Installed artworks: Day 3 – The Hop Hornbeam

The Hop Hornbeam artwork is installed

Ohassett Hop Hornbeam lo res

Close up photograph of the Snake Bark artwork.

An early sampling programme from the Snake Bark uncovered some fascinating finds by Clodagh Dooley.  See below a slide show highlighting some of the wonderful images taken by Dooley.

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From the outset of the project Hassett was drawn to the meaning behind the Hop Hornbeam’s Greek name Ostrua, which translates as “bone-like”, referring to its very hard wood.

Hassett decided to respond to the lumpy shape that snaked around the trunk; a direct result of the tree’s reaction to wind factors and it’s environment. For this artwork she created a corset-like protective covering for the protruding element on the trunk’s surface. Microscopic imagery of spiky thorn-like structures that were growing on the surface of the branches also informed the final artwork.  See images below.

There were many stages in the creation of the artwork for the Hop Hornbeam. From the initial low impact mould of the protruding element to the final installation there were many stages in the creation of the artwork for the Hop Hornbeam. The mould was taken to the studio so design trials could be made. A paper pattern was then created, the fabrics cut out and sewn together in sections. Finally long lengths of heavy wire were inserted into the various sections to support the shape of the overall artwork. Blue sticky fabric was added to accentuate these shapes and be representative of the microscopic spiky elements uncovered by Clodagh Dooley during the sampling process.  The slide show below includes some images of this lengths process.  

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The Hop Hornbeam artwork was installed in late September.  Images below were taken soon after the piece was installed.  

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This second group of images was taken on a very windy but sunny day post storm Ophelia.

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The art works in progress – Hop Hornbeam

Before undertaking the making of the artwork for the Hop Hornbeam tree I had to figure out how to make it. I could not work directly on the tree while shaping and making the ‘corset’. I also realised that it would be virtually impossible to measure accurately all the curves and bends of the 3D shape. I would therefore need to create a rough mould to work with and on. Normally I would have done this using plaster bandage/ silicone etc, materials that were definitely not suitable for working with a crumbly bark surface. After some thought and a chat with my fellow artist and super mould maker Ayelet Lalor we decided that the malleable and un intrusive properties of tinfoil would work best.

So one fine morning about a month ago Ayelet, Clodagh Dooley and I set about making a temporary tinfoil mould of the selected area. We used copious amounts of tinfoil, selotape and support sticks. See image below of Clodagh and Ayelet busy helping me with the large task. Thanks again to both of them. It was quite a fun task to do and of course we got some interesting looks and comments from passers by.

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As the piece to be moulded was so large we created it in three more manageable sections, which I transferred by car to my studio. I quickly backed the reverse of the mould with plaster bandage to preserve the shape and add strength. See image below.

backing of Mould of Hophornbeam lo res

The next step in the process was somehow to get the mould into a similar set up to the real life tree in my studio. Using a mannequin as a central support and substructure I covered it with chicken to roughly simulate the tree trunk. The mould was gently re-attached and adhered to the substructure.  I set to work trying out various ideas on how I would segment the artwork. See images below.

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After deciding which option to go for I made paper patterns for the corset. This was a quite a tricky process as you can see bellow.

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Finally I placed the pattern sections on the fabric and cut out the individual pieces. Each section was then carefully sewn together. See images below.

The time had come to see how the artwork looked and functioned. I pegged the work onto the mould. At this stage I lightly stuck on some of the blue fabric strips onto the lines delineating the different sections. See images below.

Happy with the progress of the piece so far I now had to remove the blue strips and sew an extra channel into each section to allow the support wire to be inserted. At this stage I felt it was important to bring the piece into Trinity to test it’s fit. Before doing this I reattached the piece to the mould to work out some of the kinks with the wiring and fit before doing this.

On a Saturday the 24th of June I brought the work in progress into Trinity and spent many hours stretching and temporarily tying it into place. It was during this time that I had to make some final decisions on where the tying points should be on the corset. Seeing the piece in place also helped me decide on the need to wire and cover all the edges of the corset with the blue fabric. See a selection of images from the installation.

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Lots more work needs to be done to the surface of the corset. I won’t post any more images of it until it has been finally installed in late September 2017.

The exhibition will officially open to the public on Friday 29th of September. The opening will coincide with the Trinity College European Researchers Night 2017 events. During the evening Olivia Hassett will perform alongside the Oregon Maple in the main square twice and there will be also be a guided walk of the eight artworks spread throughout the Trinity College Campus. I will post the eventbrite details to sign up for the guided walk at a later stage.

Behind the art works – the Hop Hornbeam

When researching and developing the artwork for the Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya) I was drawn initially to meaning behind it’s names. The name Ostrya is derived from the Greek word ostrua, “bone-like”, referring to its very hard wood. It is also called Ironwood. These thoughts led me to revisit my collaboration with David Taylor on our exoskeleton project and subsequent two person exhibition in the Parsons Building, Trinity College Dublin in September 2015.

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The trajectory of my own practice since then has included the creation of sculptural elements that took on some of the physical and technical properties of abstracted corsets as exoskeletons.

Images above show the protuberance that I am interested in

The physiology of the tree was also a source of inspiration in particular the lumpy shaped protuberance that snaked around the outside of the tree. It was really interesting to hear from David Hackett that this growth is a direct result of the tree’s reaction to wind factors and it’s environment in general.

My favourite SEM imagery taken from this tree was the microscopic spiky thorn-like structures that were growing on the surface of the branches.   See image below taken by Clodagh Dooley.  Thanks to Daniel Kelly and John Parnell of the TCD Botany Department I now know that they are epidermal hairs, which are only visible on the very young twigs of the Hop Hornbeam.

Hop Horn Beam004 lo res

All these thoughts and inspirations have led me to the decision to create a corset-like protective covering for the large protruding element snaking around the lower trunk. The artwork will be made from bright orange heavy swimsuit-like fabric, cut into various segments and sewn together using corset making techniques. Where normal corsets add boning (a plastic/metal strip inserted into channels sewn in the corset to create of to create structure) I will insert wire between each segment. This will allow the artwork to follow the natural lumps and hollows of the bark. Finally these lines will be accentuated by the addition of electric blue sticky fabric strips and spikes reminiscent of the SEM imagery.