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, 2015) - 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 sold.

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..........

The movie.... (watch full screen).

Thanks for looking!


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 sold.

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!


Thursday, February 26, 2015

"One for the Road" - 2014

I've been so busy since the beginning of the year, I haven't had time to update this blog. I'm trying to play catch up.....

After completing "Wasted & Wounded", I really loved how the bent rod mechanism made the figure move. I thought a female version of the 'drunk guy' would be interesting.

For this version I wanted to do an inebriated female, but not a wounded one, so I had to come up with a different narrative. Thinking back, I've always loved Shirley MacLaine's portrayal of the title role in Billy Wilder's Irma la Douce. She plays a shrewd 'lady of the evening', and creates a very memorable character. Plus, I loved her look, and she's just beautiful in it.

She measures 13" x 26" x 7", and is sold.

Here is the final image. She gently sways as she hangs on to the sign post and looks down the street. I was going to call the piece, "Lost & Lonely", but thought it was too specific. The signs reflect this original idea.

A closer look. I loved adding all the subtle details to the figure - her belt, bottle, purse, scarf, and outfit - all help to tell her story.

Her face was based on another Shirley MacLaine headshot I found while doing my research. Her scarf actually hides the seam between her neck and chest, and is made of the same material used for her fishnet stockings.

A side shot.

I rarely show the back of my figures, but here you are......

Her purse is an old tin that used to hold tiny watch parts.

A better shot of the stickers on the sign post.

Her bottle. It moves slightly as she sways.

Her hand wraps around the pole.

Her legs and fishnet stocking were a pretty time-consuming venture. I had the material on hand, and it was the perfect scale for her fishnets. I spent a lot of time carving the legs because I knew they were going to be a focal point, so they had to be perfect. All along, I was pretty sure this was going come out well.

Her shoes were and integral part of the figure. The rod that moves the body runs up through the heel on her left shoe. This shoe was also the only real anchor point to the body, (except for her arm), and had to be firmly attached to the base. The other shoe is feel to move, and it does as the figure sways.

The in-progress images........

Starting out I had to figure out that left shoe and left leg.

One leg carved, and one to go. The right leg is attached in a way that allows it to move. Hence the joint at the knee.

Here I'm carving the right shoe to match the left. You can see the tube in the left shoe that the rod runs up.

My wife Paula has a great collection of shoes from a Hollywood rental house. It was nice to have a reference right in front of me. I usually don't use a lot of references like this.

On the top of the left leg, these 3 springs are the only connection between the leg and the torso. The springs allow the torso to pivot in all directions. You can also see the bearing the 1/8" rod runs in.

Two legs done.

Here I'm figuring out the final position of the feet. I wanted her right foot and right leg to be turned inward slightly. I have yet to carve her upper body at this point.

One of the most challenging hands I've ever carved. It wraps around the pole, and because of the grain, and angle of her palm, I had to really take my time to be sure not to break off the fingers.

I found the perfect spot for her hand - it allowed her arm to move, and didn't bind up anywhere.

Her completed body, ready for paint.

A shot taken as I was adding the fishnets to her legs. Again, this took time and patience - gluing a little bit of the seam at a time. She had to have her seams straight, right?

Her finished legs, with the addition of some small holes, which I think adds a lot of character to the figure. I love how these came out.

The movie.... watch it full screen.

Thanks for looking!