For my first day back in the workshop since becoming a PhD-er, I wanted to begin with some material exploration. Materiality is incredibly important when exploring wearables, especially wearables with stigma attached to them, like hearing aids. Can the materials and metaphors used change a wearers decision to pass, cover or (un)cover their hearing aids? (More thoughts on stigma and identity coming soon in another post.)
So to my first material: aluminium.
Aluminium is a lovely, lightweight metal to work with. So I started off manipulating this through fly pressing. this was somewhat successful. Fly pressing works nicely with fairly simple, rounded shapes. However some experimentation will be required to find the best thickness of aluminium to work with for fly pressing. (As these test pieces both split after their next impression.) Note to self: Try again with thinner sheet!
getting back into the workshop. (Fly pressing hearing aid forms in aluminium.)
After some other little experimenting things tried out in the jewellery workshop, I decided I needed to learn some new techniques. The following photos show the process of making a two part silicone mold of an analogue hearing aid, then making waxes using the mold and finally the lost wax with ceramic shell casting process in bronze.
The jeweller in me will always have a fascination with metal, and casting is especially magical. I’ve tried sand casting before so lost wax was the next step, allowing for a cleaner finish and more detail. Also silicone has a very special place in my toolbox… My degree show collection back in 2016, involved creating my own molding technique and making statement pieces in silicone. So learning these processes felt like I was catching up with old friends (and being shown photos of their many children).
When you’re starting something new, you don’t really know what you want to or ‘should’ make… So making something, anything, can be really helpful in overcoming a creative block. And learning a new process, with an air of familiarity, is a great way to boost your confidence and shake off the cobwebs. (That have been building up over the past few months of intense reading.) You learn something new and valuable with every technique, so these techniques totally deserved the couple of weeks it took to learn them.
(Isn’t freshly poured smooth silicone just lovely to look at?)
Silicone molding is absolutely great for creating multiples and for picking up fine details. Such as a tiny arrow indicating volume up, indented on the back of the master hearing aid. (Which you can see in the first photograph.) And I can also use this mold to try some jesmonite and resin samples which is a bonus.
(A quartet of prawns?)(Roddy and co doing their thang, melty metal away to be poured into the ceramic shells.)
I wanted to cast these in aluminium, as it’s much lighter, and pleasant to wear against the skin. However there was going to be a month wait for an aluminium pour so I thought sod it, might as well try them in bronze in the mean time. However after cleaning up and holding them, they have a real presence. Whether this is due to their weight, the shine and aesthetic qualities of bronze or perhaps a personal bias and appreciation of the process.
I think that they act as a fitting metaphor for their analogue masters, which due to the invention of digital hearing aids, are now considered out-of-date fossilized technology. Analogue, the bronze age of hearing aids?