July 30, 2012

"Orbs" collaboration with Paula Barry

Each year, a focal point of my creative intentions is directed towards the Living With Crafts exhibition at the League of NH Craftsmen's Annual Fair (aka "Sunapee"). The event runs from August 4-12, with a preview party on Friday evening, August 3. This year, I have two pieces that were accepted for the display, and both of them are collaborations. And all collaborations have a story! In this blog entry, I will tell you about the piece done in conjunction with the ceramic artist Paula Barry. http://paulabarryceramics.com
The story began last summer, when my wife Kathy saw the Sculpture Garden at the Sunapee craft fair, and came back to my booth, recommending I go see some ceramic garden sculptures. I did, and instantly started to see the forms as a starting point for a lamp base for my wood shades. By coincidence, it turned out that they were made by Paula Barry, and that her booth at the fair was in the same tent as mine. Paula and I chatted during the rest of the show, and made a tentative plan to submit a collaborative piece for Living With Crafts in 2012.
Our first idea was to make a floor lamp. using a stack of Paula's elliptical hollow forms, which I started to call "orbs." The idea was to alternate ceramic and wood orbs in a tall column. Later on, I realized that the weight of the entire piece, and the forces that could torque on the ceramic forms, could make the piece a bit fragile. So we switched to the concept of making table lamps. I sketched some ideas which I submitted to the Living With Crafts selection jury, and which were accepted. 
Once we got the go-ahead, Paula responded quickly by making about 30 orbs, all different colors and with a variety of carved patterns. She brought them to New London, and we had a fun time playing, stacking them up in to various sets, trying to find the best combinations of colors and graduated sizes. We ended up with four sets we liked, and over the next couple of months, I made up the lamp bases from the sets. Each lamp base has a larger solid wood orb-like shape at the foot, five of the ceramic orbs in a stack, topped by a smaller wood "neck," which serves the purpose of allowing the shade to set a bit higher, thus allowing the viewer to see all of the ceramic parts. Once the bases were all made, I started matching them up with shades that I had already made. Since the table lamp bases are relatively tall (about 19") and have substantial visual mass, they seem to look best with fairly large shades, typically about 17-18" in diameter. Once the four lamps were completely set up, I took high quality formal pictures which you can see at the bottom of this blog entry.
These collaborative lamps are part of a longer-term exploration that has to do with stacked round shapes. My blog entry for July, 2010 is about my Bryce Canyon floor lamp base (http://woodshades.blogspot.com/2010/07/bryce-canyon-floor-lamp.html), and if you read that you will see references to the amazing hoodoos at Bryce, as well as the Gaudi cathedral in Barcelona, and the drip forms that are sometimes part of sand castles. Since then, I have also connected the basic idea to rock cairns that are used to mark hiking trails in the mountains, and some of the environmental sculptures made by Andy Goldsworthy. Nothing I am creating in wood, or using the ceramic orbs, is exactly modeled on any of the visuals. See this link to a photo gallery to see a collection of images that relate to the stacked form concept http://woodglow.smugmug.com/Art/Inspirations/24462429_JPtF3c#!i=1995750104&k=n2sfW5X.