing the game but certainly the rules of the game].  BUT, the tangible items are superfluous to playing the game, since the articles are symbolised in the game by hand gesture.  It is the symbols that are locked in the circular order of power: Scissors cut paper, Paper wraps Stone, Stone blunts Scissors.  The real items as I presented them do not obey these rules  of the game as the paper is wrapping both the stone AND the scissors and the stone is specifically for sharpening blades not dulling them.

I couldn’t decide on the third item as I thought of two things that both had merit.  One is MONIAC  (Monetary National Income Analogue Computer) also known as the Phillips Hydraulic Computer.  Moniac jpeg

In MONIAC, water flows from and to various tanks and is controlled by opening and closing valves; the flow of water equating to the flow of money in the economy.  The flows in time are intimately interlocked, reduced flow in one part has knock on effects elsewhere.  An example of MONIAC working at Cambridge University can be seen on YouTube.

The other option were Lotka-Volterra equations, which [as you will see if you make the picture larger] are important for modelling predator-prey competition, disease versus the immune system, competition in markets and some chemical reactions.

L-V equations

Adjusting the parameters, alpha, beta, gamma, and delta, affects the interlocking of, say, prey and predator populations.  In modelling the process, the experimenter can manipulate these parameters in an iterative way to see what values best reflect real life data.  YouTube has examples of the equations being animated.

Thank you taking the time to follow my blog. Vincent

….. The Interconnectedness of All Things….

Yesterday’s post was about the first triad for the interlocking project.  And here is the second triad [I call it a triad but I did not make one of the three, which will be clear from the pictures below].

I was thinking about simplicity and complexity – how complex shapes can give simple interlocking and simple shapes can have complex interconnectedness.

Here is the Woodruff key.  It’s job is to hold a gear onto a shaft so the shaft and gear move together.

Woodruff key The engineer has to make the grooves in the shaft and the gear be just the right width and depth for the key.  And the key has to have just enough slope on the face away from the shaft to allow it to be gripped in the slot in the gear: too much slope and it will easily become loose but too little slope and it could become solidly lodged between the gear and shaft!  Complex shapes giving a simple solution to locking a gear on a shaft.

Next up is organic arrangement of hydrangea, teasel and pine cone.


Each has its own symmetry – bract and flower bearing parts [the bits which look like petals are not true petals but bracts [not part of the flowers]] branch off the hydrangea stem in almost opposing pairs and the next pair are almost at 90 degrees offset to the ones below.  The teasels have closely packed spirals of flowers buried deep in the cone-like structure formed by bracts.  There are quite a lot of spines too.  The pine cone has less densely packed spirals of scales, which protect the seeds.  The spirals for the teasels and pine cone are related to the Fibonacci series and can be seen to have main spirals in one direction and secondary spirals in the other [it depends which way you look at them for a clockwise spiral looking up from the bottom, looks anticlockwise looking down from the top].  Although they each have their own symmetries, the symmetries clash and hold the all the elements together.

The last of this triad is my favourite of the three and is made of thrumbs [the short ends of threads created when setting up a loom], long wood shavings from planing a piece of wood and a metal pan scrubber [I would have used metal swarf from a lathe if I could find some]


All long, thin, flexible and simple bits of waste.  Yet, by pushing these simple elements together I created a nest which would be difficult to untangle and very difficult to define in terms of what keeps it together and how each strand is positioned relative to the others in the nest.

Final triad tomorrow and then what?



About the time I joined the course my full-time colleagues were about to hand in their first project “Interlocking”.  Brief was make three things of each of three different materials [so nine materials in all] and explore the interface between the materials, the properties of the materials and develop skills in working with the materials.  All good stuff if you’re on a course about 3D crafts.

Full of enthusiasm, I thought that I might catch up and for the days and evenings of that first week I was mostly wrapped up in the theme of interlocking.  However, I questioned the shorthand of “3D” – what about time, what about the other dimensions of life such as music and literature which engage us?  What about memory and emotion?

So, with all my thinking I ended up with a triad of triads.  I’ll offer the first triad now and, hopefully, will get the others out over the weekend.  Underlying theme for the first triad was books.  After all, bookbinding is a craft, books carry knowledge and art; they define history.

The first book is called Tomé [Greek to cut or slice] and consists of a piece of an old wool blanket as the cover [protecting the contents – security blankets and wool shrouds from ages ago].


Inside the pages are nylon gauze of a pink, which made me think of wombs and amnions, and a grey brown, chosen to make the images seem more vague.  The images were chosen from drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci to try and match the Seven Ages of Man speech of Shakespeare.

IMG_4895 IMG_4896

The second book is titled “Topology;  A Primer” and is made of paper, loom bands and a knitting needle.  Topographically, none of the items are interlocked [like rings on a chain are interlocked], since the act of lifting the last loom band over the pointed end of the knitting needle would lead to the whole book falling apart.


I chose a knitting needle for the spine as knitting is such a strange thing: A long piece of yarn gets looped around itself and produces a sheet of material.  There’s not even much in the way of knotting when knitted panels are brought together to form a garment.

The final book of this triad is a hardback folio edition with words from “A Tale of Two Cities”.


Leaves have been stuck to a chunk of wood using glue gun refills and the opening paragraph was written on some of the leaves using indian ink.

Next will be the Interconnectedness of all things [or something like that was penned by Douglas Adams for his character Dirk Gently].  It’ll be coming soon.

Bye for now,  Vincent

Hephaestus or Vulcan; take your pick

Hephaestus was the Greek god of fire and of craftsmen, son of Zeus and Hera. Equivalent Roman god was Vulcan.   Either way he was a divine metalworker and so linked to furnaces and all that thumping and shaping of hot metal.

Well, as part of the course there are many aspects of Hephaestus/Vulcan from working fine metals in jewellery, to doing the rougher stuff with iron & steel,  to welding and to casting by pouring molten metals.  So far done a bit of most of the above except the rougher stuff with iron & steel.

We have done soldering of simple shapes and then press forming pieces to be soldered together [the little discs in the second picture].  Everything has been on a small scale as it has primarily been about jewellery techniques.


We’ve done some enamelling [back is the bluish side but still lovely] and fine sawing.


We’ve made our very own jump rings [used in chains and very massed produced these days], which I soldered badly.


And we made band rings [you should be able to see the fine solder line in the copper].


More to come on clay and wood and metal…… [and the first project too]! Cheers, Vincent

Start of the journey?

I cannot stick a definite date on when I started this journey.  Certainly I was moving in the direction of craft by carving a few spoons from our dead plum trees in 2011 and buying some Pfeil gouges that Christmas while taking carving lessons at the Yorkshire Hut Co.  First proper try at carving something bigger was a copy of Malliol’s “Night” in yew – Jill is very fond of it but I’m still seeing all the faults in it.


Progressed since then but not finished anything – I make mistakes on a piece and decide not to pursue making more mistakes on that piece and move on.  That said the lizard sits on a mantlepiece and I have given some non-figurative sculptures away.


BUT the course at York College started for me in October.  Somehow I want to get the three months or so from then ‘till now recorded in this blog [but that is all going to be with hindsight] but also comment on what is happening as it happens [well, near enough].

One of the surprising things that has happened is that I have only tried carving wood twice since starting the course.  I soon gave up at college as the slim gouge kept losing its edge in the wood.  Its was the first gouge I’ve used where the blade would just chip off in the wood. Wasn’t enjoying that carving as the bench was too low and the workpiece moved too much in the small vice.  However, I did spend an afternoon in late November at home carving a heavy man [rugby player perhaps].


First piece finished at college was this bowl turned from a log of cherry taken from a felled cherry tree at my old workplace, Leconfield, near Beverley in East Yorkshire.  Its a heavy shape as I did not want to have the central rot of the log fly out of the rim while being turned and have no edge or bowl to speak of.  The clay throwing will come later once it has been glazed.

More later, Vincent

Curriculum vitae?

Curriculum vitae? Not exactly, it’s more a starting point as a bit about me. I’ve not read anybody’s blog from its beginning but this is the beginning of this one by me. So, for those who want to come along on the journey, you may like a bit of background; who is this person? What’s his background? I’m now 58, live in York [England] with the love of my life Jill [cliché but it’s true] and have been a qualified physiotherapist since 1996. Currently, I do some locum work as I enjoy much of the job but after 20 years some bits are beginning to be repetitive. I’ve worked for the MoD, the NHS and had nine years running a private practice with the help of Jill as practice manager. I specialise in neuromusculoskeletal conditions from headaches caused by the neck all the way down to painful toes and lots of stuff in between. I enjoy the problem solving – being a diagnostician [but far from House MD’s strange life] – and get a lot of satisfaction helping people manage their problems. You may have noticed “58… qualified… 1996” that physiotherapy was not my first career. Again, with the help of Jill, I took a degree in Physiotherapy at the University of Brighton [Eastbourne campus over an hour each way – we lived in Brighton]. That took a lot of commitment from both of us; the placements were even further away [included Margate and Ramsgate – about 4 hours each way]. Before that I was in the field of patents and trade marks; UK Patent Office and then with a firm of European Patent Attorneys. Making the change from patents to physiotherapy needed a lot of thinking about what I was good at, what I wanted from work, and what I had to offer. I wanted to use my problem solving skills, work with people, engage in anatomy and physiology and feel that there will always be something extra to learn. And now I am migrating to craft. Last October I signed up as a part-time student on York College’s BA Contemporary 3D Crafts [degree awarded by St John’s University, York]. “Why?” In my early teens I seemed to be pretty good at a lot of things, enjoyed woodwork, metal work and art classes but my Dad took the view that I could do that stuff in my spare time and that a job in science would make more money than being a plumber or joiner or being an artist. Dutiful son, I went along with it but also played a lot of golf [Dad was a very keen golfer and winning was important to him – but not to me]. Never did get round to consistently doing any of the craft or art stuff until now. Now, because several wonderful people died within a year of each other and they were my age +/- 5 years. That made me think on the “You only get one life”, “no one is going to give you a prize for how much money you’ve stored up when you die” and “if you want to do something, get on and make it happen”. The migration is leading to much introspection and other stuff which will be the topic of another post.

Best wishes,


Many thanks to Tom

Hello All,

Jill’s son Tom has been a great help in setting up this blog so  a big “thank you” goes to him!  Now I’ve got to work my way around the various buttons and drop downs as well as work out what really needs to be said.

Bye for now,