Sunday, January 27, 2013

Celebrating the Chinese New Year of the water snake. BIC Ballpoint pen drawings (step by step); the design and development of a bottle stopper for spirits.

Presentation BIC ballpoint pen drawing
of bottle stopper shaped like a snake
Celebrating the Chinese Year of the Snake.

During the summer recess I was approached to design a spirit bottle stopper to coincide with the 2013 Chinese New Year Celebrations, the year of the water snake. The Chinese Zodiac consists of the following animals; snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, boar, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, and finally the dragon.  This blog entry focuses on the design processes (mainly ballpoint pen drawings); the research conducted, the considered concepts and ideas, design development (applying the design principals), the refinement of the chosen idea for manufacture and the final rendering. Once the drawings and the finally design idea is approved, the final renderings form the basis for 3d modeling and prototype development.

The Design and Development Process; from concept to product.
  • Research
  • References
  • Concepts and ideas
  • Design development
  • Apply the Design principals
  • The presentation drawings

Tang dynasty (618-907) set of Zodiac earthenware figures
excavated in 1955-56 from a tomb in Shaanxi Province China. 
The first phase consist of a thorough investigation of the brief (provided by the client) and or the artist’s intent – proposed artist's envisaged creative aim and objectives. For the purpose of this blog entry – the intent was to design an innovative and creative bottle stopper for spirits – aimed at the Chinese market. The aim was to design and develop a spirit bottle stopper for each of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, one to be launched each year, corresponding with the Zodiac animal for the particular Chinese New Year celebrations.
Bronze snake, Circle of Animal/Zodiac heads
by Ai Wewei.

Just before I was approached to do the design the stopper, I was in a bookshop (Exclusive Books) looking at the latest art and design publications with the intention to purchase an inspirational book to peruse during my holidays. At first nothing caught my eye, however a second visit just before lunch, a publication of the work of Ai Wei Wei titled Circle of Animals, caught my attention. 

Bronze Dog showcasing the scale of the sculpture.
Smaller gold edition.
The book was rapped in plastic but somehow I knew that this was it. I proceeded to the teller, paid for the book and went for lunch. This stunning publication was just the read I was looking for – I have for sometime now become obsessed with his work. The trip to China hastened my desire. There are many reasons – these thoughts are for another day and post. The book focuses on Ai Weiwei’s Circle Of Animals/Zodiac Heads, his first work of monumental public art, which drew worldwide attention even more so when the artist was detained by Chinese authorities in the spring of 2011, just before the work was launched.

A lively re-envisioning of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads reaches back to a dark episode in China’s relationship with the West; the Second Opium War, and the wanton destruction by British troops of the Yuanming Yuan, the Garden of Perfect Brightness, in 1860. An imperial retreat built a century earlier, the Yuanming Yuan featured an ornate, European-style section with grand fountains, gardens and palaces. At the center was a splendid zodiac water-clock fountain, whose spouting bronze-headed figures, representing the animals of the Chinese zodiac, marked the hours of the day. Looted and carried off long ago, the seven bronze heads that survive have in recent years become fraught symbols of the cultural achievements of the Qing era, the nation’s period of humiliation by the West, and contemporary China’s complicated relationship to its own history.

It was only when I got to Cape Town, whilst having lunch with a friend, that the significance of the purchase became even more evident. The business proposition was tabled and my involvement discussed (book in hand) to design the bottle stopper to coincide with the China's New year celebrations based on the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac.

 Okimono c1890 SUKEYUKI, 

Japan Carved wood Okimono of a human skull with snake. 

On my return to my studio in Johannesburg I began to investigate the designated Chinese zodiac animal for 2013. The water snake occupies the 6th position on the Chinese Zodiac and symbolizes such character traits as intelligence, gracefulness and materialism. I made visual reference to river snakes and more importantly, I investigated Netsuke carvings of reptiles, paying attention to those carvings with complex forms and shapes capturing the snakes twisting body (featured here). 

The attention to detail in these carvings are just amazing,  especially the Okimono (ornament for display) of a human skull with snake seen above. Follow link to a virtual three dimensional visual experience of the master crafted art work. Unlike Ai Wewei’s interpretation of the snake, my intention was to incorporate the head and body in a complex composition – simple but sophisticated with the emphasis on the coiled body and with the head poised and alert.
Concept development 
Concepts and ideas

Various options
and ideas.
At first I explored various coiled body options as captured in the enclosed renderings. The snake will be positioned on the top of the cork or stopper. However a certain amount of realism had to be incorporated referencing photos of snakes (see below), contrasted with the normal stylization that I bring to my rendered and modeled clay sculpted forms and shapes over the years. This is evident in the various options considered to create a complex composed composition. 
Design development. the refinement of the
 chosen design concept and or idea.
Developing side view.
Design development

During this stage of the design process one chooses one of the creative ideas explored during first phase of the design process. One considers the best option, in this case a decision was reached based on the most integrated design – illustrating the intent mentioned above (coiled body and the head poised and alert) The design development phase also consists of the refinement of the forms, shapes and composition. 

One applies the design principals. They consist of the following;

Balancesymmetrical, formal, radial & asymmetrical.
Integrating the design when viewed from all angles and sides.
Rhythmrepeat pattern and or elements / flow of the line.
 The twisting coiled body of the snake in the figure of an eight – Chinese symbol for luck.
Proportionscale / size / dimensions / relationship of parts.
The proportion of the head to the body and the elimination of gaps in between the coiled body, to create a snake that is elegantly perched on top of the bottle.
Unity integration of the whole (harmony).
This is a very important aspect of the design process; the integration of the head, body and tail of the snake (enhancing the design style).
Emphasis point of focus / celebration / strategic position.
The head is the focus point – needed to be in the center, poised and alert.

Presentation drawing

The presentation drawing is the final rendering of the design process and embodies the culmination of creative process, all the options considered, decisions made and applied to create a unique design solution to the design proposal. Every detail is considered and applied to communicate the envisaged product to the client. This drawing is then presented to the 3d modeling expert to model the forms and shape in three dimensions for casting purposes. 


Wyn Vogel said...

The stopper will be awesome - a wild spirit in itself!! will look forward to seeing the end product!! Cheers!!

Jennifer Tetlow said...

What a brilliant post - loved seeing the stages and insights. Very edifying and I am keen to put this tutorial to practice! Thanks.