Stuff I’ve Built: ‘Mars and Venus Rising’

January 2010

No, I don’t wear a beret, sit in coffee shops debating the merits of Karl Marx and snap my fingers when the improvisational jazz band finishes playing a set.

But, I do enter an annual art contest.

It’s that time again, when the National Arts Program co-sponsors an art contest here at the county courthouse.  County employees, relatives, volunteers and retirees are welcome to submit their projects for judging.

Amidst the many paintings, photographs and sculptures, I have entered my woodworking again.  In the past years, I have done pretty well in the competition, earning a first place in the adult intermediate category for the Contemplation Bench and Pagoda Box.  I took a second place red ribbon last year for the Fujiwhara Chest.

This year, I am back with two projects.  One, the Nakashima-Inspired Bench, was already featured in the blog.  Click here to read more about that project which has already gotten more than a few ooohs and aaaahs….

The second project is new, but you have seen elements of it already.  Remember last August, when I posted my article about bending wood?  And, when I made the entry about laying up a matched  veneer sheet?  You were actually seeing elements of this.

This project is called ‘Mars and Venus Rising’ and is a collaborative effort between myself and a very talented ceramic artist named Debra Lansdowne.  We have worked together in the same department for the past 11 years, and her work is incredible.

The stand was constructed of three bent ‘legs’, each made with alternating layers of walnut and ash.  The three are connected to a walnut piece in the middle of the ‘waist’ with dowels, epoxy and plugged screws.  I was going to try to do this without screws, but I kept having issues with one of the legs, and figured the small walnut plug I put in would  be a  visual accent.

The top is a circle of 3/4″ plywood veneered with some very sweet walnut burl.  It is secured with plugged screws and epoxy.  The edge is banded with ash veneer to stick with the overall theme of the project.

I had a bear of a time getting the angles right when I notched the disc around the legs.  I ended up with a small gap between the inside faces of the legs and the disc, which I covered with small pieces of walnut shaped into sculpted triangles.

I sanded the heck out of this and finished it with a seal coat of 1# dewaxed shellac.  Once dry, I sanded it down with 400 grit wet/dry paper, blew off the dust and wiped on three coats of wiping poly.  I was tempted to use my homemade oil/varnish/thinner mix, but I have heard that oil gives ash a very yellow appearance.

Debra’s part of the project is an upside-down bowl. She threw the12″ diameter bowl and sculpted the figures of a man and woman into the wet clay.  She glazed it and fired it in her home kiln.  This process added subtle colors to the finish and gave it a nice glossy look.  Finally, she glazed a smaller bowl to the inside of the larger piece in order to give it lift above the disc.

The awards presentation will take place on February 1, and I’m interested in seeing just how well our joint project shows.

If we win, we will split the prize money. My share may be just enough for me to buy a beret!

6 thoughts on “Stuff I’ve Built: ‘Mars and Venus Rising’”

  1. Hi Tom:

    I remember seeing a post about a fellow artisan questioning your piece and whether it qualified as Art.

    There will be no questions this time………..NICE!!!!!!!!!

  2. Mixed media is becoming more popular by the day, and when I see a piece like this I understand why. Beautiful work! It somehow evokes cutting edge and simplicity at the same time, something not easily done.

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