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 various 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 could be discovered 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 correct is the Sculptural Knife Vase (now known as Sharps #1)

It’s exhausting to speak about this piece other than 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 most 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 various important methods. For starters, relatively than being free standing, this work was supposed to hold vertically from both a ceiling or another floor above the viewer. This offers 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 tug it again, if solely somewhat, from being instantly interpreted as a weapon or another type of placing object. Whereas I don’t thoughts the comparability (as it’s apt) I wished to current this work as a conventional artwork object in a means 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 might be the jewels of this sculpture. The picket kinds, intermittently positioned between the chilly sharp metal blades, are gentle and heat and distinction fantastically. They actually make this piece a step ahead relatively 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 inventive 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 comparable 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 high quality 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 high quality 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 relating to experimenting with extra freeform varieties of creating.

Most conversations I’ve had about “what’s artwork” are likely to middle on inventive intent and the context wherein 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 few of the principal standards for “what’s artwork” is very problematic, and it makes the entire “craft versus high quality 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 needs to be any distinction in any respect between craft, high quality artwork, and different varieties 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.

Surprisingly this dynamic additionally performs out on the planet 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 full of life dialogue in regards to the deserves and worth of every of those as nicely. 

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 individuals 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 immediately by means of this venture is a option to perceive, and perhaps push again somewhat, on a quirk of the inventive arts. 

Calling out a few of the artwork worlds tutorial biases and demystifying the method of constructing sculpture is one of the best ways I see to encourage craftspeople and makers of all stripes to leap in and attempt to make bizarre and exquisite sculptures of their very own. 

However that is only one layer on this venture, and I am unable to wait to dig deeper. So keep tuned. 

Course of notes:

The blades for this piece had 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 put up 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 (critically its a superb 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 had been certainly sharp, so please see the video above. The sides 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 pleasing 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 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 minimize curves to the facet, 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 an extended custom of incorporating pure supplies of every kind, bone, horns, and wooden to call just some. I had all the time averted bringing wooden into my work (for too many causes to record), nonetheless this was the subsequent logical ingredient 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 look like they’re inlays, the wooden kinds 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 some other ingredient in my work, and the wooden grain makes each distinctive in a means that metallic 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 exhausting. Amboyna has glorious dimensional stability, which is vital to a machinist who’s accustomed to conserving tolerances. Most woods generally tend to alter dimension (and form) relying on the temperature and humidity, one thing that may drive an individual like me loopy, however I really discovered it relatively pleasing to work with and minimize. 

Like most burl wooden (or wooden on the whole), Amboyna burls can comprise 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 a substitute of metallic was one thing I hadn’t researched very nicely, and that had its personal particular concerns. For starters, I had no clue what an acceptable feed price and spindle pace for turning hardwood could be, particularly from a cnc machining stand level. 

I reasoned that wooden turners usually do their work by hand and simply really feel their means by means of it, so I assumed it might be way more forgiving than metallic. So I guessed at a sooner than typical spindle pace, and went with a slower than typical feed price, and all of it labored simply high quality. 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 greatest concepts come from. It’s anyones guess the place this may 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.