Day 19: first critique

It’s Friday June 21, Day 19 of the 2013 ITE, and we’ve all been hacking away in the workshop all week. Late in the afternoon we agree to down tools, show our work to one another, and try our first group discussion. Nobody is looking for a slashing critique, at the same time we would each like to explain what we are trying to do, in exchange for some affirmation and some helpful commentary.

Each of us five approaches the work in our own way, building on our training, experience, and past decisions about how we want to work. As this is our first critique, I’ll spend a few words explaining more.

Malcolm’s background is sculpture and design, while Gaynor’s is textile art. Back home in England, the band saw is their only machine, and they’ve resolved to base their work on direct hand-carving techniques, at which they are both highly proficient. They’re interested in form and texture, not so much in wood figure and color,  though the blockiness and recalcitrance of wood certainly contributes much to their aesthetic.

Ben and Neil are both turners and power carvers. Neil has made some large pieces, but he is known for highly embellished work that he does with a high-speed flex-shaft machine and tiny little carving burrs. Ben lives in the realm of the large, he carves with chain saw and angle grinder. It would be interesting to see who can remove wood the fastest, powered Ben with rotary tools or wiry Malcolm flailing with mallet and gouge.

Although I have done chain-saw carving and large-scale turning in my past, I’m focusing on precision turning and on my cabinetmaking skills to make gizmos that work smoothly and accurately. A hundredth of an inch makes a significant difference in whether a turned pin fits or not, a single plane shaving makes a movable joint hold its position or flop loosely.

Working together, Malcolm and Gaynor already have produced a lot of pieces. They are professional artisans who work very efficiently, even as they explore new techniques and respond to the concepts of  "turning" and "vessel." It helps that they skipped Echo Lake, gaining four studio days on the rest of us.

Working together, Malcolm and Gaynor already have produced a lot of pieces ranging from  quite small to large. They are professional artisans who work very efficiently, even as they explore new techniques and respond to the ITE concepts of “turning” and “vessel.” It helps that they skipped Echo Lake, gaining four studio days on the rest of us.

Malcolm is pleased with the texture he has carved into this oak plank. He intends to continue it by carving a second set of lines, up and down the bottle form.

Malcolm is pleased with the texture he has carved into this oak plank. He intends to continue it by carving a second set of lines, up and down the bottle form.

Neil intends to carve into the openings so a second bottle form appears inside the form. It will be a lot of work. We discuss alternatives, such as cutting the bottle in half to make this intricate carving easier and quicker.

Neil intends to carve into the openings so a second bottle form appears inside. It will be a lot of finicky work, on a piece that already has consumed many hours. We discuss alternatives, such as cutting the bottle in half to make this tedious carving easier and quicker.

Ben likes to sketch directly in the wood. He's trying to lighten the mass without reducing its volume. He makes the wood look like sea foam. One piece is spalted sycamore, the other is osage orange.

Ben likes to sketch directly in the wood with his high-powered carving tools. He’s trying to lighten the mass without reducing its volume. He makes the wood look like sea foam. One piece is spalted sycamore, the other is osage orange.

Ben tries stacking one sculpture on another, looking for a way to display the osage piece.

Ben tries stacking one sculpture on another, looking for a way to display the osage piece.

Ben's foamy forms nestle nicely together. He had not seen this possibility before our discussion.

Ben’s foamy forms nestle nicely together. Their shapes are entirely complementary. He had not seen this possibility before our critique, nor had he considered the possibility that the surface doesn’t need to be more refined.

John's gizmos make strange drawings and it is quite difficult to produce a clean line.

John has been working all week with a four-bar linkage that can produce a drawing. Each part in the construction needs to be very precisely made and neatly finished. Even so it is difficult to produce a clean line and the experiments continue.

John's gizmo made this drawing.

John’s four-bar gizmo, based on a 3-4-5 right triangle, made this drawing. It’s the best gizmo drawing so far but the new mechanism promises to do better. 

Ben tries John's four-bar linkage, finding that it rotates easily and assumes some surprising positions.

Ben tries John’s four-bar linkage, finding that it rotates easily and assumes some surprising configurations.

John demonstrates the movable joints in his piece, titled Uncle Albert.

John demonstrates the multi-axis movable joints in his piece, titled Uncle Albert, made after the Echo Lake experience documented earlier in this blog. 

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