Contributing Authors

Having roughed out the lighting and backdrop issues with this piece, I moved on to the second “actor” on the stage.  A smaller Nautilus which has been caught in a net and had its shell harvested.  He’s naked!

Check it out: Tipsy

I’ve explored the corkscrews-as-people theme before, but it was the discovery of an unusual brass one that got me interested again.  This piece was also an excuse to delve into patinas.  Note that the figure is polished shiny, while the rest is stained a deep brown/purple.


Corkscrew, door hardware cover plates, cooking pot, candle stick parts, toy gearbox, motor, aluminum and brass stock.

This months issue of Vanity Fair (October 2013) has an interesting article about the influence of socialite/tech entrepreneur Trevor Traina in bringing tech heavyweights into the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco.  Many years ago I had the good fortune to install my “Goliath” sculpture (part of my M.F.A. work at U.C. Berkeley) in this neighborhood.  The reception was mixed, as not everyone there felt he was a welcome addition.  None the less I’m pleased that the piece is still relevant to the discussion on class and taste that continues to rage on the hill.

Below is an excerpt of the article where the sculpture is mentioned:

Some bad blood followed Ellison (thats Larry Ellison of Oracle) to the Gold Coast when Nicola Miner- daughter of the Oracle co-founder Robert Miner, with whom Ellison had clashed- bought across the street from him and erected on the terrace a nine-foot robot sculpture which you can’t help but notice is male, due to the steel gas-pump nozzle and hose he has for a penis.  It’s aimed directly at Ellison’s house.  “There was a lot of talk about this being a thumbing of the nose at Larry,” recalls Traina.  But Miner replies that the robot “has nothing whatsoever to do with my father’s (or my) relationship with Larry Ellison,” which she describes as “largely harmonious…. We just thought it would make a fun contrast to our serious neighborhood…though I do know some neighbors disagree.”

An image of the sculpture did not actually appear in the article, I just couldn’t resist photoshopping him next to Kate Upton.  

As I move forward on my undersea diorama series I find its time to get serious about the backdrops.  I found some really terrific psychedelic plastic material that looks a good deal like water.  By overlaying it with some blue acetate the effect is even stronger.

I wanted to back light it with color changing LEDs but ran into some trouble getting a good sequence of colors.  I face pressure daily to get with the times and start programing my own electronics for these pieces, but its just not in my nature to turn to my computer to solve tangible problems in the studio.  The LEDs I chose for this project come with a handy little sequencer that you can program (with actual buttons) to output all sorts of patterns.  A gentle color shift selection was really nice, except that the reds were out of place for an underwater scene.  I struggled with this until it finally occurred to me:  Connect the “red” signal wire back to the “blue” contact on the LEDs!  Worked like a charm.  Shown in the video below is the result with two parallel rows of the LEDs with the blue and green lines crossed between them to change up the pattern even more.

Working on a school of tiny Jellyfish.  Each one has the bulb from one of those fake candle LEDs that populate the tables at restaurants these days.  The flickering effect really helps these guys seem alive.

Egg slicer + bicycle brake parts + shoe stretcher = Baby Cuttlefish!

I’ll have a number of small pieces in the show “Mechanical Life” at the Wallace L. Anderson Gallery, Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater MA October 15 through November 7.  I’m honored to be alongside the likes of Tom Haney and J. Shea.  I won’t be able to attend the show in person, but I’ll post photos as soon as they are available.

So, these images may not look like much, but they are pretty significant.  Thanks to the tutelage of my friend CTP I now have a reliable system for controlling my work via motion sensors.  I’ve understood this basic functionality for a while, but there are enough factors involved that I’ve never really had a firm grasp on it.  The market is flooded with affordable sensors, but only a few can be reliably tricked into doing anything other than turning light bulbs on and off.  Recently a client asked that some of my larger pieces be equipped with sensors, so it was time to get serious about it.  The most valuable part of the process for me is the little “Treasure Map” schematic that I drew up once we found a combination that worked.  This means I will  be able to replicate the system without blowing my mind (and fuses) over wiring diagrams etc.

A while back I posted about the initial failure that I faced with this piece.  Well, since then I have encountered even more failure before finally getting things working properly.  In the beginning I attempted to power this one with a wind up record player motor. Finding it lacking in torque I started over with an electric motor.  This too proved fruitless as I had chosen a bad motor.  When I face these sorts of set backs I tend to just walk away from the project until my head cools.  Upon picking it up again this week I selected yet another motor and built a tedious little universal joint drive shaft to compensate for some minor mis-alignment in the mechanism.  These changes finally did the trick!  I’d still like to do something to make it run a little quieter, and all that brass will need some sort of polishing and patina, but at least it works!

Did some more finessing of the tentacles on this Octopus piece.  Pre-existing holes from the original chandelier were filled, paint was removed, surface polished, pop rivets and washers added as suction cups.  I’ve also installed glass doorknobs with LEDs as eyes.  Still not sure if I’ll keep the brass rings around the eyes though.  They balance the finish of the tentacles nicely, but I want to avoid the “steampunk” goggle look, its bad enough that I’m making an octopus with brass tentacles.

Here is a quick look at the mechanism I’ve developed for my new Cuttlefish piece.  I’m still considering how to handle the eyes.

I’ve been working on a series of sea creature dioramas.  Things have been moving along nicely with regards to the Octopus and Nautilus, but the Cuttlefish has been giving me a hell of a time.  Unlike his comrades I’ve never really tried to capture the shape of these little beasties.  None the less I’m finally breaking through and have a rough start to share.

I just got the mechanism working on a new Nautilus sculpture.  Eventually it will be built in to a diorama for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  I still plan to add a few more tentacles and install a LED behind the eye, as well as a few other small touches.  I’ve found its best to work out the moving elements before getting lost in the details though.

Just a reminder to anyone in the San Francisco Bay area, my new piece “Armed and Dangerous” will be on display at the Exploratorium through the weekend.  There is an outdoor event that is free to the public on Saturday, and I’ll be hanging around from 11-3 just inside the main entrance (where my sculpture is installed).

I posted a while back that Make Magazine published a nice article about my studio/gallery collective “Lost & Foundry”.

Click the image above, or the link below to read the whole article as a PDF.