Way Back

I found a few pics scanned from slides to CD of my formative timber frame years. The snap below is from a barn repair and conversion I collaborated on outside of Columbus, Ohio. The hewn oak swing beam is 12″ thick and 24″ tall at the center. The posts are gunstocked in the direction of the plates and there was an interlocking tie / plate / post joint to bring everything together.

Swing beam - typical of Bent 2 and 3. Hewn white oak.
Swing beam - typical of Bent 2 and 3. Hewn white oak.

Egg Drop

Rifling through my various portfolios I found slides of work completed by some of my students way back in 1999. I had the pleasure (and challenge) of getting a last minute assignment to teach foundation level design at the Cleveland Institute of Art. I was simultaneously trying to breathe new life into the foundation level wood shop – so I had my hands full as I took time off from graduate school. A mid semester project was to create a device to lower an egg two stories safely to the ground. Typically a high school physics problem – we explored this as conceptual art meets design problem. I placed a heavy focus on ‘craft’ and hands on skill building in my course – be it a student taking on complicated wood and metal working or learning techniques for staging and coordinating their own documentary photography. Concept played a key role in all of the projects – and craft followed as students learned to make their vision a physical reality. Below are a few of my favorites.

Structure Under Tension (we’re all connected)

I created this piece while teaching design at the Cleveland Institute of Art. I’ve unearthed it from my archives as I’ve had a chance encounter on a project that reminded me how small the world is – and how interconnected we all are.

The piece attempts to reflect the interconnected nature of the world, where actions we take are linked through a web of ecosystems, potentially affecting the stability of the structure – the stability of the whole as influenced by small actions. A current that ran through my class was the blending of traditional craft with conceptual art – and my students’ work focused on blending the disciplines of ‘thinking’ with that of ‘making’. This object was the result of turning the tables on my students and asking them to write the final assignment of the semester. Both instructor and students would create works that enmeshed recent changes in our world view within an object.

Structure Under Tension is a kinetic sculpture made of wood and steel cable. 26 wedges and 26 keystones form a circle. Steel cable links keystones opposite each other across the circle and individual cables extend outward from the wedges to wooden handles. Participants assemble the structure on the ground, sit in a circle, and pull on the handles. The circle locks together, becoming a tension ring with each piece of the circle compressing on it’s neighbor. If the tension is equal and controlled around the circle, the ring lifts off the ground and floats. When pressure becomes unequal, the integrity of the structure is compromised and the ring collapses. The forces involved in holding the circle together are easily visualized – but the variables in the pressure are not easy to control. Predicting where the ring will break is impossible – as the slightest change in pressure finds the weakest link and starts to break the chain.