Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cleaning Parts and Sketching

The other day I picked up some bike parts from Revolution Cycles. This summer they've been collecting parts for me from damaged bikes that came in to be repaired. There was a whole box of parts ready for me when I walked in. Thanks, Revolution Cycles!

bike gears in the sink with the cleaning products and tools
The difference between being sent parts by SRAM and getting parts locally, is that the locally recycled parts came off the greasy working elements of the bikes and went directly into the box. When I got the box home, I had to weed out some energy bar wrappers and receipts, and then start cleaning the parts.

fishing clamp

I've been spoiled so far; other people have cleaned the parts for me. My mother-in-law got me a couple of crazy old fishing pole clamps for Christmas last year, but she cleaned them thoroughly before she gave them to me. They fairly shine. A few months ago my husband took apart a bike and a shredder and cleaned everything before we put them into storage in my studio.

parts coming out of the dishwasher
they look clean, but...
To get the parts clean I just needed to remove the grease and oil. I started by laying out the parts in the tub, spraying on Simple Green and going after them with a brush. This method had the dual disadvantages of being very slow and making the tub very dirty. It was also uncomfortable to lean over the side of the tub to scrub. I eventually loaded up about half the parts in the dishwasher, and ran a pots and pans cycle. When I opened the machine, the pieces looked clean, but they were still smudging my fingers with grease when I handled them.

brushing grease off a gear
clean bike parts

Besides leaving a trail of grease in my wake at every future show and during the entire building process, I have concerns that the grease residue would prevent the epoxy from securing the bike parts to the clay, so I cleaned some more. I moved the cleaner parts into the sink and went after them with dish soap and Simple Green. After literally hours of scrubbing, my fingers were wrinkly from the water but I had a basket full of clean bike parts ready to join forces with my clay.

half a basket of clean parts, ready to go

Now that I have finally cleaned all the parts, I should be ready to start the real sabbatical work of building complex ceramic forms with bike parts integrated into the design. I need to have a design at least roughly in mind before I begin. Though I regularly sketch design ideas in various sketchbooks and on the side of meeting agendas and the backs of envelopes, it's difficult to conceptualize this type of work without the parts on hand. How do I design a form around an unknown part? So my sketching really had to wait until the parts were ready.
sketches utilizing bike parts

bike part (seen in the sketch above: bottom right)

Last night I sat through a bit of a Bones marathon on Netflix with a box of bike parts laid out on the table before me, a stack of botanical books next to me and a sketchbook on my lap. I was looking for inspiration in botanical forms that might logically be supported by something in the parts box. Bones is a perfectly brainless background for such a planning project. I believe the entire show would work nearly as well as a radio program, as I rarely look at the screen. Unlike an audiobook, which works well as a backdrop to repetitive glazing, forming and surface decorating tasks in the studio, Bones works well as a mindless backdrop to creative development of ideas on paper. One can become absorbed in the drawing and planning, miss half the plot, and end up just as content at the conclusion of the episode as if one had actually paid attention.

books and inspiration images
Besides the books and parts, I also looked back at some of the collected sketches of the previous year for ideas. Ironically, I thought, when I went to link to the website for Bones, I noticed the background for their page is similar to the design advertising the SRAM pART Project's call for entries last year. Maybe there is something sneaking in subconsciously while the show is on in the background.

old sketches
new sketches based on old
This week, the real sabbatical work begins!

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