New photos of recent work - April 2013

I took five of my latest pieces to the photographer I've been using for three years now, Doreen Wynja, and just got the photos back. She did a great job making my work look as good as possible as she always does.

This piece is fairly large, about fourteen inches high. This was the first of what eventually became about ten pieces that all formed numerous small cracks when I was well into raising the piece. Of course trying to continue to raise the piece only made the cracks grow bigger and so I decided to accenuate the cracks and this is the result.

Working with brass sheet - 2013

After the troubles I had with the last sheet of copper I purchased, I was somewhat leery of buying more so I went to Portland back in January and bought two sheets of brass, a sheet of 20 gauge and a sheet of 18 gauge, both 70% copper 30 % zinc. The first brass piece I worked on was the second of the two pieces I needed to complete for the upcoming show this summer in Portland, 'East Meets West - The Hammered Object'. I raised a figurative piece, a female torso with arms upraised and had no trouble at all with unexpected cracking as I had with the last sheet of copper, so that was a big relief in that I confirmed to myself that the problems I was having seemed to be out of my control. I didn't take any photos of the piece yet because I delivered it to Portland where it will be photographed along with the works of the other twenty-one metalsmiths in the show.

But as I was working on the figurative piece over the course of a couple of weeks, I was also hammering on a larger free form vessel. It's been at least three years, maybe four since I last worked with brass. I had produced three or four pieces from recycled door kickplates that were fairly heavy gauge and I remember it being alot of physical work relative to hammering copper. So this time I was working with a lighter weight brass that made it go easier that before. And over these last few years my knowledge and skills have improved, not only technically but aesthetically as well. And the piece I ended up with needed a good patina to make it more striking so I used the simple method of fuming the piece with ammonia and salt in a closed plastic tub. After a week or so in the tub, I gave it three coats of wax and decided I like working with brass.

2012 work

Well, folks, I'm back to update this blog after neglecting it for some time. A lot has happened since my last post. Back in October of 2011, I was participating in the Art Harvest Studio Tour of Yamhill County for my fifth year and sharing my studio with a woodcarver friend who was showing his work with mine, when I received a surprise visit on the first morning of the tour from my friend Greg Wilbur, whose work inspired me to take up raising, along with his wife Sandy. After perusing my work he asked me if I was interested in being in a show. I said "Sure" without hesitating and he went on to explain that he was organizing a traveling exhibition of hammered metal art by eleven Japanese metalsmiths and eleven American metalsmiths that would open in Portland in 2013. Now mind you, I've only been at this raising business for about six years and I was being invited to show my work along with some of the best metal artists in the world. I was overwhelmed to say the least.

Greg told me each artist would produce two pieces, a vessel and a non-vessel, with a sixteen inch maximum size. So I had well over a year to make the two pieces. After Art Harvest Studio Tour was over, I drove to Portland to buy some copper sheet and stopped to see Greg at his house. That was an incredible experience. First of all Greg is a great guy and he is an amazing metal artist, so to see the history of his art in the many pieces he has sitting around his house, and then to see his shop where he works with pieces in various states of completion, and his hammers, and so on....  I went home inspired and a month later I had made the largest vessel I've yet created, a twelve inch globe necked down to two inches, and in my first attempt using ammonia and salt, I got a wonderful blue patina. So that was my vessel for the show, and on to the non-vessel. This is when things went south. Over the next year on every piece I worked on, about half way into the piece, small cracks began showing up and then grow larger with each round of raising, and then more would show up. It stopped me in my tracks. After eight successive pieces all failed, coming apart in dozens of cracks, and completly stopping me from creating what I wanted. My confidence went to hell, because evry time I tried to make a new vessel, about halfway into it, it would began to disintegrate. I asked around but could find no explanation of what was causing my troubles. So I scaled back, working on small pieces and pieces that didn't require such extensive raising as the vases I was doing.

Time went by...  I contacted a gallery on the coast in Astoria, the RiverSea Gallery, and they liked my work and I've had good sales there. But the copper kept coming apart when I tried raising a large vessel and time was running out. So in desperation I bought two sheets of brass (70 per cent copper) and began work on a female torso. Ideally I would have made one or two torsos and worked out the difficulties before starting a final piece for the show, but I had only time to create one piece so it had to be right the first time. It came out good enough with no cracking but only because the deadline was at hand. I delivered my two pieces to Portland to be photograhed and now can look forward to the opening of the show at the Waterstone Gallery at the end of July.

So the copper cracking problem is still unsolved and I have two sheets of brass to work with. No cracks have appeared after making two pieces out of the brass so I'm left to think that there was something wrong with the copper sheet. The real test will be when I get another sheet of copper.