There are challenges and opportunities throughout one’s life. Let us rise to them...
I was commissioned by a thoughtful parent to create a desktop sculpture for her 12-year-old son whose beloved pet had recently died.
The sentiment I wished to convey via this sculpture is that we can and do emerge anew as we continue on life’s journey. Death, transformation, and rebirth are a natural and normal part of life.
This sculpture is not intended for him only as a young person — I hope 'Phoenix (Rising)' holds a message which proves valuable to him from this day forward.
I began this project by making sketches which evoked the emotional tenor I wanted to convey. From a sketch, I made a clay form to determine the elements’ shapes and sizes. With a clay model at hand, I was now ready to fire up the forge and light my oxy-fuel torch...
'Phoenix (Rising)' was created from mild steel using forged and tack-and-bend techniques and measures 5.5” tall x 4.75” wide x 2.5” deep.
Sinuosa was inspired by flowing rock formations in Salta, a northwest province in Argentina which I visited in 2018.
Visually interesting from afar, the tall and slender abstract form invites viewers to approach closer and examine traditional joinery techniques and forged details.
Sinuosa is a human-scale sculpture designed to complement its outdoor surroundings and leave viewers refreshed.
Sinuosa was made at the 3rd International Forging 2020 event on February 27-March 1, 2020, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where an international group of blacksmiths shared artisanal skills and taught trade skills free-of-charge.
After my team completed Sinuosa on the final day of the event, the sculpture was given as a gift of public art to the city as a thank you for hosting the event.
The pedestal was designed and built the weekend before the event. The pedestal perfectly complements the sculpture without overpowering it.
Sinuosa is a physical realization of collaborative efforts amongst artist-blacksmiths!
A gift of outdoor sculpture for the city…
I'm honored to have been asked by the event organizers to design a public art sculpture.
Until its final outdoor placement is determined, Sinuosa resides at the Luis Perlotti Museum in Buenos Aires.
The sculpture's vertical orientation needs only a minimal footprint in a dense urban city such as Buenos Aires.
I like to imagine Sinuosa's suitable surroundings might be...
I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to design Sinuosa and lead the team to build it. A huge thank you to Team Sinuosa!: Katherine Ackerman, Eben Finer, Claudia Alvarez, Kurt Rempel, Hernan Onnainty, Peter Sevin, and John Crouchet.
Mil gracias to the event organizers: Fabian Rossi, Jerry Coe, Carlos Real, Alejo Kerwitz, and Dario Klehr. And a shout-out to Forjadores Argentinos for documenting the event and connecting blacksmiths around the world.
Many thanks to Fabian and his delightful wife, Cristina, for hosting me in their home, and for Fabian and Alejo’s assistance constructing the pedestal.
John, look how much one can accomplish between breaks!
The sculpture itself is about 5 feet tall (about 1.5 meters) x 15" wide x 6" deep. Sinuosa atop its pedestal is about 7.5 feet tall. (The pedestal measures approximately 30" tall x 20" wide x 20" deep and is made from 3/4"-thick steel plate and 8"-wide x 5/8"-thick flat bar.)
Construction details, half-lap design, and joinery method...
Sinuosa was designed to be forged without power tools, as none would be available on-site at the event.
The sculpture is comprised of 5 pieces of overlapping (i.e. half-lap) steel plate joined together with rivets.
The sculpture's profile reveals a gentle curve which evokes movement.
Simple butchering tools and a sledge hammer were the main tools employed. (A butcher is used to create a clean shoulder so that metal is not removed, but moved down and over…). A torch was used in lieu of a forge, as spot heating was the most efficient way to butcher while not distorting the straight lines we were establishing.
The visually uncluttered form belies the details required to achieve the simple, streamlined look:
And for those interested in even more construction details…
Design and maintenance considerations…
Sinuosa was designed to meet generally accepted public art guidelines for safety, durability, and minimal routine maintenance.
The finished sculpture was sealed with multiple coats of clear lacquer, allowing the beauty of the hand-forged texture to show through. Periodically, just like a painted object, the sculpture will need a fresh coat of lacquer applied to it.
If/when the sculpture rusts, it can be easily cleaned with a wire brush to remove the rust, then painted with clear lacquer to restore the sculpture to its original and pristine condition.
‘Instruments of Pleasure’ was made in response to a ‘call for entries’ for an exhibit titled Food: Friend or Foe. The exhibit was promoted as “featuring work that examines the complex relationship that we have with food — whether it be a personal examination of food and our bodies, or one with a more political focus such as food production and distribution.”
I created an oversized knife, fork, and spoon, and titled it ‘Instruments of Pleasure.’
Although the title is somewhat edgy, I suppose the actual artwork wasn’t sufficiently angst-ridden or controversial enough for the exhibit. I received a rejection e-mail and moved on with life…
‘Instruments of Pleasure’ now hangs in the dining room of a private collector in Austin, TX (which, as most folks know, is one of the most exciting cities in America!).
The sculpture attaches to the wall via a tubing-and-nesting technique, making the sculpture appear to ‘float’ off of the wall. (A note to installers: The handles of each of the utensils have each been marked on the bottom side of their lower tubing sleeves with either an F (fork), K (knife), or S (spoon) to facilitate matching each handle with its appropriate utensil.)
‘Instruments of Pleasure’ is made from hand-hammered 16-gauge sheet steel and torch-welded 1/4” round rod. Installed, the piece measures approximately 60” tall x 40” wide x 4” deep.
I’m pleased to have been asked to design and build a sculpture and lead the international team to build it at International Forging 2020 in Argentina. Taking place in the city of Buenos Aires, fellow blacksmiths and I will share the skills of restoration and preservation.
We will have blacksmiths/teachers in our group from US, Canada, Russia, Spain, Chile, and Ukraine—this has has become a true international conference. Our goal is to share our knowledge freely, and everyone is welcome.
According to Jerry Coe, a Berkeley, CA-based blacksmith and organizer of the event, “During the past two events in Buenos Aires, we have trained 150 blacksmiths and awakened the trade skills that have been lost in the area. This has brought the attention of Argentina’s national education program and gained recognition from the Ministry of Culture about preservation and restoration of Buenos Aires historic architecture and national museums. We have gained support from Buenos Aires’ US Embassy.
In preparation for the 2020 event, we are organizing into teams to approach the teaching of our craft in a thorough manner. We expect 200 students to attend. Many of the students will be professionals and have small businesses of their own.
Along with classes in tool making and traditional artistic smithing, we will have a class discussing design, bidding, and presentation and the class will delve into determining economic rent/shop overhead. We will also have a forum to discuss ecological approaches to blacksmithing and creating sustainable environmentally friendly products."
This event began in 2016 and has occurred every 2 years since that time.
Forjadores Argentinos is a group that was formed after the inaugural event in 2016. This Facebook group serves to keep the Argentinians connected and to share projects, meeting announcements, and foster connectivity and collaboration.
Sometimes I make small favors. Valentine’s Day featured candy hearts. Guests at my parties have found themselves asked to pick out an ice cream cone or a grasshopper from a tray…
Elegantly simple design. No wonder I made two of them!…
This steel tripod base and stone top brings a fresh look to its surroundings — whether that be a guest room or an office sitting area. Sturdy, stable, AND good looking — If only we could all be that way…
I used 3" x 1" tubing for the steel legs, and the stone is 1.25" thick.
These round side tables measure about 19” tall, with a diameter of 20”.
Stained glass in jewel tones was custom-slumped as diffusers in this front porch light.
To begin, 3/8” steel plate was bent to convex on a fly press, then the edges were upset to give depth to the steel.
Before slumping the stained glass diffusers, molds/forms of the openings needed to be made. The stained glass was then slumped into these forms, allowing for a proper glass-to-steel fit on the steel plate.
With minimal points of attachment at the wall, this fixture seemingly ‘floats’ off the wall.
Front porch light with slumped glass measures 22” tall x 9” x 6” deep.
The forged elements topping this fabricated gate make an affordable yet custom touch at this beach house.
The central forged element references a whale’s tail in a subtle nod to the house’s seaside locale.
Whale Tail gate measures 48” tall x 32” wide x 2” deep.
Wind Totem is a sculpture in my Flow sculpture series which explores movement caused by wind or water.
Wind Totem is homage to an invisible force known only by its residual impact.
The forged steel form is brazed with copper highlights and situated atop an an ash pedestal. Overall dimensions are 69" tall x 27" wide x 14" deep.
If installed outdoors, Wind Totem can be mounted directly in the ground, such as in a meditation garden or perched atop a rocky mount...
I recently celebrated a milestone birthday and gifted a sculpture to the world...
Walking Stick was first exhibited at the 2018 ABANA Conference Gallery in Richmond, VA.
This 16-piece forged steel sculpture features pin-and-wedge joinery, allowing for easy breakdown/transport/reinstallation.
'Walking Stick' was sealed with a clear lacquer finish. Final dimensions are 37” tall x 17” wide x 10” deep.
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