Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Iroquois Pipe Case

Burl Pipe Box
  Several years ago I acquired this historic pipe from a fellow that claimed to have found it while doing foundation repair to his home in Otsego County in New York State. It is a very fine example of an original 17th century, Iroquois (Oneida?) clay pipe. The pipe, (16.5 cm long), is hand formed, highly burnished, and pit fired. I have seen very few examples of these classic pipes outside of a museum case. The rarity and fragile nature of the pipe inspired me to create a protective case.

  It was a long Winter here in the Midwest and making a neat little burl pipe box was the perfect project to wait out the remaining chill of the season. I can't create such a thing in a time clock sort of way but instead, I keep it along side my other projects and work an hour or two on it at a time. The goal is to make the box just large enough for the pipe to easily be removed, but not so large as to allow the pipe to rattle if shaken. The lid required the most effort, it needed to slide easily but still retain enough friction in the grove to hold itself closed. stable ash burl is the perfect material for such a project. It took perhaps 500 or more times to test the lid, remove it, scrape a little here and there and test the fit again. When you make such a thing, forget about time, it's irrelevant. I hope it still fits well when Summer humidity sets in!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Westphalian Jewelry Coffer

Title: Westphalian Jewelry Coffer
Materials: Quarter Sawn White Oak, Copper, Iron Hasp Lock, Iron Nails, Marbled Paper
Size:  Length 16". Height 7.5". Depth 4.5"
Date of Creation: November 2012

  The original Westphalian coffers made in the Northern region of Germany during the 16th century were massive oaken trunks, more than six feet long and reinforced with hundreds of pounds of decorative ironwork strap hinges. Some early examples displayed more ironwork than wood. I've read that these coffers were a widely exported item in the 1500's. I can't imagine a castle would have been complete without one.

 I have a taste for early 20th c. Arts & Crafts design. Many of the best, early, A&C creations were inspired by primitive as well as Gothic art forms from earlier centuries. I applied my concepts of the Arts and Crafts Movement to the creation of this jewelry box by selecting quarter sawn oak and hammered copper.

  The interior is lined with the marbled end-papers from an original 18th c. volume of Diderot's "Encyclop├ędie". I'm sure the idea of using original paper will cause some to hyperventilate but trust me, the loose pages were the result of some barbarian decades ago that cannibalized the book to sell the images piecemeal....the marbled end papers were actually ripped from the old tome. (I understand the punishment for destroying an old book is to smoke a turd in hell.) For years I've kept these marbled papers waiting for just the right project.

 What I really wanted was a full scale Westphalian coffer...but I would need block and tackle just to move it about.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

And now, time for something completly different!

Title:  iPODoFONE  #1
Date of Creation: Nov. 1912-2012
Size: Height 33", Width 11", Depth 11.25"
Materials: White Oak, Walnut, Copper, Brass, Glass Lens, Telegraph Key, 1904 Edison Record, Power Switch, Thermal Plastic Speaker Bell, Porcelain Insulator, Rubber Victrola Feet, cloth insulated wire, vintage rubber appliance plug, iPod and auxiliary speaker and charging port, + 100 hours....more or less.

  Sometimes, I just need to switch gears and go off on a tangent... surely this qualifies as a tangent. Last Summer I came upon this early Atwater Kent radio speaker at the local flea market. I had no idea what I was going to do with it but it had lovely proportions and unrealized potential. I few weeks later, my wife was talking on her iPhone with "speaker" on....I was amazed at the amount of sound that came from that tiny hole...then it clicked, I held the antique speaker up to the tiny hole and shazam!!!, the sound exploded 10 fold! After some experimenting I decided to create a charging dock and amplifier for an iPod....how clever was that! A bit clever perhaps, but not unique. A quick search on the Internet showed me that many others had this same idea.

  This creation is certainly in the Steampunk genre but with less emphasis on superfluous gears or staircases to nowhere. I designed this in the Arts & Crafts style circa 1900-1920, as if it were made by Roycroft Studios or Gustav Stickley....with a little help from their friend Nacola Tesla and Jules Verne....but careful not to show the design to Thomas Edison, (reputed intellectual property thief).

  As I write this, I am listening to it play. The sound is full and rich. I can't be in the same room with it unless the volume is less than half or else it just blows my hair back. On the front of the box is a thick magnifying lens, behind that an amber Fresnel lens and behind that a flicker bulb, giving it motion and light.

  My thanks go out to my old friend Bob. Bob is my hermit friend that always has a good suggestion when I'm stumped for an answer. I wanted a professional looking brass label for this contraption....something that had the quality of early machine age ingenuity. Bob suggested I acid etch a label...thank you Bob!

  As I look over my growing collection of early gears, insulators, flotsam and jetsam of early hardware, I realize my daughter is right, I truly am an eccentric.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Father's Milk

Title: Father's Milk
Materials: Black Ash Burl, Pigment
Size: 11 5/8th" tall, (29.5cm)
Date of Creation: 2012

"Fathers,---He is almost choked with grief. He asks for a little of his father's milk, to clear his throat." Quote by an elderly Chief on behalf of a young man.*
General proceeding under the Treaty of Fond du Lac, August 2nd, 1826. Sketches of a Tour to the Lakes, of the Character and Customs of the Chippeway Indians, and the Incidents Connected with the Treaty of Fond du Lac. pp. 468, Thomas Loraine McKenney, Pub. 1827

What an odd and interesting coin of phrase,"Father's Milk". This early phrase was oft spoken by Woodland Indians in reference to alcohol. Unknown to most Native American tribes until the arrival of Europeans, alcohol had a profound and devastating effect upon Indian culture.

My inspiration for this sculpture came by several known historic Native American effigy smoking pipes. Tobacco and alcohol were both considered sacred vehicles used to transcend one from this plane to a more spiritual plane of understanding. The sculpture sits naked and unadorned, a dark metaphor for alcohol.

Creating this sculpture was painstaking. I wanted to preserve the primitive posture of the effigy and work within the size limits of the burl wood available. Burls do not come in neat, square pieces, they are organic and oblique, requiring much contemplation as to how a form is to be extracted. My work always begins with sketches, the first of which are little more than cartoons but gradually, as the design is refined in my head so are my drawings. Realizing the complexity of this design, I created a clay maquette as a carving aid. It was my hope the clay model (see photo 2 above) would speed my work. It was helpful but still I was more than 5 weeks at carving. Quality burl is so rare and dear in cost I cannot afford to make a mistake. The time it takes to remove the last 5% of material is many times the effort it takes to remove the first 95%. The closer you get to completion, the more concentration is required.

The barrel and hair of this sculpture I darkened by scorching the wood with a hot iron, a traditional decorative technique applied by Native artists in the period. The earlobes of the effigy are slit and elongated as was the custom of Indian men in the early period. I'm currently carving an accompanying sculpture to Father's Milk. I intend to cast a limited number of the pair in bronze as bookends.

It's been a productive Winter and Spring for me. I found the inspiration to see to the creation of a new bronze, (appearing on this blog soon) and 3 major sculptures in burl; Supplication, Shaman's Wand and now Father's Milk.

* Thanks go to Scott Meachum for locating this reference and suggesting the perfect title.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Shaman's Wand

Title: Shaman's Wand
Materials: Black Ash Burl, Soapstone (base), Iron tacks, Pigment
Size: Height, 23" (58.4cm) (including base)
Date of Completion: April 2012

This is the first of  what I  plan to be a related series.

The posture of the hands is based upon effigies found on several early Woodland Indian pipes. Looking through my eyes, I see this gesture as one of prayer, supplication or perhaps honest parlay.  Historically, this gesture may have some very specific meaning I am unaware of. I would welcome any input from anyone that knows.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Supplicant

Feast Bowl
Black Ash Burl
Earth Pigment
Wood Smoke
D. 16.5" x H. 8.75"

The Supplicant faces the Manitou with his appeal, "Please, more." He knows to ask politely, with ceremony. He knows too well hunger. Despite all of his cleverness and labor he knows there are no guarantees. Perhaps there will be more... He takes nothing for granted.

Manitou is the Algonquin word for spirit being. As can be found on early Native American bowls, the Manitou on this bowl is represented in the abstract by the raised area of the rim. A Manitou on the rim of a bowl is a simple metaphor to understand.

This bowl is not a reproduction of any known original, it represents my desire to create something unique based upon my study of elements found in historic Native American allegory.

The bowl and effigy are from one solid piece of ash burl. The interlocking grain of burl gives great strength to wood allowing a bowl to be made thin and the effigy delicate. This was not a simple carving, it required that I make tools to reach the areas around and under the legs as the curve of the bowl restricted my knife. The arm bands are pewter cast in place. The smooth surface was achieved by many hours of scraping. The color was achieved by long exposure to wood smoke.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hoyaneh in Bronze

"Haudenosaunee, (Iroquois) 'chiefs' are called 'Hoyaneh' and on their headdress they wear the antlers of authority...it symbolizes that the people depend on that leader like they depend on the deer for sustenance." **

It is with a feeling of pride and a deep sense of historic continuity that I present my first artistic expression rendered in bronze.

I am excited to see my conscious and sub-conscious ideas and passions melded together in this sculpture. This union of the artistry from the New World combined with the Old World tradition of bronze art manifests the mystique I have always felt for our ancient world and the whole of human history.

This sense of reverence and appreciation for historic cultures began when I was five years old the moment I found a beautiful stone arrowhead. It was lying in a patch of dirt, surrounded by grass as though it had been framed for my personal education. I was so young that I'm not even sure I had ever actually seen a real Indian arrowhead before but I instantly knew what it was and I had a feeling then that the land upon which I lived held many mysteries from the past. It was a magnetic moment; the past was drawn forward into my time. It remains one of the most indelible memories from my childhood. And to this day, I want to pull the past forward by bringing it into the future through expressions of contemporary art.

For this first venture into bronze, I decided to create a very limited number of sculptures -- only six, plus the "artist's proof." By utilizing the ancient "lost-wax" casting technique, every minute detail and grain texture of the original burl-wood carving has been captured and translated into each bronze sculpture. I have learned that it is rather unique to cast a bronze from an original carving made from a lasting and precious material. Most castings are traditionally made from impermanent materials such as clay or wax. I chose to custom patinate each bronze myself in order to create a unique coloration that most closely resembles the character of the rare black ash burl.

Although they are cast from the same mold, each bronze is unique in many subtle ways. As with the original Hoyaneh burl-wood carving, (see July 31st 2010 blog entry) I have attached real deer antlers in the same manner as the early European artists who incorporated organic materials such as ivory and various metals to accent their bronze sculptures.

Each bronze is adorned with a pair of handmade sterling silver ball & cone style earrings hanging from the stretched earlobes. I did not randomly select this style of earring. Ball & cone earrings are a very ancient design and they were a favorite trade item of Native Americans, worn by both men and women. The "ball & cone" is also the overall geometric theme of this sculpture.

My sculptural bronze works are available exclusively through Lord Nelson's Gallery Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. http://www.lordnelsons.com/welcome.htm

My most sincere appreciation goes out to John and Shannon Watts for their support of my work, their enthusiasm toward my inspirations, and their encouragement to help me see this project through. I would also like to thank Thomas Poyser and staff artists of SinCerus Bronze Art Center for their talent and advice. Lastly, thanks to Patrick Kipper, master patineur and author of "the book" on bronze patina.

It is all about the process. Everything is a process.

** Quote of what a Hoyaneh represents by Michael Galban.