My Sculpture Weblog: Sharps #2

Welcome to the second installment in what I’m calling the “Sharps” sequence. Just like the identify implies, this work (titled Sharps #2) has seven razor sharp sculptural blade varieties round its circumference. It additionally incorporates a lot of components 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 realized from a craft with a wealthy historical past of mixing previous and new expertise, so I’ll refer there for extra background. 

On the left is Sharps #2, On the precise is the Sculptural Knife Vase (now referred to 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 similar components, but eschews it is utility in favor of being an object freed from context clues or operate. 

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 achieve.

Aesthetically, “Sharps #2” departs from the Vase in a lot of important methods. For starters, slightly than being free standing, this work was supposed 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 drag it again, if solely slightly, from being instantly interpreted as a weapon or another type of hanging object. Whereas I don’t thoughts the comparability (as it’s apt) I wished to current this work as a standard artwork object in a approach that one would possibly 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 individuals will unknowingly settle for, so it has been strategically employed right here. 

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

 Utilizing pure supplies has all the time hung behind 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 artistic floor.

Even with the entire variations I identified above, I feel 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 might ask, why make one a purposeful object which may be taken for an occasion of craft, and the opposite a non-functional piece which may be taken for an occasion of nice 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 nice artwork or craft?” is one which arises with a good quantity of regularity. And whereas I attempt to stay as open minded as potential, I really feel that this distinction between craft and artwork retains many manufacturers on the fence relating to experimenting with extra freeform forms of creating.

Most conversations I’ve had about “what’s artwork” are likely to middle on creative intent and the context during which the work is positioned. These are issues that may be very troublesome 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 most important standards for “what’s artwork” is extremely problematic, and it makes the entire “craft versus nice artwork” dialog a unusually cussed one to place to relaxation. 

It is a simplification after all, however as a theme, I feel there may be room to be intellectually playful with the concept that there must be any distinction in any respect between craft, nice artwork, and different forms of design. To place it one other approach, these distinctions could also be helpful to collectors, curators, and artwork lovers (the viewers), however they simply aren’t that helpful to individuals who really make stuff.

Unusually this dynamic additionally performs out on the planet of knife making, the place utilitarian knife design (suppose helpful knives) stand alongside what are referred to as “fantasy” or “artwork” knives (suppose much less helpful knives). From what I perceive, there may be full of life dialogue in regards to the deserves and worth of every of those as effectively. 

Making an attempt to put varied forms of artwork, craft, and design in neat little packing containers is a phenomenon that I see in lots of disciplines as folks search to tell apart 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 means of this mission is a option to perceive, and possibly push again slightly, on a quirk of the artistic arts. 

Calling out a number of the artwork worlds tutorial 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 mission, and I am unable to wait to dig deeper. So keep tuned. 

Course of notes:

The blades for this piece have been made concurrently the blades for the Sculptural Knife Vase. The tip profile is barely totally different, however there may be not a complete lot new to report course of smart. If you happen to learn the submit in regards to the Sculptural Knife Vase, you understand the trials and tribulations I confronted. If you happen to did not, right here is that hyperlink once more (severely its a superb learn I promise) 

That mentioned, there was some grumbling after I posted the vase piece that I didn’t embody the compulsory proof that the knives have been certainly sharp, so please see the video above. The perimeters on each the vase and this sculpture are a lot 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 means of 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 reduce 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 concept of how completely sharp this sculpture actually is.

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

Whereas these might first seem to be they’re inlays, the wooden varieties really stand pleased with the physique of the sculpture. It is a small distinction I do know, however I wished them to have mass and presence like every other factor in my work, and the wooden grain makes each distinctive in a approach that steel elements by no means may 

(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 necessary to a machinist who’s accustomed to retaining 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 really discovered it slightly pleasing to work with and reduce. 

Like most burl wooden (or wooden usually), 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 effectively, and that had its personal particular issues. For starters, I had no clue what an applicable feed charge 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 approach by means of it, so I assumed it might be way more forgiving than steel. So I guessed at a sooner than normal spindle pace, and went with a slower than normal feed charge, and all of it labored simply nice. 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 finest concepts come from. It’s anyones guess the place it will 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.