Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Advantages of being an artist

This blog site is intended to be about many things related to me and my work. So far I have shown the process of creating a piece, and the various stages of that process. I wrote an article about making things by hand because that is something I am very passionate about; I wish to help spark a larger awareness of the importance of such things for others to share in as well. Last week I wrote about one little element in connection with the subject of furniture in the Middle ages, which is another great interest of mine. This week I want to have something a little less intellectual than that, and decided to share a new project I have, as well as some more about my artistic approach to designing things in general.

Many people who work with wood need plans and even full scale drawings, and if that is what works for them, then that is what they should use. Other people who create historically inspired pieces go to museums or books and copy as best they know how, the piece they have in mind, keeping the original measurements to the millimetre . As an artist, however, I feel a sense of liberty and freedom to be able to do as I wish without having the bother of consulting plans and diagrams in many of my works.

To be sure, if I am making a large cabinet with many parts or a library or some such thing, I will make a scale drawing of the elevation, and perhaps even some of the details, but in simpler projects, such as a box, a chest, a table, or a hanging shelf I may draw nothing more than a sketch or a template for the cut-out shapes I wish to use. Some projects, I have completed with no drawing at all. Below is the sketch I made for the box which is my 'icon' for this blog site, and also the sketch made for the hanging shelf featured in my first posting. (As I showed there, paper templates were also used for the sides and shelves; the carving elements were drawn free-hand on their respective pieces.)
Quick sketch inspired by a box seen
in a photo on the internet
Notice that my "sketch" is actually more of a scribble. I have more than a dozen proper sketchbooks in my possession, but it inevitably seems that none of them are to hand when inspiration strikes! If I am lucky, I find a notebook, otherwise the back of a bank statement or even a piece of wood has to stand in for the sketchbook. (the spontaneity of inspiration!)

The actual box which resulted from the above sketch
Here you can see the process of working as an artist. The sketch was the product of a moment of inspiration, then reality and necessity took over. The proportions were worked out based on the width and thickness of the piece of timber I had available, and were then refined by my own sense of aesthetics. (The entire body of the box was carved out of a solid block which measured 260 x 140 x 70mm thick. I plan to use the core I cut from the centre to make another one at some point in future.)

A similar evolution took place in the making of the hanging shelf.

The original sketch done on the same day
as the previous one
.(hence in the same book)
The sides remained remarkably accurate to my sketch, but at this point the idea of carving a bead around the entire perimeter had not yet occurred to me. There was an addition of a small moulded finial at the bottom of each side as well. The big difference came when I got to the back rails.
Not much about this looks like what
was initially sketched...
(the weather was much more pleasant then!)
This illustrates even better than the box, the artistic license I have, by not being bound by a piece to be copied or by having a full size plan laid out which I must follow. I noticed just now, in comparing these pieces, the same process at work which I use when doing paintings. I get an initial idea, but continue my creative process of refining it as the work progresses. If you look carefully you will also note that in the original idea, the shelf was to have had a square front edge; as work progressed, that seemed too boring, thus the carved edge was added. No carving was intended for the lower rail in the beginning, but by the time all the other enhancements had been done, it was obvious it wanted an upgrade as well.

 This brings me to the topic of my latest commission which has been in the makings since right after my show. A client from Annapolis is in need of a very specific table to suit a particular position in their house. When I visited their home, it was obvious to me that they would need a curved table; not something one encounters on a daily basis. I was happy for the challenge, as I thrive on doing things I have not yet done. Simple and ordinary just doesn't work for me, the more challenging the project, the more I relish it. This table will be a lot of fun
So far, we have agreed on the basic dimension and form of it, and also on the overall elements of ornament. I made a life size template of the top, which is shown below. The table will be of renaissance 'draw top' form, which means to say it will have two leaves under the main top which will pull out to extend the length. These extensions will have the same curved form as the main top and therefore I will be making a steaming box to bend the stay bars. Stay tuned...

The template rests on an heart pine table,
one of my 16th century style
 benches rests underneath.
The table will be supported on two vase shaped columns, with carved transverse feet. Because of its curved shape, a conventional 'trestle' stretcher would be quite a challenge to make from timber, the solution occurred to me in the form of Spanish renaissance tables with iron stretchers. This way, the stretcher can be shaped to follow the curvature of the table. I hope the blacksmith sees my vision as clearly as I do, or I will have to put on another of my hats...
From the book; The Encyclopedia of Furniture,
 by Joseph Aronson
This quick sketch below shows the basic idea a little more clearly.
the general form of leg and stretcher
The foot will be carved as a scroll with acanthus leaf on the top and channel gouge carving to the side. The sketch below shows the basic idea for that. Notice again that sketchbook issue of mine.
Foot design
In all, this is a very exciting project and I will enjoy it tremendously, thank you for the commission! 

Stay tuned for updates as it progresses over the next few months.

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