As part of my sculpting efforts, I recently completed this piece, which was was inspired by, and honors the work of, Jesus Bautista Moroles. There were several “execution challenges” throughout the process, but in the end, I was pleased with the result. This is I/VII of a limited edition series.
For about the past year, I have been on a creative quest to expand my art furniture design efforts. In particular, I have been engaged in sculpture work. Mobius><Terminus is a piece that was recently completed for exhibition at the Saint Paul American Craft Council Show.
The piece was inspired by a mobius strip, which is defined as a surface with only one side (when embedded in three-dimensional Euclidean space) and only one boundary. The Mobius strip has the mathematical property of be unorientable. The Möbius strip has several curious properties. Perhaps the most obvious one is that a line drawn starting from the seam down the middle meets back at the seam, but at the other side. If continued, the line meets the starting point, and is double the length of the original strip. This single continuous curve demonstrates that the Möbius strip has only one boundary.
In the case of Mobius><Terminus, a case could be made for two surfaces, rather than one. The viewer will note that there is a flat “edge,” and an edge with a radius. Then too, while Mobius><Terminus was inspired by a mobius strip, it cannot be authentic as such, for it has two terminal points. Where the viewer able to “pull” the two terminal ends together, then a case could be made for being a mobius strip.
The piece began as a beautiful plank of American cherry, the dimensions of which were 120” L x 10”W x 3”D. I then cut the piece into 6 equal pieces, each 20”L x 10”W x 3”D. Next, I planed and jointed all the pieces to be flat and square, then glued them into a single block of lumber: 20”L x 20”H x 9”D.
For a number of years, “live edge” furniture has been very popular for some in the furniture-loving world. From my perspective, the term “live edge” usually refers to one of two design ideas: 1) the bark for a given piece (table, bench, etc) is completely left to be in its natural state. This style usual results in a fairly “rustic” or “cabin-like” quality. 2) The other design is a result of removing all the bark, but leaving the natural edge of the tree surface intact. This too, can be rustic in appearance, but more often, such pieces are finished beautifully as table tops.
My approach to “live edge” is somewhat different. I remove some of the bark (but not all), which exposes the internal structure of the bark. The result is what some furniture builders term “stacked coins” or “a handful of pennies.” I do not build many live edge pieces, but I am happy to say that clients seem to like this hybrid approach to the idea of “live edge.”
Below is a series of images of a bench, employing this process.
PS - One can see an earlier post of a live edge piece that I finished below, titled, “Joyce’s Counsel Table.”
One of my best clients recently inquired if I would be willing to design and build a frame, upon which would be mounted a metal cut that he had acquired. We talked about the “look” that he wanted (somewhat industrial - to compliment the “steeliness” of the metal cut), the size, and of course, the finish.
After some thought, I suggested that we use “toasted” maple burl, with an ebonized edge and background, finished in tung oil.
I am happy to say that he loved it!
Thirty years ago, I built a shop bench, made mostly from re-purposed material. However, the time had come to “decommission” the old reliable. What I did not expect was the sense of loss that came when I began to dismantle it – almost like when a close friend moves away.
I built hundreds of pieces upon the old bench – dollhouses, beds, tables, frames, benches, contemporary art pieces, specialty pieces for homes and churches, scores of cutting boards, and Christmas gifts (always in secret).
The new bench is quite different. It is made of cherry (28 x 84 x 3) and finished in oil (Tried and True linseed/natural Watco mix), with ebonized cherry drawer pulls and a Lie-Nielsen chain drive vise.
Here is to the next thirty years!
One of the joys in life is when unexpected options present themselves. Some would call this "good luck," but I am not sure that such a thing as good luck actually exists. If so, I would say that good luck is really the intersection of preparation and opportunity. Such has been the case for me during the past several years in the area of church furniture. I find this to be highly rewarding, in that the designs for such work are based upon very personal, yet communal and theological roots.
A forthcoming project involves an Advent Wreath for a Wisconsin church. The design is rather simple, yet very fluid, with a great amount of visual movement. The project is set to commence during the summer, and to be completed in time for the Advent Season.
I am happy to say that I finished and delivered the Advent Candelabrum in time for the Advent Season. The pastors were very happy, as was the congregation! :)
Below are some process photos.
I am happy to report the completion of the Gingko II leaf. Something about this "second edition" has energized me to expand my designing efforts increasingly to include sculpture. Several ideas are "on the bench!"
As I have continued to explore the world of wood/furniture sculpting, I decided to design a second ginkgo leaf (in cherry), but with a bit more visual "movement." This one is not quite as broad as the first, and and "leans" slightly to the right (note more curl on the left side of the leaf toward the right). Then too, the leaf "ripples" or "waves" are more prominent to the right side. I chose a single plank of cherry for this piece, which has some lovely flecking contrasts. While there are folks do not care for flecking, I think it adds great beauty and character.
Many ginkgo leaves - both in nature and in art - are quite broad. Some, however, have a more oval or round shape, as is the case with Gingko II.
These photos show the piece shaped and sanded to #100 grit. The sanding will continue through grits #120, #150, #180, #220, #400, #800, #1200, #1500, and #2000. This will be followed by 9-12 coats of tung oil. Finally, the leaf will be mounted upon a background of ebonized poplar.
More to come . . .
Last summer, our family celebrated my wife's retirement and 40+ years of marriage on a river cruise in Europe. While there, we saw many wonderful pieces of art. One of them inspired this piece, a sculpture titled, "Breathe." It was sculpted from a block of 8/4 laminated cherry. Once the final shape was established, I sanded the piece through eleven grits (60, 80, 100, 120, 150, 220, 400, 800, 1200, 1500, 2000), and finished it with nine coats of tung oil.
Every artist (and indeed, all business people) will tell you that is is a great joy to have "repeat customers." :) In the world of artists, such folks also provide opportunities to talk about "things that matter."
What is that about? Most art lovers (music, visual arts, theatre, etc.) will agree that "art imitates, or symbolizes, how life 'feels.'" So when an artist is given an opportunity to create a piece for a client, the conversation tends to include rich symbolic and "feelingful" language - language, which shapes the design of the piece.
Such was the case when I was given a second opportunity to build a piece for Joyce and John (although it was inspired by Joyce!). Joyce and John had visited me (as they always do) at the American Craft Council Show in Saint Paul. One of the pieces in my booth was a "live edge" bench in black walnut, which drew Joyce's interest. She was not looking for a bench, per se, but like the manner in which I had prepared the "live edge" element.
Joyce desired to have a Counsel Table in the back entryway to their home. The primary element was to be a walnut live edge top, with a drawer and a shelf. She wanted it to be bold, rich, elegant, inviting, conversational, and not strictly utilitarian. I shopped for an appropriate-sized piece for the top, and then let it stand in my shop for many months, before I could begin the piece in earnest.
My approach to live edge work is somewhat different than most. A great amount of live edge work tends to be either 1) either the raw edge of the lumber after the bark has been removed, or 2) with all the bark left on the piece. Both are useful and appealing ways to present live edge pieces. I am not trying to be critical here. However, my furniture portfolio does not really fall into either visual category. So, my approach is to make live edge pieces, which can also find a home in the category of "fine furniture." The design style here is sometimes referred to as "stacked coins" or "a hand full of pennies." As bark, it is quite smooth, and exposes a lovely internal structure that would otherwise remain hidden.
I delivered the piece one week ago; I am happy to report that it is already loved - thank you, Joyce!