June 29, 2024

As a project-based artist, I’m usually moving between places and activities. Not everything happens in the studio, but the studio is a place that holds the art practice. It’s the place where I am alone with my thoughts; and it’s also the place where I invite people into my art. Currently, I’m working on a project in the metal shop. This week I blocked out time in my calendar wherever I was free and the metal shop was open. So, in between classes, I use every free moment to move my project forward. After an individual meeting with John Neff, I went to the library and looked up the artists we discussed and took those books to the studio and some back to my apartment. In the studio, I take my material experiments from the metal shop and arrange them, photograph them, sketch them. The studio is a place of collecting, improvisation, rethinking, deep looking, and leaving and returning. 

I came to the MFA program with a project that I want to recontextualize. Last fall, I made cast iron and brass manhole covers at the Arts/Industry residency at the Kohler Foundry. These Viewfinders were designed specifically for two nearby sites where a culverted stream flows—an elementary school yard and an important city park. I’m thinking about how to show these works outside of that context, in indoor exhibition spaces. So I’m thinking about pedestals and exhibition furniture in an expansive way. I’m working with Jonathan Lanier, the sculpture technician, who has taught me how to use multiple tools and processes in SAIC’s metal shop. I started with an idea for a cylindrical stand made of steel bars and tubes, to be wrapped in sheet metal. I started by turning square bar into circles and welded those together, and then tacked on the square tube legs. At this point, I placed the pattern on top of this low pedestal.1 I was thinking about how the pedestal isn’t neutral just because it has straight lines. I was thinking about abstractions of water, waves, drips, flow and how I can bring that into the design. Do I need to cover the structure of the pedestal with metal? Can the legs be a flow? Can the base look like a stream, a river?

Jackie, who works in the metal shop, showed me how to use the tube/rod bender to create different angles. Jonathan showed me two ways to bend steel rod using heat: The first way is to use the oxy acetylene torch to quickly heat a specific area and bend it with the rigidity of the cold areas. The second way is to use the forge to heat a more generalized area and use force to hammer the metal to shape it. Then I started to think about the ends of the rods. How do I finish them? Are they cut cleanly to a 90 degree angle? Do they flow like water? Do they taper?  Jonathan introduced the term upset. Upset is a blacksmithing process to create a bulge by hammering the end of a bar into itself so that it swells out. I spent Friday with the forge, experimenting with the process, with the ends of the rods. I ended up with a few examples, including a flared bellbottomed upset bar and a nice blister on my palm.

  1. The height is 12”, which is inspired by a Japanese tea table or chabudai. My mother is Japanese and I grew up with low tables and sitting on the floor. Throughout my process of making, I think about my Japanese ancestors and their relationships to the materials I’m working with and ritual and the relationship to bodies in physical space.