One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by visitors to our booth is how we come up with our ideas. I can tell you they aren’t forced. When an artist sits down to create something new, it doesn’t come out of thin air and it cannot be forcibly willed into being. Rather, several things must come together simultaneously and that creates the magic. For success, the groundwork must be laid and that means many hours and years of simply making—making work, utilizing tools, experimenting with mediums, drawing, painting, sculpting endlessly. Whether the end result each time is good or poor or great doesn’t matter as much as putting in the time. With that experience comes priceless abilities, obtainable in no other way. It is a growth that builds upon itself endlessly. In that process the artist develops the mental and physical tools necessary to bring ideas into the physical realm. It makes possible the transfer of something ethereal in the mind into an object in the “real” world.
Secondly, every person is a result of their own unique physiology and life experience. As an artist, everything you produce is a result of these two entities. All of your life experiences come together to produce the current you. There is no way around that, for good or bad. Every decision, every occurrence changes the person that you are. And your own unique physiology reacts to every decision and experience further evolving your mind and body. Therefore the art you create is a direct result of that life experience. And it is a reflection of your philosophy, whether you consciously realize it or not.
All of that process is necessary, but it’s not enough. Creating is not copying an idea you’ve already executed, or copying someone else’s idea. Creating is stirring the pot and dipping out something fresh. Of course you’re influenced by other artists. That’s not only inevitable, but actually a good thing. The key is to keep it as an influence not a replication.
There is a wellspring that is bottomless and it is within every person’s reach. Tapping into it is necessary for creative growth, but the connection can be fugitive. When it happens its magic. This is what I mean when I say it cannot be forced. It flows into your thoughts when you prepare the mind. You have to allow it to come forth into the “light”. This usually occurs in a relaxed state of mind—often when the eyes are closed and you allow unimpeded wandering. Day dreaming is not a waste of time as some would have you think. And often images come into my mind just before falling asleep. Sometimes it’s erratic, with a quick flash and then it’s gone. Other times when conditions are more perfect one can tap into a flowing stream of images and ideas. Getting those down afterwards in sketches and notes is crucial to remembering the gist of the idea as well as the specifics. And then you have the start of a series and more ideas will flow from that, if you return to that elusive universal flow of energy. We are blessed and it is important to remind ourselves of that.
Books are the physical embodiment of knowledge and enlightenment, the teller of stories, the keeper of secrets, and ultimately the record of our history. These sculptural icons are our interpretation of this important cultural symbol.
Our little copper books are fun to make and delightful to many patrons. Each book is a 12″square of wood, clad with copper and then hand-hammered or embossed with texture. On each we make little books with copper pages that are bound together with silver wire and have a colorful backing. The pages are hammered on the edges and then usually embossed with an elusive script to add mystery. In the case of our newest ones, the pages are embossed with readable messages. The first new set is a Cosmos Series and shown here is the first.Other little books that go with this one say Moon, Star, Sun, Venus, Comets.
Robin and I are continuing our progression of the bentwoods, only now the surfaces are partially or completely clad with copper. The contrast of the metal surface with the painted crackled wood surface is very pleasing. This set also includes stainless steel chain, enamel on copper and hammered brass square rods with chemical patina
Many years ago, I began making bentwood frames for sculpture. The process involves making a framework over which a specialty laminated wood can be bent over the frame, clamped together and left overnight for the glue to cure. Shown here are a couple of the bentwood sculptures I did in the past.
More recently we’ve made some bentwood sculptures like these:
With the sad news of the flooding in Houston, I’m reminded of the wonderful Texas patrons we have. Though we’ve never done a show in Houston, we’ve done several shows in Austin and the Dallas-Fort Worth area several times with my work, Robin’s and our collaborative work. Some of my most loyal patrons are from Austin, Richardson and the Fort Worth area.
Just this spring at the Northern VA Fine Art Festival in Reston, a couple walked into our booth and with a surprised look on their faces, inquired if we’d done the Fort Worth Art Fair 15 years ago. They recognized my surfaces, and coincidentally we have now returned to the boat shape, something we worked on many years ago. They told us how much they’ve enjoyed the sculpture they purchased then and informed us of their “canoes” voyage from Texas to St. Louis, Mo and then on to Reston, VA.
This is the sculpture they purchased in Texas, and much to our joy, they purchased a little gondola with calla lilies and a copper base on that spring day this year in Reston.
“Serenity” is finished and she turned out beautifully. She’s one of our new cargo vessels. The Cargo Vessel Series carry something symbolic on their deck–a gift, a boon a treasure in the form of a nest or flowers. “Serenity” has a recessed deck carved to simulate gentle ripples on the surface of the water. She has hand-painted clay flowers on a hull of carved basswood with a crackled and painted finish. The open flower has silver wire stamens and the boat rests on a walnut base.
While the symbolism of the water-lily varies from one culture to another, it is interesting to note that the scientific name for them is Nymphaea, from the Greek word for nymph referring to the feminine spirit inhabiting bodies of water. In this sculpture I’ve chosen the water-lily to represent the importance of nature on our journey. For me personally, it is also representative of my teenage daughter, the would-be marine biologist, whose life was lost in the water, during the bloom of the water-lilies.
We are also showing the first two sculptures from a concept by Robin, called “The Life Boat Series”. These boats will all have a box, sometimes hidden in the hull and others carrying it on the deck. The box is for the interment of a loved one’s ashes or mementos of a life. Shown here is “Reflections” which carries a hand-hammered and patinaed copper box with a clay scarab, symbol of eternity. This box may hold a portion of one’s ashes or wedding rings or other mementos.
“Voyager” has a hammered copper clad deck and a large hidden box within the hull. Resting on the lid, is a copper nest, home to a single golden rose, symbol of love. These sculptures and more will be exhibited in our booth Nov 10-13 at the Phil Convention Center, in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Fine Craft Show.