Amorous Soul [Sept 2009]

camera lens, camera lens barrel, brass plate, brass rod, text on paper

This piece was commissioned by a friend, Justin, as an engagement present for his partner Colleen.  Having not yet met Colleen, I started by asking him about her. He responded, including some photos of some jewellery she already had.  From this, it seemed to me that she wouldn't be afraid of a larger piece, which allowed me a bit more scope in what parts I could use.  He also mentioned that she has a passion for literature, and I asked if she had any favourite works or quotes.  It's been a while since ive done a text based piece, and the idea of this appealed.

The quote I ended up using is from Jack Kerouac's famous book "On the Road", and Colleen was including part of it in her email signature. I did some experimenting, and made a study to show Justin to see if I was on the right track. Initially the piece was quite starkly black and white.

While I think this could still have worked well, I decided to remove the black coating from the edge of the lens, and polish the blackened brass bezel up a little. This looked good, but left the stark white paper looking out of place. The solution (literally) was found by dunking the printed text into my cup of tea. The tea stained paper worked much better with the brass bezel and added some nice texture. Below is a more advanced study.

I spent a lot of time playing with the text in photoshop, not only cropping it, but playing with fonts and highlighting.  I wanted something old-typewriterish, and found a couple of free fonts online that suited.  The finished result uses a combination of these different typefaces (though this might not be immediately obvious) with some words having every single letter either from different typefaces, or altered in colour, size, spacing, baseline, or a combination of all of these.  Certain words are also subtly emphasised.  I experimented with lots of different ways of printing it, and different papers.

The above photo shows some of the different papers (photocopy, blank pages torn from old books, photo paper) and different print styles.  The final version is photo quality inkjet on matte photo paper, pre-stained with tea - Wagh-Bakri "Tiger-Goat" tea (so called because it is reputedly so good that a tiger and a goat would rather sit and enjoy a cup of it together, rather than the more usual outcome of their meeting...).  This tea was brought back from India for me by a friend of the friend who introduced me to it (thanks AB & C!).  The final text is the one visible bottom right of the above photo - not yet cut out.

The bezel is cut from a section of the zoom tube of a zoom lens. Machining it was extremely difficult, owing to the thinness required (between 0.5 and 1mm), and relatively large diameter (about 40mm).  The back is a piece of old brass plate I inherited.  Justin had his own ideas for a chain, so I machined a small brass pin and loop that he could attach to.  Normally I would include a chain of some sort - I often use plastic coated stainless steel wire and a custom made clasp - so instead of this, I made up a small presentation box for it out of a round metal tin I got while in Japan, padded with black felt.

I really enjoyed making this piece.  And congratulations - Justin and Colleen!


  1. That is absolutely spectacular! Colleen is my sister and sent me your link...what an amazing artist you are. It is a beautiful, unique engagement present and Justin is very thoughtful! So much work went into it and it was well worth it. Beautiful, beautiful piece!

  2. Colleen is my best friend (also sent me the link), and I know she will treasure this piece forever. The thought and time you put into this, for such a special ocassion is truely remarkable. You did a wonderful job, and I know it will be a symbol of Justin's love for Colleen for many years to come.


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