Work in progress – Autumn Dancer

28th January 2020

I’m starting a wholly new mobile loosely based around a Jackie Kay poem “Two Autumns” and I thought I’d try putting together a stage-by-stage record of the work as it goes.

Carving the back former

Every piece is different but this one starts with my carving a former on which to laminate the veneeers. Because this will be based on a female dancing I’m carving the back first. Please note that the workshop is, if anything, a little tidier than usual!

2nd February

The back is now carved and sanded. The shape can’t be too finely detailed because the eventual mobile will be made up of veneer leaves. As it is I’m not sure that I haven’t made it too detailed for the veneers to follow the folds.

The next stage is to cover the piece with duck tape to ensure that any veneer leaves can be removed easily. It has been pointed out that this looks a bit like Madonna (other dominatrix costume icons are available). In hindsight it might look better if I’d used a different colour of tape!

6th February

The front former is now also carved and I can start to think about how the veneer leaf shapes can be made to sit over these compound curves. I’ve settled on laying a background (inner) set of small leaves which will hold the more interesting and complex outer layer in place.

The leaves are held in place by veneering tape (easily removed – at least in theory) while the vacuum bag is sucked around the pieces. I’ve deliberately aimed for some leaves to overlap as a backbone but in fact my intention is that the final back will be composed of two shapes so that the bottom part can move semi-independantly of the top.

9th February

Of course I was always going to forget to photograph some stage of the process. I’ve now made the second outer layer of leaves and the picture below shows what they look like after extensive cleaning scraping and sanding and shaping. At this stage, neither the inner nor the outer leaves are glued together and it’s become evident that I need to add four more inner leaves before I can assemble the back.

At the same time as making the extra leaves for the back I’m now ready to make the inner leaves for the front.

7th March

Gradually building up the leaves eventually gives me a front and a back assembly. What actually has to happen is that each leaf needs to be glued in place first, but not glued into place because once the layers are laminated the edges of veneers will have slipped so that they need to be trimmed to the final shape. Only then can they be glued into place.

Leaves glued, but now ready for trimming

Eventually the assemblies are complete and I can then join the front and back bits.

Next comes the head. This is my first attempt at a human head and there are all sorts of things which I’m concerned about.

This has been through all kinds of iterations and it might well go through several more. I think there’s something of an echo of a Nigerian face mask which I really like because Jackie Kay is herself the child of a Nigerian father.
I’m going to be adding more leaves and make the hair as a net of falling leaves.