Doing more than just countertops

Choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.”  -Auguste Rodin

My latest sculpture, titled “Aura”, began as a small metal ribbon that I bent and twisted into an asymmetrical, yet visually balanced shape. Easy enough, right? I spent a surprisingly great deal of time getting it just right. A lot of effort for something so seemingly random.

Once I was pleased with the design, I had it scanned into a 3D software program where it could be manipulated and refined further. Afterwards, the finished digital file was used to create a full-size, 3D printed model that would be the reference for sculpting it in marble.

I had sourced a nice, statuary grade block from one of my previous trips to Carrara, figuring this piece would have the volume of about a two foot cube. At that size, the raw block weighs over 1200 pounds. In the end, the finished sculpture weighed in at just under 80 pounds! Jenny Craig would be envious with that kind of weight loss.

This is a complicated piece. More so than my previous work, “Mantis”, which was just over three cubic feet of material, with a more forgiving, freeform-style shape. In contrast, Aura is eight cubic feet, more geometrically precise and difficult to get carving tools into.

For this work, I decided that unlike Mantis, which was sculpted by eye based on a two dimensional drawing, I would incorporate a pointing technique, using the Old World Macchina di Punta, hence the need for a scaled model. Besides, I didn’t want to take any chances on such an expensive block of marble.

After sawing and breaking away the excess material, the device is used to define a series of reference points on the model that are visually transferred into the block, helping me to “see” my way into the marble, with out the usual guess work.

Months of chisel work were needed to rough out the block, eventually turning to less percussive methods like abrasive discs and rotary bits to remove material with less shock to the structure.

On an unrelated note, check out the Silestone camera track I fabricated to create the rotational shots in the video. Redneck engineering at its finest. My drummer friends will find the use of cymbal stands amusing I’m sure.

The piece was often full of drilled “points” along with various, temporary support blocks that were glued in as needed. The sculpture could not be moved as it was set to an exact position in relation to the model. Notice the top support on the sculpture which holds the measuring device. This would be removed eventually, and once it had, I was on my own, free to turn the sculpture over to finish the remainder by eye.

The next stage of the process is the use of various files, rasps and rifflers to refine the shape, leading to an exorbitant amount of sanding to achieve the final finish. Starting with 60 grit sandpaper, going through the various finer grits, eventually ending with a very fine 2000 grit wet sanding, after which a vigorous buffing application of aluminum oxide and oxalic acid provides the final polish. If done well (which it was), the end result will be polished so high and deep that it actually appears to be wet (which it does).

The actual sculpting took just under thirteen months, with another few months of design, modeling, etc.

From early on the working title of the piece was simply referred to as the “ribbon”. It wasn’t until near completion, when I observed sunlight glowing through the narrower edges creating a halo effect, that I finally settled on the name “Aura”.

This sculpture will be sold either as a piece of corporate art, or in the international market catering to high end design. Until then, it will temporarily reside on display in our showroom in Liberty Lake.

View a video of the process of Aura here:

View a video of the process of Mantis here:

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