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New work, news and Images from the shop. If you would like to know more about my art, please visit my full website @ www.chrisbathgate.com


Introducing "The Bathgate Ratchet"

Hello again everyone. 

I have something really fun to unveil today. I'm calling this new kinetic work
"The Bathgate Ratchet" 

This series is another entry in my growing line of mechanical experiments intended to bridge my sculpture practice with the utilitarian trends I am observing in the machinist community at large. 

This one borrows from both my slider work, and my Netsuke project. It is a detent driven art piece that incorporates influences from the machined metal lanyard bead community as well. 

This work uses a unique ratcheting mechanism. Basically the center sphere has a stepped bearing guide that only allows the ball bearings and springs that are nested inside to ride around the track in a single direction. This has the effect of revolving the inner geometry in steps when you sort of move the outer parts in a butterfly motion. It is similar to how a socket wrench works. 

The design also has a hole running  through the length of the work to enable it to potentially be strung on a lanyard or worn however one might like. However, like the Netsuke project, this is a bit large for an actual bead so that design choice is there as both an homage and a challenge.

While the design of the sculpture took on many forms during its development, I was ultimately able to come up with something that required zero compromise as far as how I wanted the final artwork to look. Even if this work was non mechanical, I feel quite confident I would have designed a stand alone sculpture that looks just like this. 

The sculpture functions perfectly as a static art object, while also performing its intentionally trivial, yet entertaining, function. 

The mechanism was initially inspired when I handed a version of the S2 Slider to a friend of mine and they mistakenly twisted the work rather than sliding it open. Not what you are supposed to do with an S2, but I thought it was a great idea so I immediately got to work sketching something that could operate in a twisting fashion.  Eleven months later and here we are.

The mechanism worked surprisingly well on the very first prototype and makes a great clicking noise that is sure to delight (and annoy others) in equal amounts. 

I have settled on four colors, Deep copper Orange, Charcoal Black, Deep Cyan Blue, and the very much requested as of late, purple violet. 

While I could have chosen any number of colors for the anodizing, I think a limited palette is preferable. These are the colors I feel work best for this geometry, so lets save some of the others for the future.

But just because I am limiting colors, it does not mean that I am not open to the idea of doing a two tone combo though!

So as with my other editions, a limited run of these works will be on offer. Because previous projects have been so popular, I am really going to push myself hard to make a larger quantity of these available (though it may kill me...just kidding I'll be fine). 

Currently, I plan to make 99 of theses works. I am leaving the door open to add a few additional units if demand gets too out of hand (as frequently happens). So I am reserving the right to add extra units that I will distribute in as fare a way as possible if I see it fitting to do so.

I'd like to leave the sign-up open for a few days (instead of a few minutes) so everyone has a chance to add their name, so if the first 99 units sell out quickly, I will likely add just a few more that I will assign randomly to a some lucky people on the remaining wait list.

So lets set a date for the sign-up sale then..  if you are interested in adding one of these works to your collection....

The pre-order will open this coming Thursday (Nov 2nd) at 4PM (EST). I will send out the link via my email newsletter (mailchimp). I will also link it on my various social media, but the email will go out first for those of you trying to get in early. 

The link will go to a google form where you can fill out your contact info and allow you to specify your preference for color. The form will also detail the pricing, shipping, and how payments will be processed. I do not post pricing on publicly facing media so you will have to wait until the link goes up to see the price. (Think more than an S2 and less than the NHVB for those who are familiar)

The first 99 people to sign up will be guaranteed one of the works. Everyone who signs up after the 99 limit is reached will go on to a waiting list. 

Any additional units I decide to make, as well as any cancelations will be assigned to the remaining names on the list via random name drawing. I am limiting everyone to just one work as I want to get these into as many different hands as possible. 

Do not sign up more than once or I may disqualify you. 

If you are not on my mailing list, please sign up here before Thursday morning and white-list the following email address in your mail client to ensure you receive the email: "chris@chrisbathgate.com" 

So again, keep an eye out for the Thursday pre-order email. And if you are reading this at some distant point in the future, I am sorry, but the moment has passed.

As always, comments and questions are welcome and thank you again for all of your enthusiastic support. 


Sculpture BV 753. Big Brother to the "NHVB".

Machined Sculpture, CNC art, Purple Anodizing

Hello again everyone. Today's post brings a project I have been tinkering with for a very long time, to fruition.

For those of you new to this space, this work is directly inspired by my NHVB pocket sculpture edition, which is a design collaboration I am making with the fine fellows from Nova labs and Revolvemakers (Otherwise known as Mike and Callye)

While my collaborators have been diligently working to put the final touches on the NHVB project, I have been developing this one of a kind piece in parallel. 

The design takes most of its cues from its smaller counterpart, but it also more directly addresses the original inspiration for this whole project, a small Urn that I made well over a decade ago. 

(the whole story is "Here" if you want to dig deeper)

My intention with previous kinetic editions has been to use the lessons learned developing them as a springboard for more ambitious sculptural works. Works that have, until now, eschewed the utility of the edition it was inspired by in favor of a kind of abstract formalism. 

But in this case, I decided to embrace the vessel idea as a traditional craft form, and put my own modern machinist spin on it. I saw it as an opportunity to experiment within a decorative art context (something I have avoided in the past).

CNC art, Machinist, Sculpture

While still very sculptural, this mechanical object retains its utilitarian trappings in a wonderfully exaggerated and impractical way. In scaling the design for a larger object, I left a lot of the chunky-ness (for lack of a better term) of the original while making many refinements to the mechanics that would better suit its increased size. 

You can see the size comparison (above) with the rather diminutive NHVB prototype.

Machined metal sculpture

As far as vessels go, this work is quite thick. Rather than make side walls and other elements as thin as possible to create maximum interior volume, I intentionally left a lot of extra meat on the design to give it visual (and physical) weight. I wanted to retain certain qualities that engineered objects often have. Some of the qualities I am looking for come from inefficiencies with material removal in favor of manufacturing simplicity. It is not an easy thing to explain, but it has a certain look to it.

In scaling the work, I was also able to take many of the purely decorative elements in the original NHVB and put them to an actual mechanical use in the expanded design. What were merely decorative pins around the outside of the NHVB are now necessary fasteners to hold and locate various elements, such as the stainless inner liner and the feet.

The lid on this work still operates in a similar manner as its smaller companion. But rather than a 1/3 turn iris mechanism as on the NHVB, this work has a finer scroll that requires over two full turns to actuate the locking pins. The scroll mechanism runs on two roller style thrust-bearings which allows it to operate very smoothly. 

It is a very satisfying sensation to open and close this thing, if not a little harrowing to remove and replace such a heavy lid without denting or scratching anything.

The use of the color purple is sort of new as well. There still exists a loose association with the color purple and royalty, and in this particular situation, it felt like an appropriate choice given the extravagant nature of the design. 

Urn, metal art, machinist art

Having decided on purple, I was still unprepared for just how brilliant the purple anodized coating would turn out. Some have already commented how the photos just don't seem real, but I can assure you, this is exactly how it looks when you hit it with studio lights (I promise I did not touch the saturation setting when editing these photos).The color you see is "in camera" as they say. 

The piece sits freely atop its base. The feet nest into divots on six small plastic inserts in the stand. I also made threaded plastic feet to protect any surfaces this rather heavy piece might rest upon. This gave me a rare opportunity to machine some Acetal rod, which is something I rarely get an opportunity do.

Mechanical Vessel

The internal volume of the vessel is just over one pint.  The base is 12" Diameter, while the vessel itself is approximately 7"D x 7" tall.
Cad drawing, CADCAM, Blueprint, art

The technical print includes the NHVB technical details as well (lower right corner), How could I not include it when it is such an integral part of the project.

Netsuke bead, machine art, sculpture

It was loads of fun developing these two projects in parallel, I feel like a vessel series may be in my near future. I still have a bunch of sketches from my original brainstorming session developing various mechanical urns, so there is a good chance I may bring one or two more of these off the drawing board over the next year or so.

While I continue to explore collaborations that expand my conception of my own sculpture work, as well as ideas surrounding craft and fine art, I am also finding a larger community of makers and craftspeople with whom to share a dialogue. It is very exciting to see my work so warmly received in so many different maker and artist communities. It is even more heartening to hear stories about how my work has influenced others to pursue their own art.

So I just want to thank you all for continuing to follow what I do, and for sharing your work  with me. I am doing my very best to keep this adventure interesting for everyone involved.

As always, thoughts and questions are welcome.


OO 62113344522

Hello everyone. 

Having dedicated a lot of energy over the last year to making a series of small kinetic sculptures, I thought the time had come to turn some of the accumulated visual capital from those projects into a more substantial sculptural endeavor. So today’s post marks the culmination of many months of experimentation.

For those of you who are new to my work. this project is based off of a series of pocket sized Slider Sculptures, as well as my Artifact spinner collaboration (links for all of my design projects). These pieces were the creative framework for this design, and served as an excuse to attempt a rather ambitious technical challenge involving a method of turning metal usually reserved for much smaller parts.

It was built around a turning process known as "offset turning" which is exactly what it sounds like; turning a piece of metal that is offset from the center axis of the machine. Think of how a jump rope swings around as apposed to a spinning top. 

In metal, this process is usually reserved for smaller parts such as my slider sculptures, or with parts that are conducive to balancing and support like crank shafts. In smaller works, vibration is not much of an issue as the weight of the machine is more than sufficient to compensate for the wobble produced in the cut. With larger works however, you are swinging much heavier pieces in such a fashion that vibration must be accounted for, lest the machine shake itself apart or even fall over. 

In order to attempt this process on larger work pieces, the entire assembly must be balanced in some way, usually by adding counter weights to the assembly, or in some cases, taking the cut so painfully slow that the wobble is mitigated. 

To balance the weight in my case, I simply designed the parts so I could cut two of them at the same time. Having two parts diametrically apposed on the assembly, they would always counter balance each other throughout the entire cutting process, even after a significant amount of metal had been removed.

Some machinist would say there was likely an easier way to make these parts, and you are correct. Most modern machine shops would likely have attempted to realize these forms through a process that completely avoided the trouble of balancing the assembly. They likely would have used some form of 4 or 5 axis milling operation, essentially carving them using ball end mills on very advanced machines.

But where is the fun in that I ask?  I felt a milling approach was just too perfunctory a step, showing no relationship between the end result and the process used to achieve it. I liked the idea of using only 2 axis of motion and a clever set up over something much more advanced. The relationship between shape and process is how I get many of my ideas, so this felt like a way forward that might yield further inspiration. 

Offset turning is also a process that would have been more commonly used for this purpose 30-50 years ago (probably much more), which is interesting in its own way.

I had originally intended to only make one version of this sculpture, but a compositional split occurred at some point while finalizing my plan. The design seemed to suggest multiple ways of mounting the work (on the wall, or free standing) and rather than abandon one version over the other, I thought they worked far better as a set, complimenting one another in a way I had not anticipated.

Above, you can see the difference in scale between the new works, and the many small projects that inspired them. The dimension are 23" tall for the freestanding work, and 16" tall for the wall mounted piece. 

The copper colored anodizing was also something that I tested during my S1V2 series run. Materials are anodized aluminum, stainless steel, and brass.

The technical drawing is 36"x36" square

Process notes: In order to attempt my offset turning operation,  there were dozens of preparatory milling, drilling and turning steps that had to occur to prepare the pieces. Additionally, I had to build a very special arbor to hold the works in the lathe at just the right offset and to support everything exactly where it needed to be. Above are some images from that long technical journey. It was a lot of fun to have everything building to a process moment that I had no idea if it would even be successful.  

Above is the end result. 

As always, comments and questions are welcome. 


A Reluctant Designer, The Netsuke Hybrid Vessel Bead. (NHVB)

Mechanical Vessel, Sagemono inspired lanyard bead

Project Preface:

Since I began exploring modern machine work as an artistic medium over 15 years ago, my focus has been predominantly on creating a kind of machined fine art sculpture. Over time however, the connections I’ve made between my work and various spheres of design, engineering, and even the decorative arts have slowly expanded my conception of what my sculpture practice could be. In the past, I would never have undertaken some of the mechanical design projects I am now pursuing, likely out of fear they might distract, rather than compliment, my creative output. This fear I have come to realize was largely misplaced.

As I have sought to articulate my intention with my work on this blog, a recurring theme has emerged. From my position as a creator, (as apposed to a viewer) distinguishing between what is fine art, what is design, and what is craft, has become highly problematic.

From a process perspective, the act of making art is largely indistinguishable from making anything else. There is as much value (from a domain knowledge standpoint) in making something like a tool, as there is the most inspired work of sculpture (emphasis here on the making and not the viewing). I’ve also come to understand that domain knowledge is the well from which most creativity springs. It is the work that leads to inspiration, and not (as is popularly thought) inspiration that leads to the making of work. So whether you call it design, craft, or art makes no difference to the artist. The result of any single project may or may not invoke a sense of awe in others, but regardless, it is quite likely a step toward something that will.

Machined metal lanyard container, CNC art, Sculpture, EDC

With that said, today’s post is a new design collaboration that directly addresses this evolving outlook on my craft. It is my second project with Mike and Callye from Revolvemakers. This vessel-like work is an expedition into what most would characterize as the decorative arts. A bit of a departure for everyone involved, this work is an amalgam of disparate ideas I have encountered over the years that perfectly encapsulate the many intersections between art and design as they are popularly understood. 

The following is an attempt to describe all of the various inspirations and how they connect.

funeral urn by Chris Bathgate
Urn design from 2008

Inspiration For The Netsuke Hybrid Vessel Bead:

The earliest seed for this work came in 2008 when I was asked to make a small funeral Urn for a friend of mine who had lost her mother. I obliged this friend (of course) and made a small-machined metal vessel (as seen above). When I was finished, I was pleased to find that it had many of the qualities I was looking for in my regular sculpture work. Sadly, my preoccupation with only making sculpture at that time stopped me from pursuing the concept further.

What has finally brought me back to the vessel idea, and the rest of the inspiration for this piece, was my search for other contemporaries who are exploring the aesthetic side of machine work. Instead of finding other sculptors, I found a number of professional machinists who are branching out from their traditional roles to explore the more creative possibilities within their trade.

Lanyard  bead vessel, engineered craft, Netsuke design

These machinist craftsmen are primarily creating functional objects and do not necessarily consider what they are doing to be art. Their aim however, is not so different than mine, they wish to express themselves and maybe make something beautiful in the process. Rather than sculpture, they are making lanyard beads, folding knives, spin tops, fidget toys, pens, flashlights, and other tactical type accoutrements. Many of them are progressing into the type of embellishment and thoughtfulness of craft that has seen many industrial crafts blossom into a fine arts movement. Crafts like wood turning, glass blowing, welding, and ceramics have all transitioned from commercial industries to fine and decorative art traditions.

Sagemono, Chinese Snuff bottle, inspired art, cnc design,

My interest in how industrial processes morph into arts movements is what first set me on a path of exploring a kind of functional art of my own. Looking for similarities between the decorative arts and machining is where the rest of the inspiration for this work was found.

In doing my research for these functional projects, I began looking for older forms of utilitarian art. My earlier adventures in small sculpture had brought Japanese Netsuke to my attention (see below). Further digging revealed that Sagemono as it relates to Netsuke, as well as Chinese snuff bottles had qualities that I could relate to this project. These object forms with their long and storied histories seemed like they would be perfectly at home in the contemporary environment of machined decorative arts.

(Left) Sagemono with obi and Netsuke. (right) Carved Netsuke

What is Netsuke and Sagemono?

For those who are unfamiliar with Netsuke and Sagemono, I whole-heartedly suggest you take a look into this amazing tradition, but for simplicity sake, I have copied a simple description from the International Netsuke Society page.

In Short: A netsuke is a small sculptural object, which has gradually developed in Japan over a period of more than three hundred years. Netsuke (singular and plural) initially served both functional and aesthetic purposes. The traditional form of Japanese dress, the kimono, had no pockets. Women would tuck small personal items into their sleeves, but men suspended their tobacco pouches, pipes, purses, writing implements, and other items of daily use on a silk cord passed behind their obi (sash). These hanging objects are called sagemono. The netsuke was attached to the other end of the cord preventing the cord from slipping through the obi. A sliding bead (ojime) was strung on the cord between the netsuke and the sagemono to allow the opening and closing of the sagemono.

The entire ensemble was then worn, at the waist, and functioned as a sort of removable external pocket. All three objects (netsuke, ojime and the different types of sagemono) were often beautifully decorated with elaborate carving, lacquer work, or inlays of rare and exotic materials.

Assortment of Snuff bottles

What are Chinese Snuff Bottles?

Chinese snuff bottles, well? were used to hold snuff of course. But they were also highly adorned objects that represent a decorative art form displaying a wide range of experimentation with materials within a narrow range of designs. This art form echoes trends within the machining community where a single design is often iterated in a variety of metals and exotic alloys to achieve distinct looks and qualities. A link is here for further exploration.

CNC design, lanyard bead vessel, modern sagemono

My Take on it all:

Together, the Netsuke, Sagemono, and Chinese snuff bottles seemed analogous to some of the finely machined and decorated lanyard beads and other tactical pieces I was seeing in the machinist community. I sensed the potential for collaboration with the past. Both my recent past, which involves my urn project, and the distant past with these venerable decorative art forms.

While the look of these traditional forms may be quite different from the machined objects to which I am referring, I am more interested in the shared impulse they both represent. The impulse to decorate and improve ones most cherished utilitarian possessions, and how this act often grows to the point where the art begins to take priority over the original function of the object. Anyone who follows how gloriously large, complex, and impractical modern luxury watches have become can attest to how this can play out.

This transformation from functional craft to creative art form can happen over years, decades, or centuries, but the process is usually the same. The focus of the work becomes less and less about the usefulness of the thing, and more and more about the craft itself. The object becomes secondary to the act of making; eventually the original object can be completely abandoned in favor of new technical or conceptual challenges within the craft. What remains is a medium ripe for art for art’s sake.

Sagemono Vessel, machined metal, engineered decorative arts


So to bring this all back together and how it led to this design. After my experience making my small urn, I have often thought of returning to making a vessel form of some kind. The thing preventing me from doing so was my inability to conceptually connect it to the rest of my work. But as I have pursued more functional art projects to explore a broader design and craft context for my work, I realized that I could link all of these disparate influences into one project.

The “Netsuke Hybrid Vessel Bead” is the result. It is something that I hope speaks to how universal the impulse to make something both useful and beautiful can be. How an items function can influence design across time.

Machined Metal art, urn vessel, Bead

Build Notes: 

Callye, Mike and I have been bouncing ideas and parts for this prototype back and fourth for months. The piece has slowly taken shape since January as the team worked out the bugs in the mechanics and made small adjustments to the design. We still have a little fine-tuning to go before we start producing an edition of these, but we could not wait any longer to share the project with all of you.

Dimensions are a bit over 2" Diameter by 1.5" Tall.  

So what is it for? What does it do? Some people may feel like this is a project that tries to do too much, tries to do too many things and so does not do any of them well. I say that is sort of the point. As functional art goes in my mind, the creative content is always the foremost consideration over practicality. 

Lanyard and Caribiner demo, ring box demo
(left) sagemono arrangement, (forgive my rookie knots).........(right) test with ring adapter (still needs work)

So, it is many things, it is a container (but a rather small one), but it is also a lanyard style bead (a rather large and impractical one) with a through bore to receive a piece of paracord. It could be worn sagemono style when paired with a second lanyard bead (obi analogue) and a carabiner (netsuke analog), something other machinist in the community could easily contribute to this project on. Those of you who machine or collect rings, you can use it as a ring box (something we have tested). Or use it as a snuffbox (something we have not tested), what ever you like. I am sure many of you will come up with interesting uses.

 That the work has such flexibility in what it can be used for opens the door to additional collaboration with makers in the future. I am looking forward to seeing how it is interpreted by others in the machinist community.

Mechanical Iris vessel

Other thoughts: 

One of the final noteworthy considerations in designing this was wether we should leave the mechanics of the iris visible to the user. There is no doubt that it looks incredible, however leaving the mechanics exposed opens the door to getting particulate matter into the iris, which could lead to a jam. For now we have decided the benefit of leaving the mechanics visible outweigh the risks, so a bit of care may need to be taken when considering what to use it for. This is a limiting factor of the design, but my aim all along was to put the aesthetics of the piece ahead of other considerations.

Machined metal Lanyard Bead Vessel

How can I get one?

We are planning on doing a preorder later this week for those of you interested in collecting one of these works. The initial run will likely be around 50 pieces total (that is our working number, we may adjust this some). Whether there will be a second batch or other variants in the future is unknown at this time.

Because demand has been so high for my small projects (the last edition sold out in under an hour), we will be following a similar protocol to previous releases.

The pre-sale will go as follows.

I will post a link to a sign up form on Friday July 28th at 11:00 AM (Eastern Standard Time). I will send the link for this form via email newsletter first, I will then post it here on this blog, last I will post it to my Instagram account.

I know time zones and distance play a factor in how quickly the link shows up, but for those of you who want to attempt to sign up first, I have done my best to give you accurate info to give you the best shot.

The pre-order will stay open for exactly one week.

Everyone will be limited to just one piece, and one sign up per person.

First 25 names on the list will get to reserve one of the works outright. The other 25 or so spots will be distributed raffle style to the remaining names on the list. 

As is my policy, I do not post pricing on publicly facing media. Pricing info will be included on the sign up form. Obviously this is a very complex project, those of you familiar with the price of previous editions might be able to arrive at a reasonable guess. But simply check the form on Friday if you are curious and decide from there if it is within your means to collect.

If you are Late to this project, I am sorry to say the moment has passed. 


The S1V2

Kinetic art, fidget, sculpture, pocket art.

And now for some color.

As promised, a return to some smaller work with a new edition of "Slider" style pocket sculptures. Although similar in composition to the original S1, this is a complete redesign with a lot of carefully considered changes. I am going to call this the "S1V2".

I was originally going to go with S3 for simplicity, but I have a concept that is still incubating that reflects a more proper evolution, and so is more deserving of that moniker. I will get to it one day I promise.

There are a number of reasons I wanted to return to this form from last fall. For starters, over the many weeks I worked on S1, I kept coming up with small but meaningful changes I would have liked to try. Eventually, this list of changes became long enough that I started drafting some of them just to see how they would have looked.

These sketches became a complete redesign of the work. But having too many commitments at the time, I shelved the drawings, not knowing if I would ever get back to them. 

Chris Bathgate, functional art experiment

Another reason I decided to pull the trigger on this edition was that even though I have released a number of other small works in the last few months, I still get near daily emails from people who are primarily interested in my original slider design.

This is of course, very flattering, and as focused as I might be on "new" new work, eventually the steady drum beat of people wanting works of this nature must have had an effect. Not usually one to cave to peer pressure, I suspect I was already looking for an excuse to dust off my V2 design and see where it might lead. Given how great they turned out, and how excited I am to start this project has helped to confirm that suspicion. 

Besides. I think I was able to cover enough new ground with this refinement to justify the indulgence.

Aside form the new profiles and insert details, there are quite a few noteworthy changes in this new design. For starters, these are about 30% bigger than my original slider (but not heavier), I always thought that the originals might be a bit small for some hands so I went for something a little meatier. 

This larger size was just enough to allow me to do some internal profiling on the bore that receives the insert. The radius on the tail end of the insert is an elongated profile, which requires a very small boring bar to turn the inside dimensions. The original S1 was simply drilled out using a 5/8" ball mill, which was limiting.

EDC art, CNC sculpture, anodized art

I had very briefly experimented with anodized aluminum inserts on the S1. What I initially found was that the friction inside the bore was too much for the exposed sharp edges of the inserts, which caused some chipping of the colored coating.

But on reflection, I realized I had it backwards all along. I started to wonder, what if I swapped the anodizing to the body? I reasoned that doing so would mean that the smooth and reasonably protected inner bore of the body would be the only portion of the coating that would be exposed to sliding friction. I wondered if that would be enough to prevent any chipping? A test was going to be the only way to find out.

So I made a prototype (the orange one) and have been putting it through it's paces all weekend. I am happy to report that it is holding up beautifully, even to some brutal accelerated aging. so I am now reasonably confident that this combination is going to work perfectly fine.

The reason for all of this trouble was so that I could produce the gorgeous array of colors you see above. Anodized aluminum is really the only way to produce such colors on a metallic finish, and it was something I thought was lacking in my other works. Plus it is quite fitting for a spring edition.

The aluminum is noticeably lighter, but the larger insert makes the total weight close to the S1. The sound of the sliding action is different from the S1 as well, which is a rare look at the acoustic properties of different metals. (there is always something new to be learned in with this craft).


So, as I have done with other small editions, If you are interested in adding one of these works to your collection, I will be opening these to pre-order only.

I expect demand will likely outstrip my ability to produce enough of these, so I have come up with a system that is as fare as possible, if not a little clunky and complicated. (all of this will be detailed on the pre-order form once I settle on the number of works I think I can make)

Pre-order will open this coming Thursday (April 20th) at 11AM (EST). I will send out a follow up to this newsletter at exactly that time with a link to a google form. This form is how you will reserve your place in line to purchase one of these sculptures. The form will also detail the pricing, shipping, and how payments will be processed.

If you are not on my mailing list, please sign up here before Thursday morning and white list the following email address in your mail client "chris@chrisbathgate.com"

This will likely be the only run of these I will make, as I have lots of other exciting things in the works.

So keep an eye out for the Thursday pre-order email.  And if you are reading this at some distant point in the future, I am sorry, but the moment has passed.

As always, comments and questions are welcome.


Over 1000 individually machined parts later, a new sculpture emerges. (Sculpture BM 792314)

CNC art, Industrial design, Sculpture, Machinist sculptor

Last year, I spent the fall making a small army of pocket sized sculptures. They were very popular and a blast to make, but they were relatively simple as far as designs go. So as winter set in, I felt that I was ready to turn my attention to something bigger and more technically complex. Now it is spring and I have emerged from my studio hibernation with something I think is really special.

For the last 14 weeks I have been undertaking one of my most ambitious works to date. Not ambitious in terms of size (although it is a largish piece), but more of a personal record in terms of the substantial number of parts I was required to make to execute this idea. It is a design with well over a thousand individually machined parts. If you count spare parts (I always make extras), almost 1100.

Digital Fabrication, industrial design

While still a healthy size as far a machined metal sculptures go, it is by far the largest parts count I have ever attempted. I had to make hundreds upon hundreds of custom bolts, pins, and spacers in addition to the dozens of other more intricate parts that make up the assembly.

 (Sculpture is 20.5" tall, 17" wide, and 11" deep. It weighs 88 pounds)

engineering art

This work is also unique in that it has a rather complex interior space, something that I find difficult to work into many of my designs.

 The opening into the interior is approximately 5" at its smallest, so you can easily stick your whole arm through the center of this piece. 

Digital Fabrication arts

As far as my design motivations for this work?...Well lately...rather than thinking about these sculptures in terms of representing one big idea or one specific meaning, I am finding it more useful and accurate to say that these works speak to a collection of smaller ideas, some overlapping, and even conflicting at times. 

I bet many artist feel pressure to impose meaning in places were maybe there is none, and are reluctant to reveal other meanings in service to creating a tidy narrative around their works. There is a belief that a concise narrative makes the work more accessible to others, but this is not always true with my type of work. I find a fixed narrative or interpretation betrays the complexity of the creative process, and can even be alienating if it does not fit with a persons own perceptions of the work.

So I have started to say that I collect lots of small concepts, bits of technical information, personal meanings, and compositional elements as I work. Then I take these simpler elements and smash them together and recombine them until something more complex and refined emerges. 

I think comparing disparate pieces of information is how most new ideas are created, it is certainly the case with this work, I could speak to over a dozen loosely connected points of interest that went into this composition. But as you already know, I am only willing to share a few of them.

design art, metal fabrication, cncart

One example of an influence that I am willing to share, comes in part from planning my most recent exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.
(see link and show details here)

The BMI was originally an old cannery that now houses an array of machines, products, and tools from across Baltimore's industrial past.

I paid many visits to the BMI over the last 18 months while planning my exhibition there. I took a lot of extra time during those visits to appreciate the BMI's collection to see how I might make some connections to my own work. 

My time amongst the various industrial artifacts got me thinking about how artists have always appropriated antiquated industrial processes and given them a new lease on life within the arts (glass blowing, type setting, wood turning are all examples). Likewise, artists have also been some of the first to adopt new technologies to see what novel uses they may have (photography and video). I realized that this contrast between the old and the new is something that machine work, my sculptural process, encapsulates beautifully. 

There are processes that I use in my shop that have not changed for hundreds of years, there are also processes in my shop that represent the cutting edge of digital fabrication technologies. I think committing to exploring both ends of this spectrum has led me to some of my most interesting work. 

Walking around the BMI, I intentionally pulled a number of references from their collection for this particular piece, far more than I would ever admit to for any other design. I wanted some part of this sculpture to embody my experience there. 

metal sculpture, abstract, machine, art

As I said, there are many other influences present in this work, as the beginning sketches of this design go back almost 2 years. 

Ok ok, one more. Look up "John Ernst Worrell Keely", really interesting story in its own right. Was he a con man? inventor? or was he the first machinist sculptor?..

I'll just leave that one hanging out there.

CAD, technical Drawing, schematic art

The Drawing for this work is just as ambitious as the sculpture, but a bit too big for a blog image. 

It is actually too big for the printer as well, 60x60 inches is as big as my printing company can accommodate, but even this is not properly to scale. 

Sadly, it is very compressed above which compromises it a great deal.

But rest assured, each part is faithfully included in there somewhere. I took a bit more liberty with the use of a bold color (singular) and composition on this one.

 I can't wait to get this monster printed and on a wall somewhere, as it is like an engineers version of a mandala.

The exploded diagram and assembly breakdown is unfortunately another drawing that just doesn't scale well for the screen. 

The exploded assembly is just an organized mess until you spend some time wrapping your head around it.

Machinist sculptor Chris Bathgate, works

Additional process notes: Even after all the parts were completed, It took two entire days to assemble everything. Threading and torquing down each of the hundreds of bolts with custom made wrenches while taking great care not to scratch or ding the finish was quite the meditative exercise. I have never held my breath so much in my entire life. 

Machine work as sculpture

This project saw me spending many weeks with repetitive operations, so I made it a point to enjoy taking the time to refine and discover efficiencies for each step and part-program as the days went on. 

There is a lot to be learned from making 440 small spacers, even when you are on part 423, something new might still occur to you.

milling machine art, lathe art

I also had to expand my Anodizing lab to accommodate some of the larger diameter ring shaped parts. They simply would not fit in my existing tanks, but I knew they had to be orange, so I ended up refurbishing much of my anodizing line and installing new tanks just for the few parts in this work.

 I will be sure to put them to good use again in the future. 

Many people have commented that I do a bad job of illustrating the scale of my works in these posts. 

To remedy this, here is the hand spinner collaboration I did sitting atop a 1.5"diameter steel rod for scale reference.

 the stainless bolt heads on the work are each half an inch in diameter, and the large orange bolt caps on the legs are three quarters. 

(there are also a couple good desk shots in the montage below)

 Lots of other great process images for inspiration as well. 

So in conclusion, this is what 14 weeks of my life looks like...I hope you like the result.

 The pendulum will likely be swinging back to some small works for a little while, I have some things I want to try and some other collaboration announcements coming, so stay tuned. 

Also, in case you missed it, the newest version of my art book is now up for sale on the website and on Blurb, links below. 

as always, comments and questions are welcome.