Saturday, 30 March 2013

on a pilgrimage..

"When the sweet showers of April fall and shoot 
Down through the drought of March to pierce the root,
Bathing every vein in liquid power
From which there springs the engendering of the flower,
When also Zephyrus with his sweet breath
Exhales an air in every grove and heath
Upon the tender shoots, and the young sun
His half-course in the sign of the Ram has run,...
Then people long to go on pilgrimages 
And palmers long to seek the stranger strands
Of far-off saints, hallowed in sundry lands.

-prologue, Canterbury Tales, Chaucer; 1386

West Rose Stained Glass Window, Chartres Cathedral; 1200-1250

the coloured light slipped across the floor in a lazy path, and we stepped inside and were engulfed for a moment in a hazy image of a distant past of martyrs and kings.

As spring rolls around again and we start dreaming of warm spring days we are tempted to shake off the cold dreary winter and start to travel again. As Chaucer said we "long to seek" and not much has changed. Though during the early medieval period this travel was to pilgrimage to holy sites and the only 'resorts' of the times were monasteries and as we know today the tourist trade is good.
Rosewindow and Greenman  design from the sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt

Many designs from the Gothic period show a love of nature and relied heavily on the symbolism in natural forms. The heavy symbolism invested in the natural world, where everything had its place and the agrarian nature of their society saw nature as something easily understood and valued by the everyman. Though as can be seen from these sketches, the images were drawn based on geometric principals rather than from life as was custom in the Renaissance. To the illiterate masses symbolic pictography was integral to their understanding and of the many meanings behind the image many were influenced by the Bible. This has lead to modern iconography. 

The relationship between the image (what we see or the signifier) and how we interpret it (the signified) has, throughout the history of man’s need to reflect and express life, been a close one. The need to realistically portray the present has always been tantamount to the artist’s need to express his own interpretation of the subject. With the advent of photography and film this anchor of reality was no longer needed in the world of what is now known as modern art.

Florence Baptistery (interior dome) 

Dolce & Gabbana f/w13

In this case the Dolce & Gabbana show for fall/winter '13 has directly taken the mosaic medieval imagery from Sicily's Cathedral of Monreale recycling ancient imagery for a new audience. As the centuries go by and our perceptions as a society change we bring a new lens to these images lifted from this chapel. We see opulence, the history an ancient establishment with its own particular mores. We are swayed and tainted by the layers of history between us and when these images were made. Though some may look at it and just see a pretty frock. 

Yet just as our personalities are derived from our experiences, so do these same experiences colour how we look at the world. In traditional art the spectator was the centre of the  world, while in new modern art there were many different viewpoints around which the object is depicted. Currently due to mass media there is no getting away from the image as it determines our reality and how we live and behave. The image becomes more real than reality. But there is only surface with no depth. This has led to viewers simply following images and not looking for deeper meaning. This in turn has led to a lack of aesthetic boundaries: the rules that have previously guided our judgement have all been broken.

So maybe now as spring approaches we should go on our pilgrimages as Chaucer describes and seek our own interpretation of things. 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Gold Headphones DIY

I got the inspiration for new gold/white headphones from the Frend's Taylor Headphones

Now these more "feminine" headphones are designed based on vintage jewelry. Since I had just bought an embossing kit of brass, the ensuing design hit me. 

For my design I decided on my initials C.C. the last C inverted so they both would open to my face when I wore the headphones. And since I have recently seen "Written on Skin" by Martin Crimp, an opera featuring medieval illuminated manuscripts, this design followed.

The embossing process (and its reverse, engraving) on this thin metal is quite easy and the whole process took a couple hours. You can of course choose easier designs than this and something like scrolls or floral patterns would also look lovely on headphones (or anything else like a book cover). Or you could forgo the embossing and skip to step 5 and get plain gold headphones like the inspiration photo.

the kit ArtEmboss, as well as some included design ideas.


tools: metal (brass) sheet, wooden stylus (both from the engraving package), scissors, pen, tape, ruler, sandpaper (optional), scratch awl (optional), hot glue gun (or strong glue), sharpener,
 nail polish (optional)

- Before I started I wanted the existing metal on my headphones to be gold, I was thinking painting it with gold paint or nail polish but as I sanded it to prepare the metal for painting I found that the the metal was copper rather than silver and that is what it shall be for the moment.

note: sanding metal should be in a well ventilated area and proper precautions should be taken, after sanding seal the metal (I did it with clear nail polish, or maybe I will use gold later)

also, metal edges especially of thin metal like this are very sharp and can easily cut your hands, use caution especially during the final stages.

The Process

1.Start by placing your metal on a soft surface or mat. Tape down the paper with your design on top leaving room to cut it out later. 

note:If you are embossing and your design will be raised keep in mind that the design will be the reverse of what you are tracing.

2. Trace your design with the wooden stylus, sharpen if needed. This will leave a faint imprint on the metal that will be gone over later so this step is not for detail but for placement. 

3. Remove the paper and use a pen to go over the faint lines left behind from the stylus. Go over the lines several times to emphasise a line, which I did for the edges of the C's curve. 

4. With the metal flipped over detail lines; like eyes, wings, flowers, shading can be put in with a sharp tool (like the awl). These lines would be engraved. This step is totally optional depending on your depth of detail.

5. Cut out the rough shape you will be finishing with, like the circle of the headphones, leaving plenty of room.

You can use tape to get an idea of the final placement. Once that is done the edges can be folded over to get the final markings of the circle. Take care of the metal edges.

6. These circles can be hot glued on (note: the metal heats up very quickly and can be hard to handle, use cloths or gloves). Or alternative glues (like UHU) can be used, but will take longer to set. (remove tape before gluing) I used hot glue for its quick setting time and because I can remove the metal pieces at a later date with a knife if I wanted to change this design for another. 

note: the metal covers will be easier to fit if the surface of the headphones (or anything else) is flat, curved surfaces lead to puckered edges.

7. I then put siding on with thin brass strips as my headphones are quite chunky, please leave comments if you want advice on how to do this part. 

And voila! Gold headphones with a personalised design! I rather like my finished product. It reminds me of the shields from the Sutton Hoo treasures. The actual design is a line initial from 12th century manuscripts found in Decorative Alphabets and Initials. 

postcard of a detail of St. Felicitas, Sacra Conversatione 1520-1525
Warszawa, Muzeum Narodowe Europa Jagellonica exhibit 2012

all photos property of Chloe Cornell apart from those with links 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Tuesday in the Toolbox

"I hate it when she works with feathers, I just can't get them off! 
And who hid my cap?"

raven puppet made by Chloe Cornell from "Into the Waters and Wild" 2011
styrofoam, latex, cloth, glue, feathers, clay, paint and wire

©Chloe Cornell2013
illustration and photography

Monday, 18 March 2013

the snow began to fall

Six Years Later by Joseph Brodsky

So long had life together been that now
the second of January fell again
on Tuesday, making her astonished brow
lift like a windshield wiper in the rain,
    so that her misty sadness cleared, and showed
    a cloudless distance waiting up the road.
So long had life together been that once
the snow began to fall, it seemed unending;
that, lest the flakes should make her eyelids wince,
I'd shield them with my hand, and they, pretending
    not to believe that cherishing of eyes,
    would beat against my palm like butterflies.
So alien had all novelty become
that sleep's entanglements would put to shame
whatever depths the analysts might plumb;
that when my lips blew out the candle flame,
    her lips, fluttering from my shoulder, sought
    to join my own, without another thought.
So long had life together been that all
that tattered brood of papered roses went,
and a whole birch grove grew upon the wall,
and we had money, by some accident,
    and tonguelike on the sea, for thirty days,
    the sunset threatened Turkey with its blaze.
So long had life together been without
books, chairs, utensils—only that ancient bed—
that the triangle, before it came about,
had been a perpendicular, the head
    of some acquaintance hovering above
    two points which had been coalesced by love.
So long had life together been that she
and I, with our joint shadows, had composed
a double door, a door which, even if we
were lost in work or sleep, was always closed:
    somehow its halves were split and we went right
    through them into the future, into night.
Anno Domini from NYTimes Books 

"Tree Snow"

"Tall Windows"

Electric Feathers moodbook photographer Matt Wilson

from "Landlock" by Eamon MacMahon

Snow has been falling recently, rather out of season too. I am reminded of dark winter days and cannot wait for spring to come. Though these words and images remind me of the beauty that comes with a blanket of white.


Friday, 1 March 2013

Back 100 years: Modern Art

There was posted a to celebrate its centennial recent virtual tour of the 1913 exhibition of the Avant-Garde Movement in America. It was the The International Exhibition of Modern Art exhibition and shocked the country with its 'bold destruction and reinvention of visual art’s established forms'. To celebrate its centennial the Art Institute of Chicago has recreated its viewing experience. You can walk around the museum and step back in time 100 years, though it is in black and white, how fitting. To quote the MoMa curator, Leah Dickerman,

“It’s this moment in time, 100 years ago, in which the foundations of cultural practice were totally reordered in as great a way as we have seen. And that this marks a reordering of the rules of art-making — it’s as big as we’ve seen since the Renaissance.”

We are now used to the Modern movement, if fact we are now post post Modernism. In the modern world we are used to being bombarded by images daily that we have lost the relationship between what we see and its meaning, a deeper meaning that needs contemplation to digest. 

For a long time society as a whole viewed the art world as a single unit to judge and shift to accommodate their changing styles. Artists were expected to cater to public taste and created movements that reacted and shifted along with the society’s general mode of existence. After the outbreak of WW1 society and thus reality were irrevocably changed. The very foundations of western existence were rocked and shifted. In the field of art alone abstract art and Surrealism struggled to give reason and definition to the horrors of war, to explain and have others perceive the chaos, as seen through the eyes of the Surrealists, Dadaists, Expressionists, Fauvists, and Cubists. This created a chasm between the image and its meaning. No longer could the spectator rely on the realistic pictorial symbols before him, and draw their meaning based on his own experiences of the same. In traditional art the spectator was the centre of the  world, while in new modern art there were many different viewpoints around the object depicted. This fragmentation that comes between our inclination to draw conclusions and the incomplete information we are given causes a new way of responding to what we perceive as factual. After the introduction of movements like Surrealism, Cubism and Dadaism, the artists shifted the focus from the expected realistic portrayal of objects and instead to distorting these objects to convey their individual feelings and messages. To the audience for the most part this shift was confusing, because of their lack of understanding of each artists’ individual approach to the subject matter. 

The exhibition that we can now see can give an insight into the huge shift that the art world was just on the brink of. Impressionism was followed by war, and which led to the Surrealist, the Dadaists and the Cubists, breaking further the norms of art. But compare the art in this exhibit to the norm, like Sargent, and appreciate how far we've come in only 100 years. Truly a new Renaissance. 

two sides of the same room from the virtual tour

See the rest of the exhibition at

the original post introducing this show at

Enjoy 1913