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The "BWD" machined metal and wood sculpture

Hello Everyone. Last time I communicated, the world was full of worry and strife. So much so that while I generally try to keep the swirl of headline news out of my feed and practice, the gravity and sheer weirdness of the situation found its way in. The Woody Worry-Stone edition was born as a positive and cathartic response to that weirdness.

Not surprisingly this trend of unsettling news has continued or even accelerated. And while it is tempting (or quite justified) to be distracted, deterred, or demoralized by current events, I am committed to making my art, sharing what I find fascinating and beautiful about my craft, and keeping this a positive and focused place to inspire others. I hope most can appreciate and respect that division of creative head-space, as it is the only way I know of to find peace and joy through my art, while also engaging in the emotional hard work that must be done in other facets of my life. 

To that end, I bring something interesting from the studio.

I am still very much in the middle of this project, but I am so happy with how it is going that I thought I would throw up a quick blog post to share my progress. This is the next chapter in the Worry-stone project. It is, well, a bit larger and colorful and I couldn’t help but share. 

The current plan is to make eight or nine of these larger format sculptures. Each one will be unique with a carefully chosen color pallet and species of wood. 

The wood chosen for this initial prototype is currently my favorite in terms of workability and range of color and figure. It is a piece of Desert Ironwood set in a blue shell with deep copper orange detail. 

While I already have some history of turning my smaller editions into larger stand-alone sculpture pieces, the decision to scale this one in particular was driven more by the circumstances of building the edition rather than tradition or habit.

For starters, when I began posting about my experiments with various types of wood, the response was so supportive and encouraging that people began spontaneously mailing and donating random pieces of exotic hardwood to my work. Completely unsolicited, the wood just started to pile up!

When it was all said and done, I ended up with a diverse selection of knife block sized pieces of various exotic hardwoods, all of it begging to become art. 

During the build itself, one of the steps to making each worry-stone, was to take theses beautiful blocks of various exotic hardwoods, and cut them down into smaller pieces so that I could make the inserts that would be the gem of each sculpture. 

To be honest, it always felt a shame to be cutting these large beautiful blocks down into smaller pieces; their figure and details were just so much more complex and striking in a larger format that I felt I wasn't doing some fo them justice to cut them up. I just had to make a bigger one to use more of each block. 

So, with a collection of exotic knife blocks in hand and a desire to preserve their texture and figure, I resolved to make a larger more sculptural work that better showcased the wood and opened the door to some incredibly fascinating engineering challenges. So I scaled my design to comfortably use a standard knife block, and then reworked it until it until I was sure that it became something truly unique.

I feel that enlarging an existing work is sometimes viewed purely as a novelty, as a way to make something new without adding any new ideas to it. I was hoping to avoid this pitfall of mindless scaling, and once I got started redrawing my original design, I quickly realized that as far as my process was going to be concerned, I was definitely in uncharted territory. 

Enlarging this particular sculpture was not going to be an exercise in making the same shapes the same way, only bigger. The geometry of this larger piece presented challenges that dramatically changed the approach and processes I would need to use to fabricate it. 

I had to re-engineer nearly every element of the build, so while the shape is quite similar, the road to that shape is very different indeed. 

Process notes: 

"Balance" became the theme for this entire project. Both physically, textural, and color wise, this is a piece that required care to balance elements in ways not present with the original Woody.

Because of the larger size of this work, the sheer weight of the material I used became much more of a constraint. What were originally pretty straight forward offset turning operations for the Woody (ones where the mass of the machine was more than sufficient to dampen any vibration caused by the imbalance of the part) ballooned into complex setups where weights and counterbalance were crucial to successfully turn the work at speed and achieve a good surface finish. 

Simply boring the saddle shape where the wood inserts seat was a vast departure from the Woody. Creating a precise and accurate semi circular profile on such a large and long piece of stock required a rather unique set up. 

My milling machine does not have the clearance to make such a deep hole in such a long piece of stock, So what might have been a simple drilling and boring operation on a mill, turned into a complex adventure of positioning the work piece on my lathe for a series of turning operations.

 Balancing the whole thing using a counterweight system became my best strategy for putting an accurate profile exactly where I wanted it on the work piece. 

The bronze colored pieces in the photo above are weights added to the assembly so the machine would not shake (or fall over!) while I bored the hole at the appropriate offset. The balance of the setup needed to remain within a narrow margin during the entire process, so I had to calculate their mass to split the difference between the starting weight and finish weight of the material I intended to machine. 

Because weight was such a critical consideration, I selected aluminum, which is much lighter than steel, as my material. This material selection also opened the door to using anodizing and color in a way that most other metals do not. 

I ran with the idea, how the high saturation color anodized aluminum might play off natural materials. Whereas the original Woody project was about highlighting the natural beauty of various hardwoods by setting it against a neutral stainless form, this larger version would be a more nuanced exercise in color theory. 

Selecting the pallet for each of the works, and matching them against a properly selected piece of wood is going to be devilishly challenging. I am looking forward to it.

So the stage is set, lets see what happens. 

Please keep following along if you use Instagram, it is going to be a fun and colorful ride. If not, I will check back in via newsletter when the works are all done. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.