Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Making of a Commission

 A friend reached out in response to a FB post:

"Your post couldn't have come at a better time! I've always loved your birds so much and was thinking, last night believe it or not, about three dear friends from high school with whom I was supposed to be getting together this weekend. (Hating COVID)


Thinking about something I could do to show them that even though we're apart, we're still together at heart, I wondered if you might consider a commission? A sort of four-in-one piece, where each piece stands on its own, but when they're together you can "assemble" them like a puzzle. I'd love to talk more about it with you.


I'm more than happy to give you artistic freedom too - really, my only "requirements" are your birds, and four pieces that both stand on their own, and fit together too. I can't wait to see what you come up with!! Thank you so much!!"


I found this idea a delightful challenge! Here is the sequence:

Pick a few good chunks of red oak from the "library".

Begin the carving. It came to mind that these pieces will drift to different homes, so the "fit" could be looser than jigsaw puzzle - more like continents - they share shapes but with variations.

Like continents, I saw the shapes as mountains as much as rocks.
I had a pair of spare bases in the studio and took this quick picture as a possibility.
I selected birds for each piece and arranged where they should face.
A quick romp in the woods to find some raw materials - strip and dry.
Each piece would have a shaped perch for the bird. The sticks needed to create a flow about the piece as a whole.
I found I needed to figure out some of the decisions before I committed the entire piece to my ideas of scorched surrounding mountains, shadows, and the high bases to loft the pieces. So I cut an extra piece.
My result was great but seemed to lack the punch of color. I wanted more red and a bit more grain without overwhelming the natural richness of the oak.

My next study got it. Added color, great burn patterns, but a bird jumped outside the design! Fun for the study, but not the commission.
 The stick base got a fun marbleized dip - floating oil paint on top of a water-based stain. (Donna's suggestion. Great technique that needs more exploration.)

So back to the piece. I designed small lofting bases for each piece. I loved the varied heights, freeing them from an exact puzzle fit, but the result in the group of four became just too busy and unfocused. I brought the pieces back to the surface.
I added the birds to their perches and played with the shadow designs. To make the shadows work they needed separate implied light sources. Suddenly, the profusion of birds and patterns seemed overwhelming and distracting from the theme of four. What works in a model does not always translate. 
Scorching is always an uncontrolled adventure. The risk is real ruination!
Each ceramic bird is designed and colored for individuality yet consistency across the four.
The result!
If it was you and your four lifelong buddies, which would YOU be?



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