Resurfacing, but not literally

When I moved to Nashville, I didn’t have a space to make personal work anymore. I made due as best I could, but building sculpture in an apartment is tough. 

Instead, I pivoted for a while, working in two-dimensional processes of collage but with a ‘builder’s’ take on it. Layering odd subject matter with unexpected patterns or texture was the basis, but adding in a completely random line of text got me geeked. It was my first interest in words and literature in a visual arts component. 

Suddenly these mashed up elements had an opinion, a meaning, something to say. The best part was that I had nominal control over it. I liked the fact that I never knew what a finished piece would look like. Adding snippets of song lyrics to a floral print soldier traipsing across a field just because I heard it when I was working added such an element of chaos, but somehow they harmonized too. It was great.

While planning a series of sculptural dining experiences today, I stumbled across my old stash of cut silhouettes. Bumblebees of varying sizes, AK-47s and Disney princesses. You know, the usual. 

I’ve got to find a way to use these. It was serendipitous, and got my mind going a thousand different directions. Miniature maquette stages, or life size reinventions, there’s so much I could do with it. 

I love it when something from our past comes back, and suddenly this random offshoot of our story, a once-upon-a-time tangent, is made relevant. 

Anyone else have experiences like this?

Pair of Japanese dancers, hand cut from vintage paisley patterned paper

Pair of Japanese dancers, hand cut from vintage paisley patterned paper

Concept Sketch

I don’t often get to sketch out concepts in any more than a simple black line drawing, and I don’t even really share those that often either. I’m officially taking this Sunday off, which means I get to pursue “creative passion” or whatever, and work on things that I don’t necessarily have clients for. It’s everything from art installations concepts to words and phrases I think are funny. Sometimes it’s a social sculpture idea. Other times, it’s lyrics and snippets of commercials. Frenetic, I know, but they’re usually things that I just HAVE to get out of my head.

 

Anyway, today I was playing with a retail or branding concept. Takeaways, where technically everything is ‘stealable’. Theft is encouraged, as each piece is signed and numbered with gold inlay. Each piece has content, which is all relatively irrelevant. 

Implements. 

Implements. 

 

For me, I ask the question on what this qualifies as. Is it a marketing concept, guerrilla in nature, but altruistic and non-destructive as well? Or is it sculpture, toying with and poking fun at the concept of consumerism and value. They’re worthless upon acquiring, but once procured, they retain individual and entirely separate experiences, scratches and scrapes. They acquire their own organic provenance. 

 

Or maybe it’s just a pretty way to show things. 

 

Project Scope:

The panels would be constructed out of multi-layers of ply, similar to apple ply, with a walnut or dark stained front and back. The edges would be exposed, unstained or altered. 

An acceptable substitute is solid dark walnut. 

Thinner boards of similarly treated wood are laser etched with text and emblems to make them seem similar to other classically bulk produced marketing material (ie. key chains, flyers, letters, magnets, stickers, etc.). They will feature information for a brand/company/person/thing/etc.. Maybe Emily Dickinson poems?

The back of each will have information, regarding number in series (which functions as a searchable reference number on a coinciding website maybe?) as well as the Handy Dandy Productions logo. This will either be gold foil or brass inlay. 

Some boards will be hung from brass pegs, either on top of other boards or elsewhere. 

The collection will sit on one level, be it shelf or table, in a manner of overlap that is mutable to circumstance. It will be unattended for one hour each day. 

 

So…what do you think? (I hope you realize how terrifying and difficult a question that is)

Would you take one? Would you take more and sell them? Hoard them? Burn them?

Or do you leave it for someone else to steal?

Or do you vote for commercial use? 

 

Welcome to my weird obsessive thought process.

Faux Wormholes, Antiquing Lumber Series

Many of you have asked how I make new wood look old. It's definitely a process, and so I wanted to share with you some of the techniques I use , along with what they do and why, so that you can mix and match as you'd like. Here's another technique for you! 

The tool I use for this technique looks like a medieval torture device. It's designed to make lots of little tiny holes in wood similar to those made by small worms and beetles when they eat old lumber, especially my arch nemesis Powderpost beetles. You can sit there for hours with an awl or sharp stabby device, but who has time for that. This process takes long enough as it is. 

Instead, there's this, the torture device. I used a scrap piece of plywood I had in the studio and 1.5" drywall screws to make it. Pre-drill a bunch of holes with a small bit randomly over across the board, trying to keep them as perfectly straight as possible. Then, put in the screws, pushing them through the board so the sharp ends are as close to level as you can make them. 

They don't have to be as long as mine are. All you need is about a 1/4" of exposed screw tip to gouge the little holes and you're good. 

(Oh, and please do not use this on people...It's for wood only. Maybe clay or something. But not people. Use of this tool is for adults only and at your own risk.)

 

Then, you attack the lumber. Holding the block like a chalkboard eraser (do they even still make those?), slap the sharp side of the screws into the face of the wood. Repeatedly. Like, a lot. Some of the holes will be a little deeper than others, and that's fine. Remember, you're trying to make it look 'organic', so you can get away with a fair bit of sloppiness. 

If the board has a pretty wide center, like the board on the right does, I like to focus on that area. Its a tiny thing, but I like details like that. Bugs like powderpost beetles tend to eat more of the outside or the deep inside of wood, occasionally passing through the middle. Consider it a nod to authenticity, but really, just make a bunch of small holes. 

 

Once you've pulverized the board, it's time to apply the stain. With a dark stain like this (I used Minwax Early American) the pigment and base that make up the wood stain will sink into the holes more than the face of the wood. It's sort of like marinading meat; the seasonings are filling in the broken fibers and leaching into the surface better than if they just puddle on top. Now that I'm no longer hungry, I can continue. 

I like to use a pretty heavy amount of stain, and recommend using a natural bristle brush. It'll get into the small perforations a lot better. Then use a shop cloth, rag or paper towel to remove the excess that's sitting on the surface. You'll notice the holes are considerably darker than the surrounding area. As the stain dries, the stain that's in those holes will slowly spread into the wood around it, accenting them even more. Sort of like spalting (streaky black lines  that look absolutely gorgeous in wood, more on that later).

If you're using a very light stain, and you want more contrast there's a little trick to it. Use a foam brush to apply a much lighter application of the lighter stain. You're really just trying to tint the surface, but not get too much in the holes. Repeat 2-3 times until it's the color you want. As soon as you do that, use a brush to apply a darker stain, like dark walnut, over the first stain. Immediately wipe off the excess. Don't let the stain sit there for more than a minute before wiping it off.

Essentially, you're trying to saturate the top layer of the wood with the lighter color, then  get the darker stain into the pores you've made. Another way is to apply the dark stain first as normal, then come back and sand off the surface of the wood once it's fully dry. Then you put the lighter stain on. But that takes time...and I'm usually too impatient... 

Anyway, use this in conjunction with the rest of the techniques to get better looking, faux antiqued wood! Just remember to seal the project with polyurethane or polyacrylic when you're done! 

 
A fresh clean pine board, ready to get slapped.

A fresh clean pine board, ready to get slapped.

Make sure to hold the smooth side...hey, I've just got to say it. 

Make sure to hold the smooth side...hey, I've just got to say it. 

Holier than thou (I had to...)

Holier than thou (I had to...)

Stain time! 

Stain time! 

Removing the excess stain

Removing the excess stain

Voila, a worm eaten board! 

Voila, a worm eaten board! 

Vinyl Sleeves 2.0

I say this a lot, but there's something unendingly incredible about seeing an idea in your head become something tangible. I wanted to show a little bit of the process behind one of our installations we just finished, our Album Art Strips. They were commissioned by Razor and Tie, a NY based record label, for their new recording/writing/coworking space here in Nashville. 

We started with drawings. We knew we were going to use album art, but how do you reimagine them into something new and innovative? I also didn't want it to be blatant. Half the fun of these installations is about making them constant discovery moments. You can look at it every day and see something new. 

Here's the sketch that the client and I settled on.

image.jpg

We liked that it had great movement and filled the wall without covering it entirely.

Then we prepped. Three sheets of plywood cut down into random width strips, cut again into random lengths, then sanded. I used a weather resistent Loctite industrial gradecspray adhesive so that humidity and durability wouldn't be an issue long term. I left overhang so that the sides could be trimmed to fit perfectly. Then we sandblasted the surface to 'age' it. I took the images down enough that you can still recognize some of the albums, but they weren't this crazy hodgepodge of color, image and text. 

image.jpg

I left the tops and bottom of each panel uncovered so that it could be screwed to the cinderblock wall. It's still really hard work, but a hammer drill and good masonry bits make it so much better.

image.jpg

Once the panels were all attached, we went back and covered the exposed ends. Cut them to size, a little steel wool and sanding and it was done. 

image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg

So, what do you think?