Last spring I had an amazing opportunity, which destined me to months of hard but rewarding work. After being awarded a commission to create a sculpture for the city of Bellingham, I invested in a one of a kind machine; a 50 ton hydraulic press made by artist Tony Buchen. A hydraulic press has a single powerful squishing force that can be carefully controlled with different top and bottom dies and depth controls. From a metal forming point of view, the press allows one to form practically any shape with the right set-up. In pursuing designs to fabricate my own I stumbled upon Tony’s for sale in Alabama. The press is incredibly well engineered, crafted, and uniquely designed for a free-forming creative approach.
After making arrangements to have it shipped out via train, I began building the Jib Crane, which would enable me to handle larger material and projects. The crane has a deep and massive foundation, a tall central post, a large bracket with roller bearings and a horizontal I beam with a trolly and hoist. Â The beam can spin in a large radius around the shop while the hoist can roll along the length of the beam, picking several tons of weight anywhere within its circular reach.
By the time the press arrived, the crane parts were fabricated and both tools were installed. After everything was up and running, it was due time to build the commissioned sculpture and the tools have been in high demand ever since. There is a beautiful relationship between the two, where I can salvage large material like steel plate, lift it off a trailer, float it into the press, form it into practically any shape I can imagine, drop it back onto the trailer and out into the world. It’s an efficient and limitless system that has me very inspired by its creative potential.
6ft deep hole for crane foundation.
Jib crane parts being fabricated.
Press forming plate steel.
This is a story about an amazing being; our dog Wiley. Wiley was big, black, and looked like a wolf, but with bright amber eyes he would tell you that he was full of tricks, jokes and compassion. Wiley understood people well and could easily become your friend in a way unique to animals. He might prance through your door and spend the day relaxing on the floor, watching carefully as you work as though he know when you were about to make a mistake. Or sometimes he would move quickly on, investigating the day’s happenings. Wiley loved the mountains most, where he could run hard through the snow and walk along soft trails, listening with a keen instinct that I admired. He would tell you about what the wind had carried up from the valley. With nightfall his body would curl and eyes dim, giant ears remembering the day, and a heart sensitive to every moment of it.
This memorial was painted by Yale Wolf.
Over the past few seasons there has been a lot of new energy and inspired projects down at the ‘compound’. One of the more long term efforts has been to create a community food garden and functioning rain garden in the landscape. Inspired by all the people that use the bike path and live in the subsidized housing next door, Nick Spring of BUGS, Bellingham Urban Garden Syndicate, realized the potential of contributing a food garden to the area. Similarly, Bay of Plantas Nativa saw the value of creating a rain garden that would capture and filter the high volume of storm water that flows off our rooftops and driveways before making it’s way to the fragile shoreline below us. A portion of that water will also be collected in barrels and used for watering the plants. Through occasional work parties and creative ideas, we are slowly transforming the area into an alternative model that supports our local community and independent business district.
And on the South end of the garden is a farm stand and the delicious Wailing Goat Espresso, which also sells jewelry and pottery made here.
A while back we hosted our third Pecha Kucha Night in the Farmer’s Market Depot; a beautiful glass structure located in the center of town. The theme was Adventure and drew an exciting group of explorers, travelers and athletes of many types. Rustic Crust hosted wood fired pizza, La Fiamma restaurant donated a catered bar of fresh cocktails, Plantas Nativa filled the room with plants and along with artwork and music it was a terrific event.
The theme for the evening was ‘Grow Baby Grow- creative agriculture and innovation’. It was an amazing night of presentations, wood fired pizza, and beer. Topics ranged from permaculture design to urban farming, mycology, non-GMO policy, habitat restoration, and the county’s agricultural history. Ten presenters shared a 6min 40sec presentation on their field of expertise. The next Pecha Kucha will be on March 29th and the theme is Adventure.
Photography by Jason Byal
Altility Art Studio was a part of something very exciting recently; Bellingham’s first Pecha Kucha night. Pecha Kucha is an alternative slide show event that originated in Tokyo and has since spread to over 400 cities around the world, and is now an awesome part of the Bellingham community. Headed by Aaron Westgate of FreeFlow Studios, an organizing committee decided on a broad topic and then sourced 10-15 presenters whose work would address the subject in some creative and interesting way. By rule, each presenter has 20 slide images with 20 seconds per slide for a total 6:40 minute presentation. It’s intended to be a rapid fire, colorful event that turns a typically dull slide presentation into an exciting party full of suspense and fresh ideas. The theme for the first event was “Some Assembly Required: the process of putting things together”. Staying close to the design-build origins of the event, we had collection of presenters ranging from artists, architects, unusual kayak inventions, tree houses, bike building, industrial design, communal living design, etc.. In hosting the event at my shop, we cleared out the main floor, put new artwork in the gallery, fired up the wood fired pizza oven, and had a keg of local beer. About 130 people showed up for an evening of networking, celebrating and education on unique ideas and creations happening within the community. There was a lot of excitement in the air, and we could tell that we hit the right chord and plan to continue the event. Next month the theme will be “Grow Baby Grow” and will be a collection plant experts presenting on farming, landscaping, food and the condition of our agrarian community.
Check out some great photography and slides from the first event at here on the event’s facebook page.
When our work schedules permit, or even if they don’t, we escape into the truly awesome North Cascade mountain range for some back country ski mountaineering. Located just over the Bellingham foothills, we’ve had a very inspiring winter, spring and summer exploring this new terrain.
My longtime partner, Jess and I moved up to Bellingham, WA for a few reasons — a smaller more close knit community that shared our interests, a vast expanse of mountains to ski and explore, and a locally oriented economy that could support both of our businesses. For five years Jess has been in medical school preparing for a career as a naturopathic doctor and since she opened a clinic in January, her practice has been steadily growing. Vital Source Natural Medicine is a naturopathic, primary care practice that emphasizes treating the whole person and supporting the body’s ability to heal itself. She works with her patients to create a lifestyle that supports health and utilizes natural remedies that facilitate a deep and lasting level of healing. Jess treats a wide variety of ailments ranging from everyday conditions such as colds and flus, to emotional disorders, chronic conditions and diseases. A wealth of information about her practice and naturopathic medicine in general can be found on her website vitalsourcenaturalmedicine.com
Click the link below to have a look at a brief video of the studio during the intense forging process of ‘Reprise’.
Altility Web Commercial
Last November I was commissioned to create an outdoor sculpture relating to the concept of the â€˜tree of lifeâ€™, or my interpretation of the growth and cycles of our natural world. The scale of this sculpture provided a rare opportunity to acquire a piece of equipment that has had a remarkable impact on my sculpture and metal forging capabilities: the power hammer. A power hammer enables the blacksmith to manipulate hot metal with more artistic potential and efficiency than the hand-powered process ofÂ hammer and anvil. Utilizing a foot pedal, the blacksmith presses down on the hammerâ€™s treadle, engaging the tremendous force of the ram in a very controlled manner.
Over the course of a couple months I purchased the hammer from an amazing artist blacksmith Jorgen Harle who works and resides on Orcas Island.Â I installed the machine and began preparing to create a work of art that would have previously been impossible.
With the capability to work with larger material I also needed to construct a new forge (heat source) that was able to get the material hot enough to work. My new forge design has an emphasis on being very fuel efficient and is versatile enough to work stock of any size.
With the facility ready, the design finalized, and a team assembled, we were ready to forge the pieces that would later be assembled into the sculpture. My objective was to create a piece of art that evoked a sense of growth, balance, transition and cycle in a very concise and intentional way. The final design was comprised of 6 similar pieces, proportionally related to the spiral of the Fibonacci sequence or â€˜golden meanâ€™. Starting with salvaged 2.25â€ solid steel bar, sections were heated in the forge and then brought to the hammer to be worked until cool. Straight pieces were curved into a textured arc by hammering or ‘fullering’ primarily one side of the bar, thus lengthening one side in comparison to the other. Over the course of five days, the bars were shaped into spiral arcs and the pieces created. In the weeks following the forging stage, I assembled the pieces into the form that would define the finished sculpture.Â This was an intricate process of allowing the interplay of the pieces to define their own language and design.
The addition of the power hammer to the shop through this project has greatly enhanced the possibilities for scale and technique in sculpting metal, leaving me inspired to explore its creative potential.