My Sculpture Weblog: Sharps #2

Welcome to the second installment in what I’m calling the “Sharps” sequence. Just like the title implies, this work (titled Sharps #2) has seven razor sharp sculptural blade types round its circumference. It additionally incorporates quite a lot of parts instantly impressed by the knife making neighborhood. 

In an earlier submit, I detailed the origins of my exploration into the fringes of knife making, how I’m curious what may be discovered from a craft with a wealthy historical past of mixing previous and new know-how, so I’ll refer there for extra background. 

On the left is Sharps #2, On the fitting is the Sculptural Knife Vase (now known as Sharps #1)

It’s onerous to speak about this piece aside from the Sculptural Knife Vase that got here earlier than it. This sculpture is meant as a form of distinction to the vase because it shares lots of the identical parts, but eschews it is utility in favor of being an object freed from context clues or perform. 

The thesis for the vase piece was as a conceptual bridge between my vocation as a machinist and a number of the different industrial craft traditions I look to for inspiration. This second, extra sculptural piece, represents one potential vacation spot that metaphorical bridge was meant to succeed in.

Aesthetically, “Sharps #2” departs from the Vase in quite a lot of vital methods. For starters, fairly than being free standing, this work was meant to hold vertically from both a ceiling or another floor above the viewer. This provides it a really totally different really feel and helps distinguish it from the compact nature of a vessel or another utilitarian object. That it hangs from above additionally helps to tug it again, if solely slightly, from being instantly interpreted as a weapon or another type of putting object. Whereas I don’t thoughts the comparability (as it’s apt) I needed to current this work as a standard artwork object in a means that one may acknowledge. I attempt to keep away from utilizing the “artwork on a stick” motif as a lot as I can, however I acknowledge that it’s a sculptural format that folks will unknowingly settle for, so it has been strategically employed right here. 

One other level of distinction is the wooden parts which might be the jewels of this sculpture. The picket types, intermittently positioned between the chilly sharp metal blades, are comfortable and heat and distinction fantastically. They actually make this piece a step ahead fairly than simply an iteration on its predecessor.

 Utilizing pure supplies has all the time hung at the back of my thoughts, and within the context of knife making, it’s a very logical step to take. It’s one thing which I really feel I can simply carry ahead and discover new inventive floor.

Even with all the variations I identified above, I believe it’s clear that the 2 works (the vase and this sculpture) are fairly related objects general. That they share the very same blade design and association ought to make it clear that they got here from the identical drafting desk. So then one could ask, why make one a useful object that could be taken for an occasion of craft, and the opposite a non-functional piece that could be taken for an occasion of fantastic artwork. And why wrap the entire thing in an experiment on knife making?

For starters, why not? 

But additionally, as a result of whereas I’m usually accepting of various interpretations of the issues that I make, the query of “is my work fantastic artwork or craft?” is one which arises with a good quantity of regularity. And whereas I attempt to stay as open minded as attainable, I really feel that this distinction between craft and artwork retains many manufacturers on the fence in relation to experimenting with extra freeform sorts of creating.

Most conversations I’ve had about “what’s artwork” are likely to heart on creative intent and the context by which the work is positioned. These are issues that may be very tough to know and are sometimes exterior of an artist’s management anyway. You do not all the time get to decide on your viewers (or the place the work is seen) and might hardly management what the viewer is aware of about you or your intent. In order that these are a number of the primary standards for “what’s artwork” is very problematic, and it makes the entire “craft versus fantastic artwork” dialog a unusually cussed one to place to relaxation. 

It is a simplification after all, however as a theme, I believe there’s room to be intellectually playful with the concept that there ought to be any distinction in any respect between craft, fantastic artwork, and different sorts of design. To place it one other means, these distinctions could also be helpful to collectors, curators, and artwork lovers (the viewers), however they only aren’t that helpful to individuals who truly make stuff.

Surprisingly this dynamic additionally performs out on the earth of knife making, the place utilitarian knife design (suppose helpful knives) stand alongside what are known as “fantasy” or “artwork” knives (suppose much less helpful knives). From what I perceive, there’s energetic dialogue in regards to the deserves and worth of every of those as properly. 

Making an attempt to position numerous sorts of artwork, craft, and design in neat little containers is a phenomenon that I see in lots of disciplines as individuals search to differentiate their work or collections from each other. As an artist, it may be each an enchanting and dangerous lens with which to view one’s personal work. Addressing it instantly by this challenge is a technique to perceive, and perhaps push again slightly, on a quirk of the inventive arts. 

Calling out a number of the artwork worlds educational biases and demystifying the method of constructing sculpture is the easiest way I see to encourage craftspeople and makers of all stripes to leap in and attempt to make bizarre and delightful sculptures of their very own. 

However that is only one layer on this challenge, and I can not wait to dig deeper. So keep tuned. 

Course of notes:

The blades for this piece had been made similtaneously the blades for the Sculptural Knife Vase. The tip profile is barely totally different, however there’s not an entire lot new to report course of sensible. When you learn the submit in regards to the Sculptural Knife Vase, you recognize the trials and tribulations I confronted. When you did not, right here is that hyperlink once more (critically its learn I promise) 

That stated, there was some grumbling after I posted the vase piece that I didn’t embody the compulsory proof that the knives had been certainly sharp, so please see the video above. The sides on each the vase and this sculpture are lots sharp, sufficient to shave with. I shot a video of me doing so (shaving some arm hair!!!), however it’s simply not a nice factor to see, so I went with a paper slicing demo as an alternative.

The blades are a bit thick in comparison with normal knife blades, so they do not fairly sail straight by the paper. That is just because the paper must bend to get across the 3/16” thickness of the cheek on every blade. The T slot on the Backbone is a full ¼” so the lower curves to the aspect, towards the trail of much less resistance purely as a result of the again finish of the knife is so wedge formed. That’s neat physics in itself, however this could give an thought of how completely sharp this sculpture actually is.

The wooden parts: knife making has a protracted custom of incorporating pure supplies of all types, bone, horns, and wooden to call only a few. I had all the time averted bringing wooden into my work (for too many causes to checklist), nevertheless this was the subsequent logical aspect to carry into an exploration of knife making. Now that I’ve, I discover myself questioning why I waited so lengthy. 

Whereas these could first seem to be they’re inlays, the wooden types truly stand happy with the physique of the sculpture. It is a small distinction I do know, however I needed them to have mass and presence like another aspect in my work, and the wooden grain makes each distinctive in a means that steel elements by no means might 

(I do know, Damascus! I’m being dramatic).

For the wooden itself, I chosen Amboyna burl, it’s a splendidly figured wooden and it’s fairly onerous. Amboyna has wonderful dimensional stability, which is vital to a machinist who’s accustomed to holding tolerances. Most woods generally tend to alter dimension (and form) relying on the temperature and humidity, one thing that will drive an individual like me loopy, however I truly discovered it fairly pleasing to work with and lower. 

Like most burl wooden (or wooden normally), Amboyna burls can include small voids or gaps within the grain that may interrupt an in any other case clean floor. I think a youthful me would have hated this, however embracing pure supplies additionally means inviting the wabi-sabi they embody into your work. Some knife makers will go to nice pains to restore or fill small voids within the wooden they select for knife handles, I felt no want to take action, and have fairly deliberately determined to depart them for this piece.


Turning wooden as an alternative of steel was one thing I hadn’t researched very properly, and that had its personal particular concerns. For starters, I had no clue what an acceptable feed fee and spindle pace for turning hardwood may be, particularly from a cnc machining stand level. 

I reasoned that wooden turners usually do their work by hand and simply really feel their means by it, so I assumed it will be way more forgiving than steel. So I guessed at a sooner than traditional spindle pace, and went with a slower than traditional feed fee, and all of it labored simply fantastic. This time anyway. 

I nonetheless have rather a lot to study working with pure supplies, however studying by doing is the place all of my greatest concepts come from. It’s anyones guess the place this may take me subsequent, however I’m glad I get the prospect to share this work and the remainder of my journey with all of you.

As all the time, feedback and questions are welcome.