‘Interwoven’ is sited amongst prickly pear cactus, granite boulders festooned with lichen, and Texas persimmon trees. Seasonal elements include wildflowers, native grasses, and a meandering waterway which fills when the spring rains come to Central Texas and runs dry when the rains cease.
A small clearing between prickly pear and boulders was handpicked as a sculpture site. ‘Interwoven’ was designed for this specific site for a Hill Country private collector.
Perhaps the copper-brazed pod is ripe, ready to burst forth with seeds to scatter in the wind — or has it withered with nothing more to offer while remaining resolutely in place? The larger pod appears to have already bloomed, revealing lacy skeletal ribbing as its final legacy.
‘Interwoven’ is a nod to the interconnectedness and cycle of life in the natural world.
The sculpture was designed to complement its surroundings and not necessarily be the primary focus; rather, the sculpture blends into its picturesque environs which change with the Texas seasons. To that end, ‘Interwoven’ is an acknowledgement of working with natural patterns and rhythms and not overpowering them.
I wish to thank my SCR benefactors! 'Interwoven’ was made possible by an SCR Grant in support of my Hill Country Artist-in-Residence program.
This kinetic sculpture measures 60" tall x 42" wide x 3” deep. Steel of various dimensions; steel sheet with copper brazing; brass rivets; stainless steel, copper-coated, and brass welding rods.
Other site-specific sculptures to date created by Laura Armstrong Studio include ‘Walking Stick,’ ‘Sinuosa,’ and ‘Swivel-Stack Totem’ in Colorado, Argentina, and Texas, respectively.
This sign is so rockin’, the party starts before the boat leaves the dock.
When I explain that the City of Austin requires all boat docks within a certain jurisdiction have address signage, I can see your eyes start to glaze over.
So let’s get straight to the pictures and forget about all the legal requirements per Austin City Council Resolution No. 20130829-078.
Surf’s up, let’s catch a wave instead…
A cozy bunk house needed a functional place for guests to wash up.
A sink stand and backsplash were designed with this compact sink from IKEA in mind.
The jaunty oilcloth, held in place with magnets, hides unsightly plumbing bits and an in-line water heater. The marmalade kitty is a bunk house bonus for lucky guests...
The backsplash is made from vertically oriented steel strap in varying widths and is affixed to the wall using a French cleat concept; the sink stand is made from tubing; all the steel elements were sealed with clear lacquer. The installation measures 54”” tall x 25” wide x 13” deep.
Intended as accessible public sculpture, Swivel-Stack Totem is located on private property within an arm's reach of the street, allowing visual and tactile access to passersby.
This steel-and-plexiglass sculpture was designed specifically for its current outdoor environs using recycled and common materials such as drill pipe, steel strap, and common hardware.
A central pole is the vertical axis onto which the modular elements can be sleeved and arranged in any position around the pole.
The inner and outer frames were bent by hand into a variety of sizes using an adjustable jig to achieve the desired shapes.
Colored plexiglass ‘canvases' serve as pops of color in the inner frames.
The modularity of this sculpture allows for interchangeable canvases. The color schemes of the plexiglass can be played around with. Or, the canvases can be changed to a completely different medium: think fiber weavings, stained glass, or perhaps a mosaic of hummingbird tongues and bat wings…
Swivel-Stack Totem is nestled between two Pride of Barbados plantings and is intended to complement their showy orange blooms.
This outdoor sculpture is a nod to the concept of public art on private land. And unlike a city-sanctioned public art project, the permitting and installation of this sculpture was a breeze!
Swivel-Stack Totem measures 8 ft. tall x 3 ft. maximum width. Drill pipe, 1” x 3/16” steel strap, socket head cap screws, socket set screws, and plexiglass.
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.
This tabletop sculpture was commissioned as a gift for a spouse. 'Loon Family' combines the fondness that this couple has for loons while paying homage to their family of three: daddy loon, mama loon, and baby loon (also known as a loonlet).
Forged steel bar, sealed with clear lacquer, measures 8” tall x 20” wide x 9”deep.
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…
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