Saturday, April 11, 2020

'Elkhorn' : ESP

The two previous commentaries have discussed how this work will end up being supported by the Canadian taxpayer (admittedly unintentionally).
Part of the reason I am detailing this whole process, is in an effort to let people get a look at what regularly goes on over the development of a finished work. (Details and complexities often hidden from view.)

'Elkhorn' Coral Element

As I had mentioned in my first overall look at 'Last to See', a big spark that influenced this piece was when I watched 'Ocean Blue' with Silvia Earle. (1)

I was actually shocked as I started to undertake background research into the individual species I would use as the prototypes for the individual component sculptures.
First was the range of effected species. Some, like a number of different sea turtles, I did certainly know about already.
But sharks?
Second was the number of ancient species that now on the brink of destruction - despite having weathered any number of previous mass extinctions. (2)
This combination would become the focus of the selection.

(from my original submission description)
Corals - forged from a combination of pipe and solid bar. Shown as Staghorn and Elkhorn, both Endangered. 240 million years for these types, through 2 Extinction Events.
living Elkhorn Coral
I decided to make this element the first to be constructed. This largely because my intent was to create more of an impression of Elkhorn coral, rather than a more accurate representation.
I have a large amount of 1/8 inch thick mild steel plate, originally sourced as offcuts / scrap on hand here. (3)

Step one was to cut out a set of more or less randomly shaped and sized pieces using the oxy torch. I knew my basic level skill with this tool would result in quite ragged edges. Rather than consider this a flaw, I actually embraced this effect, to create more randomly organic shapes and lines. The size of the individual pieces ranged from about 6 to about 12 inches.
When you look back at the real Elkhorn coral, you can see that I used a more 'mushroom' shaped profile.

The individual pieces were (somewhat intentionally) of a size that would fit easily into my propane forge. Each would be forged into a roughly C shaped profile.

Although the image above was posed with the element cold, it does illustrate the main forging process undertaken for each segment.
Using a bottom dishing stake (this one fits into my post vice), the large end of each piece was dished, most depressed about one inch deep. When doing this, the more ragged edge from the cutting was placed down.
Following this step, some pieces had the 'stem' end contoured but forging with a rounded cross peen against a half circular bottom tool.
Each piece was then given to a roughly C or S shaped overall contour over the horn.
Depending on the resulting contours, these were evened out by working the metal back over a ball stake.

This is all the 24 individual elements after forging, laid out in size order in preparation for welding together.

As it turned out, I had scrounged two pieces of 3/4 diameter steel re-enforcing rod. This material has a set of Z shaped contours on it, which I thought ideal for a central branch / support element. A 24 inch long piece was cut, then forged into a gentle set of random curves. A bolt was welded to the bottom end, which will serve to mount the finished piece through the underlying limestone slab.

Next the individual 'branch' elements were welded on to the upright support

This is the finished piece.
It stands about 30 inches tall, and is roughly 18 inches in diameter.
As completed, all the components have a mottled fire scale surface from the forging. Intentionally, this will rust as exposed to weather once installed in the finished sculpture. In this, it will more closely represent 'dead' coral :

1) I was brought up inside the Canadian Boy Scout movement. This shaped one of my defining characteristics 'Take only photographs, Leave only footprints. (And certainly the cornerstone motto: 'Be Prepared' - which certainly you can see in reflected in my response to COVID-19.) So 'the Enviroment' has long been a major concern for me.
I was involved, at least in a minor way, in the Environmental movement of the early 1970's. We knew, even back then, that Humans were having a major destructive impact on the natural world.

2) I had done considerable background research during the preparation for one of my 2019 ESP entries. The thrust of 'Last to See' was imaging the series of past Mass Extinction events, placing the current 'Holocene' event into context.

3) So far, I personally have not found any problem with materials for this project. As discussed in the earlier commentaries, I only need one type I don't normally hold in standing materials - 2 x 2 inch wire grid. This week I contacted my standard steel supplier, Kreuger Steel in Owen Sound. Although 'to the door' delivery might not be possible, they certainly are able to provide a 'pick up at the gate' purchase.
I may have to source more flat limestone slabs (although I do have a pile of cut stone that would work in a pinch).

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

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