Friday, May 29, 2009

Flag #1

Here is another draft of my first flag. You can see the earlier draft here. It isn't quite done yet but I had Rick Mastelli photograph it since it is close and he was here photographing everything else. I'd rather not sell it at this point. I would prefer to save it for a show of flags. I think it will make more sense in context with other versions. This one is too close to the official flag design and too reminiscent of Jasper Johns' work. I would rather it were seen as one of a number of proposals for replacing the US flag with something that is designed and crafted better than what we currently have. Imagine the employment possibilities for woodworkers if we replaced the cloth flag with a well-crafted, well-designed wooden version. I also like the reference of "proposals" to Claus Oldenburg. He had a series of proposals for replacing various monuments and buildings with things like sissors and clothspins - very funny.

I really like the bold cherry grain in this one. The curly maple figure is also very good but can't be seen well at this scale. Also not seen well are the bird's-eyes that are designed to be implied stars, many more than fifty of them, which I think is a good thing.

24" x 41" x 1"

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Paradise City - Northampton Debrief

I got back from Northampton late on Monday night and have been busy catching up and putting everything back in its place. It was a good show and I actually made some sales too. Both of my blistered maple pieces are gone "Thrice in a Lifetime" (left side of back wall) and "Yin/Yang" (left side of left wall) as well as "One Walnut Strip" (right side of back wall). And there seems to be interest in other pieces so maybe some follow up sales will come through as well.

The response to my work continues to be very good. Of course, plenty of people walk right by and aren't interested, but the people the stop and look have some really intense responses. I'm always a little surprised by it because I'm a little jaded by my own work. It is hard to see what someone else sees when they see it for the first time. I constantly here people ask "how do you get your colors?" and say that they have never seen anything like it before; that it is very original. Some people just stop and say "Wow!" so I must be accomplishing what I intend.

These shows are very draining though. Long days of saying the same thing over and over and over again. I try not to sound like a broken record but whenever I mix it up a bit I get lost and end up sounding inarticulate. Other artists have told me the same thing, the rule is, if you have a good spiel, stick with it. You may have heard it thousands of times but the public is hearing it only once. I've also found it is important to drink a lot of liquids. I'm amazed by how much moisture I lose by talking constantly.

My display walls seem to have worked out well. I get a lot of complements about them. The only problem is that I need a lot of space to put them together so it is hard to do when everyone else is getting ready. I thought I designed them so that I could put them together in place but that hasn't worked out as planned because it is hard to slide the panels into place. Someone at the show suggested that I rub soap inside the grooves of the rails and styles. If it works, I might be able to put them together without getting in the way of others.

There were some other interesting wood artists at the show. In addition to Jeffery Oh and Carl Schlerman who were both at the Baltimore show, I saw work by Brian Wood and Nathaniel Smith. Brian creates these great wood turning sculptures with blocks of wood. This sphere is pretty impressive. He says that he turns three reference lines and then carves the sphere from there. It doesn't looked carved to me but I'm not sure how else you could do it so I'll believe him.

©Brian Wood
I also liked his vases that had missing blocks. It reminded me of Bud Latven's absolutely insane work so I had to ask Brian how he though Bud made his sculptures. For Brian's work, it is "easy" enough to remove a few blocks during glue up, but for the amount of missing block that Bud has, he has to carve them out after turning.
©Brian Wood
I also really like this small vase with holes.
©Brian Wood
I also liked Nathaniel's dancing branch sculptures. They are all made with beech branches and either finished with india ink and tung oil, or just tung oil. It is amazing how much personality each branch has. Nathaniel is an arborist during the week so he always has a good, inexpensive source for his art.

©Nathaniel Smith

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Work - Final Images

I've finally finished a chunk of the new series that I have been working on since late last year and, in preparation of the Paradise City show this weekend, I had professional pictures taken by Rick Mastelli, a local photographer who has done a lot of work for Fine Woodworking and Woodwork magazines; and most recently worked on the new book by Silas Kopf - the famous marquetry furniture maker - A Marquetry Odyssey. It was definitely a good move to get these taken, they are an enormous improvement over what I was able to do. I'll put larger images on my website but to make them available as soon as possible, here they are, along with the dimensions and titles:
Three Days In September
36" x 13" x 1"

16" x 13" x 1"

May Rain
29" x 12" x 1"

26" x 11" x 1"

Green Grass - Summer Day
26" x 11" x 1"

11 Rectangles with Blue
30.5" x 10" x 1"

45 Rectangles
50" x 11" x 1"

Horst and Graben
10.5" x 28" x 1"

Phobos and Deimos
25" x 12" x 1"

To see earlier versions of many of these pieces, look here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Welcomed Spam

Like most people, I hate spam - both the processed food-like product and the email version. Even the spam I get from galleries tends to be rather boring stuff that I'm really not interested in. However, today, I got the best spam ever from the Rakova Brecker Gallery in Dania Beach, Florida (near Fort Lauderdale). I try to keep up on galleries that focus on wood art but I hadn't heard of this one. It looks like they are relatively new, maybe a year old. I think they must have gotten my email address from the Collectors of Wood Art membership catalog, but who knows. Anyway, looking through their artists, they have just an amazing list of top talent and museum quality work, and it is all wood! A must see when in South Florida.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Baltimore Show Debrief

I just got back from the Baltimore Fine Furnishings and Fine Craft Show after an all night drive (we left at 6:45pm and arrived in Montpelier at 4 am). It was a first year show so it was pretty much a gamble for everyone involved. Unfortunately, although the quality of the art was high, there were some problems in bringing in the people. Saturday was extremely slow; Sunday was better but still not what it needed to be. Most people were disappointed but seemed to realize that it is especially hard to get people to come to first year shows and that future years would probably be better. I didn't hear anybody say they wouldn't be back.

Personally, I didn't make any sales but that wasn't the primary goal anyway. I was looking for exposure and connections. The response to my work was good and I talked to at least three people that were either dealers or friends of dealers who were interested in passing along information about my work. If just one of those conversations leads to something, the show would be worth the time and effort. I'm sure it will take several months to find out if it pays off so I remain hopeful. At the same time, I was surprised there were not more dealers and collectors at the show.

I also had a number of interesting conversations, including talking with James Adajian, co-owner of a fine furniture restoration, conservation, and reproduction firm - Adajian and Nelson. We had a good conversation about french polishing and SDA 3C shellac solvent (it is what the pros use). As I suspected, SDA 3C 200 proof is a much more aggressive solvent and it makes french polishing more difficult. I just need to improve my technique, its still doable, just need to have a softer hand (update: James had recommended using upholstery cotton inside the cloth ball used in french polishing and it does work much better than the old cotton t-shirts I was using. It is much softer so touching down and lifting off the board much gentler). I also learned that french polish was traditionally done on table tops and that they still do it. It does get damaged but so does any other type of finish you could use, but the french polish is much easier to repair. Traditionally, people would just schedule a refinisher to come by the house every few years and renew the polish.

Here are three images of my new 5 x 20 booth. It was quite a lot of work to build and put together but I think it worked well. I'll modify it slightly for the 10 x 10 space at Paradise City in a few weeks. The good thing about not selling anything is that I still have my best work for that show. I find you can't have enough lights. I had 17 for 15 pieces of art and still could have used two more. I also think the paint color worked well. I chose "Anonymous" from Sherwin-Williams. It is about as neutral as you can get, a dark greenish-brown gray. If figured it would help the colors pop and I think it worked.

My favorite work at the show was by Katherine Park. She creates these amazingly complex and original surrealistic sculptural furniture. Although it is museum quality (in design and craft) she is still below the radar. I didn't get a chance to interview her and find out more about her history, but you can see from her resume that she hasn't shown much and that she isn't currently represented by a gallery. It looks like she has taken a break and is just getting back into promoting her work. Amazing stuff though. She has an undergraduate degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and a masters from the Rochester Institute of Technology School of American Crafts - and it shows.

"As the Deer Pants for Water" and Untitled (clock)
©Katherine Park

"As the Deer Pants for Water" (close-up)
©Katherine Park

"The Kingdom will Come" (writing desk)
©Katherine Park

There were also a few people at the show who were showing off beautiful wood in its almost natural state. Both Jeffrey Oh and David Stine had enormous slabs of walnut. They both also used butterfly key joinery to stabilize cracks -- Jeffrey with contrasting/highlighting bird's-eye maple protuding from the surface, David with flush walnut butterflies. Wood is art and both of them did a great job of highlighting its natural beauty.

Jeffrey's slab is Bastogne Walnut, an extremely rare natural cross between California Claro Walnut and California English Walnut. He got it from Talarico Hardwoods and said he hasn't paid for it yet, the purchaser can pay for the slab directly from the retailer and Jeffrey will add his time into the cost. The purchaser can also decide what he wants to do with the slab - table? counter top? wall sculpture?. He said it sells for $100/board-foot or around $4600. Pricey stuff but truly amazing.

Bastogne Walnut
©Jeffrey Oh
Bastogne Walnut
©Jeffrey Oh (close-up)

David Stine's walnut slab is about 9 feet by 4 feet and comes from somewhere in the 360 acre wood lot he manages sustainably from his family's old dairy farm. He harvests, mills, and kiln dries the lumber himself. This table has a convenient whole in the middle so that you can pass scraps to the dog without sliding your hands under the table. The base is made with knock down pegs so it is easy to move around as long as you are comfortable swinging around 150 lb slabs of lumber. David is a big guy and it is clear that he is using woodworking as a substitute for going to the gym.
Lowder Table
©David Stine

Next to my booth was Corwin Butterworth Custom Furniture. His work wavers through the Asian/Shaker/Mission aesthetic. I particularly like his Asian influenced pieces, like this "Four Post Chair". A really great design. He said it was influenced by the rear seats in the Suburu Brat. Apparently, it had handles for the passengers to hang on to like this chair.

"Four Post Chair"
©Corwin Butterworth

Also at the show as Carl Schlerman's company Crimson Asphalt. I especially like this combination of concrete, ash, and spalted maple. Talk about solid furniture. The whole thing probably weights between 350 and 400 lbs. At the same time the tappered legs and slopping top give it a very elegant and welcoming form.
©Carl Schlerman