November 13, 2011

SunDrops: another new collaboration with David Little

David Little is a fantastic blacksmith in Meredith, NH. You can see older posting on my blog about other pieces we have done together. He and I began collaborating in 2004, and almost every year since then, we have come up with new projects to create together. Some are commissions for clients, and some are for exhibitions. This summer we premiered an entirely new design concept for the Living With Crafts exhibit at the League of NH Craftsmen's Annual Fair at Sunapee, NH.

It began as a drawing I made five or six years ago, but we never actually built it. I have always liked the concept, but since it is more three dimensional than our other pieces, the sketch could not do justice to the essential forms, so we never got a client interested in commissioning this piece. This year, we took the leap of faith to build it for the LWC exhibit, and it could not have been a bigger success. David and I love the way it came out, and it opens up a whole new branch to our growing portfolio of designs. It also won two prestigious awards at Living With Crafts: Best Collaboration, and Best in Contemporary Design. There were so many amazing pieces in the exhibition, so we are honored to be selected by the jurors.

An interesting bit about how the design evolved: the original drawing was quite a bit taller and proportionally narrower, and that form is equally dramatic. But it would only be appropriate for a room with a very high ceiling. In coming up with the final drawings for LWC, it was obvious that it needed to be re-scaled to suit the exhibition hall. In doing that, we realized it could easily be scaled in many ways: wider or narrower, taller or shorter, and with shades as small as 10" diameter or as large as 18." All the variations we played with looked good! What we settled on is a fairly small rendition, which was appropriate for the space and also the Terry Moore Table over which it was going to be placed.

When we had it all built, we realized it needed a name. Originally we had been referring to it as "Tri-Icicles,"
which made more sense when it was a much taller form. But in this shorter configuration, it looked less like icicles. And when the shades were suspended from the steel and lit up, the coloration and glow was so much warmer feeling than anything having to do with ice and winter. Although it is not literally mimicking any natural floral form, it seemed reminiscent of something growing and organic. Suddenly the word "SunDrops" came to
mind, and that title resonated instantly. Now we couldn't imagine it being called anything else!

One other note about this piece. Working on two dimensional paper to draw three dimensional forms is limiting. The interplay of lines sweeping through space is entirely different depending on what angle the piece is seen from. And even if I can imagine what the lines on the paper mean when it is translated to three dimensions, it is far from an ideal way to present to a prospective client – the dynamic range of dancing shapes is confusing and ambiguous. So I am now learning how to make 3D models out of copper wire and tubing, annealing the metal so it bends sinuously, and soldering the joints. I still have to work out some tricks for how to hold the odd shaped pieces together while I solder, but the process of bending and arranging the components is fascinating. Just a simple thing like taking three arc-shaped elements and holding them together in different ways provides for infinite choices. The aesthetic and functional results are fascinating. I have no doubt that this new way of designing is going to open up a lot of new project opportunities.

March 12, 2011

The League's New Home

The League of NH Craftsmen is the oldest state craft organization in the country, runs the oldest craft show, and is truely an amazing operation that supports the making and makers of fine craft in ways that are very dear to my heart. I have been a juried member of the League for almost 30 years, and have served in various volunteer roles for almost all of that time. The most recent involvement for me has been on the Building Committee which has helped to overseen the League's huge endeavor of building a new home. In July, we will move in to the new digs, which are on Main Street in Concord, across from the Capital Center for the Arts. We will own half of the first floor of a new building built by Steve Dupree. The public spaces will include two gorgeous gallery spaces, an area in the lobby for demonstrations, a large multifunction room (can be divided in to two smaller spaces), a classroom, a studio workshop room, and a library. Also efficient offices and storage, modernized technological, and best of all, lots of handcrafted objects to make this new building glow with the feeling of what the League really represents: the meaning and beauty of hand made objects. I am on a subcommittee that has imagined how handcraft can be incorporated, solicited our juried membership for submissions, and made the choices on what to use.

My involvement does not stop with committee
work. I am part of a 5-person team that is creating the reception desk in the lobby. It is so much more than a desk, more like a giant organic sculpture that also serves as a functional workspace. The lower part will be based on a frame of cherry and walnut made by Seth Keidaisch, filled in with enameled copper panels made by Steve Hayden. David Little and Steve will embellish those panels with black iron branch-like lines. Suspended above the granite counter will be 9 cherry panels carved by Jeff Cooper with images depicting craftspeople's hands at work. Those panels are suspended on freeform black iron structural elements. And dropping down from the ceiling will be snakey black steel tubes that will hold up five of my minipendants. The drawing at the right gives some impression of what the piece will look like, but believe me, it will be so much more spectacular. There are many details and rich colors that were impossible to capture in a sketch. When it is done, I will try to get a new blog post up that gives a visual tour.

Banksia Light Galore

Last summer, I posted a blog entry about my first Banksia seed pod lamps. At the time, it was a new concept for me, and quite interesting. I never would have guessed how much other people would respond to these beautiful and bizarre natural objects. During the summer I quickly sold all the lamps I made with the Banksia bases, and ordered more pods. So now I am well set for Banksia bases thru the summer. I also ordered a third batch of the "whopper" pods.

When this third box arrived, it was obvious that I had scraped the "bottom of the barrel" of what was available, since these were smaller. Still much bigger than the usual 6-7" pods that I have seen for years, this last batch was more like 9-10" long. Too small for making lamp bases, but perfect for a new product: candlesticks. I made the first pair as a special order, and now have some more made up for the upcoming Marlboro craft show. Again a very dramatic and functional form that takes advantage of the unique appearance of the pods. Along with the table lamps and the candlesticks, I also make tea lights and oil candle lights out of the pods, and it makes quite a collection of illuminating creations.
What I learned is that Banksia pods are mainly harvested in March and April each year. And the "whopper" pods that I am interested in are quite rare, perhaps about 100 are harvested each year. I seem to have an inside line on purchasing these, and at this point, and am buying more than I am using, so that I can make sure that I stay ahead. Fascinating how an annually renewable resource can also be so extraordinarily rare.