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Walking With Scientists

Nov 18, 2014




Sarah OHana

Walking with ScientistsBetween two cultures : a dialogue in jewellery Attempts to divide anything into two should be regarded with much suspicionC. P. Snow Artists are natural researchers. We are constantly in the process of investigation and enquiry using a multitude of media. We acquire an extraordinary understanding of materials thanks to systematic experimentation with them, leaning beyond boundaries and uncovering truths at every stage. Jewellery artists are responsible for the direct implementation of this knowledge, engaging in their practice all manner of organic and inorganic materials, listening to them and constructing with them three-dimensional artefacts with awesome results. It is the same unbelievable logic that enables engineers to build impossible distances into the sky whilst allowing concrete to move. How different are we to scientists or engineers? Over the last two years I have had the privilege to work with artist Kalsang Shoba in the Laser Processing Research Centre at The University of Manchesters School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering. Our main objective has been to explore creative ways of using lasers, understanding something about the way they work and report back to the world of art practice and contemporary jewellery. This publication offers a glimpse into that journey and accompanies the exhibition at The Museum of Manchester. It aims to unfold the multiplicity of an emergent, hybrid practice that has demanded a new language mutually understood by the cultures of art and design and of engineering and science. Perhaps what is unusual about this exhibition is the angle of insight it gives the viewer about life in an engineering research laboratory. Whilst engineers are looking for new methods of improved manufacture for clients such as Rolls Royce and the nuclear industry, scientists seek to understand the phenomena involved, largely unaware that an artist is working amongst them, observing their behaviour and their language but, more importantly, seeing with fascination the experiments, the visual and factual material emerging from their research. From centres like this one, the jewellery and silversmithing industries have beneted from laser welding, cutting and marking, rapid prototyping, laser forming, and now direct manufacturing of three dimensional form by laser sintering of metal powders.

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My own research pivots around the use of laser on titanium. Heat from the applied laser beam causes an oxide layer to grow on the surface of the metal, which, depending on the thickness, appear as different colours to the eye. The colour can be controlled by using different laser parameters such as the speed, power and pulse density of the beam. To render the technology more invisible and to narrow the distance between it and the more intuitive aspects of my work, drawings are sometimes converted to bitmaps for a less calculated, more painterly aesthetic. What started as an investigation into laser processing for the creative industries has become more a mission to charter this relatively unknown territory, crystallising the astounding visual and anecdotal inuences encountered on the way, all of them treasured gems that I hope will offer a positive contribution to the current art/science debate. For this reason I have also proled the work of some engineers and scientists working in the LPRC. Dr. Amin Abdolvand, an applied physicist, observes the formation of metallic nanoparticles embedded in various media. Mechanical engineer Dr. Andrew Pinkerton creates three-dimensional parts by fusing metal powders with a laser beam, offering a glimpse into the development of direct manufacturing. The inuence of Dr. Marc Schmidt and Dr. Philip Crouse is less clear but perhaps more appropriately, exists below the visible surface.

After renegotiating historical preconceptions on both sides, a curious state of equilibrium has settled itself quite naturally. It was clear that I had much to learn from this aerospatial environment, particularly with my lifelong curiosity in titanium, but how to persuade this deeply formuleic culture that they stand to gain as much from the art and design one? How different is a drawing from a formula, a sketchbook from a lab book? Is there a need for an equation to explain the theory of creativity? This journey does not set out to establish superiority of one expression over another, but calls for collaboration from both angles in order that our vision is more complete. The work presented here is a set of dual nationality passports aiming to attract the attention of both disciplines or better still, to encourage a new one to rise. I am indebted to Dr. Andrew Gale and Professor Lin Li for their invaluable support and continued interest in this project. Perhaps we can already see a spot of green light ahead on the substrate of a new culture...



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Sarah OHana, Jewellery artistThe University of Manchester


SarahWhen asked to write a bit about Sarah, the one thing that stood out to me was her ability to mould a symbiotic relationship in whatever project she is currently wading through, usually numbering somewhere in the vicinity of 1012. Her curious knack for bringing together practitioners from different backgrounds and establishing a dialogue between these separate cultures always proves an inspiration. In the past I would observe something and wonder if I could fold it. Working with Sarah has had the adverse effect that these days I wonder if I could wear it. I have yet to decide whether this is a good thing...jewellers!Kalsang Shoba


KalsangSome ve years ago I was offered the opportunity of taking on an artist in residence within the jewellery section where I was lecturing. I jumped at the chance believing quite rmly that students can only benet from sharing their space with recent graduates. Kalsang Shoba was not a jeweller and so brought with him quite a different expertise. Students noticed his serene manner and calculated work mode. They saw how external factors would not impede the progress of his profoundly complex line of thought. On the days when he was absent they wondered if he might be meditating on some new project none of them were likely to fathom. He would return with stories of Tae Kwon-Do sparring sessions and harebrained trips that involved throwing himself off high bridges and rolling down mountains in huge balloons... Back in the studio, energy restored, he persevered in the art of total precision in every aspect of his performance. For all these reasons and because of his persistently good humour, love of discussion and food, Kalsang will always be a great partner to work with.Sarah OHana

Awarding a Medal

Symbols rank amongst our oldest and most basic inventions but effectively conveying a precise, instant message is very much a demand of the digital age. Medals sit between jewellery and award, appealing to either gender and offering the wearer an alternative mode of expression. The rst steps in this collaborative venture are based on mutual dialogue and suggest that art and engineering can gain much from the helping hand of the other.Materials: Centre: 0.6mm aircraft grade titanium. Casing: 3mm acrylic. Attachments: brass screws, security tags. Process: Titanium oxide applied over graphite with laser: 60W CO2, power 70%, speed 80 %, 600ppi. Acrylic laser cut: 60W CO2 Dimensions: 51mm x 106mm


What will we hand down to future generations ? What could an archaeologist nd in the next millennia?

From time immemorial we have been passing on heirlooms, family treasures, information from one generation to the next. Using the conventional method of knowledge transfer, the ring is formatted much in the same way as a book. The pages unfold to reveal the dimensions, tools, method and ingredients needed to make the design. The ring is a vehicle for the imparting of replicable knowledge taken from the scientic and engineering cultures as well as from art and design, an alloy that takes some mixing and is represented by the difcult marriage of titanium and paper.Materials: Outer covers: 0.6mm aircraft grade titanium. Pages: 112gsm tracing paper. Rivets: 1.5mm OD silver tube Process: Titanium cut by laser :35W Nd:YAG, 20Hz, 100ns, 680mj, + argon Titanium oxide: 60W CO2, power 50% to 95%, speed 15 %, 30%, 1000ppi. Paper cut by laser: 60W CO2 Dimensions: 25mm x 43mm


Heirlooms Ring

By converting a drawing to a bitmap the laser receives a signal to mark spots that may be sparsely or densely placed. This causes the colour on the titanium to appear painted on, offering a more intuitive aesthetic that aims to narrow the gap between hand and material, rendering the technology more transparent.

ID Cards,

December 2005

The images on the cards explore details of magnied drawings taken from sketchbooks on one side and numerical data on the other. The cards are designed to allow the bearer right of entry to both art and science communities. Aiming to display an intuitive effect, the images are the product of an ongoing conversation with engineering and bring into question different aesthetic values that artists and scientists/engineers identify with. For this reason the cards are two sided and reversible, being wearable by either culture as a pass into the other.Materials: 0.6mm aircraft grade titanium. Casing: security card holder. Process: tanium cut by laser: 35W Lumonics M35LS Nd: YAG pulsed laser. Images (oxides) applied using a 60W Universal CO2 pulsed laser at 95% power, 20% speed and 1000 ppi. x 3 passes. Dimensions: 58mm x 90mm

Ocular SeriesThe series is based on the aesthetic of optical measuring equipment and relates to concepts of