My Sculpture Weblog: Sharps #2

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 varieties round its circumference. It additionally incorporates quite a few components immediately impressed by the knife making neighborhood. 

In an earlier publish, I detailed the origins of my exploration into the fringes of knife making, how I’m curious what may be discovered from a craft with a wealthy historical past of mixing outdated and new know-how, so I’ll refer there for extra background.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 proper is the Sculptural Knife Vase (now known as Sharps #1)

It’s arduous 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 most of the identical 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 quite a few important methods. For starters, quite 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 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 slightly, from being instantly interpreted as a weapon or another sort of putting 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 method 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 folks 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 varieties, intermittently positioned between the chilly sharp metal blades, are mushy and heat and distinction superbly. They actually make this piece a step ahead quite 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 artistic floor.

Even with all the variations I identified above, I feel 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 useful 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 in addition, 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 in the case of experimenting with extra freeform forms of creating.

Most conversations I’ve had about “what’s artwork” are likely to heart on inventive intent and the context during 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 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 among the foremost standards for “what’s artwork” is very problematic, and it makes the entire “craft versus high-quality artwork” dialog a surprisingly cussed one to place to relaxation. 

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

Unusually this dynamic additionally performs out on this 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 vigorous dialogue concerning 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 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 way of this undertaking is a solution to perceive, and perhaps push again slightly, on a quirk of the artistic arts. 

Calling out among the artwork worlds educational biases and demystifying the method of creating sculpture is the easiest way 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 similtaneously the blades for the Sculptural Knife Vase. The tip profile is barely completely different, however there may be not a complete lot new to report course of clever. In the event you learn the publish concerning the Sculptural Knife Vase, you realize the trials and tribulations I confronted. In the event you did not, right here is that hyperlink once more (significantly its an excellent 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 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 pleasing factor to see, so I went with a paper slicing demo as a substitute.

The blades are a bit thick in comparison with customary knife blades, so they do not fairly sail straight by way 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 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 just some. I had all the time averted bringing wooden into my work (for too many causes to record), nevertheless 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 could first look like they’re inlays, the wooden varieties truly stand happy 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 ingredient in my work, and the wooden grain makes each distinctive in a method 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 arduous. Amboyna has wonderful dimensional stability, which is necessary to a machinist who’s accustomed to retaining tolerances. Most woods tend to vary measurement (and form) relying on the temperature and humidity, one thing that might drive an individual like me loopy, however I truly discovered it quite pleasing to work with and minimize. 

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 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 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 method by way of it, so I assumed it could be way more forgiving than metallic. So I guessed at a sooner than common spindle pace, and went with a slower than common feed charge, 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 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.