The Postures of Making project is moving forward, with the production of prototypes and other large scale experiments. Essential to the development of the visual work is gathering further source materials to work with. At the end of November Val and I went to meet Dovile Bertulyte at her studio at Cockpit Arts in London. Dovile is a Designer Maker Jeweller, and uses a range of processes in the creation of her work.
On arriving Dovile takes us into her studio, a shared work space for 5 different practitioners. The room is warm – very warm – I’m not used to visiting studios as warm as this. The studio is lit from above with fluorescent strip lighting which she supplements with two bright spot lights on her bench. Dovile’s space is clean, tidy and well organised; she had just taken part in an open studio event. When we arrive all her equipment is neatly laid out, she said “I don’t always work like this, I try to keep my work space tidy but I always seem to make a mess”. The space is compact but also suitable for the work she is making. She has designated areas for specific processes and she can move the different work areas around and does so regularly to refresh her space.
We started by asking Dovile about the types of tasks she undertakes. When detailing her production methods she talked about them as being time consuming and repetitive. There were lots of stages and tasks within the different production methods that she employs. We selected 4 tasks to look at in detail: drilling a perspex mould, preparing and using silicone in that mould, extracting the work from a mould and soldering. Val and I took audio recordings and documented with photography and video.
For the first task, Dovile drilled a perspex mould that she uses in her silicone casting process. The task starts with fixing the drill bit; the hands take on some extreme looking postures but these are fairly infrequent, perhaps once an hour, and so don’t cause any discomfort. Although the postures of the hands look awkward, the way in which the drill bit is changed and secured is smooth and dexterous. The drill itself is quite heavy, the cable that connects the drill to the transformer is also heavy and due to its short length, quite inflexible. Using the drill causes some pain and discomfort in her wrist after a period of use. Working in a very detailed way she holds the drill very tightly, evidenced by the whitening of the skin on her hands and at the tips of the fingers and fingernails.
The drill is controlled by way of a foot pedal, the repeated use of which causes pain and discomfort in her foot and lower leg. She shuffles around and changes position to relieve some of the discomfort. Likewise, the object she is drilling moves between different positions on her bench and she does this fluidly and unconsciously. She works with one arm resting on the bench while the other is suspended in space holding the material that is being drilled. Her neck and arms are quite static, with most of the movement occurring in her wrist and hands. The longer Dovile drills, the more she leans into and over her work. At the end of this drilling cycle a red mark can be seen between the thumb and the forefinger of her hand.
In terms of safety she is wearing protective goggles and an apron; sometimes she will wear a mask, but not always as this causes her goggles to steam up. In terms of noise levels the drilling we witness is on a fairly low scale; other pieces will give off a high pitched squeaking noise, so when this happens ear defenders are used.
For the silicone processes, which can be quite messy, Dovile uses a different workstation. On first appearances it’s difficult to see how this set of shelves on wheels could be a comfortable space to work but as she angles them, they sit neatly into her body shape and create a comfortable work area. As she starts the task she talks about how she doesn’t measure the different elements that make up the silicone anymore; she has mixed it up so frequently now she can judge it by eye and by weight. Dovile needs to work fast, as the silicone will start to go off in about 20 minutes. Once mixed she works in an efficient and methodical manner, taking care to ensure the silicone reaches into all sections of the mould. Concentration and dexterity are combined in this time consuming task. There were no reports of pain and discomfort while conducting this process.
Moving to another workstation, which is clean, she takes a silicone filled semi circle mould that has already set and goes about separating the two elements. She uses her thumb nails and finger tips and the work looks like an almost impossible task; but a short period of perseverance and the work is liberated from the mould. Observing these movements it evident that Dovile has perfected her working processes and has identified very efficient ways of working. The tube moulds are more difficult, and she used a metal ruler to try and force the two parts of the mould apart. During this process unfortunately the pieces snaps back together and the skin on her finger gets pinched. She uses her body to stabilise the work as she tries to manipulate the mould. Extracting the work from these moulds results in numb fingers.
For the last task Dovile demonstrates the soldering processes that she uses. Sitting at her bench she organises all the tools and equipment she needs. After lighting her soldering torch she uses tweezers to add pieces of solder to the metal being heated. She is constantly changing hands with the tools she is using, because she is right handed and this is her most comfortable way of working. She looks relaxed but also talks about how with long soldering tasks heat can build up quickly and with a studio that is already warm it can become quite uncomfortable. The soldering task takes little physical exertion, but obviously requires high levels of concentration.
Dovile has developed a combination of processes that are all quite different, but she said that “I spend most of my time sitting”. When we are visiting there also seems to be plenty of moving around, locating materials and moving between workstations, but this may not be her typical pattern. She organises her work into batch production categories to be as efficient as possible; if she has a big order then the tasks can become quite repetitive. “That’s why I like being a jeweller; I can do lots of different things”. Most of the jewellery she makes requires a variety of tools or pieces of equipment, and of course she has developed the technical competency with them all.
Being located at Cockpits Arts is positive for Dovile, as she enjoys being part of a studio group and a creative community. In common with lots of creative professionals, around 60% of her time is spent on admin, running the business, and doing all the tasks needed to support the production of the work. She also combines self employment with employment, working in a watch makers twice a week with the remainder of her time spent in her studio. Her total work-time mounts up to 70 hours per week.
What was clear from this visit to Dovile’s studio is that she has a thorough and methodical understanding of the combination of methods she has developed. Her workstations are set up so she can work comfortably and efficiently. She stores and labels her raw materials carefully and knows where things are kept. She is in control of her pace of work and the order of tasks she undertakes, and although they all involve repetition to a greater or lesser degree she enjoys her work.
Val and I extend our thanks to Dovile for hosting the visit: do visit her website to see examples of her work.