Wednesday, May 27, 2020

"Righteous" - 2019 - A Piece for the Hambidge Center Auction

This piece was made for the 2019 Hambidge Center Auction. I love supporting this institution. I spent a super-creative week there - a few years back - and a lot of my pieces for their annual auction are influenced by my time, and explorations there. 
The Hambidge Center is located in the North Georgia mountains, about 2 hours north of Atlanta. "It provides a residency program that empowers talented individuals to explore, develop, and express their creative voices. Situated on 600 acres in the mountains of north Georgia, Hambidge is a sanctuary of time and space that inspires individuals working in a broad range of disciplines to create works of the highest caliber." More information can be found here

"Righteous" (sold at the auction). She measures 17" x 18" x 4".
I wanted to (again) create a piece that was a combination of my abstract wooden sculpture work and my figurative work. The figure floats above the frame - made from wood scraps - as if she's flying. This was a fun piece to make and I think she came out great.

A closer look.

I really like the paint on her face, and I've done a few other figures with face paint. I wanted her to appear warrior-like - strong and assured.


A closer view of the frame and her feet.


The process....

Sculpting with polymer clay - just getting started here.

The finished head, after baking.



Carving the basswood hands. 

This is my normal process. I carve the arms and hands separately, and join them together with a brass rod and glue. The wood you see here is the excess that is cut off of the hand and discarded. 

The basswood body. I made her body fairly primitive and chunky - since I was just going to paint it, I didn't worry about making it realistic. I made the connections between the sections with bendable copper wire - so I could position her as needed.

The scrap wood frame in-progress. I really love this kind of work. It takes a while to paint, age, and finish, but it's worth it to me. You can see my rough drawing of the woman's body underneath. I made the frame to fit her body's position. 


Thanks for looking!

tom


Sunday, May 24, 2020

"Hands" - A Rolling Ball Sculpture - of sorts..... 2019

Sometime last Spring, (2019) for some reason I started thinking about my old college days.
I went to school for Industrial Design, and one of our projects sophomore year was the infamous 'Time Machine'. The idea was to build any kind of machine that would have a definite start, run for 2 minutes, and make some sort of signal at the end of the two minutes. I really loved this assignment and got to work on it right away. I guess if I really thought about it, my idea of using ball bearings in the project probably came from me playing with the vintage Pachinko game I'd purchased just a few years earlier. I use the Pachinko balls in the piece.

My Time Machine consisted of 2 clear plexiglas panels, with axels crossing the span, and multiple arms (levers) with scoops on one end and counterweights on the other. I made a multi-channeled hopper at the top, and the last lever on the bottom was connected to a release back up at the hopper. So each ball would be released one at a time, until all the balls ran out - the last one would ring a bell. At least that was the plan. 
Pretty much everything was made of clear plexiglas. I will say it worked pretty well, but only ran on it's own for one short time in my parents basement. During the critique, it didn't really do what it was supposed to do, but people really like to see it work, and I was happy with what I'd accomplished.

Fast forward 35 years - and I had the idea to remake that (failed) piece, (which was thrown away, and I have no pictures of), and use the knowledge I'd gained over the years making automata, to make it work properly. Instead of plexiglas scoops I decided it would be more interesting to carve basswood hands, (like I do), and have them be the scoops. I added lead weights on the other end of the levers to act as counterbalances. One new element that I didn't have back in 1982 - rotary dampers - that slow the movement of the levers.

Here is "Hands" - it measures 23" x 42" x 12", and is sold.
There's really not much to the piece, physically, and that's how I wanted it. I was looking for minimal support and structure. The chain lift on the left continually feeds the BBs to the hands - not just for two minutes.

A closer view of the ramp on the bottom. 
The last hand gently drops the ball bearings onto the ramp, and the BBs quickly take a U-turn and go the other way. 

At the end of the ramp there's a chain lift to take the BBs back to the top. They wait here until the hooks on the chain pick them up. 

One of the basswood hands, carved, painted, and aged. They are each about 2 1/2" long; and I used 5/8" ball bearings.

Here is the special component of this piece - a rotary damper, AKA a speed limiter. It's that black thing you see with the slotted screw in it. It makes the levers move slowly - both up and down. So instead of the levers catching the BBs, lowering them down, dropping them, and having the lever shoot back up, the levers return gently to their original place. I love how they work.
The notches on the brass piece indicate where the lever goes. This is #5, the bottom lever.

My friend Tom Harold actually make the hooks and welded them to the chain. Here's is the drawing I sent him. As you can see, things changed along the way. Tom is a RBS artist living in Indianapolis. 


Here I am laying out where the levers will be, how much they will arc, and where the pivots points need to be.

This is my drawing for the hands - and my notes about the counterweights. I needed to figure out which hands were left and which ones were right. 


The basswood hands, cut out, but yet to be carved.

One of the hands, carved - and sealed with thin CA glue, for strength.

Six hands. In the final piece I only needed 5 - again, I think things changed along the way.

Five hands, painted, aged and ready to go.

A few of the inner parts of the lead counterbalances. I made a small wooden form and cast lead over these, up to the point of the collar. (See pic with rotary damper above.)


The video.....


Thanks for looking!

tom

"Juncture 1" - A Found Object Rolling Ball Sculpture - 2019

"Juncture 1" came from an idea I've had for years - long before I even considered making a rolling ball sculpture, (RBS). I've always loved this kind of kinetic sculpture, but never really thought I would make one. After all, I do figurative artwork, right? 
So I had imagined one that would be interesting if...... instead of metal rails to ride on, the balls would cascade down an assemblage of found objects. Metal buckets, wooden boxes, antique household items, odds and ends, would "guide" the BBs from top to bottom. How interesting I thought - and filled it away in the back of my brain.

In June of 2019, having a break in between commissions, I made the decision to finally realize this idea. I started by pulling together items I thought would be interesting visually - and would make sense in a RBS of this kind. Below is what resulted in this exploration.....


I named the piece "Juncture 1", in hopes that I will someday make a "Juncture 2", "3", "4", etc., etc. Also I like that the title sounds like 'junk'. It measures 34" x 48" x 10", hangs on the wall - and is sold.


Close up of Module 1, (top right). (I called the boxes 'Modules' because it sounded cooler than boxes.) I think this piece was some sort of drawer that was already divided up like this. I use the dividers as 'tracks' for the balls, and added the big swoop in the middle. There's lots of action in this Module - as I tried to max out the action in each one. 


Module 2, (middle left). This is an old handmade toolbox - I removed the lid but left the hinges. The grate really has a tendency to slow the BBs down, which makes watching them ping-pong around more interesting. After cascading down the grate, the BBs fall on the round donut-shaped piece and do a U-turn. The gently curved brass piece guides them into the brass funnel. I really like that the BBs are free to find their own path here.

Module 3, (lower right). The balls shoot out at the upper left of this box, powered by a hidden chute that speeds them up, (see below). They circle the round part and finally drop through a hole on the right side. As they drop, they hit a spiral chime, which came out of an old clock. Then they fall into the red track and exit via the copper rails.

Onto Module 4, (lower left). The BBs enter on the the upper left and get dropped onto the circular ramp - heading up at first, and then back down because of gravity. They exit on the lower right and go back into the central column. 

A view of Module 1 from below.

Module 1 - detail shot.

The 'ramp' and rails of Module 3. I really wanted to make the Modules without obvious 'rails', or barriers. On this one, I use upholstery nails to keep the BBs from falling out the front.


More details....

I added small dimensional found figures/elements to the boxes - to add a bit more interest to them - ala Joseph Cornell. Various vintage paper ephemera was also added to the inside of each Module.

A small memento of Perseus. I've had this for years, just waiting for the perfect spot.

George Washington looks on in Module 1.


The process......

Here is the "sketch" for this piece. I laid out the various pieces on the floor - and rearranged them until I got a look that I liked. The central column is to house the chain lift for the BBs, and was made from a piece of found driftwood from the Ohio River.

Another sketch I thought had some merit. A few of these elements ended up in the final piece. 

Figuring out the position of the first Module - eventually glued and screwed on.
Of course I had to work from top to bottom - which is pretty standard with any gravity-related piece.

Module 1 - in-progress.

The track that runs from Module 3 to 4. This is 1/4" flexible copper tubing, which is very easy to work with. It bends easily, stays put where you bend it, solders well, and looks great aged down to a nice dark brown. The various round pieces here helped me bend the curved sections.

The central column, before adding on all the Modules. As you can see, the back is removable. 

Glueing (and screwing) on Module 3. Note the aluminum 'chute', that goes from the wooden track (removed here) below Module 2 into Module 3. I wanted a change of speed, and wanted it to happen where you don't see how it's happening. The chute actually goes in between the chain.

Here is the wooden part holding the aluminum tube. I had to make this removable, in case the chain lift ever had to be taken out. The sheetmetal protects the wooden part from possible chain wear. 

The bottom of the chain lift. The BBs come in from the right, and are scooped up one at a time. Again, everything has to be made to be disassembled, if needed.


The video...... 



Thanks for looking!

tom

Friday, May 15, 2020

"Tic Tok" - Rolling Ball Abstract Sculpture - 2019

This is a sculpture I made back in July and August of 2019. I know I haven't posted much here in a while, but I can assure you, I've been busy with various projects. I'm trying to take some time now and play catch-up with my blog posts.

"Tic Tok" came out of recent explorations with Rolling Ball Sculptures, aka, RBS. Not wanting to do the typical RBS, I've also been exploring the possibilities of using the power of a dropping BB to actuate various things; figures; etc. Stay tuned....


This piece, (in my humble opinion), is the perfect blend of a static abstract sculpture and a RBS. Instead of tracks, I used the actual surface of the sculpture to guide the BBs from top to bottom. At first glance the piece resembles one of my smaller wooden sculptures - but once the switch is switched on, the piece comes alive with action, and sound. The balls emerge at the top and roll down and around every part of the sculpture. As you will see in my pics below, I started with the central column - that holds the hidden ball lift - and worked from top to bottom, making "tracks" along the way.

The piece measures 17" x 45" x 15", and is Currently Available from me for $2850. plus shipping.

I guess I consider this to be the "front view".

This is the view of the left side.

And the right side.


Here are my in-progress pics.....

I started by making the central column - built from scrap 1/2" plywood. And then I gathered lots of scrap pieces that I had sitting around my wood shop and studio. Some of the pieces seen here are driftwood. 

This is adding the first piece of wood to the column. I knew where the hole was located at the top because I had already figured out the chain lift inside.

More progress...
I tried not to cut the wood specifically for this piece - but rather, use the pieces as I found them. Most of the curved pieces of walnut came from an instrument maker's scrap pile; who's workshop is in Berea, Kentucky.
 

Getting almost to the end of the build. 
With each piece I added, I had to test how the ball would roll on it. On some pieces, I did have to carve a track into the top of it. But some pieces were already very track-like, so I used them as is.

A closer view......
When I got down to adding the 3 "feet", (seen here), I had to make sure the sculpture was on a perfectly level surface - so the balls will roll correctly.

After all the woodwork was finished, and the balls were rolling properly, I painted the whole thing grey, (seen here). Then I aged it as I usually do, and sanded, and waxed it too.


Here's a peek at the bottom of the chain lift. The chain hooks were fabricated and welded on by my friend Tom Harold. The balls come in on that short piece on the right. I made the column with a removable back, so I could take it off and get at the chain, etc.

The top of the lift - and the track that delivers the balls, through the hole in the front.

Here's an image showing the back removed. There are "track pieces" permanently attached to the back piece, so at this point, the piece is not functional.
The chain lift is about 33" long.


Here are some detail shots of "Tic Tok"...........









Here is the video....


Thanks for looking!

tom