Friday, May 1, 2015

"Computation" - 2015

This piece was a commission from the people who do my taxes. In April 2014 we talked about how fun it would be to have a mechanical artwork of a CPA endlessly working away in their offices. I started the piece in December '14, and got back to it in March of this year. My client had lots of ideas about how the piece should look, and things to be included. I tried it get all the details in. They really loved it and I was happy with how the piece came out, and how it operated. Basically, he types numbers into his calculator and turns his head to check each number. After he enters 3 sequence, he turns his head to see the final figure - and he shakes his head in disapproval. See the movie at the bottom of this post......

The piece measures 18" x 16" x 12", and is operated by the crank out front. The piece was hard to capture in one photo, so I shot it from many angles.


In their office, they oftentimes have their shoes off, (I guess it helps with their calculations), so I had to portray the guy with his shoes off.

I love this shot.

Also, sitting around their offices, are many jars of candy. Those had to be included too.





In progress images....

Where I always start. To control his head movement, a rod will run up through his body.





Fitting him into his chair. The two marks on the paper indicate where is feet fall.

Polymer clay head.

Two hands, carved from basswood.


I made his desk out of an old box I had in my studio. The box had "Hot Palches" written on it and seemed to be a ballot box or maybe a cashbox. Not sure what hot palches means.
You're looking at the bottom of the desk here.

I used the part I cut away for the drawer fronts.

Fitting him into his new desk. And you can see the base in-progress.

I was really happy with the way his expression turned out.


I took this shot right before I placed him behind his desk.

Drawer details. And his shoes, and one of his socks.

Parts of the mechanism - the cams have yet to be cut/made.

The final shape of the cam that turns his head. You can see the cam that operates his hands just behind.

The cams in place.


The movie.... watch full screen, or go to YouTube.

Thanks for looking!

tom

Monday, March 2, 2015

"Circuitous" - 2015

This January I was invited to show my work at the (un)SCENE Art Show in New York City. It runs concurrently with the Armory Art Show, and it's right down the street. When I checked out the past exhibitions, I knew right away I wanted to be part of this great show. (BTW besides "Circuitous", I will have 2 other pieces in the show.)

Since every other piece was at a gallery, I knew I would have to make a brand new piece for this show. 

A little history....
Back in 2012, I made a piece called "Relocation" for a show at Obsolete in Venice, CA. It didn't operate reliably enough for my liking - it had issues. The piece was powered by a vintage Erector Set motor that ran in 2 directions - forward and reverse. When the motor switched gears, it was in neutral for a split second. This was a problem because on the other end of the line was a weight that would pull constantly. The gears would - every now and then - not engage, which sent the weight plummeting to the ground. Not good.
I disassemble the piece when it got back from the show and it sat on a shelf for a couple years. I really liked the way the motor worked in two directions and how the figure looked, so I knew it would find new life in another piece someday. I knew if I was to repurpose this part, I'd have to make it without a weight pulling on the motor. I thought a simple belt and pulley system would work well - and that's where I started with this piece. 

The final image of "Circuitous", which measures 26" x 19" x 17", and will be in the (un)SCENE Show March 4th - 8th. for $9350.

A shot of the "carousel", which is all made from scratch. The red and blue pieces are chimes I took out of an old toy xylophone. As the carousel revolves, the chimes strike the two posts, one on each side. It runs one way for a short while, then figure pulls on the lever, and reverses the direction. It took a while to figure out how to hang the chimes so they would ring clearly, and also not just swing around wildly.

The red colored rope does a lot to hold the chimes in place, which helps them from swinging around too much.  
After I added the sheet metal floor,  I patinated it with chemicals to get the color I wanted.
 

The figure and motor, created in 2012.

The Erector Set motor. I added the handle, the pulley, and to keep the motor cool, the fan on the side.

The fan and it's protective cover are all made from scratch. I was afraid if I didn't put a cover on it, someone would inevitably touch it and cut their finger.

Her pretty face - sculpted from polymer clay - watches the action.

Adding the paint job to the base was fun. I wanted an old weathered, peeling paint look, and was pretty happy with the way it came out.

The canopy cover was suggested my my wife. It does clean up the look a good bit. And I like how the antiquing came out too. It's hand-stitched onto the old buggy wheel that serves as the foundation of the canopy.

A few in-progress images......

The base was made from plywood,  and the 12 side pieces (one is shown here) are made from short lengths of baseboard, turned wrong-side out. Before I added all the side pieces, I had to make sure that the 2 axles lined up, and that their bearings were in the right place. The horizontal axle will drive the vertical one by the use of bevel gears.

Testing out the drive. I had that long belt sitting around - used for testing purposes only. I made a new belt for the final piece.

What the sheet metal looked like after nailing to the base, and before the patina. The buggy wheel was used to make the canopy.

The figure, right before assembling. Her arms, legs, shoes, and torso are carved from basswood.

The movie - please watch fullscreen.

Thanks for looking!

tom



Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Wonder Cabinet" - 2015

So as I was thinking about my final piece for the group show at Kai Lin Art, (which opened February 13th) - I wanted to create a piece filled with found objects. I had only a couple of weeks to get this last piece done, and I was feeling the pressure. Whenever I start a kinetic piece, I never know exactly how long it will take to complete. I have a rough idea, but never really know because a kinetic piece always requires a lot of trial and error work. I may get halfway through, and get stuck. Now whenever I'm stuck,  I usually just work through it by putting more time, (i.e. days), into it. With the deadline of the opening looming,  I was reluctant to start a complicated kinetic piece. My wife suggested I do a non-kinetic piece, (she's so smart), which eliminates the stop and restart pace of a kinetic one.

So I started with an old wine crate a friend gave me. I though it would be a good idea to make a piece that hangs on the wall, but could also sit on a table or shelf, and this box was perfect. As I gathered specific pieces from my collection of found objects, I began to think about the character I wanted to create. I began to think about wunderkammers, and of the way people, starting in the 16th century, would assembled collections of curiosities. As explorers began to sail around the world, they would inevitably bring back all types of curiosities. Learned men would collect these rare artifacts to show off their worldliness to others. I love all types of collections like these.

So I began assembling the cabinet with many choice artifacts. I actually assembled the cabinet and it was all done before I even started the figure. I normally start with the figure, but I was having so much fun with the cabinet, I wanted to get it done first.

Here are some shots of my "Wonder Cabinet". (I didn't take as many in-progress shot as I usually do, but there are a couple.) The cabinet measures 13" x 19 1/2" x 7", and is available through Kai Lin Art for $3950.


A closer shot. I added the fabric to the walls to stand in for wallpaper. (This piece turned out to be very photogenic.) 


I really like how the figure came out. His crystal ball is actually a clear marble I set aside for this piece. As I thought about what the figure could be doing in the scene, it hit me - he could be gazing at a crystal ball!


Since one would naturally close one eye while gazing through a crystal ball, I had to make him doing this. I think it's a nice effect.


In-progress shots....

This picture is taken right before I glued the wooden column into the cabinet. The wires for the lamp run up behind it. Since the lights run on 12 volts, I had to hide a transformer somewhere in the scene. I decided to make the orange box in the corner the hiding place, with a removable cover to access the transformer. The cover is held on by magnets.

His hands, carved from basswood. His right hand had to be a very specific size, because it has to hold the marble - they couldn't be too big or too small.

His body ready to be assembled. I added cuffs to his shirt later.

A shot with just the chandelier light on. I like the ambiance.

One last shot - as he gazes into his crystal ball..........

Thanks for looking!

tom

Friday, February 27, 2015

"Bound" - 2015

Over the New Year, I was on vacation in Florida and carved this wooden chain from a section of basswood.
Maybe I have chains on my mind - not sure why. But it was a fun challenge to carve, and I've always wanted to try.

Returning home, I remembered I had a collection of small chains in my studio. Most of it is old weight chain from grandfather clocks and the like. In my sketchbook I have a few drawings of figures wrapped up in various things - wire, string, chain. So maybe this idea to use chains has been stewing for a while. This was my first piece of 2015.

This piece measures 11" x 20" x 8", and is Currently Available at Kai Lin Art for $6450.

The final shot of "Bound". 
He pulls on the chains with each arm, trying to free himself. This piece is really more of a metaphor than anything else, and his expression fits the sentiment perfectly. (Don't we all have our personal chains we are trying to free ourselves of?)
The base is a vintage copper flower tray, turned upside down. I added the wooden part to allow for more room for the mechanism.

A closer shot.

His back - more chains.

His desperate look. I sometimes impress myself with the way my heads come out. Of course I always hope for the best, and put the time into sculpting them - but being self-taught, I never imagined I would ever get to this level of proficiency. All my heads are sculpted from a special blend of polymer clay.

His shoes, and the top of the base.

The making of.....

This is the chest, hollowed out so I could add the 2 levers to make his arms move. Lately I've been using small hinges for the pivots at the shoulders. They work well and will last forever.


His hands, carved from basswood. Another skill I'm pretty proud of. I use an X-acto knife mostly, but also small chisels and gouges. I also employ a magnifier that I wear on my head - I can really get into the detail that way. Though it takes about 2 hours to carve one hand, I think it's worth it.

His arms, showing the hinges and levers. I have a little more carving to do on the forearms. 

Here I'm working on the mechanism upright. I do a lot of the mechanism work upside down, but later I have to temporarily mount the body to figure out the shape of the cams. Gravity always plays a part in an automaton, so I have to test things out in their proper orientation.

His body - ready to be painted. The two "doors" are covers that protect the mechanism.

Ready to be assembled....

A final shot before I insert the protective cover and sew up the back of his shirt.

My drawing for the mechanism. I had to really squeeze it into the base. Sure it would be easier to pick a larger item for the base, but that would make the base out of scale with the figure. I'm always having to strike a balance between the size of the container (the base) and the room required for the mechanism to move the figure the way I want.

I made the mechanism outside the metal try, so I could work on it easier. The whole mechanism has to pivot on the point where the tubes from the legs come down. This is always the starting point to figuring out how the mechanism will be laid out.

The mechanism shoehorned into the tray. You can see on the right, that I even had to cut away part of the tray to get the cams in. (The cams are uncut at this point.)

The cams, cut and ready to be assembled, and inserted into the mechanism. Two precision bearings will act as cam followers, so there's no worry about wearing out the wooden cams.

A final shot of the completed mechanism. You can see one of the springs that help keep the cam followers up and against the cams.


Here's the video - watch full screen for best results....


Thanks for looking!

tom