Materials < Deep Thought Thursday

I love the short films in the New York Close Up series produced by art21.
As I was watching Mariah Robertson Wears a Yellow Suit to Work I was struck by Robertson’s acceptance of the fact that one day she would no longer be able to use the same materials because they would cease being manufactured. It was just a fact – nothing to get upset about.
Have you ever used a material that you could no longer get a hold of?
What would you do if they stopped making a certain kind of paint, paper, dye, glaze, . . . ?
Many jewelers are now in a pinch because of the high price of precious metals. If you’re a jeweler, how has that affected what you make?

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16 thoughts on “Materials < Deep Thought Thursday”

  1. Hah! I had to raise my prices this year because of the cost of silver and then it continued to go up! Unfortunately, I’ve come to a point in my work where I’m designing big collars made out of silver and that’s mostly what I want to work on.
    Because of the cost, though, I’ve also (finally) started working on some wall art pieces I’ve had on the back burner. These I can make using base metals since I don’t have to worry about how they’ll interact with people’s body chemistry. I like working in base metals, so this isn’t the biggest hurdle for me. It is hard to get people to understand that copper and brass jewelry can still be expensive because of the work time and designing going into the pieces, that’s why I started focusing more on the silver for the jewelry. For some reason this isn’t as much of a concern if you use these same materials for art that goes on your walls. Go figure.

  2. I found a water based varnish. It was amazing, no brush marks and applied evenly. I wanted more but couldn’t find it at my usual supplier, online or anywhere else. I contacted the manufacturer but they did not respond.
    Now a few years later I see that the varnish is flaking off and I have a number of paintings I’m not really sure what to do with. They are obviously not archival and unless I remove the varnish and reapply…
    Sometimes products disappearing from the market is a good thing except for those who used it and are left with the manufacturers mess to clean up.

  3. I cried when I learned that Kodak had discontinued their high speed black and white infrared film. Nope, no exaggeration–I really DID cry! :O
    Fortunately I had some in the freezer and did my best to procure more, but of course the price skyrocketed, and it was never a cheap film to begin with. I’ve still got a hoard in my freezer but it won’t last forever.
    There *are* infrared films produced by other companies but they don’t have as high a sensitivity to infrared light waves AND they have anti-halation layers on the emulsion. The lack of that layer is part of what gave the Kodak film such a beautiful glow.
    You also must shoot them at a much slower shutter speed, which requires a tripod and long exposure times. That’s okay if you’re primarily a landscape photographer– which I’m not. I loved the freedom of shooting the Kodak infrared film hand-held. Tripods and long exposure times limit and stifle my vision.
    I don’t know what I’ll do when my hoard runs dry. I’ve already cried, so I guess I’ll have to figure something out! 😀

    1. Moving to digital may be an option. Removal of the inferred filters can give some amazing responses.(the analog beauty of light exposure film is not the same as digital but with some tweaking high resolution digital cameras have started producing some amazing prints) Its never a bad idea to try the new material even if it forces you to go way outside your original comfort zone. The truly fanatical might try to find a way to create home spun film that reacted more the way you wished to work. of course the cost and the time may truly be unapproachable.

  4. Kate Klingensmith

    I haven’t worked as a jeweler in a while, but will be picking it up again when I get my tools out of storage out of state. I love working in gold because it is so easy and cooperative! When I get back to the bench I will probably use an alloy of platinum and silver, so it will have the best properties of both. I recently saw an ad for an excellent jewelry store. The piece had diamonds and sapphires, set in silver! We never saw that even 5 years ago. Jewelers have always been responsive to the times, economy, customers and creativity.

  5. I have raised my prices a bit too, but I have also taken this “opportunity” to dig into my inventory to put materials long forgotten about into use. I see it as challenging myself to get even more creative.

  6. I used Arches watercolor paper for years and years and then i read on a favorite blog that they used animal products in the manufacturing of the paper…so…somewhat of a similar issue a I had to go searching for new paper… it wasn’t bad those, there’s so much more choices now than ever.

  7. I’ve been a jeweler for 35 years and the change in the price of metals kills some, changes others, and enlightens still others. Cost of materials is a part of doing business while staying power as an artist should have very little to do with availability of materials…

  8. I use silver in my work but the price caused me to look at other metals in a more favorable light. Now I’m really enjoying using bronze, brass and gunmetal more in my work. And I recently took a class that opened my mind to some great uses for copper. I still love silver, though.

  9. Winsor & Newton used to produce Cirrus Kolinsky 550 Short Flat brushes – emphasis on the SHORT. This gave the artist super control. These brushes wore rather quickly, but this was a benefit. They became a wonderful triangle and one could make the thinnest lines with them. I am still in mourning.
    The same artist that introduced me to these turned me onto Utrecht Kolinsky flat brushes as an alternative. They are longer than the Cirrus and do not handle as well. And they don’t wear into that nice sharp triangle; they sort of morph towards a filbert. Basically this has forced me to change how I paint and for the small line detail, it takes more time to do it, so I don’t do as much. To me this is a loss of capability.

    1. Good point Lou (I really miss Kodachrome). However you can take the glass half-full view and look at the improved capabilities of the digital sensors over film and the control that digital cameras give to photographers. Of course there’s just a wee bit of a learning curve . . . . . well, maybe that’s really way large, but I’ll take it.

  10. There have been occasions that materials I’m enamored of have gone away for some reason or another – from paper and journals to paint and brushes. I’ve taken it as an opportunity to try out new materials and experiment with new techniques – something I don’t always do enough of.

  11. Paint pigments go out of production fairly regularly (one every few years usually). Especially with improved pigments in some of the Quinacridone colours. Of course us artists know they don’t always act the same as the old colours. 🙁 But paint pigments rely on larger industries (like car paint) so when things go out of fashion we can lose our colours. Right now the big change is transparent iron oxides, most brands are changing them. My fear is the loss of things like cobalt and cadmium colours to safety fanatics, just like lead whites which have become much more difficult to purchase.
    I only use one brand of brush and one brand of canvas, so I’m not even going to think about those companies going under!

  12. As a jeweler it definitely affects me. I’m working on trying to use more non precious metals in my design by applying enamel to copper, instead of working with silver all the time. Since I’ve only just started selling my work, I find it hard to fully invest in a line of silver work. I can’t even think about touching gold. Because of it’s price, I never even got a chance to learn how to use it in school ( I only just finished my BFA).

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