Way back in January I returned to my old high school, Nakusp Secondary, to work with students on an Art Starts Design Thinking project. This was a very cool challenge for me because over the last two years I've been paying close attention to my personal design/build process. I have been especially observant of a few key ingredients for success:
Input/output balance. First research and development then creation. Inspiration! you cannot pull from an empty, tired mind.
Accept that the project will hit all sorts of phases and for sure be super ugly for long periods of time.
Dream If you have a direction and a dream it is much easier to push past design and physical obstacles; to relax inside the entire process.
Remember it's all about process - the joy of building something new and the elation when dreams become reality.
Re generation is a student-designed and built mild steel sculpture that explores themes around nature's cycles, relating to the venue and humans we designed for: Nakusp Secondary School. We identified that schools work in a cycle; every year, new students arrive and some leave. It’s a story of maturation over again.
Six days is not a lot of time to design and build a sculpture. I'll usually think and sketch about something for a year or so and then take five hundred hours or more to construct it. Six days was a challenge, but we did it! This is a short version of our steps.
Becoming an Artist team We worked together as a team to embody the many aspects of creating work for the public and sharing it in a modern accessible way. Each team member has their own strengths and wisdom to share, and as a team we appreciate everyone's gifts and input.
Design thinking As artists, we don't just create the physical work, we often create an entire story. What is the story of Nakusp Secondary School?
Immersion into the creative process Entertaining all ideas, in this phase of design anything is possible. Gravity can't stop us and no idea is too silly or unattainable for our team.
Building and Exploring Most steel comes in some type of two dimensional form. In order to take it to the third dimension, careful planning is necessary due to the expensive nature of the medium and the time it takes to convince it into a pleasing shape.
Execution of physical sculpture The main frame of the sculpture is mild steel pipe of various sizes donated by Waterbridge Steel. First, with rolls of paper to test ideas and then the real thing, we manually cold bent the frame by utilizing and exploring the effects of different shop tools. The smaller branches were shaped from offcuts from my own studio and were shaped in the same way as the pipe. Following that, we welded on the steel leaves and birch bark we had cut out.
Parts of this sculpture (the leaves and birch bark detail) were designed in paper by the students, transferred to a digital file by me, and then custom profiled here in town. By utilizing industry technology we were able to cut down on shop time, the human element, and the skills needed to manually cut out multiple parts with precision ... the kind of cutting it takes years to master.
The leaves were painted with gold automotive pigments and paint that I use on my sculpture work and should pick up the light in all seasons, but especially could bring warmth to a barren Winter landscape.
The final resting place of this project is still under discussion, but will be installed somewhere, sometime. I'll keep you posted.