Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wall 1


During my first week here at Grymsdyke Farm, I was introduced to the work of Erwin Hauer. I was really captivated by the beauty of his repeating modules, especially the way light seems to bounce around within the thickness of the wall. His installations suppress any hint of materiality, but the same effect happens, for example, in Eladio Dieste's Cristo Obrero church, where it seems like the brick panels are always glowing with sunlight you never see directly. 
These two have been in my mind a lot as I have been designing my walls. I wanted to keep a sense of depth- in most brick walls, you only see one surface- a relief pattern and not a three-dimensional construction.



 One reason I like the colour of the fired clay here so much is that it really catches the sunlight well, especially in the predominantly green landscape.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Specials

At first I didn't want to use any module other than the main one, hoping that the unit itself would be versatile enough to accommodate every condition. I have realized that sometimes, 'specials' are necessary- the exceptions that make the system work. In my case, in order to finish an edge properly, I need some half modules. These were made simply by slicing the brick before drying.

The shape, I've realized, is interesting because it has the exact same profile on four of its sides.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More Mortar

After a visit and lesson from a builder, I have changed my mortaring technique and my mixture. He suggested using equal amounts cement and lime, to make the mixture even more workable, and also told me to add more parts of sand, since mortar should always be weaker than the bricks, and these bricks are pretty weak to begin with. 

I also found out that the mix I was using was way too dry, which would explain why it wasn't sticking well to the bricks. Whereas before I was working with a very hard, crumbly mortar (sort of like natural peanut butter), his mix was soft and very runny, like warm butter. (Side note: I keep finding ways in which bricks and bread are similar. In the ways that they are mixed from two main ingredients, formed, baked, and even buttered! When the kiln is firing, it even gives off a moist, dough-like aroma)


The builder shows me how to hollow out the bed so that it has somewhere to 'squish' when I put the brick down. Since the mortar is so wet when it is first applied, he suggested that I lay a whole course of bricks, then go back and clean up the joints, because by then the clay will have soaked up a lot of the water.


These are his tools- a huge trowel, a small trowel, and his personal jointing bar, which was the handle of an old milk churn.

He was 'baffled' by the shape of my bricks, so he demonstrated the proper use of the jointing bar on the field wall. Basically, it's important to compress the mortar into the joint to create a clean, weatherproof finish.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mortar

Mortar, like clay, is another of those neither-liquid-nor-solid substances that can take any shape- although it is best at filling gaps between things more solid than it.

The mortar I'm using is roughly 4 parts sand, 1 part cement, and 1/2 part lime. The lime, I've found, makes the mixture slightly stickier, although I still have trouble sometimes getting it to adhere to the brick. 

I've found that when it comes to mortar, more is more. It's better to overfill and then scrape off the excess, rather than to try to go back after and patch it up. Especially for the joints I'm dealing with- they are anything but regular, and have to be clean on many sides. As well, excess mortar allows me to push the brick down into place, ensuring good contact.

I am still figuring out a good technique for working, as well as trying to decide exactly how I want the joints to be finished. Bevelled? Curved? Recessed? Flush? At the moment, each brick is an experiment.



This simple frame helps me waste less mortar (although I still drop a lot!)

At the moment, my tool of choice is a flat scraper, small enough to get into the gaps between the bricks.

A generous mound of mortar...

The brick is wet- I've dipped it to try to make the mortar stick better.



I check if it is roughly level with itself and with the other bricks. 
Scraping off the excess mortar. I like the gritty 'schick' sound of the metal against the sand.