Major work, 4th year Visual Arts Education:
Metal Lingerie



This page shows what I made for the visual arts component of my Bachelor of Education. The page itself was part of the assignment and was submitted as my work journal.

This was back in the mid-90's and I have - as much as practical - retained the origional page format. This was before I even had my own web site (the pages were submitted for assessment on floppy disk), but it already had the embryo of the page-style I still use today.



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Preliminaries: The Brainstorm

My first idea was to create a 'Destiny Machine' as portrayed in Sherri S. Tepper's book Sideshow. This would have been a two foot cube of lights, mirrors and mechanisms which spat out ceramic tablets making up a prediction. As in the book, the device would be made from machine scraps. This idea, I decided, would take longer than the time allocated for the task.

In the Uni Pub., my classmate Melanie and I tossed around ideas for projects. We came up with concepts for dioramas, kaleidoscopes, using a window to frame a painting (she wants to do Jeannie Baker), Projection-based peep-boxes and several other ideas of varying reality.

After the Art Gallery trip, Melanie and I went wandering around Sydney. In one of the malls was a Lingerie shop which I stopped to get a catalog from, thinking of getting something for my wife. On the train trip home, Melanie borrowed the catalog to look at. While I was reading over her shoulder, the idea of making some lingerie for art struck me.

The idea was just right -- it was the right level of difficulty, it was unexpected, it was a little scandalous. I do sometimes make lingerie-type items for both my partner and myself from fabric. That seemed parsae. Leather has been done to death. Latex, though fun, is difficult to work with without the proper equipment. Metal lingerie (Ah-La Mad Max, Madonna) would do the trick: I have my school certificate Industrial Arts skills. I have a nice piece of sheet metal from the bottom of an old VCR with ventilation grills that could be put to... interesting... uses.

I Began sketching on a piece of paper. I tried a futuristic design. Then something very Aztec. Substituting green glass (or perspex) for the metal I could get a Chinese Jade effect. Then there was the junk-yard grunge look. Four ideas, so if I finished one too quickly, I could begin a collection.

Notebook sketch of idea Glenn being inspired
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The Development of the Concept

The creation of the metal lingerie would involve three separate parts.

First, the chains to act as the straps to hold the metal plates on the body. This part is easy -- stainless steel dog leash is excellent as the links are twisted to lie flat and as such is comfortable to wear (never you mind how I know that). Connection can be made with a butterfly nut or some similar easy-to-use fastener (research this).

Second, the panels have to be cut and beaten into shape. Cutting should be simple and I have patterns I can adapt to get the right shape. The metal is soft and so beating it into the preferred shape should be fairly simple. I will need to acquire a round wooden mallet and a concave wooden block.

Third, the pattern to adorn the front of the garments. Initially I was unsure about how to do this. I thought it might be possible to engrave a design, fill the engraving with enamel and fire it. I did this in science about year eight with marginal success. On television on Saturday 12th August, some time in the morning was a kids science show which included an experiment to use electrolysis to coat a nail with copper. That was it!! I could electroplate the plates in copper then use photo-resist (left over from my days as an electronic technician) to mark a pattern and then etch off the rest of the copper. No! The etch would also dissolve the metal plate (would it? -- check this out experimentally, it's ferrous etch so an Iron plate might be neutral). How about the copper to go, then electroplate? I'll have to consider all this. I also had to look at design of a pattern...

Notepad sketch of motif

I had a poke around the internet for several hours and found some things. I had Madonna's cone bra in mind. A picture of this garment was exceptionally difficult to find.

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In the beginning, Glenn created the sheet metal plate.

Actually he salvaged it, but the rest was his own work.

Glenn holding up scrap metal part.

This plate came off the bottom of an old VCR my sister gave me because it didn't work. I managed to get another six months out of it before it blew up for a final time. The ventilation holes should have practical use, again as ventilation -- we don't want to get too sweaty, do we?

STOP PRESS - 16:40, Monday 21st April 1997

Late developments: it appears I will have to not only make my artwork, but also make my own tools!!! Having cycled and phoned around several hardware shops in the Illawarra, I am unable to find the sheet metal working tools I need (or any sheet metal working tools, for that matter). First thing tomorrow I will set about the creation of a round headed wooden mallet and a shaping block. The shaping block will need at least two bowls: one the curvature of my model's breast, the other half that.

picture of the needed tools

If all else fails, I will buy and reshape a flat ended wooden mallet and somehow chisel out and smooth the bowls on a suitably curved rock!!!

Maybe I should do something easy.... naaaah!

Tin Snips! Does the art room have tin snips?!

Stay tuned for more exciting developments.

The art room had a round-ended wooden mallet and both strait and curved tin-snips, but lacked the bowl I required. The Creative Arts people were not to be found even after a long walk to their temporary premises at the other end of campus. I tried taking advantage of the art room carpet surface to achieve a curve and was moderately successful. I was not, however, able to achieve sufficient curve for an effectively fitting of my model's breast.

beginning to carve the bowl the finished bowl

The following week I used an electrical rotary hand engraving/carving tool to carve a bowl shape out of a block of soft wood. This proved successful and I was able to achieve a much more suitable shape. The next fitting showed I needed to beat the curve back out a bit at the top of the bra cup.

I also began on the bottom part of the female garment as well as the matching male garment, using a female and male g-string underwear respectively for a pattern. I will cut and shape at Uni next Tuesday.

Hammering metal into shape.

After art today (29/04), I went with Melanie and her husband to the beach to collect materials for her artwork. A deeply intellectual (not!) conversation on discarded condoms got my sub-conscious ticking (I assume) and a few hours later it shuffled back to my conscious streams something that it had devised from linking the fore-mentioned thoughts with the similarity of the grill on the metal used in the artwork with the grill on microwave ovens and wave-guides (used in microwave transmission systems). A few minutes of conscious thoughts and I hit the computer to produce a poster to go with my artwork for presentation:


Microwave radiation warning sign   Newspaper clippings


Exhibition Poster


The Radiation sign was drawn entirely by myself, based on real signs used for radiation and biohazard warnings. I thought the international symbol for microwave radiation was pretty lame, so I designed my own. I also created the newspaper clippings in the same paint package. These were put into a Draw document (for non-jagged big text) where the text was added. This will be printed in black and white after which fluorescent yellow dye will be painted onto the warning sign.

painting the poster

Electroplating: The Whys and Why-nots

Having beaten the male and female g-strings into shape, I set about testing the electroplating technique on some scraps. Using a six volt battery, some leads and a beaker of copper sulfate from the science lab downstairs, I successfully coated a scrap of metal with copper. Unfortunately, the copper rubbed off with my finger. After trying a few things like abrading the metal with emery paper and even heating it over a methanol burner, I was forced to conclude that the alloy was not compatible with electroplating.

Elecroplating setup

I also tried enamel, but the methanol burner couldn't produce enough heat. I will try with a butane burner next week. The other alternative is to do the artwork on copper sheet and rivet it to the base metal.

Like sand through the hourglass, these are the days of my artwork.


Attempted enameling on copper sheet, but didn't like he result. Then tried just pressing patterns into the thin copper sheet. Still not keen on the results...

results of copper pressing   more copper pressing

Eventually, I settled on stamping a simple pattern directly into the garments.

stamping the mettal
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While looking for a particular type of chain in a large hardware store, I found a much better (and cheaper) type of chain shown here (colours are an artifact of scanning shiny metal objects -- they look nice, don't they!)

scanned chains

I attached the chain to the metal with 4mm bolts. The bolts were far too long and I initially was cutting them off with a triangular file. Then I realised I had a circular saw attachment for my electric carver/engraver. This proved quite strong enough to saw through the bolts and made a cleaner cut that required less tidying up with a file afterwards.

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Display of Work

With the garments done, I set about creating cardboard mannequins for displaying them. I had created such before in second year art for displaying the costume I had made then with Lorna Millard. The original idea had come from the way cardboard polling-booths are constructed by folding and slotting corrugated cardboard together.

cutting the model

The cardboard came from Melanie Davies who had nicked a washing machine box from a neighbour who had left it lying around in the block of flats laundry. I traced around my then partner from face on and then from profile and cut these pieces out and slotted and glued them. I then added other struts cut freehand as I needed them to support the garments. This process was then repeated for myself to create the male mannequin.

painting the model

The mannequins were painted matt black and the garments fitted and held in place with pins. They were then hung in the display area with the poster taped to the wall behind.

hanging the work well-hung artwork

Oh, as you can see at the bottom of the last image, I also made a cardboard microwave dish.

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Final Assessment: High Distinction!

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