John Matthews at South Gallery, Stanley Center for the Arts

Last Thursday, Barry and I were invited to see the John Matthews‘ photography exhibit at South Gallery at the Stanley Center for the Arts.

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We went right when the doors opened, since we wanted to participate in BJJ training that night after the event (Dojo1 Martial Arts). Even though we were super early, there was already quite a big crowd and by the time we left, the place was packed with people. I was positively surprised by the number of visitors that showed their interest and support. It is great to know that there are so many people living in Utica who are interested in art and like to support local artists.

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The exhibition turned around the use of the iPhone 4S as the main photography tool. Most pictures in the exhibition, apart from three, were taken with a camera phone and digitally enhanced with iPhone apps. John Matthews’ main ‘goal’ of the exhibition was to show the viewer the endless possibilities in photography that await an iPhone user. He said for him, it is very interesting to see how much digital photography, especially in camera phones, has enhanced over the years, up to a point where one can compare phone pics to SLR camera pics without really being able to tell a big difference in quality.

The photographs in the show look like every-day snapshots that shed a very positive and interesting light on Utica and the New York State area. They show beauty in an area that is sadly misjudged so often. They show the pretty moments in life, sometimes simple, sometimes more intricate, but the ones we should all really concentrate on, rather than all the negative stuff. The easiness and lightness of the pictures was very well supported by the use of the smart phone camera. One can see John having fun with his device, while capturing those precious little moments with a touch of his finger.

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My favourite picture was called ‘Angles, Reflections and Conversations’. I loved the diagonal set-up of the picture, along with the contrast of the group of people to the single biker and the amazing play of light that resulted from the sun being mirrored in parked car windows. For me, it is a very strong and dynamic picture with an incredibly romantic touch to it!

Image‘Angles, Reflections and Conversations’, John Matthews, iPhone 4S, 2012

I am very much looking forward to John’s future shows in Utica. Come and join us then!

Thank you for reading.
Please have a look at my websites www.lisa-juen.com and www.proonk.com.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @LisaJuenProonK and like my FB ProonK page.

Plasma Cutting, Sandblasting & Powder Coating

Recently, I spent quite a bit of time researching tools and metal-working techniques again and I thought it would be nice to share the information and maybe get some professional tips from you guys.

Plasma Cutting: The reason why I had a look into plasma cutting was because of my frequent use of laser cut elements in my art & design work. Ideally, I would LOVE to have my own lasercutting machine but even the used ones are still super pricey. The second-hand machines I found that are capable of cutting 1mm stainless steel sheet started around $20k. This is a price I can’t afford at the moment… not sure if I ever will but I very much hope I might be able to purchase one further down the road.

As ‘Plan B’, I heard about the possibility to plasma cut pieces and I decided to have a look into that technique. I found a company, PlasmaCAM, that offers plasma cutting systems. The system is made from a cutting table that holds a hand-held plasma torch and plugs into your personal computer (needs to be Windows). It comes with a software that enables you to cut customized shapes. I watched the demo-video and it seems pretty easy to me to operate. The system does not come with a plasma torch, so this machine needs to be bought separately. I guess this is good on one side, given that you can choose yourself which machine to work with and how pricey it can be. On the other hand it is an additional cost. I called up the guys from PlasmaCAM to inquire about the price of the 4×4 table, which comes to $6980. I was further told that a plasma torch for my needs would approximately be around an extra $2000. The shipment of the table would approximately come to $190, so the final price is somewhere around $10k. For me, this is still a pretty steep price that I cannot afford right now but I am happy to know that there is something out there that I could use for big designs further down the road. For my jewelry, I think I will have to stick to lasercutting after all. The cutting line of the plasma cutter is too wide for my designs. I need to be able to get more into details. Also, I heard that the cut on the back can be pretty messy and needs a lot of cleaning. I wonder if this depends on the plasma torch one uses? Probably also speed and temperature?

PlasmaCAM cutting table

Sandblasting: Further I had a look at a sandblasting machine. I will need one for my enameling-work and I was once again surprised by Rio Grande. (My new pink kiln arrived by the way and it waits for me to start working with it once the studio is set up. Read more about the pink enameling kiln story on the Rio Grande ‘The Studio’ blog ‘A Kiln of a Different Color’ and my research on ‘Enameling Kilns’). For the studio in Shanghai, we bought a sandblasting cabinet from Italy that I believe was around 2000€, so I started having a look at DIY home-built options, since I did not want to afford that much. Luckily, it seems like I will not have to go that far and build it myself, since I found a cabinet, the ‘Small Benchtop Pencil-Style Bead Blaster’ on the Rio Grande website starting from $145. It is not massive but big enough for my use and they also offer a bigger version for $185. All you need in addition is an air-compressor, which comes to $150-200.

Rio Grande ‘Small Benchtop Pencil-Style Bead Blaster’

Powder Coating: Yesterday night, Barry and I went to visit the Meyda Lighting company and workshop in Utica NY, and I was amazed by the dimension of their production! This place is glass and metal-working paradise! They really build all their beautiful lamps from scratch. Even the metal parts are hand-made. I was very impressed.
During the tour, we passed the powder-coating facility, which intrigued me quite a lot. I love using color in my work and I had heard of the technique before but I did not know how to use it. I conducted some research on it this morning and to my surprise, it does not seem to be complicated at all. I think I will give it a go in the near future. Have a look at this DIY garage-made video to see how it works.
Further, I had a look at the Eastwood website, a company that specializes in automotive parts and powder coating. They offer powder coating kits from $99.99 for the ‘Original HotCoat Powder Coating Gun’ and $169.99 for the ‘Eastwood Dual Voltage HotCoat Powder Coating Gun’. They also offer pretty attractive starter kits. In addition to the gun and the powder, you need a compressor and either a toaster oven or normal cooking oven that reaches a temperature of 400F.

Eastwood ‘Dual Voltage Powder Gun Starter Kit’

The World’s Largest LED Free-Hanging Chandelier was designed, engineered and installed by Meyda Lighting for the historic Stanley Center for the Arts in Utica, New York.

I am still trying to get everything together for my studio and nothing is set in stone yet, so if you have suggestions or better information on the mentioned tools, please let me know. I would appreciate your opinions and experiences.

Thank you for reading.
Please have a look at my websites www.lisa-juen.com and www.proonk.com.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @LisaJuenProonK and like the FB ProonK page.

Utica Buildings I

Aside

It has been a while since I wrote last and this had mainly to do with me constantly running around, wrapping things up, packing, moving, flying to four countries in 20 days and curing a heavy tonsillitis I caught on a farm in Taiwan. Apart from my sore throat, all good things and very exciting but quite exhausting too and I have to admit that it is pretty nice to have some peace and quiet at the moment. Right now I am in Utica, NY, and I will stay here for the next 80+ days before returning to Germany.

The reason why I am in Utica is because of my partner. Utica is his hometown and whenever you ask him to describe the city in one sentence, he will say ‘Oh- it’s a little slice of heaven on earth!’. Honestly, I haven’t heard the angel’s singing yet but I have to say that the ‘Utica Halfmoons‘ are pretty heavenly and there are lots of other things that make this little city very interesting. Apart from the really awesome Adirondacks State Park, which is just a short car ride away for all of those times when I can’t stand the four walls anymore and need to see and breathe some Green, there are a lot of interesting historical sites in the city as well. Just to speak of a few, the Stanley Theatre, the Hotel Utica and of course the Gold Dome are popping into my mind.

Of course Utica has issues, but I guess quite a few smaller cities have had similar issues in the past, and there are signs now that show that it is on the track of getting back on its feet. For me, being an artist and being interested in what is going on in this sector, it is great to see that there are quite a lot of people here trying to make a change. I think there is an interesting, rising art community on the go and I hope I can eventually contribute to it. There are quite a few art projects in the making of which I have heard of in the few days I have been here and I am very excited to see them finalised and open for the public. (I will write about those another time.)

When it comes to jewellery, I think there are quite a few interesting projects and sites as well. First, there is Pratt MWP, which enables students to spend the first two years of their bachelor of fine arts degree program at the campus in Central New York before they complete their studies at Pratt’s main campus in Brooklyn. Then, there is the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute, which has quite an impressive permanent body of work on show (They have a Louise Bourgeois ‘Maman’ Spider on the wall… a piece that I instantly fell in love with!). They also show shorter, topic-specific exhibitions. At the moment, there is the ‘Shadow of the Sphinx – Ancient Egypt and its Influence’ on show. Last year, I came to see a show on wedding dresses from the last 100 years.

Also, there is Sculpture Space, an organisation that offers twenty residency places to national and international artists. I am not sure, if there has been a jeweller so far but since, in my opinion, jewellery is a form of (wearable) sculpture, it might be an option for jewellers as well…!? I certainly hope so… it would be really exciting to get the chance to work BIG!

Another very positive aspect I find about the city is that a lot of private people are trying to make a change as well. We have had the chance this week to go and see the ‘Preview of the New Offices and Loft Apartment‘ at Bonacci Architects’. Once one disregards that some of the buildings in the city are pretty run down and looks behind the facade and the possibilities that hide in there, one recognises the beauty that is hidden in the city. There are so many old brick buildings, some of them had an industrial purpose, some of them were meant for living quarters, that are just waiting for rediscovery! The Bonacci’s have taken on one of those industrial buildings (actually two to be exact, since the building is made from a building that was erected in 1840 and that was then joined in 1880 with the next door building from 1860) and they have turned it into a modern-old building, housing two companies on the ground floor and a fabulous loft on the first floor.

Here are some pics of the building before renovation.

The Bonacci Building after renovation.

There were several presentations and speeches on how this project was possible and the advantages of making an old home new.

The main speaker of the ‘Landmarks Society of Greater Utica‘ mentioned that she is a ‘Building Hugger’ and I have to say that I feel the same way. Strolling through the downtown area, passing all those beautiful buildings that have so many stories to tell, puts a smile on my face and I hope I can contribute in a similar project in the future.

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