September 21, 2023


How Art Works

My Sculpture Weblog: Sharps #2

8 min read

Welcome to the second installment in what I’m calling the “Sharps” collection. Just like the identify implies, this work (titled Sharps #2) has seven razor sharp sculptural blade types round its circumference. It additionally incorporates various components instantly impressed by the knife making group. 

In an earlier publish, I detailed the origins of my exploration into the fringes of knife making, how I’m curious what is perhaps realized from a craft with a wealthy historical past of mixing outdated and new know-how, so I’ll refer there for extra background. 

On the left is Sharps #2, On the appropriate is the Sculptural Knife Vase (now known 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 among 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 succeed in.

Aesthetically, “Sharps #2” departs from the Vase in various vital methods. For starters, somewhat than being free standing, this work was meant to hold vertically from both a ceiling or another floor above the viewer. This offers it a really completely 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 a little bit, 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 needed to current this work as a standard artwork object in a approach that one may 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 are the jewels of this sculpture. The picket types, intermittently positioned between the chilly sharp metal blades, are comfortable and heat and distinction fantastically. They actually make this piece a step ahead somewhat than simply an iteration on its predecessor.

 Utilizing pure supplies has at all times hung at the back of 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 inventive floor.

Even with the entire variations I identified above, I believe it’s clear that the 2 works (the vase and this sculpture) are moderately 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 could 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 wonderful artwork. And why wrap the entire thing in an experiment on knife making?

For starters, why not? 

But in addition, as a result of whereas I’m typically accepting of various interpretations of the issues that I make, the query of “is my work wonderful artwork or craft?” is one which arises with a good quantity of regularity. And whereas I attempt to stay as open minded as attainable, I really feel that this distinction between craft and artwork retains many manufacturers on the fence in terms of experimenting with extra freeform varieties of creating.

Most conversations I’ve had about “what’s artwork” are likely to heart on inventive intent and the context through which the work is positioned. These are issues that may be very tough to know and are sometimes exterior of an artist’s management anyway. You do not at all times 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 among the primary standards for “what’s artwork” is extremely problematic, and it makes the entire “craft versus wonderful artwork” dialog a surprisingly cussed one to place to relaxation. 

It is a simplification in fact, however as a theme, I believe there’s room to be intellectually playful with the concept that there must be any distinction in any respect between craft, wonderful artwork, and different varieties 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 truly make stuff.

Surprisingly this dynamic additionally performs out on the earth of knife making, the place utilitarian knife design (assume helpful knives) stand alongside what are known as “fantasy” or “artwork” knives (assume much less helpful knives). From what I perceive, there’s full of life dialogue concerning the deserves and worth of every of those as effectively. 

Making an attempt to position numerous varieties of artwork, craft, and design in neat little containers is a phenomenon that I see in lots of disciplines as folks search to differentiate their work or collections from each other. As an artist, it may be each an interesting and dangerous lens with which to view one’s personal work. Addressing it instantly via this undertaking is a method to perceive, and possibly push again a little bit, on a quirk of the inventive arts. 

Calling out among the artwork worlds educational biases and demystifying the method of creating sculpture is one of the best ways I see to encourage craftspeople and makers of all stripes to leap in and try to make bizarre and exquisite sculptures of their very own. 

However that is only one layer on this undertaking, and I can not 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 completely different, however there’s not an entire lot new to report course of clever. For those who learn the publish concerning the Sculptural Knife Vase, you already know the trials and tribulations I confronted. For those who did not, right here is that hyperlink once more (severely its a very good learn I promise) 

That stated, 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 sides on each the vase and this sculpture are loads 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 via 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 thought of how completely sharp this sculpture actually is.

The wooden components: knife making has a protracted custom of incorporating pure supplies of every kind, bone, horns, and wooden to call only a few. I had at all times prevented bringing wooden into my work (for too many causes to record), nevertheless this was the following logical aspect to convey into an exploration of knife making. Now that I’ve, I discover myself questioning why I waited so lengthy. 

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

(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 essential to a machinist who’s accustomed to protecting tolerances. Most woods tend to vary dimension (and form) relying on the temperature and humidity, one thing that may drive an individual like me loopy, however I truly discovered it somewhat pleasing to work with and reduce. 

Like most burl wooden (or wooden normally), Amboyna burls can include small voids or gaps within the grain that may interrupt an in any other case easy 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 price and spindle velocity for turning hardwood is perhaps, particularly from a cnc machining stand level. 

I reasoned that wooden turners typically do their work by hand and simply really feel their approach via it, so I thought it will be rather more forgiving than steel. So I guessed at a quicker than typical spindle velocity, and went with a slower than typical feed price, and all of it labored simply wonderful. This time anyway. 

I nonetheless have quite a bit 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 this can take me subsequent, however I’m glad I get the possibility to share this work and the remainder of my journey with all of you.

As at all times, feedback and questions are welcome.

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