The BLAKE table in situ (photograph by Mimi Gibion for Remodelista)
I call my latest table design the BLAKE as an homage to the pioneering surfer/shaper Tom Blake, inventor of the hollow surfboard.
BLAKE is a minimalist sculpture as much as a functional dining table, a floating white torsion box, compatible with Shaker and surfer alike.
The top is a seamless, folded miter skin of MDF around a honeycomb core, covered with six coats of a durable resin, polished to a high gloss. The legs are solid walnut, milled from horticultural salvage in Northern California, finished with hand-rubbed tung oil.
BLAKE is the latest in my ongoing exploration of tables and chairs and their relationship to community and place. BLAKE is available exclusively through TURPAN.
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 “Update from Swell Break: Deep Craft on the Edge”
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’, 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.
Whether the intended outcome is a new sculpture, furniture design or product idea, I often begin the ‘Proof of Concept’ phase with a stroll through the salvage yards. My absolute favorite is Maselli & Sons in Petaluma, CA. With over seven acres of neatly organized machine parts, scrap metal, salvaged tools, motors and hardware, it’s easy to find what you’re looking for, and even easier to find what you had no idea existed but could not do without.
For me, Proof of Concept involves building a working model, with the goal of establishing an idea’s feasibility. Demonstrating Proof of Concept, however schematic in form, makes it much easier to proceed with cost estimates and material requirements, the next steps in planning a production when collaborating with fabricators and engineers. It also often leads to a better idea or technique than originally conceived.
For Spinnradl, I need to prove that a hand-cranked, acoustic music box will produce a decent sound when rendered on a monumental scale. Once I know the components that produce the sound, it’s relatively straightforward to make a repeating melody. For my first experiment I found parts to make a large scale, tuned ‘comb’ of hardened steel, like a giant kalimba. Next I’ll play with how best to amplify the sound by making an integral resonating box.
Concept rendering of Spinnradl in situ on Pendleton Street in Cincinnati
Ene presented our concept for a series of public street sculptures to the key stakeholders in the City of Cincinnati yesterday. Our ‘Spinnradl’ concept was very enthusiastically received and we have the go-ahead to proceed with a final design. Here is a little archive of the key components comprising the sculptures, beginning with the original narrative I wrote to contextualize our proposal:
Continue reading “Spinnradl”
Swell Break logo/coaster by Headlands Center for the Arts
I’ve been tapped by the Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin County to head a workshop over Labor Day Weekend called Swell Break: Deep Craft on the Edge. The programming staff at Headlands were inspired by my Deep Craft Atelier at Storefront Lab last Summer, and the invitation originated as a way to follow up on my collaborative, pop-up board shop in San Francisco’s Mission District. The project has evolved in many ways since our first conversations in early Spring to dovetail with Headlands particularities of site and programming, but it promises to be another step towards my desire to develop Deep Craft as a bioregional product line.
One of the challenges and pleasures of developing site specific, public sculpture is following several threads of research simultaneously and trying to find unexpected connections that make sense. Here is a sampling of some topics we are researching as we design a series of kinetic sculptures for the Pendleton neighborhood of Cincinnati:
4. Radial Moire
5. Peg Leg Joe
6. Appalachian Hymns