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.
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.
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.
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.
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.