How It’s Made: Part 1

By December 6, 2014Uncategorized
For awhile now I have been meaning to write post about my studio work and art making experience while living in Thailand. It is hard to believe that is has been over a year since I packed up and came to the other side of the world. Moving always takes some adjusting, but moving to a foreign country comes with an even larger learning curve. That, combined with my compulsion to make things–preferably large, ridiculous things that require special tools, equipment, and materials–can create   complications, compromises, and yes, some tears. But this year has been productive, rewarding, and certainly educational.
After living in a country where anything can be had and found with either a short car ride or ordered online, it has been a true test of patience to slow the pace of my immediate wants and needs. Nearly everything can be had here, it just takes time to find, and often requires asking for help. While there is the obvious language barrier, which can definitely be frustrating, there are a lot of smaller things to navigate, like relearning where to buy things like bread, ibuprofen, and epoxy. Fortunately, Anthony is always up for a scavenger hunt and willing to spend a Saturday looking for steel or spending an evening (or two) at the sign shop while I am having things laser cut. Everyone else I have met so far has been equally generous and helpful, happily pointing me in the right direction for finding things like saw blades. 
Even at my most frustrated, I know there is a silver lining to be found, it sometimes just takes me a little while to discover it. It has been hugely exciting to stumble across new materials, see different fabrication processes in action, and to start to know my way around Chiang Rai, learning which places to go to for what. 
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For this post I will break down my process making the two pieces I showed together in the group exhibition Scriptopia back in July. I will write a second post that goes through the most recent work from Mother Tongue
Scripted: I came prepared with this piece, bringing with me a paper template that I had printed before leaving the states. I had been wanting to continue exploring powder coated steel as a material, as well as create a piece that related to the earlier work, Charmed, from 2012. It was really great to have something ready to work on. For me, the hardest part is always starting a new project and with so many other life changes taking place, it was a relief to immerse myself in a process that I know so well.
Paper template with hand drawn edits
 
 
The great thing with sawing by hand is that I didn’t need much to get going. I had brought my saws, saw blades, and bench pin so all I needed was steel, a table, and a drill to start, none of which were too difficult to find. 
When my pieces were all cut, filed, and sanded, they were ready to be powder coated. Through a lucky online search I came across Richco Powder Coating, specialists in powder coating custom motorcycle parts, located just a few hours away in Chiang Mai. They were open to the project and did amazing work. I could not have been happier with the final product.
Laying out the finished pieces to make a template for installation
Photo by Elizabeth Andrews
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Transom: This piece evolved to be perfect blend of the old with the new. It draws heavily from themes that I have been working with for awhile–architectural ornament, visual language, signage, flat space, empty space, etc.– but it is also influenced by my new surroundings, specifically the mirrored mosaic tiles that encrust many of the temples in Thailand. I have really been taken with the jewel-like quality of the mirrored surface and can’t quite get enough of it. Currently, as with Transom, I am creating my own version, using mirrored acrylic as opposed to glass, though I am sure it is only a matter of time before I try my hand at glass cutting and tiling. Right now I am enjoying the in-between place, as well as the possibilities that come with laser cutting. 
As with much of my recent work, I began with a rough sketch and then took it to the computer to finalize the layout and design. Since I was planning to laser cut all of my shapes, I had to create a digital file anyway. Anthony happened to come across a small sign shop with a CNC router, laser cutter, and, most importantly, a willingness to take on a slightly unconventional job as well as answer a lot of questions. This shop, The Room Chiang Rai, has been extremely wonderful and genuinely fun to work with so far, and we have at this point, clocked many hours sitting and drinking beer together while the laser cutter cuts away. 
Stacked sheets of empty shapes
 Playing jigsaw puzzle on my porch with all the cut pieces
Gluing mosaic tiles
Carefully packed to travel around the world
Photo by Elizabeth Andrews
Photo by Elizabeth Andrews

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