Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Blue Elephant and High Tops

Mid-stride in a Modesto antique mart, a dented blue lunch box caught my eye. I have never make an animal from a lunch box… what might this be? Transforming cast off items is much harder than it might seem and it involves quite a bit of risk.

Immediately, I though of an elephant. After all, my own metal Disney lunch box was heavy and clunky, just like the Dumbo on its cover. I remember swinging it through the halls of my elementary school in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

So, from this wonderful old blue lunch box, a blue elephant has emerged, and it is much to my liking. It has taken form with the transformation of the following parts:

1.  Coffee table legs from Port Townsend, WA
2.  Cutting torch tips for tusks
3.  Steamer basket ears
4.  A brass hose nozzle, made in Italy, for the trunk, and
5.  A small used paintbrush for the tail

My Dumbo lunch box didn’t fare that well... It graduated from a lunch box to a coffin. What did it contain? One fall day my dad was tasked with buying me a new pair of winter shoes. We went to Okun Brothers Shoes in Kalamazoo. To my dismay, he chose ones with hard leather soles and brown suede uppers. Kid laughed! So I took those shoes and closed them up in the Dumbo lunch box and I hid it under my parent’s dresser. I wore my Converse high tops all that cold Michigan winter… and the next… and the one after that, too – they are still my go-to favorites. When my parents asked what happened to my leather shoes, I said I had no idea. I got a new Man From Uncle lunch box and a tornado blew the roof off Okun Brothers, scattering shoes all over town.

Spurred on by this successful elephant I have an old Coleman thermos animal that is waiting to be born!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Toaster Yak

“I like toast.” This is what my t-shirt from Bainbridge Island’s Blackbird Bakery says. Is that what I was thinking of as I researched yaks, representing the “Y” letter in the 2015 Felix Kulpa show?

Yaks are interesting creatures, not from around here. They are small, sturdy and shaggy. People put saddles on them, milk them, make clothing from them, and eat them. They have a distinctive back hump, and at first glance, I thought it looked like toast coming out of a toaster.

So I moved forward, shaping the form and character from:

1.  A redwood fence slat,
2.  Stubby tool handle legs, sanded to reveal dark uneven texture, with shaped hooves, 
3.  A carved redwood head,
4.  Horns courtesy of the two handles from a pair of pliers that an Open Studios visitor brought me,
5.  A paintbrush tail,
6.  A heavy chain for leading the yak,
7.   A nose ring not thrown at the Boardwalk carousel’s clown, and
8.  Two pieces of redwood toast.

Not only do I like the juxtaposition of two very different things – a massive, dense yak and a light, airy piece of toast – I like humor and visual puns, and making secret, hidden elements not easily seem. Similar to a secret compartment on an old roll top desk, I have made a number of animals that have a funny or secret compartment – like the drawer filled with cigars that replaced the pouch on my kangaroo, or the vulture make out of an old recipe box that contained a flattened cloth “road kill” (currently on view through August 2015 at the County Government Center).

The secret compartment on my yak has two slices of toast AND painted yellow heating elements – it wouldn’t be a toaster without them! See it in person at the Felix Kulpa Gallery through July 26th.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Snail Sings

I have never made a snail before. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the architecture of a snail, or its ability to carry it’s own shelter. It was just never on my radar until my wife suggested it as an animal that begins with an “s” for my upcoming solo show at the Felix Kulpa Gallery.

I thought it would be hard to infuse a snail with character – my trademark mantra. Let’s face it, a snail has, well, no face. Does it? But I was game, so I began the collection that would become one of my all-time most successful and endearing pieces. “Do we have to part with this one?” I ask my wife.

Here's the parts roundup:

1. A stock of a flintlock pistol
2. Drum sticks
3. Cheese dome and a jar lid
4. Child's game board of the U.S.
5. Small pool ball
6. Spring from a large clock
7. Maple carved teeth

Does a snail have teeth? I am not interested in the answer. I love to make teeth for my animals because they add character and some edginess, necessary components that please me as an artist.

My aim as a creator of quirky animal sculptures is to represent the essence of that animal. The pieces tell me how they will fit, where they will go. I am the vehicle from which they come into existence – the instrument, not the music. A piece that comes together perfectly sings and takes my breath away. It is so satisfying, but it takes lots of arduous work. The singing from my newly finished snail is loud and joyful. “Should I keep it?” I ask my wife again.

Here’s the two different sides of my finished snail. Come see it in person at the Felix Kulpa Gallery beginning First Friday, July 3rd at 6 pm. Let me know if it sings to you, too!