Sculpture

 

I kicked the idea around for years and finally made a tarpon.  The "scales" are a mix of plain silver bottle caps, Rolling Rock beer, and Samuel Adams beer.   The photo was taken at low tide on Jekyll Island. 

Length:  48". Personal collection.

 

Finished this one in late March 2012.  It goes by many names:  bluegill, sunfish, pumpkinseed, shellcracker...  They're about the size of an open hand, but at 39", this one is a bit larger.   There are seven kinds of bottle caps.

I grew up eating these rolled in corn meal and pan fried in bacon grease.  Life doesn't get much better than that, but a Wisconsin gourmand of all things fishy swears by a beer batter.  Maybe it's time to get the cane pole and conduct a taste test. 

Length:  39".  Personal collection.

 

 

This shot includes five varieties of bottle caps.

 

 

 

These are the two most recent fish I've completed (January 2012).  These are bottle caps and tin over a wood core.    The caps are from Fat Tire Ale and Sweetwater beer.  And no, Mom, I didn't drink them all myself. 

Greatest length:  30".  Personal collection.

 

 

The white koi sculpture is of a female.  They're rounder and more full-bodied than the slimmer males, like the red one. 

The eyes are buttons, on permanent loan from my wife's sewing kit.

 

 

The gold edges of the Sweetwater beer caps make the sculpture kind of shimmer, even if you didn't drink the beer.   

 

 

 

I'm pretty tickled with this one, if you don't mind me saying so.  This hammerhead shark is the largest fish sculpture to date and probably the most challenging.  Just under 6' long, it's an attention getter.  I tried hard to capture the sleek lines and subtle angles of a real hammerhead.  The lustrous glow of the old galvanized tin works very nicely in this piece. 

 

   

 

The teeth are actual shark teeth, but fossilized examples from several species.  Makes for a proper snaggly look I think.

Personal collection.  Length:  69".

 

 

Here's a redfish I did recently.  Some trusted local critics (okay, my wife and son) told me I needed some color in my fish.  This thing nearly glows in the dark.  I wasn't too sure about the piece, but my son really liked it, so it's his now. 

Last thing -- the eyes are knapped bits of obsidian.  

Length:  27".

Joseph Blackwell collection.

 

 

Here's a closeup of the scales.  Great old soda bottle caps.

 

 Coelacanth.  37", bottle caps and tin over wood.  Bits of antler for teeth.  This one is barely finished, but I have plans for another.  There are at least two species of coelacanth:  brown ones like this guy and some that are a rich, vivid blue.  Blue?  Who woulda thunk it? 

 

If you don't know anything about coelacanth, allow me to bore you for a minute...  They were known from the fossil record but thought to have been extinct since the end of the Cretacious, which would make them even older than my favorite Converse high tops.  Then in 1938, one came up in a fishing net off the coast of South Africa.  Since then, they've been discovered swimming in many parts of the world.   How cool is that?  Way, I'd say.

 

It took a while (five years?) but I made a sturgeon like the one that was lost (scroll way down for a short sob story).  This one has very similar lines to the earlier one.  Very pleased with it.    

Length:  about 60".

Personal collection.

 

 

Over the last few years, my brain itched when I knapped.  There was always this nagging thought that there should be more.  More than just two dimensions, more than just pretty points to lock in a glass frame, more ways to express creative ideas... 
Eventually I had the thought that knapping could be incorporated in sculptural forms.  These pieces grew out of that idea.  I've been thinking with my hands and as time allows, I hope to add many more.    

The best way to view this photo is to hit the F11 button (hit it again to restore the toolbar). 

I finished this piece in early June, 2009 after kicking the idea around for about a year.  Very pleased with the results.

The foreshafts are made of bocote, a spectacular hardwood from Mexico .  The points are made of a variety of materials. 

Height:  26".  Width:  30".  

Larry Alexander collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This piece is based on the Haida legend of how Raven the trickster stole a piece of the sun and brought light to the earth.   The "wings" and "tail" are knapped from rainbow obsidian from Davis Creek, California.  The "sun" is red art glass.  Painted walnut comprises the rest of the piece, with cotton cordage holding the "wings" in place.  

Each wing is about 15" in length.  Overall height is approximately 22". 

Collection of Carolyn Johnson. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

I really enjoyed making this piece.  The Ross blade is made of art glass from West Virginia, the same material that the "sun" above is made from.  I sculpted the uprights to echo the curves of the Ross blade.  I also wanted them to suggest the ends of a bow.  The cordage, suggestive of a bowstring, was hand-made from the inner bark of a basswood tree. 

Length of Ross blade: about 6".  Overall height:  about 10". 

Collection of Carolyn Johnson. 

 

 

This piece was my first attempt to blend knapping and contemporary art forms.  As I knapped this replica of a Mississippian dance sword, I kept thinking about all the waste flakes that piled up at my feet.  Thousands and thousands of flakes, all subtly different.  Every one of them possessing a unique beauty in their own right, even though they were considered "waste."  I decided to let them tell their story, to let them show how integral they were in the birth of the blade.  Here in this sculpture, they look as though they have arranged themselves in a pile, drawn themselves up, and are presenting their offspring to the viewer.  The flakes are the parents:  the blade is the gifted child. 

Rootbeer chert from Texas is the material.

Blade length, 12".  Overall height, 14". 

Collection of Carolyn Johnson.

                                                                                        

  

 

 

This may be the most technically difficult piece I've ever knapped.  The hand is based on my own hand (but slightly oversized), including the bent little finger.  The first hurdle was driving long flakes across the palm and the back of the hand to thin the piece.  They had to be smooth with clean terminations while covering an area over five inches wide. Then came the notches between the fingers.  The notches were done with punching, which is usually a straightforward process.  Of couse, the hand required four notches, all deep, and all demanding precise contours to match my fingers.  This required a balancing act:  I had to get the hand thin enough to drive in the deep notches while keeping it thick enough to resist breaking under the stress of notching.  There were two failures.  This was the success.

All over the world, there are walls in caves and canyons where our ancestors slathered red ochre on their hands and pressed them against the stone.  Even today, great sumo wrestlers paint their huge hands red and make imprints on rice paper for their fans.  These handprints were the inspiration to knap my own open hand.

I submitted the piece to a juried art competition.  The show's theme had to do with the qualities of light:  how light can be focused and illuminating.  That led me to the thought of the cordage web with the central opening...  The web needed support and out came the semi-pseudo-oriental-ish frame...  Long story short, the piece wasn't selected for the show. 

  

Here in my house, when the sun's on its way down, the light slants through the window and backlights the hand.  That open hole in the palm blazes like the eye of God and throws fire across the walls.  I love it.

Overall height, 24". 

Collection of Carolyn Johnson.

 

Here's a new piece that's not quite finished.  Need to finish the knotwork and the base.  There are eleven Graham Cave points.  The longest is about 7".

 

There is a variety of materials.  Some are Alibates, Tecovas jasper, Georgia jasper, Mookite, Flint Ridge, and coastal plains chert.

 

 

And now for something completely different.  Here's a folky white sturgeon I did a few years ago.  It's very close to anatomically correct but has a nice sense of whimsy about it.  The idea was to create a piece that looked as though it had been made 100 years ago by someone very familiar with this species -- maybe a fisherman or a biologist.   

 It's a big fish, right at five feet long.  Or was a big fish -- UPS Ground managed to lose it in shipment.  If you happen to see it, give me a shout.  I'd really like to have it back.

 The sturgeon is made of galvanized sheet metal over a wooden form made of western red cedar.  The process to age the shiny metal was highly technical:  I burned it with a torch, beat it with a hammer, and drug it around a gravel parking lot.  A couple weeks in the rain put a nice coat of rust on the nails.  Like I said, real rocket-science stuff. 

 

 Sturgeon are fascinating creatures.  They swam with dinosaurs (they've been around a long time) and are the largest freshwater fish in the world.  They don't have scales and aren't the least bit slimy.  In fact, their skin feels like velvet or plush leather.  Five rows of hard, bony "scutes" project through their skin for protection.  No teeth, but they do have sensitive whiskers to locate food on the bottom, which they suction up through poochy vacuum cleaner lips.  Really amazing fish. 

 

Here's another big funky fish.  This is an alligator gar, an armor-plated eating machine that cruises southern swamps.  Big ones will go several hundred pounds.  This one didn't weight that much, but it is five feet long.   

Mannie Moore collection.

Like the sturgeon, it's pretty much correct anatomy-wise.  Except for the glass eyes and nail teeth.  And maybe a couple other details, like the  bottle cap scales and wooden innards... 

 

I collected the beer bottle caps in the roughest parts of Montgomery, Alabama.  I timed my visits for daylight on Sunday mornings, ideally in a cold rain.  Never had any trouble, but it was a sociology study of sorts seeing where people gathered in half-hidden places, what they drank, and what else they left laying around.  The "scales" on this alligator gar are pretty rusted, but I have a great collection of colorful caps to use on another big fish one of these days.  

 

Contact:  woodyblackwell@gmail.com

 

Home | About Me | Portfolio | The DVD | More Sculpture
Web Design by: HWS. All rights reserved. Login