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2/4/17

The Bathgate Artifact Spinner collaboration


This piece is the second installment in a series of design collaborations I am doing with various machinist makers I have come to know. Like my previous joint project with Rich Stadler, the goal is to find projects that pose interesting new design constraints that may lead to sculptural insights I might not have otherwise considered.

This time, I teamed up with Mike Hogarty and Callye Keen from Revolvemakers to design what is known as a spinner. So first things first, a little bit about the two of them.

Mike Hogarty is a Master Mechanic and founder of Hotrods 2 Hybrids. He is a designer of custom motorcycle and automobile parts, and is a member at Nova-labs in Reston VA.

Callye Keen is a product designer and comes from a family background in low-volume, high-precision manufacturing, Callye now runs Red Blue Collective, a group that aims to help hardware startups get off the ground. Callye is also a member at Nova-labs in Reston VA.


So now then, why this project? 

It has been my observation that there are a number of aesthetic object making trends emerging within the machinist community. A small cottage industry has sprung up around making and selling things that are first and foremost, interesting to look at, but also serve some other utilitarian function as well. Some of these objects are becoming common enough that they are starting to represent tradition forms within the craft. 


One of the most common aesthetic objects is something known as a "spinner". For those who may be unfamiliar, a spinner is an object with a ball-bearing in the center of it, that a person can sort of meditatively spin between the index finger and thumb. Most often referred to as a fidget toy, I much prefer looking at them as a type of kinetic sculpture ( I just can't get on board with the "toy" thing).

spinners are extremely popular, both to make, and also as collectors items. 


A very basic spinner is easy to build, and the design allows a lot of flexibility as far as what one can look like. The bearings used in them are affordable and readily available. The main design constraint is that they must fit in the hand, and be balanced enough to spin without wobbling. I have seen immaculately machined versions, as well as 3D printed plastic ones, and even intentionally crude looking spinners made from rough cut wood.

The machinist community has exploded with likely hundreds of spinner designs. Their ubiquity is why I was initially reluctant to make one. But after a few conversations with my collaborators, I came to feel that if the spinner is going to become a traditional form within the machinist art community, it may likely become a sort of "rite of passage" to design and make one - and so I was in, and now here we are.


So down to brass tacks and design notes. While there have been many interesting spinner designs made already, one of the biggest criticisms (and it is a loving criticism) I could level at most of the work I have seen, is that many spinner designs do not transcend their medium very well. 

Much of the works are machined out of flat bar stock, which is perfectly reasonable to do, but the resultant works also tend to look like they were machined out of flat bar stock. This flat-bar look, to me, is generally not very interesting (but exceptions abound). 

So that was sort of my charge with this design, to break from this flat-bar mold and push the geometry into something that was not reflective of the starting stock. I wanted to find complexity within the relatively simple design that is the spinner.

But as an aside, I rather intentionally included the brass plate in the middle of this design, as a sort of reference to the flat stock criticism I was working against. As maybe a contrast, or some intentional dissonance, maybe even affection for those who came before, I think it is likely a little of each.


Having now designed and made a spinner, I certainly think it is a worthwhile exercise from a domain knowledge standpoint. I think younger machinist and people beginning to experiment in the metal arts can get a lot out of a project of this nature. Making a spinner addresses fundamentals of both machine work and visual composition, so in a lot of ways it is ideal.

Anyhow, I find the end result of my experiment to be such a nice little object to look at, I am not even sure it would matter to me if it spun or not..Im joking..mostly


So now for the plug! 

Like with other small projects of this nature. if you are interested in owning one of these kinetic pieces, which the team over at Revolvemakers has dubbed "The Bathgate Artifact Spinner" we are making them in a limited edition and selling them via pre-order only. (but only for a very short time). 

Revolvemakers will be handling the processing, so please follow the link below for more details and get your name on the list. Pre-order will be open for 1 week (Feb3-10), or until we reach our number cap (which ever comes first). This means we may close the pre-order at any time. 


And, as always, comments and questions are welcome.


11/21/16

Lets call it the S2 for simplicities sake.

pocket sculpture, worry stone, slider, EDC, fidget, art

My second act

For those of you who have been following some of the different machinist related Makers and craft artists I have been writing about lately, you know that the scene is exploding with various machined art objects and kinetic art pieces. There is a proliferation of metal spinners, tops, and other fidget works that speak to both function and aesthetics. It has all the makings of a budding creative arts movement. It is an exciting time to be in the world of machinists, with any luck, it will continue to evolve. 

It is my desire to continue to add my voice to this growing movement. And while I am at it, see if I can't find some inspiration for larger and more ambitious machined sculpture in the process.

So with that in mind, the day is finally here to unveil a new Pocket Sculpture project, I am going to refer to it as the "S2" until a proper nickname takes hold. This one builds on the original "Slider" design and takes it somewhere completely different. I intend to attempt to spin this off into a larger sculptural object as well.

Netsuke, slider, pocket, sculpture, fidget


This design is a return to symmetry and a much more complex assemblage than its predecessor. And while visually, the relationship between this work and the original Slider may be obvious, from a machining perspective this work is an entirely different animal.

The original Slider was a triumph in creating complexity using as few steps as possible, this work is simply complex for how elegant it seems. This work has many more machined parts and while the Slider could be built in just 11 machining steps, this one requires well over 33 machining operations (depending on how you count).

So even though the unavoidable pull toward complexity won out for this particular design, I think it is a natural next step for this journey into trivially functional art, and I am very happy with the result.

Fidget, art, Sculpture, worry stone, slider, S2

As you can see in the above image, the sliding mechanism is double acting, meaning both ends can be extended and retracted independent of one another. With a little practice this piece can be flipped and clicked in a number of different ways. So far it has been quite a lot of fun to prototype and test.

I will say it can be a little more rough on the hands than its predecessor, but the price of finding a balance between form and function seems to be the development of a few well earned calluses.
(It's really not as bad as I am making it out to be, but still worth mentioning.)

The visible hardware on this work is another area where I had to depart from the norm to reconcile how the sculpture worked, with how it looked. Figuring out a method to keep the ends from overextending (and sending springs and bearings flying everywhere) required a bit of a visual compromise in that regard.

Slider, worrystone, Netsuke, Sculpture, machined, metal, sculpture

So even though I had to bend the rules a bit and leave some set screws visible while the work was in the open position. It is a compromise that I can live with as the hardware is only visible when in operation. When closed, the piece is an attractive sculpture like any of my other works. 

I have settled on two metal combinations for this design, all stainless steel and a stainless steel with brass inner element. 

The work is 1.25" wide and a bit over 3" long when closed. While extended it is just under 4" inches Long


My intention with this work is to take a page from my Spinning Top collaboration with Richard Stadler.

I want to use this small design as well as the experience of building this edition to create a larger, more elaborate "one of a kind" work.

I like the idea of using the internal logic of a functional art piece to spin out a completely non functional, full size sculptural work. 

You know, intentionally going further down the rabbit hole.

I have the beginnings of a larger design based on this prototype, but I am going to take my time and let the project have plenty of influence along the way.


Important information if you want to collect one of these: 

Because I am going to be building a larger work based off of this piece, it means I am going to have to limit the edition size to a much smaller batch than my last project. (probably 30 or so works total)

I will be doing a sign up pre-order just like the last time, but depending on how many sign ups I get, I will be running part of it like a SUS or "Sign Up Sale"

This is how it will work:

-I will open the preorder on Monday November 21st, at 11AM Eastern Standard time via my newsletter. I will leave the sign up open until the following Monday (1 week)

-The first 15 people who sign up will be able to purchase the works directly.

-After the first 15 sign ups, and after the pre-order closes, I will randomly select an additional 15 people using a random number generator to award the remaining 15 slots on the list. 


After the sign up sale closes on November 28th, you will not be able to sign up for a chance to collect one of these. But as always, I would encourage you to join my newsletter so that you can get a first look at my sculptures as I complete them and catch future projects of this nature.  


As always, comments and questions are welcome. 


11/2/16

A Collaboration with a fellow machinist/artist, Richard Stadler from BilletSpin Tops ( sculpture TP533351444623)


Tops, Spin tops, sculpture, cnc, art, Billet, spin

The day has finally arrived when I get to share this collaboration between Richard Stadler from Billetspin tops and myself. It has been very hard keeping this special project quiet, and I am just beside myself with the results.

Above you will see two objects, on the left is one of my signature machined metal sculptures, on the right is the spinning top design that inspired that sculpture.

Billetspin, spintop, collaboration, pockettop,

As some of you may remember, a few months ago I wrote a post discussing some of the machinists who are doing interesting aesthetic work within their own niches. Makers working with industrial processes in creative ways that maybe goes unnoticed by the arts community because it is viewed as craft, or too utilitarian. Regardless, to me, the content of the work feels very relevant to any conversation about material, technology, and art. . One of those machinists was a spinning top maker named Richard Stadler.

Spin Tope, chirs bathgate, CNC, art

Where as I tend to characterize myself as someone with no formal training, who came to machining in pursuit of making sculpture, or "art for art sake. Rich grew up surrounded by machine tools and has worked for his family machine shop since he was 13 years old. He has manufactured custom parts for all manner of equipment for many decades. and fits the ideal of a formally trained craftsman who has started to branch out into more artistic avenues of expression.


To this end, Rich has been making some of the most beautiful machined objects I have ever encountered (additional examples above). His tops have attracted an incredibly large following and are highly prized collectors items in there own right. These are not toys, these are immaculate works of art. I encourage everyone who is unfamiliar to go over to Rich's website and look around.


Following my previous post, Rich and I struck up an email correspondence and before long I found myself pitching him an idea to do do a collaboration. I thought it might be fruitful to take on a project I might not normally undertake in the hopes it would help me see things from a different perspective, and give me an opportunity to explore new lines of thinking about my own sculpture-work.

Chris Bathgate, spin top design, cnc, art

But while I was eager to collaborate with Rich, I did not want to simply design a top and call it a day. I was interested in using this as an opportunity to build bridges between some of the different corners of the machinist world. I am always looking for ways to inspire machinists to make art, and also inspire artists to take up machining as a medium. so I wanted the project to be something that could fit into a couple of different categorical boxes.

cnc, billetspin, Chris Bathgate, cnc, design

So with this in mind, the basic premise became this; With Rich's guidance and advice, I wanted to design a spinning top with visual elements that could translate into a broader sculptural composition. The starting point would be something that hued closely to Rich's area of expertise, but with my own flavor and aesthetic. 


From there, I would use that design experience as a springboard to make a whole new stand alone sculpture, something that would be "one of a kind" a more traditional "non functional" sculpture that would incorporate the visual elements from the top design. It would be a conceptual bridge between our two means of expression.


I know this is a long way of saying we collaborated on something, but I think the details are important. It is in the details of designing and machining something that I get most of my ideas, and Rich understands that as well as anyone I have met. 


Coming up with a workable design within the specific set of constraints that spinning tops demand proved challenging for me at first. Size requirements were a limiting factor I was not accustomed to, as most tops are pretty small by my standards. Eventually, with some good tips from Rich, I got into a rhythm and probably annoyed him half to death with an avalanche of concept sketches and emails at all hours of the night. 

After exchanging notes for quite awhile, we hit on something with a central design theme that I thought was flexible enough to translate into a bigger work and we moved forward from there.


The end result is what you see hear, and by all accounts the reaction has been incredible. Rich has also reported that this project helped him to see his medium with fresh eyes, and got his gears turning on some new designs of his own.

And I am very thankful for the opportunity to design within a new ecosystem of constraints (something I absolutely love) and leverage that experience as a way to come to a sculpture concept I otherwise never would have.


Some additional notes about the Pieces: The tops themselves are just 1.25”D x 1.32”Tall. 

The Sculpture is 5.5” x1.7” and man is it heavy.


While I did  much of the design work for both the tops and the sculpture, Rich will be undertaking the fabrication of the limited edition run of those tops, which will be available in a number of materials and finishes, but will be made in extremely small quantities.


If you are interested in owning one of the Bathgate tops (They are being called “The Bathgate”crazy right?!) or one of Rich's tops more generally, I would encourage you to join his Facebook group page (click here to join it). His tops sell out instantly, so he has too distribute them through a raffle system. These tops are no different and will be handled through what is called a "sign up sale". (this is the portal for that)


He will be releasing them as he makes them so they will start trickling out this coming Friday.

Additionally, if you are interested in the sculpture I made for this project, that process will run through me as usual (just email me). But I should note there is only the one, so if more than one person is interested in adding it to their collection, I will have to try to come up with a way to decide where it goes to live in as fair a manner as possible.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this as much as I have. As always, comments and questions are welcome.

9/30/16

Pocket sculpture update.

Slider, Pocket sculpture, slider, CNC, Art

I thought it was about time I get an official blog post up about this project, as this piece has been out in the world for many weeks, and is one of the most popular things I have ever done.

Slider, Pocket sculpture, slider, CNC, Art

Originally conceived of as a piece of pocket art, this little triptych was designed at the suggestion of two friends of mine. There were three versions. Two of them were solid one-piece works in bronze and stainless steel. These two were intended to serve as more traditional worry-stone type works, pieces that you could hold and contemplate, but were static. 


The third design was a kinetic piece (one of my first actually). It was made out of Stainless steel with a simple bronze insert that moved. This design was by far the more popular of the bunch, and has been so well received, that I am at quite a loss for how to properly react. 

Although I never properly named this project (there just wasn't time), it has taken on quite a few nicknames in just a few short weeks.


The "Slider" is the most common nickname, based upon its simple and intentionally trivial function. The little bronze piston literally slides in and out, creating a satisfying clicking sound created by a spring and ball bearing running in what I am now informed by the knife maker community is called a "detent"

Slider, Pocket sculpture, slider, CNC, Art

Intended as a small edition, I had only anticipated making a dozen or so of these to begin with, but I have had to re-adjust that plan quite a number of times, as so many people are interested in this, I have had to revise the edition size again and again and again.

Under normal circumstances, I am quite satisfied with the idea that all of my works are "one of a kind". Once the design or idea is out in the world, I usually feel that is enough, and one is enough. 


But I must admit the idea for this work was, and is, a little different.

 In addition to making a small piece of art that was just a joy to hold and contemplate, my secondary intention for this work was to see if maybe I could use it to reach out to the maker community, as well as the various machinist communities I have come to know and respect, but maybe do not feel entirely a part of.


As a person who comes at machine work purely from a fine art perspective, I wanted to attempt to bridge the gap a little between the idea of making craft objects such as knives, rings, tops, tactical gear etc, and the idea of making art objects for their own sake. 

One of my goals with all of my work is to try and move the needle for a few of the makers and metal crafts people I have come to admire. People who are doing some amazing things with aesthetics in their given vocations, and maybe just raise the idea that there is fine-art in what they are doing with machine tools within their trade, and maybe encourage others to turn their talents to the arts, and to sculpture. 

Not because what they are doing is not already amazing, but just because...."art". (make sense?). I also just want to raise awareness with the general public that there is something really interesting going on in the manufacturing community as a whole.


I think in this instance, the best way to achieve that goal, may not be with one singular large work that people see or visit, but can never own because it is too expensive or someone else has already claimed it. 

I think it better in this instance to have many little works, a swarm of little ambassadors such as this....also,  I just can't bare to disappoint so many people who want one, so the pressure to make more is very real.

I am sure that all may sound a little pretentious or self serving, but I assure you I am sincere, so do with that what you must. 


So, for those of you who have not had the opportunity to secure one of these little guys, but who remain interested in doing so, I can only say that I am trying to figure out how to balance the demand for this object with my other obligations. 

I would like to see this project continue to grow, as I think it is an ideal piece to bridge the worlds of sculpture, the maker community, other machinist craft communities, and beyond. It seems to resonate across a wide range of people, so I am committed to seeing what I can do to get more of them into circulation.

 I also intend to release a new design of this nature very soon. So if you are not on my mailing list, please sign up, as more news will be coming.


 Now with that all said, preparing for upcoming exhibitions and making new work must still come first ,so I have had to suspend ordering temporarily. But know that I am working to squeeze in time to make more, they are actually quite fun to make, so I do not mind provided I have the time.


For now, I am content that there are so many of these little works circling the globe, acting as representatives for my work as well as the idea that machining as a vocation, when turned to the arts, can produce something that resonates around the world.


I will send out updates if and when ordering re-opens, so please be patient with me. Your interest has not gone un-noticed and I do not take it for granted, It is simply that I am a one man shop trying to do a lot with a little.

Slider, Pocket sculpture, slider, CNC, Art, Machining, machinist sculptor

Again, I am humbled and surprised by how many have shown interest in this project.

As always, comments, thoughts and questions are always welcome.

Pocket sculpture update.


I thought it was about time I get an official blog post up about this project, as this piece has been out in the world for many weeks, and is one of the most popular things I have ever done.


Originally conceived of as a piece of pocket art, this little triptych was designed at the suggestion of two friends of mine. There were three versions. Two of them were solid one-piece works in bronze and stainless steel. These two were intended to serve as more traditional worry-stone type works, pieces that you could hold and contemplate, but were static. 


The third design was a kinetic piece (one of my first actually). It was made out of Stainless steel with a simple bronze insert that moved. This design was by far the more popular of the bunch, and has been so well received, that I am at quite a loss for how to properly react. 

Although I never properly named this project (there just wasn't time), it has taken on quite a few nicknames in just a few short weeks.


The "Slider" is the most common nickname, based upon its simple and intentionally trivial function. The little bronze piston literally slides in and out, creating a satisfying clicking sound created by a spring and ball bearing running in what I am now informed by the knife maker community is called a "detent"


Intended as a small edition, I had only anticipated making a dozen or so of these to begin with, but I have had to re-adjust that plan quite a number of times, as so many people are interested in this, I have had to revise the edition size again and again and again.

Under normal circumstances, I am quite satisfied with the idea that all of my works are "one of a kind". Once the design or idea is out in the world, I usually feel that is enough, and one is enough. 


But I must admit the idea for this work was, and is, a little different.

 In addition to making a small piece of art that was just a joy to hold and contemplate, my secondary intention for this work was to see if maybe I could use it to reach out to the maker community, as well as the various machinist communities I have come to know and respect, but maybe do not feel entirely a part of.


As a person who comes at machine work purely from a fine art perspective, I wanted to attempt to bridge the gap a little between the idea of making craft objects such as knives, rings, tops, tactical gear etc, and the idea of making art objects for their own sake. 

One of my goals with all of my work is to try and move the needle for a few of the makers and metal crafts people I have come to admire. People who are doing some amazing things with aesthetics in their given vocations, and maybe just raise the idea that there is fine-art in what they are doing with machine tools within their trade, and maybe encourage others to turn their talents to the arts, and to sculpture. 

Not because what they are doing is not already amazing, but just because...."art". (make sense?)


I think in this instance, the best way to achieve that goal, may not be with one singular large work that people see or visit, but can never own because it is too expensive or someone else has already claimed it. 

I think it better in this instance to have many little works, a swarm of little ambassadors such as this....also,  I just can't bare to disappoint so many people who want one, so the pressure to make more is very real.

I am sure that all may sound a little pretentious or self serving, but I assure you I am sincere, so do with that what you must. 


So, for those of you who have not had the opportunity to secure one of these little guys, but who remain interested in doing so, I can only say that I am trying to figure out how to balance the demand for this object with my other obligations. 

I would like to see this project continue to grow, as I think it is an ideal piece to bridge the worlds of sculpture, the maker community, other machinist craft communities, and beyond. It seems to resonate across a wide range of people, so I am committed to seeing what I can do to get more of them into circulation.

 I also intend to release a new design of this nature very soon. So if you are not on my mailing list, please sign up, as more news will be coming.


 Now with that all said, preparing for upcoming exhibitions and making new work must still come first ,so I have had to suspend ordering temporarily. But know that I am working to squeeze in time to make more, they are actually quite fun to make, so I do not mind provided I have the time.


For now, I am content that there are so many of these little works circling the globe, acting as representatives for my work as well as the idea that machining as a vocation, when turned to the arts, can produce something that resonates around the world.


I will send out updates if and when ordering re-opens, so please be patient with me. Your interest has not gone un-noticed and I do not take it for granted, It is simply that I am a one man shop trying to do a lot with a little.


Again, I am humbled and surprised by how many have shown interest in this project.

As always, comments, thoughts and questions are always welcome.