{ Category Archives: bioregion/vernacular }

Scuppernong Commons

scuppernong1

Wowhaus were Artplace Environmenal Artists-in-Residence at the McColl Center for Art and Innovation in Charlotte, North Carolina in late winter of 2015. While in residence we realized an ambitious public project called Scuppernong Commons. The project is sited within Brightwalk, a mixed-income, mixed-use residential development that is a model of sustainable revitalization and economic development for the City.

Part architectural intervention, part social sculpture, Scuppernong Commons reintroduces the scuppernong grape to the urban fabric, and invites new traditions around the grape’s harvest, preparation and stewardship. Native to the Southeast, the scuppernong has been in cultivation since the 16th century and has been a common staple in homemade jams and jellies, juices, pies and wine.

scuppernong5

Scuppernong Commons consists of a walk-through arbor with overhead trellis, and poured concrete hardscape to support seasonal celebrations. In anticipation of a craft-based, community-engaged fabrication process, we designed a structural system that features a single repeating element, while allowing for randomness and variability. Twelve columns support the trellis and make an artificial allée. Each column is composed of 14 dry-stacked, pigmented concrete rings that were hand-packed with the help of volunteers from the community. The rust-red tone and claylike texture of the stacked columns evokes the region’s red clay soils.

As Charlotte continues to grow and prosper as a major hub of the New South, Scuppernong Commons is intended as a durable, loving tribute to the City’s humble origins, emblemized by the versatility and resiliency of its native fruit.

scuppernong6

scuppernong2

scuppernong3

scuppernong4

scuppernong7

 

Tagged: , , , , , ,

Makkeweks, Ifukube, and the Return of the Ray

makkeweks progress5

I’ve flipped the creature and continue to rough out its topsides with my homemade saw

Carving is like controlled erosion. A shape emerges in response to the real and imagined forces that dictate how and where material is added and removed. My primary job as I sculpt the Makkeweks sea monster is to manage these forces, which, along with the sea monster itself, are largely my invention. My primary tools are various hand saws and abrasives, some of which I have designed and made specifically for carving and cutting compressed cork.

akira_ifukube

Akira Ifukube, 1914-2006, composer of Godzilla soundtracks

Another essential tool is maintaining the appropriate state of mind to keep focus on the monster. I manage this two ways, one is cultural and the other natural. I have immersed myself in monster culture and listen to music composed by Akira Ifukube for the Godzilla movies between 1954-1975 while I carve. The son of a Shinto priest, Ifukube was originally trained in forestry and specialized in researching the elasticity of wood. His career in music followed exposure to radiation that left him physically incapable of the rigors of fieldwork. Somehow I can hear his experience with wood in his music. I feel a deep kinship with Ifukube, which I attribute to the love we must share for wood, music and monsters.

I also find inspiration in studying natural forms during our daily walks on the beach. It’s always thrilling to see pelicans dive, sea lions frolick in the surf, and the occasional breaching whale. I want the Makkeweks sculpture to convey the raw thrill of such encounters in the wild. The Makkeweks monster is a composite of native marine fauna, so I learn something new every day. I was recently extremely encouraged to hear of a bat ray sighting in Lake Merritt. I had anticipated this before the Lake was restored to a tidal estuary, and the possibility informed our conception of Makkeweks, whose name originates with an Ohlone sea monster myth.

makkeweks progress6

To learn more about the development of Wowhaus’ Makkeweks Project, click here.

 

 

Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Arborigin

arborigin cover

Arborigin is a collaborative project that brings together artists, designers and artisans to produce fine products from a single elm tree salvaged from Chicago’s urban forest. We invite those interested to submit a proposal to use some of our inventory of cured lumber and hope to bring the finished products together for a pop up store in Chicago in 2014. In simple commerce we aim to incubate ideas for ongoing partnership.

Arborigin is akin to the farm-to-table movement in food. The project asks us to consider what kinds of products a single tree might yield when the means of production, distribution and sales are highly localized. What stories and values become embedded in everyday objects when we know exactly what they were made from and who made them? Arborigin asks us to think differently about trees, about things and how they are made and used, about the relationships that connect us to place. 

The Arborigin Team seeks proposals that model an approach to designing and making that celebrates the inherent attributes of wood from a single tree. We hope to produce products that are multiples; affordable, repeatable objects, that are both useful and artful. Proposals will be solicited by invitation and through an open RFP. Proposals can be for either: 

• Fine Art: sculpture, painting, conceptual work

• One-off/prototypes

• Design/ Craft:  preferably small multiples of everyday objects such as furnishings, housewares, toys and games, instruments, or other functional objects.

To learn more about Arborigin and register to participate, please click here (www.arborigin.com).

To read about the development of the Arborigin Project, please click here and scroll down.

Tagged: , , , , ,

Return of the Glass Banjo

banjobanjoh01

Glass Banjo, 2001, hand-blown glass, aircraft aluminum, marine plywood

My trusty Glass Banjo will be included in Southern Exposure‘s juried exhibition, This Will Never Work, on view in San Francisco from November 22 – December 14, 2013. I made the piece over twelve years ago and it’s never been exhibited, rarely even seen, so I’m anxious to see how it will be received.

The Glass Banjo is part of a series of ‘field equipment’ I made to support site specific projects in remote destinations, particularly a progression of treehouse structures I orchestrated on either coast beginning in the late 1990s. After a long day in the tree and foraging the forest for materials, my volunteer crew and I would relax under the boughs, admire our work and plan for the next morning. Our twilight reverie would inevitably require libations and music, so I thought to make an all-weather banjo for impromptu song-making. I thought it’d be interesting if all project documentation were limited to made-up banjo songs.

I based the proportions of my Glass Banjo on a late 19th-Century fretless Haynes Bay State model I had purchased in the 1980’s on Bleecker Street. I reduced the number of parts to the barest minimum, choosing materials and engineering the structure to withstand outdoor living. The hook at the back of the head allows the instrument to be hung from a tree limb, within easy reach should inspiration strike.

Tagged: , , , , ,

Sea Monsters on my mind

sea monster ref1

The depiction of sea monsters is as old as seafaring. Only the shape, size and imagined intention of the monster changes over time, generally in direct relation to what is being explored and whatever constitutes the boundaries of current knowledge. Sea monsters represent the unknown, simultaneously warding off and goading the curious-minded. Historically, sea monsters have been drawn on nautical charts to demarcate unknown waters; perhaps their origin is in some primordial fear of the unknown in any guise.

I think of sea monsters more as composites of observable, unexplained phenomena, drawing on encounters with charismatic mega-fauna of the sea and filtered through the compromised mental state of the ailing seafarer fighting scurvy, malnutrition and general ennui. Sea monsters invariably have traits of creatures that eventually find their way to scientific taxonomy, creatures that are simply unknown to science prior to their status as observable phenomena, as monsters of the sea. Whales, dolphins, seals and octopi all originated as monsters in the human imagination. It must have sometimes taken centuries of rare encounters to make for a complete picture. Even so, the fear persists, the sea monster persists in the imagination beyond reason, and there will always be an unknown.

I like to think of sea monsters as a kind of muse to scientific inquiry, or to inquiry in general, an idea that has guided my vision for the Makkaweks sculpture I’m preparing to carve, to be cast in bronze and permanently sited on the shore of Oakland’s Lake Merritt. I’ve been laying up laminations of large chunks of composite cork, which I will shape into the monster and detail with surface patterns evoking a plausible sea creature. As I block out the rough shape in cork, using my clay model as a template, I’ve been researching depictions of sea monsters from art history and popular culture.

I’m interested in sculpting a contemporary sea monster, an allegory of whatever is currently unknown, or considered inplausible. I’ve been researching ancient literature, classical and renaissance sculpture, natural history, Japanese sci-fi, and garden follies in Los Angeles for visual clues about patterns that define ‘sea monster’ before I begin carving. I’d love to hear from anyone who has sea monster references to add to the archive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I found these 2 sea monsters on the grounds of Huntinfton Library in LA. 

Click here to read more about the development of Makkeweks for the City of Oakland.

Tagged: , , , , , ,

Update from Swell Break: Deep Craft on the Edge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rodeo Beach, viewed from the trail from Headlands Center for the Arts

Located on a barren bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the Marin Headlands, the Headlands Center for the Arts (HCA) feels remote, like the edge of civilization, despite its close proximity to San Francisco. Founded in the early 1980’s, HCA occupies a series of decommissioned military buildings predating WW1, originally part of Fort Baker, with the bulk of activities clustered in two identical structures originally intended to house infantry.

One of the more compelling consequences of siting military facilities along remote coastline is that they ultimately serve to protect that stretch of coast from commercial development. Upon its eventual resusitation after closing as a military base in 1950, the Headlands has emerged as a major cultural and natural treasure, a beloved destination for surrounding urban communities seeking solace, recreation and inspiration. I designed my recent workshop at Headlands, Swell Break: Deep Craft on the Edge, to tap this desire for natural/cultural engagement by positing the potential for a former military base sited in close proximity to a major surf break to be repurposed as a research lab for the design and testing of surf craft tailored to a specific break.

The Swell Break project proved to be a huge success despite the inherent challenges of scope and time. Over the course of a Labor Day Weekend, in collaboration with my friend, sculptor/surfer Lawrence Labianca, we mentored 12 workshop participants in the design, prototyping and testing of a series of simple wooden bellyboards, designed to negotiate the break at Rodeo Beach. The project has been both a follow-up and distillation of my ongoing pursuit of collaborative, artisan-scale making informed by the unique characteristics of a bioregion, particularly when it engages boat-building, skate or surf culture.

Click here to see complete photo documentation by Hans Kwiotek.

Related projects include: Micro-Expedition, Deep Craft Atelier

Click here to read more about Swell Break: Deep Craft on the Edge.

Continue Reading »

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Bellyboards Galore

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Top and bottom view of my EggBellyboard in Western Red Cedar and Walnut

I’ve made a few bellyboard prototypes for my upcoming Swell Break project at the Headlands. The first batch are deceptively minimalist, egg-shaped, about 39″ long and 23″ wide, 5/8″ thick at the middle, feathering out to about 5/16″ at the edges. I cold-laminated two layers over a contoured block to arrive at the final shape; the bottom is claro walnut, and the top is Western red cedar. The next cold laminated version will use the same woods, but will be a bit longer, narrower, and with a concave tail for better speed and tracking in the surf.

fort cronkite

‘Fort Cronkite’, the point break at the Headlands off of Rodeo Beach

I shaped my second prototype from a solid blank of laminated pine I found at Home Depot. These 18″ x 48″ x 3/4″ pieces sell for about $18 each , which is perfect for a temporary, collaborative project involving extreme experimentation. I plan to work with the group of workshop participants to produce a series of bellyboard shapes with integral graphics that identify the boards with the natural and cultural histories of the site, suggesting a new kind of visual surf language.

Click here to read more about the development of Swell Break: Deep Craft on the Edge.

Tagged: , , , , , , ,