Friday, April 30, 2021

"... item may not be exactly as illustrated."

 'Undiscovered Plant' for 2021 Elora Sculpture project.

Over the majority of April, the shop work has been on creating my contribution for this year's ESP. I freely admit that I'm running late, as the installation date was for May 1 - which I am not going to be ready for. *

Originally submitted design.

As they say : 'No plan survives contact with the enemy'. 

As part of my initial design work, I had been inspired by a specific photograph, and had at least made a first prototype element :

As often is the case on the transformation of a drawing into a physical object, there were some problems encountered during the forging process. The major one was the raw difficulty of generating a twist in the bundled angle iron that formed the inner core of this 'seed pod' element. 

I decided for the sculpture, I would use a group of five pieces of 3/8 inch round rod, each drawn to a tapered point. These would be cut long enough to allow the upper ends to curve back down as tendrils over the outside of the outer wraps. 

So the underlined decisions themselves create their own potential problems. 

FIVE : To get an even twist of five rods around a central core, I had to make a special tool. This consisted of a set of cut pipe sections, grouped around a central. All sized to allow easy passage of the previously tapered rods. These then supported by an outside wrap, with tabs that allowed for attachment of a pair of long handles. In retrospect, four rods would have served as well - but in the overall design, I had been working with odd numbers for the other elements (3 / 5).

3/8 : As it turned out, five pieces of 3/8 take a LOT of force to twist. And the whole assembled element got pretty heavy. Remember I had to haul this whole thing out of the gas forge, swing it over to the vice, positioned vertically, then crank on that tool to create the twisting. I found I could only effectively heat and effect about a four inch section each time. The location of the vice also had limited the length of the tool handles, so also limiting the amount of effective force I could apply. In practice, each core bundle took five 'heats' to complete, each heat taking roughly 10 minutes total to complete. (times 3 elements = 15 x 10 = 2 1/2 hours **) In retrospect, use of 1/4 diameter rod would have both made this so much easier, and might also have worked better visually (?)

Long : Again, I had pretty much guessed on the length required for the core rods, which I cut ranging from about 20 through 24 inches. I was not certain how much of this length would be required for the twisting. The outer wraps had started at 18 inches, but the prototype had already indicated the final bundle would reduce to about 12 + inches. In retrospect, there was not as much loss top the twisting as I was suspecting, so overall there ended up with a lot of length remaining for the tendril forming. The rods could have easily been shortened by about 4 inches each.

In the completed elements, the tendril parts now over dominate the whole form. Although the lines are not necessarily bad, this does shift the visual balance from the core wrap to the final tendrils. Colour will help this somewhat, with the darker green on the outer wraps giving these more visual weight. 


The lower base, was not really illustrated in the submitted concept drawing.

The 'basket' of wide leaves are individually welded to a thick plate, which in turn anchors the entire sculpture to the fixed bases placed for individual sculptures. The main upright elements, each ranging from about five to seven feet long, are bolted in place through this plate. This plate is octagonal, roughly 24 inches across.

These are forged from flattened 1 1/2 web angle iron. Even at this roughly 3 inch width, and with 10 of these elements, these leaves don't create the same tight ball imagined in the design concept. 

The plate (composed of three sections - material I have on hand), is reinforced with angle (top) and T section (underneath). It is framed with 3/4 wide angle on the edges, again to help with rigidity. The edge framing will also help to keep a layer of rounded beach stones in place, which will both hide the mounting system and provide a finished looking base to the sculpture when installed. 

One of the problems of 'forging on the fly' is fitting such a large set of individual elements (10 lower leaves, 3 long seed pods, five flower 'bells') so the overall lines work visually. 

The shapes of the individual leaves were intentionally fairly random, perhaps a bit too much (??). These were placed in a circle around the edge of the base plate, with some consideration of the eventual mounting position of the 8 major upright elements to be added later. I still had to do a bit a additional shaping to ensure clearance for the uprights. In the image above, you can see the element marked moves off too far from the base cluster. This will have to be torch heated, likely just below the location marked, and folded back into the centre. 

Right now the overall sweep to the combination is to one side. I feel this combines to suggest the motion of the wind. This will suit the mounting location, in Fergus and backed against the river ravine (so mainly will be viewed from one side.) When I place the individual uprights, themselves formed into curves, I will continue with this line of motion.

The next work will be creating the baskets that will eventually hold the individual glass bell 'flowers' in place. There are five pieces of 1/4 round in each, drawn to points and ends tendril wrapped first (25 pieces x 8 - 10 heat cycles each to complete)

The heavy stems for all the individual uprights (8 in total) need to be forged to shape from 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 18 web channel. This takes two forging steps, roughly four inches at a time, with a total of 40 feet to shape (So 240 heat cycles total). Each end has been cut back into three segments averaging about three inches long, two of which are drawn to points, then all of those then forged to curves (add another estimated 70+ heats total)


Combined materials cost is about $500

Price for the completed sculpture is $4100

*    Paint! I keep forgetting paint. 

The bundle elements require primer, then two colour coats with central core in bright yellow, the outer wraps in green. The core portion will need to either completely dipped, or more likely (size!) have the yellow poured to reach the interior spaces. The green will have to be carefully hand applied (those tendril wraps!). Each of the three coats should have at least a full day between to dry. Ideally good weather for at least three to four days to allow the final paint surface to fully harden. Another week.

**     I ain't getting any younger! Honestly, these days I'm finding a single two to two and a half hour working session is all I can effectively manage. At the end of this, I have an extremely sharp drop off in capability. (Like starting to drop tools and trip over cords). Most often followed by a several hour nap on the couch. (Laugh all you want - your turn will come!)

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

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