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4/4/22

Introducing the Mazer (M3)


I know it hasn’t been long since my last post, but unexpectedly (even for me) I have completed the final installment in my Mazer (bowl) series. 



This work is a part of a triptych of bowl shapes. All of them loosely based around a Mazer, which is an ancient drinking vessel that typically had a boss in the center and a flat foot on the bottom.

Mazer's also had a wide array of gilding and decorative elements that made them kind of impractical. This is of course appealing to me as a sculptor, as I like it when aesthetics take precedent over usefulness.


The main bowl form of the M3 is made of stabilized maple burl with a blue dye added to the stabilizing fluid. The metal details in the piece are machined out of aluminum, then finished and anodized with a warm champaign copper color.

Both of these colors play very differently depending on the light. The Maple can sometimes seem more green than blue, and the copper can appear pinkish to a brassy-yellow against the blueish maple when viewed in warm light. It is really interesting to observe, especially if you are into color theory.

The progression with the set is interesting too.


The first Mazer in the series (M1) was kind of an accident. It was made from a repurposed and slightly damaged piece of Desert Ironwood that came out of my SKB (sculptural knife Bowl) project.

It is very hard to find ironwood in this size, so I didn't want to scrap the piece. Instead I decided to have some fun with it as a side experiment. I didn't think much of the end result at first, and I didn't even properly photograph the piece until much later. It doesn't even have an official blog post. But after a time I realized there was more there, and so when the need for some additional wood experiments came up, I knew I had something worthwhile I could pursue.

Looking at the M1 in the context of the triptych, this first work seems almost rustic and kind of chunky. Functionally speaking, it is the most utilitarian piece. I think it is great starting point for representing how craft forms can diverge from utility over time.



I don't feel I need to say too much about the M2 as I just posted about it a few short weeks ago.

The piece is still very much a bowl shape. but the decorative elements go a long way to thwart utility in favor of more sculptural appeal.

I also remain proud of how well my first attempt at stabilizing my own piece of Maple Burl turned out.


The M3 is the final work in the series. It is quite shallow for a Mazer. One could barely call it a bowl form at all, but it looks amazing.

Running with the idea that many utilitarian crafts eventually abandon function in pursuit of decorative and craft concepts, the bare minimum interpretation of a what a bowl could be won the day.

I think they are all great successes and I love how they each have their own unique nature.


Dimensions are 6.5" Diameter by 1"deep


Side Notes: As I alluded to at the top, that this work exists at all is a perfect example of the way a good work ethic can smooth out the emotional roller coaster of making art. When I closed out my last post two weeks ago, I wasn’t really sure if I was going to pursue this piece (at least not anytime soon).


I have written before that even if a piece is a triumph, I can sometimes feel a little deflated at the end of a project. I can intellectualize that I have achieved something. However emotionally, it is a much more mixed sensation. Many artist need a little time and space between themselves and their works to fully appreciate them.


Mentally, I was a little reluctant to dive right back into a new work of the same concept. Fortunately my working impulses don’t really give me much room to procrastinate. I went back into the shop (after a good night's rest) still thinking I would just focus on some projects that I already have underway, when I just happened to walk past the stabilized Maple blank I had prepared for this piece. 


I glanced at it—then before I had time to think it was in my hand—next thing I knew, I was turning it in my lathe.


Almost mechanically, I had started the work whether I wanted to or not. Such is discipline.


My work-habits often save me from hitting a creative wall. Because I have been practicing for so long, muscle memory can easily take over for me when my mind needs a little time to catch up. In this case, it wasn’t long before I was fully reinvested in this piece and excited to see through to the end. 


I find that my actions often lead my feelings in this way. It is another reason why I make art. It gives me the chance to step back and watch how my own mind works.



It is a cliche at this point that artist make work in order to understand themselves, and in the context of this single work, it is a lot to put onto a little wooden bowl. But for me it is true, and this idea comes up again and again as I work.

I think it would be wrong not to talk about it when talking about my work, so thanks for hearing my little confessions from time to time.


Note for collectors:

Now that this trio is complete, I am entertaining the idea of offering the set up for collection.

I am going to keep this low key, as it is my hope that I can keep the three works together as a triptych. If that is too much to ask, I will be quite happy to keep these little beauties in my personal collection. But if there is any interest, please just drop me a note and we can discuss it.

And of course, as always, questions and comments are welcome. 

3/21/22

Mazer (M2)




Hello Everyone

This work was just supposed to be a quick sketch. Something to help me as I learn the process of resin stabilizing hardwood. But as is always the case, the project grew and a month slipped passed, and now I have this wonderful Mazer style bowl to share with all of you.


Stabilizing wood is a process that both strengthens a piece of wood, and makes it dimensionally stable so that it can be utilized in more precision applications.

In previous projects, I relied on sourcing stabilized material from other skilled makers. But as my desire to make new shapes and forms grew, I quickly realized I had outgrown the sizes and shapes of material that were readily available. I approached a few people who specialize in stabilization with special requests and was alternately told that it was not possible, or not profitable, to make stabilized wood in the sizes and shapes that I wanted.


I could live with, "not possible" if it were true, but "not profitable" sounded like a silly reason not to do something, so I had to try it myself to see what was what.


The process is not terribly complicated and the setup relatively affordable if you have a small space to make a mess. It involves drying the wood, then placing it in a vacuum chamber while submerged in a special resin.

Under vacuum, much of the air and residual moister are pulled from the wood (you can never truly get all of it). After many hours under vacuum, pressure is returned to the chamber and the resin is forced deeper into the wood by normal atmospheric pressure and good old capillary action.


After a long soak, the wood is then placed in an oven where the resin cures and hardens. The result is a plasticized piece of wood that is perfect for machining and other fine craft work.

It is a fascinating process to learn, and I am simplifying just a bit. This work represents my first attempt at using a piece of wood from my own process. The wood you see is a piece of Maple Burl. It was stabilized as a 7" round and finished down to 6"diameter.


The metal details are all in Stainless steel. I went with a wooden bowl form because I just love the work of so many wood turners. But since I am not quite a wood turner myself, I went with a very ornate style of bowl called a Mazer. A far more decorative than functional object for sure. This is what happens when you give a machinist wood to turn I guess. 


Anyhow, this is the first step on my journey towards a much more ambitious piece. I have one more "small sketch" that I was planning, but considering how long this first one took, I might have delay that work for a little while. I am just not sure there is time in my current work flow. But we will see what happens.



Thanks for looking, and as always, comments and questions are welcome. 





2/28/22

SB 312222461

Niobium–titanium

Hello everyone. I have been hard at work on a couple projects and this wonderful set of pocket sized sculptures is the first to make it across the finish line. 


In keeping with my recent forays into new materials, I decided it was high time I bring an exotic material into the mix that I have long appreciated. This material is colloquially known as "superconductor". 

Niobium–titanium superconductor art

I know some of you are familiar, but others are likely wondering what is superconductor? 

Well, there are actually many materials classed as having superconducting qualities, but in this case what I am referring to is Niobium-titanium filaments encased in a copper matrix


Niobium–titanium superconductor is a material that comes in many shapes and sizes. It is an industrial product primarily used in science engineering, but it has (unsurprisingly) acquired quite a cult following in the metal working and maker communities. 

Characterized by thin rods of what is essentially titanium, arranged within a larger body of solid copper, it is a metal that presents a sort of abstract grain structure. When machined into compound forms, it produces very predictable and pleasing patterns. The copper, which is susceptible to most acids, can then be etched or almost entirely dissolved, leaving the more resistant titanium rods intact to accentuate the grain pattern. 

There are machinist makers using this material for all sorts of fascinating decorative work. Knives, rings, and spinning tops to name the more prominent examples. This is of course exciting to me as a sculptor. I love it when artist co-opt tools and technology for their own special kind of cultural production. 

superconductor Niobium–titanium alloy

Superconductor is a difficult material to shape however, as the copper is pure, which makes it very soft and gummy, while the titanium sections are tough and prone to work hardening. This makes it hard to optimize for either scenario. 

Not to mention that titanium is flammable. If you chip a cutter and catch a spark wrong, you could be in for a small fireworks show. A little extra care to keep the work space clean and free of turnings is more than a good idea. 

But, if you are careful, you can pull it off without too much trouble. The results are very striking and quite worth the effort.

machined metal sculpture

Now enough about superconductor, because this all-stainless steel piece is also bursting with charm. I think it is an important part of the pair, as I wouldn't really have known the best way to approach the superconductor without it. 

Chris Bathgate Superconductor art

I actually designed this steel version as a sort of contrast piece, as a creative check for myself. I wanted to be able to compare the two and make sure my design was not solely dependent on the novelty of the superconductor to make the composition work.

Maybe that seems weird to some of you, but I reasoned that if the design didn't work in stainless, then perhaps I am relying too much on my exotic material to improve what is otherwise a mediocre composition.

machining metal art

As you can see, that just isn't the case. It's gorgeous. 

CNC sculptor Chris Bathgate

Another thing I hoped to achieve with this design is that I have been thinking a lot about the challenges of creating interesting interior spaces within my work. This was a sketch to help me with some larger work I have on the drawing board. 

I love using little pieces as test beds for bigger work. 


In the video above,  I explain some of the technical constraints that guided the design. Sometimes a video goes a long way in demonstrating what the heck I am talking about. 

Other times it just highlights how often I say "ummmm"!!!  (Oh well)


At just 1.3" tall or 33mm, these works are some of the smallest I have made.

Niobium–titanium and Stainless steel art

Note for collectors: As has become customary, I will be offering these works up as a one time limited edition.

superconductor fine art

You will be able to acquire them as a pair, or individually in all stainless steel or superconductor. Pricing and all relevant details of the sale will be posted at the time of sign up.  (please note that superconductor is a considerably more expensive material and this will reflect in pricing) 

The sign up will go live on Wednesday March 2nd at 11 AM EST. It will run for just a few days, or until I determine my books are too full. 

I will post the sign up link to my email newsletter, here on the blog, as well as on my instagram page. It should be a fun project!

Digital fabrication fine art

As always, questions and comments welcome. 

11/10/21

The MoTF kinetic sculpture

 


I know I Just posted a project two weeks ago, but art happens when it does and I have a new creation to share. The MoTF kinetic sculpture.

(if you want to pronounce it as "Motif" I wont stop you)


The genealogy of this piece is a little involved, so rather than write a long explanation, I just thought it was best to switch on the camera and ramble through it. The video above does a pretty good job demonstrating the origins of this design. 


This design was another one that seemed to take ages to crack, but I am happy with the final result and it is super satisfying to hold and actuate. 


In terms of materials, I am going to keep things simple. All stainless steel, or a brass and stainless combo is all this design wants in my opinion. 


Notes for Collectors: 

Normally, I try to work on just one project at a time. However my current project (the OoT) is occupying only two of my machines because of the constraints of that particular project. 

The rest of my toolroom is sitting idle and....well..... I think I might be able to manage a second project so long as I don't push myself too hard. So here we are.


If you would like to add one of these new kinetic works to your collection, I will be posting a sign up next Wednesday (November 17th) at 11AM EST

Production will ramp up slowly, but I am confident I can juggle two projects at once as I bring this year to a close. 

I am still working out the details and making small improvements to the design, but I'll have it sorted by next week. A link will go out to my usual accounts (Instagram, my newsletter, and this blog) at 11 AM sharp.


As always, comments and questions are welcome. 





10/26/21

The "OoT Sculpture"


Introducing the "OoT Sculpture". 

This small sculpture is my second attempt with an incredibly challenging technical concept, one I had no expectation of ever repeating. 

Earlier in 2020, I attempted to make a complex composition using only turning operations. That is, using only two axis of mechanical motion to machine a form that transcended the simple cylindrical shapes one would expect from such constrains. 

The result of my first effort resulted in the DoT.

This new piece takes that same concept to a very different place.



This type of technical concept is right up my alley, as it is deceptively difficult to tease an elegant design out of such tight constraints. 

I know wood-turners are often bound to only two axis of motion (and I admire that) but as a machinist with a world of tooling and processes at my disposal, this kind of voluntary deprivation is humbling and lead me to visual and mechanical solutions I might otherwise not have considered.


The source inspiration for  the aesthetic of this sculpture is actually a concept I have visited a few times.


I was laid up (very briefly) a few months ago recovering from some minor surgery and I thought it would be a good opportunity to lay down some new ideas for larger work.


But instead of a productive drawing session, I found myself struggling. It is actually pretty hard to be inspired when you are just laying around looking at a screen (or the ceiling), I do my best thinking when my hands are busy in the shop.


So, as I often do when I find myself a little stuck, I started digging through old sketches. 



I soon came upon some drawings from a series I made back in 2012- 2014.


It was a series with more than a few evolutions, all largely successful. But I did remember some things I was unhappy with, and it seemed to me that there challenges left unexplored. Then it occurred to me that this perfectly suited to a 2-axis lathe challenge as will


So I decided to dive back in and before long I had something worth pursuing, Something that I could breath new life into with an incredibly technical and formalistic twist.



This piece is about 4.75" long.



This work requires the use of a whole lot of unorthodox turning setups and little tricks I have learned over the years. 



I was also able to employ a novel fastening setup that quickly enables the work to be disassembled an reassembled (for those who a brave anyway). It also rotates and slides freely in the stand, partly out of fidelity to the concept and partly because there is no wrong or right way to orient the piece to view it.

Thanks for reading, and as always, questions and comments are welcome. 



Notes for collectors: 

I am going to make a very limited edition of these works. 

Production will be limited to just 30 pieces, with the first 15 spots assigned on a first come first serve basis, and the remaining 15 assigned via lottery. 

The sign up will open on Friday October 29th (11AM EST) and will close on October 31st. 

I will post the link to the usual places, Blog, IG, and Email newsletter. Pricing and color options will be posted along with the sign up link this coming Friday. 

Good luck for those who are interested. 








7/19/21

Module 3 or "Mod3"



It's that time again. Time to introduce a new sculpture and ramble a bit about the things I was thinking when I was making the thing. 

I'm calling this work the Module 3 or "Mod3" and it has a mechanic that I think is quite unique, if a little hard to explain. 


This is the third and final installment in my module series, which began as a simple exploration using a magnetic assembly system in place of mechanical fasteners.


This fastening system had a geometric component so I thought it would be interesting to lean into some influences from the math art community as well.


For the first work in the series (NC-3), a simple modular sculpture based around an octahedron form was all I hoped to achieve.

For the second work in the series (TKS) I found myself trying to use some of the inherent magnetism in the assembly to add motion and even more modularity. This work was based around a tetrahedron.


For this third piece, I chose the hexahedron or cube. This shape presented a unique opportunity for magnetic motion.


I came up with an arrangement of magnets that allows a hub on each of the modules to slide linear along its axle when rotated 90 degrees. This motion is achieved by bringing the polarity of internal magnets into alignment in such a way that they alternately repel and attract one another.


The motion is not unlike an electric solenoid, but uses only rare earth magnets.



I had originally planned for something simpler but evolution has a way of adding complexity, so who am I to argue.



I try to touch on the wide range of influences that lead to this piece in the video above. The main one being how Joining each of the three sculptures together helped guide the rest of the process.


below are the magnetic arrangements for joining each of the three sculptures in the module series.




This map shows how each of the modules interacts for basic assembly. As you can see, each configuration required a vastly different approach to spreading out the polarity to get even attraction across all elements.  

In of itself, it is a fascinating puzzle, but that each map also influenced the mechanical and visual outcome of its respective sculpture makes it much more so.


This video is an in depth tear-down of how the mechanic works. It will no doubt do a better job demonstrating the mechanism than anything I could write.

I also show and reference "Polymagnets" which proved to be a fascinating influence on this project as well. There is a video at the link that better explains that technology.


The work you see in these pictures is just the first prototype, it works and looks great. but I do have a bit of work to refine the process for making more of these works. 

Most notable is smoothing out the process for installing all 72 magnets. The press fits and irregular sizing of the magnets themselves had me fiddling with them for far too long. I will no doubt be able to get it ironed out with a few reamers and some 3D printed fixture-ing. 

All part of the fun.


Closing thoughts:

There are lots of things about making sculpture that are difficult to explain. One of them is how different modes of thinking come into play during different stages of creating a work.

When designing purely visual work, the constraints of reconciling one's ideas with a real world medium are challenging enough. Add to that the complexity of introducing mechanical motion or functionality and it is easy to find yourself struggling against competing interests. The demands of "function" do not always play nicely with "form" no matter how the saying goes. 

All of this is simply to say this new kinetic sculpture work was QUITE a challenge. This design brought together many different, and at times competing influences. I have a folder with seventy drawings that are a testament to the many changes this work underwent on its way from digital concept to a real world mechanical object.

I'm not complaining. It is all fun to me. However some sculptures design themselves while others I have to REALLY work for. This design was definitely the latter.

After much toil,  the prototype is done and I am feeling triumphant. I learned a lot and had some interesting breakthroughs 

I will say that the difficult nature of this project has given me a chance to reflect on why I have continued to pursue these small mechanical works and why they resonate so well in the first place.

I have come to see these kinetic works in the context of participatory art. 

Whether it is a performance, an immersive installation or something else, people often want their art (visual or otherwise) to be more than just something to look at.

These small works represent a basic form of participatory art in that they are simply “art that you can hold”. Not a high concept mind you, but most early sculptural forms were in fact decorative tools or adorned utilitarian objects. There is instinct and history in making objects that satisfy this easily overlooked and surprisingly powerful way of experiencing art...... with your fingers!


Notes for collectors: 

So as is customary, I will offer these up as a limited edition. 

But before I get into that, I also wanted to mention this work has a sort of "built in" bonus sculptures.


It turns out that the individual modules for this piece are quite pleasing on their own. They are great fun to hold and operate, The little modules are also fascinating pieces aesthetically. 

I made a small 3D printed stand to help facilitate this little quirk and I feel compelled to consider it a work in its own right. So there will be an option to buy just a single module for those who want to do so.

Seeing as the Mod3 is pretty complex, and that inevitably means it will be pricier than the other two works in the series. It seemed like a good way forward.

 I will of course include a single stand with the larger version as well.



This work will be available in stainless steel ONLY. The list of reasons why is long so I am going to chalk it up to creative license. I feel this work is best represented in this format.

I appreciate the understanding. 


The sign up sale will go live on Thursday July 22nd. (11AM EST) with all of the usual important info included at the sign up link. 

I will post the link on this blog, my email newsletter, and my Instagram account. 

Seeing as it is summer time and many people are traveling or otherwise out of communication, I am going to be more flexible than usual with this sign up. Instead of a hard date for closing the sign up, I am going to leave myself some wiggle room to make sure everyone has had time to receive my communications and can transmit their interest in the work.

And of course, as always, questions and comments are welcome.