I found a beautiful set of nesting cookie cutters in a small antique store. It sat around in my shop for months… perhaps longer. There was something about the way it reminded me of a flower or of a kind of celestial star system that made it so precious. I waited until I had the perfect setting for it. I did have a little box and thought all it needed was a detail, a counterpoint of sorts, to break up the form. Adding a couple of old drawer pulls would finish this work. It was supposed to complete the piece and yet, somehow I found myself waiting. And waiting. Somehow it didn’t feel complete.

When I think about the creative process I realize that I am following a path that has no direction, no signposts, and no guide. The only way to know that I have found my destination is when I arrive. In time this destination may be satisfying and at other times, I realize that the destination was only a rest stop. That I needed to push on.

A piece of a decorative gas lamp part lived in my studio for years. Delicate, a bit bent and certainly unloved, was another one of those purchases that said that perhaps I was mistaken to have acquired it (not unlike the huge steer horn cutter that still sits in a corner of my shop).

Attaching the lamp part to the cookie cutter suddenly breathed a new life into this sleeping Foundling. I had arrived at my destination. It suddenly felt complete. It was now a Foundling. The wait was just part of the process. I am very pleased with this little work. Now if only I could come up with a better name.

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Some pieces come together rather quickly. Others, do not. Satori V languished in my studio for months (left image). I had found these beautiful brass brackets but I just couldn’t figure out how to attach them. I thought they were integrated well enough into the work but I wasn’t sure. I was just so hypnotised by these beautiful bass brackets. So it sat, waiting, as I went on to create other Foundlings. I had hoped that returning to the Brimfield Antique Fair that I would find something to help me attach these brackets but I couldn’t find anything suitable.

I did, however, find a beautiful circular frame, broken and a bit unloved at the Fair. Almost as a afterthought I wondered if the frame would fit into this piece. Once placed, it immediately felt at home completing Satori V (right image). It does obscure the brass dish and lamp part underneath it a bit but this is not unlike my drawing work.

When I drew I tended to use a lot of layers of colors. I would build up layer upon layer with each new color obscuring the layer beneath. With enough layers, a little bit of each layer does come through creating a beautiful texture. So too with all of the brass layers, the beautiful textures shine through.

And the blue tape? I have learned to mark the tops of all of the pieces so I have the correct orientation for placement. Another hard lesson learned.Satori V IMG_7943 Combo LoRes

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I have fallen in love with green. It was easy to see how beautiful brass, bronze and gold work with the dark wood but green has slowly revealed itself to be such a lovely addition to my color palette. Green, almost hiding in plain sight, is such an obvious color choice—just look at the beauty of trees.

Verdigris III is still in the very early “fitting” stage and it appears to want to come together quickly as the parts seem to fit easily together. And the “engineering” part seems pretty straight forward as well.

There is a small problem, however. The frames I have, all standard, stock sizes, do not fit the sundial. The box could always be notched into the frame if there is overlap but the opening of the circular frame as well as the inset behind the opening, have to be enlarged. Not knowing much about turning wood I had thought that I would need a custom frame made. My friend Dave comes to the rescue once again. He has a lathe and has been turning beautiful objects for a while now. I sent him images of the pieces and he thinks he can widen both the inside opening and the inset.

My thinking is always, if a piece wants to be born it will. Dave will be able to do this, or he won’t. If this doesn’t happen then I will have to move on. My fingers are crossed.

I had a feeling that this one was going to be a challenge. I am overbuilding the box to make sure the whole piece can support the weight of the swans. It’s really solid, so structurally I am confident of its integrity.

The next task is to make sure that the swans, made of a metal called “white metal” or “pot metal”, are mounted in a way to hold their weight. I have drilled into the back of each swan so a bolt can go through to the pegboard (see below). So far, so good.

Then I drilled through the top of each swan so I can bolt the swans together. That’s where the problem became clear. The metal is so thin, on the top part of the swan, that the areas are starting to tear (also see below).

I decided to use a heavy duty, contractor’s adhesive on the inside top of the swans to reinforce them. This will need some practice runs with the new adhesive to make sure I have enough time to get it all together before the putty sets. I will use some of the adhesive on the tops of the pegs to help keep the swans from twisting as well. The thinking is that the more glue I can use to keep this piece together, in addition to the mechanical fasteners, the better. I have even decided to cut down the pegs behind the swans so they seat lower within the field of pegs. This should also help support the weight. We shall see…

The process is difficult but in the end, the piece is worth it.

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This round piece, Rondel, was created back in 2014. I did like the piece at the time but somehow, over the years, it never seemed “complete” to me. I wondered what to do with a work that I was less then satisfied with. Was it me, my expectations, or just an accurate
assessment that I had not reached what I was aiming for.

Now working on another large piece (still using parts of that old upright piano that Marie and I had taken apart), I was pleased with the bottom section but somehow, I couldn’t get the top focal part right. I had tried several directions and yet, nothing seemed to fit.

It occurred to me that I could build on what I had done. Perhaps that old piece, that never felt complete could now take on a new life. So Rondel now has found a new home atop the piece I was creating. In the above image, the piece is mostly engineered but still needs to be stained, screwed and glued. Rondel now feels complete and is now a “New Rondel”.

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I found a beautiful pair of metal swans in California at a flea market. They aren’t bookends as they are sculpted on all sides. Perhaps these were a pair of table decorations made out of some sort of metal… and they are hollow.

I checked with my framer—he has this exact style of frame. I only had a corner sample so I was pleased that it was available. This frame will cover enough of the pegs to complete the square composition. Now all I have to do is figure out how to engineer this.

I tried several orientations but setting the swans at a 45 degree angle highlighted the “S” curve of their necks. This makes for an unexpected form and it almost makes the swans disappear. I don’t think that art is only about making things “new” or “unexpected” but it does add to seeing things fresh, and to the beauty of a work.

The challenge is that I am always putting things together that don’t have any logical reason to be together. Then again, logic really doesn’t seem to be part of the process. This process is an exploration of pure form in the service of beauty.

Still, how to engineer this? I don’t weld so I usually depend on mechanical fasteners and glue. Usually I just have to think things through and I frequently come up with an approach. Solutions have even come to me in my dreams. I do marvel when that happens. How am I solving problems in my sleep? Where are these ideas coming from? As of yet, however, I am stumped. The swans are heavy, perhaps a solid three pounds each.

I am seeing my dear friend Dave soon. He has helped me put these together over the years. When I am stumped, he has always come to the rescue. He has been invaluable in figuring these problems out. So we will see if he can help me get it together.

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I have been traveling again. This time to New Zealand. As inspiring as traveling is, especially to far off places, traveling is complicated, can be tiring and frequently is expensive. Still, I think traveling is well worth the effort and, for me, is more about self discovery then merely the discovery of some scenic location or exotic points of interest.

One of my great joys is talking to people from other parts of the world. Listening to their stories and seeing how their lives are different, and sometimes the same as mine, is so illuminating.

And I particularly love meeting artists and comparing notes on creating. After more then four years of corresponding with her, I got the opportunity to meet Dale, a found art artist who lives in New Zealand. Her love of nature as well as her fondness for found objects was so familiar and affirming. We talked for hours as her enthusiasm was infectious.

Here she is proudly showing off a delicate bat skeleton that was so beautiful but unlikely to make it into one of her pieces as it’s so fragile. It’s another life lesson about how fragile life is and how beauty can be found almost anywhere.

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I’m not sure which is more unsettling to people, small cast doll heads or body parts. Just as some people are uncomfortable with bones, perhaps representing death, I think bones have a beautiful architecture to them. Pure form following function. Do body parts represent dismemberment? Perhaps but not always. Strictly speaking, a portrait painting
is a body part separated from the rest of its body and yet most people do not find portraits to be unsettling.

For me, focusing on a body part increases its beauty. I have always maintained that my work is a kind of Rorschach test. What you get out of viewing my work largely depends on what you bring to it. In my attempt to juxtapose nature with the mechanical, I focus on how each informs the other and see the beauty in the most unlikely of places.

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It’s done. As difficult as it was to come up with a satisfying composition for the heirlooms, the “engineering” of this Foundling proved to be much more challenging then I had thought. After completing this work, all that was left to do was the anxiety producing prospect of showing it.

They were pleased. Even a few tears of joy were shed.

They had been thinking about purchasing a Foundling for some time but when they realized that they had some family heirlooms looking for a “place to live”, they figured that I could build a Foundling for them instead. It’s difficult enough to make a piece, and even more so to create a work as a commission. Add to that, the parts to be worked with not only need a place to live but be able to live together as well.

As gratifying as it is to create, and as gratifying it is to have a work appreciated, it is even more fulfilling to have made a Foundling that has a history that, this time, is known.

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I am working on another commission with cherished family keepsakes: a little brass locket of a winged heart, a wooden Buddha, and two brass pins—a hanging purse and decorative flower. These are such varied and delicate items that I have concerns about putting these together and looking “right”.

How do I get them to “live” together as well as how do I highlight them so they don’t get “lost” in the overall work. Even the scale of the items present some difficulties.

I have decided to make a kind of triptych with each of the three boxes acting like a small stage for the keepsakes. This will bring them together and make each the center of attention. In addition, all three boxes have little wooden cups sitting on top of the boxes. These cups are basically just a decorative element but they also have a purpose. They can be little offering bowls so any other material can sit in these as well (these are not designed to hold much, perhaps a flower, but the idea fits very well with keepsakes).

Compositionally, I have never tried to have three separate boxes as a base for one Foundling but the people commissioning this work, Alicia and George, have total confidence in me and I have total confidence in listening to what the keepsakes are saying to me.

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