Tuesday, June 6, 2023

summer break work


burning brush


dozers and dirt

rebuild and repair

In my daily study, I have been thinking about repairing and rebuilding.

I have been out of school for a few weeks. My neighbor Brandon who's property is on the backside of my property had told me that he would help me cut some white pines that were leaning in close to my house. About two weeks ago, he came over and we cut each tree one by one as we cleaned up the mess between cuts. Once we had completed this, we hauled the logs over to his sawmill to sit and dry out. We burned a ton of laurel and brush, and during the following days, he started using his trackhoe to clear laurel behind my shop. We had traced a spring back up into my woods that has it's origins above the height of my shop. He uncovered the spring, and then started making pools and waterfalls to help direct the water down to Spice Bottom Creek that runs through the middle of my property. He ended up building eight waterfalls, we put in additional drainage along the side of my shop and we added additional drainage from the gutter downspouts to aid in keeping water away from the shop. We trenched down from the spring and installed waterline that pipes in the super cold, clean water from the spring directly behind my shop. He graded all the hillsides and then I broadcast grass seed. Last night we put some trout in the upper pool. We've spent about two weeks working full days at clearing, burning, and working with what's there to create something really beuatiful.

I spoke with my Dad last night on the phone, I mentioned that we really purchased very little, to make all of this work happen. I kept Brandon supplied in diesel fuel for the trackhoe and dozer, and I purchased a little corrugated pipe and grass seed, but we reused many cast off parts and pieces in order to uncover and rebuild what was already there. The water-pipe, the 5 gallon water reservoir, sections of corrugated pipe, pipe junctions, etc were all reused parts. Often when I'm doing jobs for Brandon, like fixing his door cable, or repairing his water wheel, or his trackhoe, I use parts or scrap metal from other jobs, or things I've taken apart. Brandon's son, Jacob, often has a project where I utilize parts from things most people would have discarded. My Dad mentioned last night that he thinks, that you become a better person for working with what you've got on hand. This struck me and today as I studied, I realized that brokenness is a part of life and sometimes we need to sit with those broken things rather than discard them and replace them with something new immediately. It's easy to turn away from the things that need repair in my life or to simply give up.

In my study, Nehemiah allows himself to be broken and to feel the things he feels in the broken world around himself. BUT he brings these things to God. He names the things specifically and then he laments. There is something about our nature to name the issue and immediately try to fix it rather than to sit with it and let it shape us. We need to sit with our brokenness. Then Nehemiah takes his lament and these things which are broken to God. There is nothing we can throw at God that he can't handle AND God works with broken people. God specifically takes people who have been broken and he uses them in his rebuilding and repairing work in the world.

God steps TOWARD our broken world.

God can hold the things we cannot hold ourselves

God loves us more than we can imagine. I have to think about this in the context of my own children. My children really have no idea how much I love them as they are not able to remember each mundane moment of their life that becomes a seared into my being as my relationship of being a parent to them was being formed from the moment they took their first breath into this world. Similarly, I am sometime blind to the amount of love that God has for me and that he is my ultimate friend.

I need to remember that the things in my life which sometimes feel broken still have the ability to be repaired and rebuilt. Sometimes those things which come out of brokenness can become stronger, more meaningful, and more beautiful than something that simply takes away my frustration, sadness, and grief. 

Sunday, March 26, 2023

tetsubin: experiments in mold making for cast iron

This weekend I've been working on a cast iron teapot that I cast several months ago at the WNC Sculpture Center. I have been to several pours there since the beginning of the center, but I had been to one for a while. I work with Joe Bigley who teaches Foundations and the occasional sculpture class at AppState and he runs the sculpture center there. 

This teapot is an extension of some of the bronze and aluminum teapots that I have been making. Since these teapots are an extension of the design and patterning, and inspired by my interest in traditional Japanese cast iron tetsubin it only seemed fitting to do a series in iron. I have been hesitant to cast in iron, as most everything I have ever made in iron has either been too heavy or the objects themselves just didn't turn out. Not to mention the cleanup is always a pain, and I really hate the grinding dust created from iron.

This particular casting turned out exceptionally well though. I attribute this to my pattern and mold making process. First the teapot pattern was created using a 3D printer and I could really control the thinness of the pattern and not have to worry about burn in from a sand mold due to my use of ceramic shell for the initial coats of mold. I have been using traditional investment for a lot of my most recent cast work simply due to the ease of getting the materials in Boone along with the fact that I have had spotty results with the use of ceramic shell due to humidity up here in the mountains. Ceramic shell requires a lot of drying time in between coats and I was having to wait almost a full day to get a layer to dry (that said I have some ideas about solutions for this). Normally I would apply eight coats of ceramic shell to build up the thickness of the mold and insure a strong mold. In this particular case I utilized 3 coats of shell and then I poured traditional investment around the mold. Traditional investment is not suitable for casting iron at all. The plaster normally would not be able to withstand the excessive heat of the iron and would simply melt. By using ceramic shell as an initial mold facing and insulator, the iron is kept from contacting the main mold (assuming you don't have cracks in the shell) and all is well. I was dubious about pouring iron in these the day of the pour because I was not certain three coats were enough of a barrier AND I'm not able to inspect the mold for cracks before pouring since the entire mold cavity is incased in traditional investment. I will add that I burned the molds out for a few days before the pour and took the molds to the pour and they were still quite hot. I actually had to put down a heat barrier to transport the hot molds down the mountain to Joe's place. The molds were still quite warm when I placed them on the pour floor, so i believe the insulation of the investment around the shell was helpful for pouring into a semi-warm mold as we would usually preheat ceramic shell molds before pouring; something I wouldn't be able to do by hitting the traditional investment with a immersion burner. Regardless, the pour went well and I walked away for the night to return the next day to the molds. I broke open the molds and I was immediately surprised by the ease of shell removal. It just flaked off unlike some of the recent shell molds I've made. The other thing I noticed was how clean the surface of the iron was. There no signs of chilling and I after subsequent clean-up the iron materials consistency seems to be uniform. A lot of times I have noticed hard spots in iron that I cast in a similar methods, but this pieces seems to have cooled very evenly. Again, I believe this is due to the traditional investment mold mass that insulated the piece after the pour, and allowed it to cool very evenly and slowly. I also believe my patience in opening the mold also assisted in this most likely. I usually break things out too fast and I believe this effect recrystallization of the metal.

Needless to say, I have many more tests to conduct before I can confirm all of these findings, but for the time being I am now thinking more about cast iron objects in my future. I have the Sloss conference just around the corner. I will see if I have any time to make some more experimental molds for the event, but if not, I'll try to get down to another one of Joe's pours soon. In the meantime, I'll keep cleaning this piece u and working out the finishing details. I'm looking forward to seeing this one completed and documented.


Friday, March 17, 2023

life challenges

The last few weeks have been challenging for the Flood family. Our family has been going through some things that are beyond our control and I have seen some of the members of my family in their worst possible state; myself included. However, with much hope we are coming out of these difficult times and I see light on the other side. I have to remember that we all have our own burdens to bear. 

I recently read this post from one of my former students, Elizabeth Walton, on her father's caring bridge site. Her father was diagnosed with brain cancer before Elizabeth was born and now Elizabeth has just recently graduated from college. Elizabeth's father has been fighting cancer for over 20 years and yet has found a way to be a husband and father. I don't know if I would ever have the strength to exhibit this kind of courage and so I stand in amazement at  Elizabeth's family. Elizabeth and I have shared many conversations on making and even more conversations on life. Elizabeth is wise beyond her years and this writing moved me this past week as I work through some of the things my family is going through. I have been blessed with a wonderful family. I hope that Elizabeth's writing gives you all hope in whatever situation you find yourself in.

Journal Entry by Elizabeth Walton — March 11, 2023

I’m here to offer a window into my own grief. Writing this post is a helpful yet difficult moment of processing and sharing what I have been feeling and noticing recently.

I want to preface this writing by saying that I am truly grateful for the immense and continued care, love and support from you all to my family. Thank you for showing up and caring for us in tangible ways. 

This post has been in process for the last couple weeks. Most times I sat down to write ended with me sobbing in front of my computer, too busy blowing my nose to type. 

I was born into this story. I have never known a day with a cancer free dad. Yes, there have been periods of remission, but it has always been part of my story. Only recently have I realized that the specific impact of cancer on each member of my family is different. I have a different story to tell than my mom or dad or my siblings, and the same is true for them. My counselor compared it to a crime scene; many people are interviewed because everyone has a different vantage point and notices different things.

This experience is overwhelming. I feel waves unpredictably of sadness, apathy, and overwhelm. There are days I feel so full and joyful. Excited to see what the future holds. And other days I wonder what’s the point of checking all the boxes when it feels like nothing is guaranteed. There are days I hit construction and all the red lights after leaving just enough time to get to work and my already on overdrive nervous system breaks down in tears knowing I will arrive exactly two minutes late and wondering what happened to the punctual, bright eyed Elizabeth… grief brain, claims the article I read on the internet when I started crying after accidentally missing an application deadline. There are times I look at the seven library books I got recently and wonder if one of them holds the answer to make the pain stop. In my flurry, furiously asking questions I wonder if I really care to know the answer. Mostly I just want the pain to stop. I am so afraid. I do not want to lose the dad I love. I want him to be at those milestone events - if I get married, attend graduate school, have children, etc. Technically it is possible, he could be there, but hoping feels like another way to open myself to hurt and disappointment. 

As Adam Young explores in his podcast The Place We Find Ourselves “Hope is flat out agonizing. Hope requires that you groan inwardly while, at the same time, waiting expectantly. The alternatives to hope are a deadening of desire and a growing cynicism about what you can really expect from life in this world. Indeed, most hope is squashed by the simple phrase “i’m just being realistic.” But our war with hope inevitably leads to God: will God respond to the cries of my heart?”

I recently heard someone say “you grieve the loss to the extent that you loved.” And you best believe that was the best and worst thing to hear because I love my dad A LOT. 

I am becoming viscerally aware of my complete inability to stop the death before my eyes and am seeing the doctor's human limits, as the conversation shifts from eradicating cancer to buying time. I know that this experience does not “check off” my suffering quota for life. I do not know how long I will live, but some days the life that stretches out before me feels like an expanse of opportunity to experience great pain. I now am much more aware of the catch 22 that the more I love someone, the more it hurts when they are gone, but that choosing not to love is the ultimate loss. 

It is all a lot to take in. I am in my early twenties - a time ripe with possibility and burdened with cultural expectations to live an unhindered and exciting life while building a solid foundation for my future. In the story I saw for my early twenties, grieving was not included. 

I am exhausted, and nowhere near “the end” whatever that means. I am so tired of the emotional turmoil, the complexity, the desire for answers and none satisfactory - many things true but unhelpful in these moments. This appears to be the beginning of a long goodbye. Any goodbye is excruciating but the long goodbye feels suffocating right now. I quickly put pressure on myself that because I “knew” my dad was dying I am somehow capable of “figuring everything out” so that I don't have any regrets. But that is impossible. The long goodbye feels like a vast slow pulling apart of life. I grieve so deeply the losses I already see in my dad because he has and does love me so well. I cherish the relationship I have with my father and that makes his decline that much more painful. 

My friend recently reminded me that I am more than my grief. I am still Elizabeth Walton. I refuse for my story to be hijacked by cancer, but the first step is naming what cancer has stolen. 

I have found great comfort in Jerry Sittser’s book A Grace Disguised over the last few months. I want to leave you with this thought from him; an invitation that reflects the unchanging reality of loss yet still offers direction. 

“We cannot change the situation, but we can allow the situation to change us. We exacerbate our suffering needlessly when we allow one loss to lead to another. That causes gradual destruction of the soul... The first kind of death happens to us; the second kind of death happens in us. It is a death we bring on ourselves if we refuse to be transformed by the first death.”

-Elizabeth Walton

Sunday, February 26, 2023

zagato inner handle

 I was previously exploring casting the bronze inner handles for the Zagato Ferrari but after much headache with casts that just aren't up to the standard that I have, I decided to just machine them. I had previously made 3D printed patterns that allowed for shrinkage, and had even cast some semi-acceptable parts. Even though the originals were bronze (I believe) and then chrome plated, I figured machinable brass was a close option for the final versions here. I machined the handle above on Friday and today I'm machining more. I'm happy with how this turned out and I should be good to get these to AMS in the very near future.

penland community open house

Yesterday I attended the Penland Open House and I had several students attend as well. I started volunteering at the open house each Spring since I moved to North Carolina. It's been three years though since Penland the last open house due to COVID. It was a rainy day, but we still had around 400 people attend. Jill and the girls came down to participate as well. I worked in the Metals Studio and we made roller printed pendants/keychains. Nadia had made some cool etched steel press plates using a spray paint rests and the laser cutter. I worked the Roper Whitney punch station and helped participants place holes in their pieces of copper. It's always fun to see my students assist with these kinds of events and it makes me proud to see them sharing their time and their skills.


Sunday, February 19, 2023

weekend work

It's been a busy weekend. I ran a job for Chloe (student). She's making the pressed steel cross stitch patterns and I'm drilling them on my CNC router. I did three different designs for her this weekend. It's taken most of the weekend to run these. I have to run the router super slow to prevent burning up bits since we're using a number 52 bit for all the holes. Some of the designs have over 3500 holes so it just has to peck away. I learned early on not to mess with trying to run it fast; burned up a few bits. I now have it to the point that I can make a bit last for at least 300 holes. Not too bad in my opinion.

While those were running on the router, I got Lela's (a student) test folded paper bowl ready for casting. Lela is folding paper and assembling these complex three dimensional forms. The one here is small compared to the others. We want to attempt casting some of these via lost paper mold. She probably wants to do aluminum due to cost but I want to see this in bronze. Anyway, we're ready to invest now.

While all of this was happening, I cut some die forms for Asheville jeweler, Laura Wood. I'm going to heat treat these this week and get them to her. I had helped her wit some similar design work before COVID when she took a workshop with me at my studio. Now my former student Elizabeth Walton is working for her and so Elizabeth asked me about these I said I could cut them instead of her using a service bureau. It's a good excuse to test out heat treating aluminum. I've been reading up on it. Looks like it should be simple to do. I suppose I could have cut these in steel, but I had to use a .03 end mill in some sections and I didn't have any steel plate on hand (the right thickness), and I wasn't looking forward to cutting steel with those small end-mills.

I also worked on some RhinoCAM for the inner Ferrari handles and my McMaster Carr order for brass came in so I can cut those soon. I ended up casting bronze versions from some Form Labs 3D prints, but I want to see what the machined ones look like compared to the cast ones. I smoothed out the cast ones while machines were running.

I also worked on one of my cast iron teapots since I have a couple exhibition opportunities coming up. Still trying to decided if I want to enamel this and I think I may design a new handle design for it.

Oh, and I talked to Eric this weekend. Sounds like we're both going through similar stuff in life right now. We've decided to try and help each other out by making a point to chat more frequently. It was good to chat with him. It's reminded me that I need to take time to draw more and I need to plan some big projects that I've had for a while; or at least dream about them to get the ball rolling.

Oh, I put together a bunkbed for Olivia tonight in between the work and helped her cut some wood that she was whittling today. I gave her a pocket knife to and we talked about being responsible with it. Small lessons, but important nonetheless.

Well it feels good to list all of this here, as it's Sunday night and I've been feeling like I haven't gotten anything done for a while. I need to make a point of doing this to keep myself on track.