Friday, September 10, 2010

Styll Squared - 'Where do Ideas come from' (2)

As fans of the Wareham Forge may know, I have created a number of artistic garden gates. One of the best is 'Celts at the Gates - Spears & Shield'. The original work was altered to fit a specific space at the Styll Gallery in Elora, Ontario (were it is available for purchase, hint, hint).

I have always been pleased with my association with Styll. I will be one of the participating artists for Styll Squared, running at the Gallery from September 24 - October 24.
This special exhibition of purpose created works has two limitations for the participating artisans:
1) Each work must be 12 inches by 12 inches, and designed to hang on the wall.
2) All the pieces must have a retail price below $250.

For me, BOTH of these restrictions force me to reconsider design.
First, I very rarely work in such small scale. Outside of knives or specific historic reproductions, almost everything I create at this point is significantly larger. Although I do quote a base price for grills and gates at $100 'per square foot' this is really a bit of a fiction. Normally such objects are significantly larger than 12 x 12 inches, and there is an 'economy of scale' that applies. Although I do have some general ideas for smaller sculptural pieces, these are intended to be significantly more complex (hence more expensive) than the $250 maxium price tag would permit. Plus these pieces are full 3-D sculptures - which don't fit to the 12 x 12 on the wall concept for the exhibit.

So - in an attempt to both have some work to contribute, and to kick start my creativity after two months of focus on teaching and Viking Age history, I turned to ideas tucked away in my trusty sketch book...

Both the images seen here are scanned from the pages of Discover, a popular science magazine I have been reading since it first hit the stands 30 years ago.
The first is a photo micrograph of fish scales. (At least I think - it was a 'guess what' feature.) The colour is through staining.
The second is banded sedimentary rock from the east end of Georgian Bay. This patterning I had actually seen first on a TV program about the Great Lakes on the good old CBC.

A number of years back, at Quad State (a regional smithing conference) I had seen some new work in the Gallery there that quite interested me. (I believe the pieces were created by Holly Fisher. ) The work featured hot punched patterns on sheet. The metal had then been painted, first with a pastel base coat, then with an over wash of darker colour, which primarily was washed into the depressions of the punching.

For "Scales" I have started with some pretty rusted 1/8 thick mild steel plate. It was edge cut with the torch, the edges deliberately left ragged. The pieces where then hot punched with two different U shaped punches in a radial pattern. Finally each was slightly dished out to raise the central portion. The completed elements were fitted to a frame and backed by a sheet of polished stainless.
The stainless acts as a distorted mirror, close up you can see the bright red colour painted on the inside surfaces as reflections. The tops have been painted a mid tone blue and green, then rubbed with darker tones in the same colours. A spray of highlight colour (yellow and copper) were added last.
For the second piece "Layered Stone" I forged up a series of strips. There are a variety of metals used :
antique wrought iron, mild steel, mid carbon (saw blade) and stainless sheet. The central line has been reverse curved and flattened. The antique iron over hammered and allowed to split. It was placed overlapping the stainless to accent the difference in the metals. One bar was fluxed, set with bronze wires, then overheated. All of the mild steel bars have been aggressively surface worked to texture them. The individual strips were then welded into plate.
Ideally this piece would be placed out of doors, where the component bars will weather and oxidize at differing rates and effects, depending on their alloys.

In many ways, these smaller pieces can be considered maquettes for considerably larger and more complex pieces. I had originally envisioned a wall sized panel based on the concepts expressed in 'Layered Stone' particularly. (Ideal for a public building installation - someone give me a Grant!)

Readers who find this translation from inspiration to object interesting may also find an earlier blog posting of interest : 'Where DO ideas come from?'

Styll has not made a specific record of the exhibit - these overall images poached from their web site.
I think my two pieces are in the left hand image - on the lower left corner.

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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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