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  • Writer's pictureLouella Esguerra

Islands III | Kali Sticks

After a month long trip to the Philippines to spend quality time with family I returned to Melbourne with acquired knowledge about the history of gold across the archipelago. Visiting Ayala Museum I was able to attend the Philippine Ancestral Gold exhibition and I was struck by the amount of gold in the collection. What I found intriguing were the designs and various uses of this precious metal. Gold was part of every day life in the Philippines, from the moment a baby was born to the afterlife and burial rituals practiced by the ancestors. The colour of the gold on display was a deep rich yellow and the detailing was like nothing I had seen before. Inspired by this knowledge I decided to continue the evolution of the Islands motif and use metal leafing to represent the gold deposits that circulated the archipelago.

I was very happy with how these kali sticks looked in the end although I think after the craftsmanship of Islands I,  I realise that I must have used a different burning tip to create the finer lines. I admit, sigh, there is a part of me that wishes I had also made the lines as thin for this pair. I’ll have to live with that artistic attention-to-detail-itch or continue the evolution of the islands motif until I finally ‘arrive’ at that ultimate happy place. Overall I am very pleased and hope that they find their way into the hands of a martial artist somewhere around this world.

The application of metal leaf was messy. I started off wearing white gloves used especially for applying metal leaf as the sheets are so fine that you can’t actually touch them without completely crumpling and destroying their texture. The gloves aid in preventing body oil from tarnishing the metal. However I found that the thickness of the gloves prevented me from being able to direct the leaf where I wanted it to go so eventually I did use my bare hands. Metal leafing blasphemy! But it worked so I’m happy.

Before the burn process I cut the sticks with an electric saw and sanded them down for a smoother finish. The burning took about a day of non-stop back aching concentration. I was hunched over the sticks wondering what all this art would do to my posture. Once the metal leaf was applied I re-burned the edges of where the metal had completely covered the original design. Lastly I applied two layers of varnish to protect the wood and the metal.


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