Sunday, 29 April 2012

Gilding the Montagu's & a Rooster from the past

Well, the rooster is cleaned and ready for shipping, commissioned as a present from husband to wife on her birthday. This design is based on the very first motif Gordon and I created as "Greens Weathervanes". At the start of our business, the focus was on designs dripping with detail. Taking out the patterns for something produced over 15 years ago is always a beautiful thing. The drawing and patterns fall out of the envelope like pressed autumn leaves...brittle with age and use. All the patterns from this era are in a similar state, scribbled with notations, delicately folded, yellowing and in some cases held together with tape. Nonetheless carefully packed away and stored for the future. These early designs, the peacock, Alice's White rabbit, the croquet players and this rooster, are the foundations of our business; they planted the seed.

The Montagu's harrier hawk is also from this period. Today is the start of the gilding of this dramatic bird in flight. Like the rooster, the Montagu's was commissioned by a husband and wife...but, this time for a double celebration; their wedding anniversary and the birth of their son.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Pigs Herding Sheep

Well I guess this article sort of answers my question about "Can pigs herd sheep?"
Not that it's an example of a farmer using pigs to herd sheep...only that the owner feels her pig could learn.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Making Talons

I have been working on a large Montagu's Harrier Hawk. Most of today was spent making legs and talons. The legs are bronzed copper, and the talons are forged brass. Brazing the different metals together can be very frustrating, as each metal behaves differently under heat. In  the simplest terms, brass is brittle and bronze is elastic. More importantly, when too hot neither the brass or bronze will accept the brazing rod. It's like coaxing a stubborn child. If you linger too long, the brass crawls back on itself like curdled milk, whereas the surface of the bronze gets a sort of glazed skin whilst underneath the metal is actually so mushy it usually slumps with the weight of itself.
As the Montagu's is now nearly done, I have left a small hole in the head of the bird, for adding  weight for ballast. The talons and legs still need some fine tuning, and the wings and tail need edging, but it's very close. This stage of construction is a bit of a marathon, with the torches constantly on, and a lot of upside-down brazing and strange, difficult crevices to get the tip of the torch into. Knocking off at 4pm is an absolute necessity when the work gets this intense. So, we have taken to letting the pigs out for a run in the big field every afternoon. They absolutely love the open space  & are terribly funny to watch running full pelt with their ears flopping and legs kicked out. Well, funny for us...the sheep aren't of the same opinion. I am sure Trixie (who is the trickster of the three) chases them for the thrill, she even chased the cat today. She has the disconcerting habit of trying to up-end you. The cows find it all a fine distraction from grazing, and  come crowding to the fence to enjoy the show. The pheasant and his harem just find it annoying.

Someone mentioned farmers using pigs to herd sheep. Is that possible?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Montagu's

No acetylene today, so no playing with fire. Sourcing acetylene gas has been a real problem since the BOC accident in Bristol a year and a half ago.  I wish the suppliers were better at keeping the customer "in the loop". We changed over from BOC to Airgas last year after finding pre-ordering and waiting (and waiting!) for acetylene nearly shut us down. But we went to exchange our empty cylinder this morning, to be told there is none to be had...anywhere. Oh dear, not again! To get some idea of the rumours surrounding both the BOC accident and the current supply shortage, check out this forum
It would be dreadful if acetylene was phased out, as propane proved a huge frustration when I demonstrated at Art in Action last year. Like baking a cake with a hair dryer.

So today was a day of chiselling and shaping on the block. Above are the finished halves of the head, beak and right thigh of a large Montagu's Harrier Hawk. I love the heat patina...that splash of orange and pink and red.

Gordon, on the other hand, has been burning paint off a window today. All in preparation for our imminent studio move. We have nearly sourced all the windows for the granary, even if they are a bit of a mish-mash.