Monday, October 7, 2013

raw enthusiasm: anodizing aluminum

I stayed up late last night and finished a copy of the Isabella Knuckles cutter. I had entered it into the faculty exhibition (when they asked for the entry last year) and when they asked for updated info for the exhibition a few weeks ago, I missed the deadline to change my submission since the piece now lives with Mike Isabella (I was too busy finishing the Research Foundation pieces and I missed the announcement due to being on sabbatical). That meant that I needed to bust out a copy of "Knuckles". I never can do anything exactly the same though, so I made a few changes. I realized over the course of these last few projects, that I am just not interested in doing production work or multiples of the same thing. I just don't have it in me. Of course my day job makes it easy for me not to have to worry about making my living off of this stuff, so I need to count my blessings. Anyway, I spent the afternoon polishing and making small connector parts on the lathe, and then spent the night anodizing and assembling. As I was anodizing I was thinking about my introduction to that process when I was an student. I've had my mind on my undergraduate Metals professor, David Griffin, as EIU is doing an article about my education there in their upcoming alumni newsletter. I owe a lot to Dave for introducing me to the world of Metalsmithing and for his teaching style that I attempt to emulate everyday. I can honestly say that he changed the way I look at the world and altered my future. When class was over, I remember him locking the cables to the rectifier in a cabinet so we wouldn't electrocute ourselves. I made some cables so I could anodize after hours one time, and then I think he ended up locking the rectifier up. Then I decided to bring in a battery charger to see if that would solve my problem. It worked, but it wasn't all that safe since the voltage wasn't regulated (I wouldn't recommend this btw). I just finished doing an interview today with one of my former students, Lucy Derickson, who is enrolled in grad school at VCU. We were discussing what makes a student gravitate towards a certain technique or tool. Is it the delivery of the instruction, is it the wonder of how the process works, is it the opportunity to try it for oneself, and how do you capture and encapsulate that raw enthusiasm for something? You have to wonder what would make a student want to do a certain process that they would go to such great lengths to be able to do it. I still don't know what it was about anodizing, but it grabbed me. I still get giddy when I pull the pieces out of the die; last night was no exception. I dropped off the piece at the show today.

1 comment:

Have Blue said...

YES! More anodizing!! Great question about what makes a student gravitate towards a certain technique. I think delivery of instruction assists a little in someone wanting to investigate a certain technique on their own (I think of the many knifemaking videos I've watched, hoping to try it myself at some point). Especially if the technique was unknown to the student beforehand - the more you can make something seem like magic, the more of an impression it will have. The wonder of how the process itself works certainly has an appeal to people like myself who are very technically minded - growing hexagonal cell structures out of the aluminum surface to trap dyes (and then sealing those cells by boiling or nickel acetate) still blows me away.

But the ability to actually do something yourself is what really seals the deal, I think. I've always liked the 'hammertone' finish on metal objects, but when you showed me how to actually use a cross-pein hammer to get that precise effect on metal, it made me want to use it on _everything_.

Anodizing really wraps all of those aspects up in one fascinating package, and blends the technical with the artistic like no other process. Additionally, I love the fact that anodizing (unlike powdercoat) lets the luster of the base metal show though, giving it an additional dimension. People like Peter Kellett ( are able to meld both the artistic and the technical sides to make things that can be highly appreciated by people of either inclination.

So yeah, hurry up and figure out when you can do an anodizing class at the makerspace!