Sunday, May 25, 2008

The fun never stops

This has been a long exhausting week...but the fun never stopped. Meg and I are having to work straight thru this weekend to meet our deadlines.

On an upbeat note! - Meg's $53,000.00 commission for the Home of the Innocents memorial is featured on the FRONT PAGE of the May 27th edition of Louisville's Courier-Journal newspaper. It was also picked up by USATODAY may 27th edition! There are 3 pictures in the photo gallery that shows Meg working on the sculptures (and they mention my name in the text of the article, too.) Check it out
These are the tools that I've been using all week. On the left is a 1" dallet style air hammer from Trow & Holden. It drives a variety of chisels with a 1/2" round shank that fit into the end of the hammer. The top chisel is a tempered steel piece with a slightly rounded end - it's an old, old chisel that is a hand-me-down from another stone sculptor Don Lanham (deceased). The middle chisel is an Italian made carbide-tipped 3 tooth chisel. The bottom chisel is a flat carbide-tipped machine chisel from Trow & Holden.
I use the tempered steel chisel to form the shapes. You can see the wide marks that it leaves in the middle form and the inside of the leaf. I then take the toothed chisel and make spiraling lines around the shapes. This effect accentuates the curving movements of the intertwining forms. The flat chisel is used to clean up around the edges, such as the slightly diagonal line at the left of this photo.This is what the front side looked like at the end of work on Saturday.This is side B at the end of this weeks work.
"Too much fun" is what Meg is having. In the last 2 weeks, she had a serious rush getting her proposal together and then flying out to Colorado to give the presentation. Now, she has had to 'hit the ground running' to finish her sculpture for the Yew Dell Gardens Outdoor Sculpture Show. She and I are honorary co-chairmen for the show. Here, she has matters well in hand as she loads the stone that will become a base for her 3/4 life-size male dancer.
This is a photo of the invitation for the show. My 7 foot tall, 7,000 lb. mechanical hand is featured on the invitation and poster for the show. We will deliver and install our pieces this Friday.
The blue-grey Granite base for the Green Bay commission arrived this week. Meg is multi-tasking at this point; she snapped this shot while operating the crane at the same time. I will have to stop work on the Washington commission until I have completed the Yew Dell installation and put the final touches on the Green Bay piece.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Blackberry Winter

This week was the 'last blast' for winter. As there is a reoccurring cold snap that coincides with the Blackberry blooms, the 'old timers' have given it a name - Blackberry Winter.

One of the most exciting events of this week was the newspaper article that covers the commissioning of my stone sculpture for Ft. Nugent Park near Oak Harbor, Washington. You can read the on-line version at
The large amounts of waste stone have already been removed. This week's effort focused on blocking in the organic forms that are bursting forth from the seed shell. The 1st half of the week involved using a 4 inch electric grinder with a 4 inch diameter blade to roughly form the main shapes. This is the front side after Monday's effort.
This is what the back side looked like on Tuesday morning.
The first task was to lay out where the organic shapes will be carved. I use a wax china marker to draw the design onto the stone.
This is how the back side looked at the end of Wednesday. There's a little bit of 'roughing in' to do on the bottom forms, but basically the 'fun' part is about finished. So much for the Ecstasy, now comes the Agony.
I had to move the piece into the studio because of rain on Thursday. At this point, I have to switch tools. I'm using an air hammer to define the shapes of the organic forms. That small, unassuming tool is basically a small jack hammer that drives various shaped chisels that fit into its end. Don't let its small size fool you - it's powerful (and brutal on the user). After a full day of air hammer work, you'll sleep like a baby. After two days in a row of air hammer work, you'll get what we call 'the 3rd day blues'.
This is how the front side looked after Friday's effort.
This is the back side at the end of Saturday. All of the major shapes have been blocked in. Now comes the long slow process of refining and then finishing.
Sunday afternoon (about 2 hours ago), I dropped Meg off at the airport where she is flying out to Aurora (Denver) Colorado to give a public art sculpture presentation. She is one of four finalist for a $55,000.00 commission for a nature preserve. She will spend a couple of days in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, her favorite place. It kills my soul that I'm stuck at home and having to work while she's jetting off to a fun destination. O well, my turn is coming!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunshine Daydream!

This spring has been spectacular! The weather this week was perfect and the Locust blossoms filled the air with a wonderful fragrance. There are only 3 types of weather in Kentucky: too hot to work, too cold to work or too nice to work.

Nevertheless, work proceeds on the Washington commission at a brisk pace. Last week, the general outline around the sides was formed. This week will focus on blocking out the general shape from front to back.
This is the view of the north face as I began the week's work.
I've preformed the protective seed shell on the south face of the sculpture.
The procedure was repeated on the opposite side.
What is now the front side of the sculpture, was cut flat in the quarry as part of the mining process. I use the flat side to lay out the curves and forms of the design. By using a square, I get an accurate placement of the curves of the median line for the 3 shell pieces. I'm making the radius of the top piece correct at this point.
I begin to carve weight off the top.
This is the view of the south face as I continue to remove stone.
This is the view from the other direction. I have preformed some of the shapes on the front face, as well.
This is what the sculpture looked like at the end of work, late Saturday. The sculpture has its general preform. It probably weighs about 7,000 lbs, down from the original weight of 13,000 lbs. Next week, I will focus on forming the interior plant shapes.
The highlight of the week for me was the trip to the Victor Oolitic stone quarry on Wednesday. This is where the stone for the Washington commission originally came from.

The main purpose of the trip was to get the 3 bottom blocks of select grade cut stone that will be the bases for Meg's LSU fountain group. Of course, like a kid in a candy store, I had to get something for myself. The square block that I have my hand on, will be part of a base for the next project titled "Nexus". I rounded out the load with 8,000 lbs of variegated slabs (not shown here).

Meg has what she calls a "Daydream". She found and photographed a small flowering plant that has 2 state biologist stumped. She has the hope that she has discovered a new species. She will post pictures of it on her blog later this week. Be sure to check it out. I hope her dream comes true!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Derby Week

The first Saturday in May is always a big deal in Kentucky. My own Derby activities were a little off beat, as you can see at the end of this post. But, business first! I have begun a new project that is entitled "Release" which is an earthworks and Indiana Limestone sculpture that will be installed in Ft. Nugent Park near Oak Harbor, Washington. This is the block of Indiana Limestone that will be carved into the form of a new plant as it is released from its protective seed shell. It weighs 13,000 lbs and measures approximately 7 foot long by 4 foot wide by 2 - 1/2 foot thick.
The first task was to lay out the outside dimensions onto the stone to determine how the design will fit into the block.
I determined where the bottom will be and incised the line with a diamond blade. The first task is to remove the material to the left of that line, which I don't need.
I used this big drill to make deep holes that are about 8 inches apart.
I placed metal "feathers and wedges" into the holes. By beating in the wedges with the hammer, it places pressure on the half-round "feathers" which directs pressure in opposite directions. As you hammer the wedges, they 'tune up' with an ever higher pitch as the pressure increases.
Stone has no elasticity - it won't bend, it will break. As the pressure increases, something has to give. A crack will form where there is a path of least resistance; in this case, the line of deep holes that I drilled.
I used our crane truck to move the one ton piece of scrap out of the way so that I can make the bottom flat. That piece of scrap will become another sculpture someday (maybe more than one).
I used the diamond wheel on the grinder (shown above) to make cuts along what will be the bottom of the sculpture. I cut a bit and then break off the pieces, so that I can cut a little bit more. I use a level to check my progress, so that the bottom will be true and flat.
Our crane truck can only pick up 4,000 pounds. The block still weighs around 11,000 lbs. at this point, so I hired a monorail truck owned by Breck County Ready Mix to move the block over to the studio.
After lowering the block to the ground, I re-tied the rigging so that the block could be stood up on its bottom end.
The block was then lifted onto my 'cart and rail' system. This heavy duty rail cart will allow me to roll the piece into the studio during rain or the coming hot weather.
I drew the design onto the flat surface of the block by gridding the drawing and gridding the stone. The drawing was sized and printed off from a computer so that it measured 5 inches high by 4 inches wide. The stone measures 5 foot high by 4 foot wide, so that gives me a 12 to 1 scale (1 inch on the drawing equals 1 foot on the stone). I incised the lines so that they wouldn't wipe off as I began carving.
I've begun the process of carving by cutting away the stone outside the outline of the design. I make parallel cuts with the diamond wheeled saw and break them off with the hammer and chisel.
By the end of the 1st week, I have removed most of the waste stone around the outline of the design.
On Derby Day, Meg and I found a mother possum that was hit on the road between our house and our studio. It had 8 babies that were still alive and clinging to her. We took them to Woodland Wildlife Rehabilitators in Radcliff, Kentucky, which is mainly the round-the-clock effort of Monika and John Wilcox who feed and clean up after an endless stream of distressed wildlife. They currently have 900 creatures that they are rehabilitating. I encourage anyone to make a donation to them, as they work so hard on a shoe-string budget. Their address is Woodland Wildlife Rehabilitators, 297 N. woodland Dr. Radcliff, KY 40160 (270) 351-3509. I don't think that they have e-mail or a website. If anyone finds out differently, I will post it.