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 kinds round its circumference. It additionally incorporates plenty of components immediately impressed by the knife making group. 

In an earlier put up, 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fringes of knife making, how I’m curious what is perhaps realized from a craft with a wealthy historical past of mixing outdated and new expertise, so I’ll refer there for extra background. 

On the left is Sharps #2, On the suitable 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 kind 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 few 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 plenty of vital methods. For starters, moderately than being free standing, this work was meant 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 a little bit, from being instantly interpreted as a weapon or another form of placing 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 means 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 kinds, intermittently positioned between the chilly sharp metal blades, are tender and heat and distinction fantastically. They actually make this piece a step ahead moderately than simply an iteration on its predecessor.

 Utilizing pure supplies has all the time 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 all the variations I identified above, I believe it’s clear that the 2 works (the vase and this sculpture) are moderately comparable objects total. 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 practical 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 advantageous 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 typically accepting of various interpretations of the issues that I make, the query of “is my work advantageous 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 on the subject of experimenting with extra freeform forms of creating.

Most conversations I’ve had about “what’s artwork” are likely to middle 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 outdoors 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 may hardly management what the viewer is aware of about you or your intent. In order that these are a few of the predominant standards for “what’s artwork” is extremely problematic, and it makes the entire “craft versus advantageous artwork” dialog a unusually cussed one to place to relaxation. 

This can be a simplification in fact, however as a theme, I believe there may be room to be intellectually playful with the concept there ought to be any distinction in any respect between craft, advantageous artwork, and different forms of design. To place it one other means, these distinctions could also be helpful to collectors, curators, and artwork lovers (the viewers), however they only aren’t that helpful to individuals who really make stuff.

Unusually 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 may be vigorous dialogue in regards to the deserves and worth of every of those as properly. 

Making an attempt to position numerous forms of artwork, craft, and design in neat little bins 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 interesting and dangerous lens with which to view one’s personal work. Addressing it immediately via this venture is a approach to perceive, and possibly push again a little bit, on a quirk of the inventive arts. 

Calling out a few of the artwork worlds tutorial biases and demystifying the method of creating sculpture is one of the simplest 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 venture, and I can not wait to dig deeper. So keep tuned. 

Course of notes:

The blades for this piece have been made similtaneously 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 sensible. For those who learn the put up in regards to the Sculptural Knife Vase, you understand the trials and tribulations I confronted. For those who did not, right here is that hyperlink once more (significantly its an excellent learn I promise) 

That mentioned, there was some grumbling after I posted the vase piece that I didn’t embrace 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 lots 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 a substitute.

The blades are a bit thick in comparison with commonplace 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 minimize 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 an extended custom of incorporating pure supplies of every kind, bone, horns, and wooden to call only a few. I had all the time prevented bringing wooden into my work (for too many causes to record), nonetheless this was the following logical factor to deliver into an exploration of knife making. Now that I’ve, I discover myself questioning why I waited so lengthy. 

Whereas these might first look like they’re inlays, the wooden kinds really stand pleased with the physique of the sculpture. This can be a small distinction I do know, however I needed them to have mass and presence like every other factor in my work, and the wooden grain makes every one distinctive in a means that metallic components 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 maintaining tolerances. Most woods tend to vary dimension (and form) relying on the temperature and humidity, one thing that will drive an individual like me loopy, however I really discovered it moderately pleasing to work with and minimize. 

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 easy floor. I believe 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 go away them for this piece.


Turning wooden as a substitute of metallic was one thing I hadn’t researched very properly, and that had its personal particular concerns. For starters, I had no clue what an acceptable feed fee and spindle pace 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 means via it, so I thought it will be rather more forgiving than metallic. So I guessed at a sooner than typical spindle pace, and went with a slower than typical feed fee, and all of it labored simply advantageous. This time anyway. 

I nonetheless have quite a bit to find out about 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 possibility to share this work and the remainder of my journey with all of you.

As all the time, feedback and questions are welcome.