Saturday, 16 April 2016

Taking Patterns in Hand

On my last visit to Ellesmere yard I spent some time looking at the patterns more closely. I like the fact that they are physical plans for a whole range of parts. A kit for the solid structures and moving parts required to move water around and keep it under control. 

The pattern shop is a repository of potential forms, kept out of use so that their cast counterparts can be replicated after years of service out in the world. They are made of wood, a material that is light (compared to metal), and can be carved and turned. The process of making the patterns, defining these exact dimensions, is so very different to that of making the parts themselves, pouring hot metal in to an impression in sand...

I started to experiment with placing the wooden patterns in still-life groupings, using the workshop adjacent to the pattern storeroom. The light coming through the slanted roof windows, hitting the dusty, painted wood, was beautiful. The workshop walls and floor seemed of a piece with the patterns, covered with scratches and dust but also beguiling. 

It was interesting taking them out of the storeroom into the light, giving them some space, but keeping their residue of long accumulated dust, only moving them a few steps away from where they are stored. 

But how to organise and arrange them? In the storeroom they are in a basic order: smaller parts resting in piles on shelves, larger volumes grouped in the centre and long, tall shapes leaning against the wall.

I tried a few haphazard and instinctual groupings, picking up shapes that intrigued me. I then took a selection of cylinders, variations on a theme. These had a more direct relationship to traditional still-life as they resembled bottles, domestic containers.

It felt like I'd made a start, begun a conversation, but there is more to explore, so I plan to go back again in May.