The Story of our Collaboration

Collaboration process with the Gold’s and GrayCollaboration (1)

When People look at the sculpture “Searching the Horizon” I’m curious as to how they see it because they are looking at the finished piece of artwork and there’s a whole story of how it was created that I find fascinating.  Does the person looking at the sculpture understand or know about the emotional spiritual commitment that an artist has and the rewards and joy of creating something different, the frustration of limitations of material and time or the concerns of working with other artists and how decisions will affect their part of the project?

Collaboration (1)I have had conversations with various people that have asked about the working relationship with others artists and the process of making this particular sculpture, so I believe this story may be of interest to some folks.  The photos in are chronological order to the best of my recollection.  All text, photos and drawings are copyrighted and can not be reproduced without written permission.

I was first introduced to Bryan and Eric at Nelly Bly in Jerome by owner Mary Wills.  She asked if we could collaborate on a piece that involved a kaleidoscope.  I was intrigued by the sculptures and mechanical imagination of Bryan and Eric and was curious if we could get something put together.  Up to this point, collaborative ventures of significance with other artists had not worked out because of various reasons so I was reluctantly excited.

At our initial meeting we shared our interests and what we could contribute creatively to a project.  I was intrigued and interested in continuing, and Brian and Eric seemed to be also.

As a starting point I picked out a mirror system that was rather simplistic but the image provided a lot of possibilities.  At our next meeting I brought the mirror and some other gadgets, optics and LED lights.  We met in Eric’s workshop and he had lots of mechanical things around that were intriguing and fascinating.  I showed them the mirror system and various things to consider when putting together a kaleidoscope.

The first time we worked together we wanted to come up with an idea and a plan.  That meeting lasted about four hours; we brainstormed for about two of those hours.  The process started out with a lot of input and a lot of ideas going every which way, then a little spark that seemed to be workable and a bit of insight, but still it was very nebulous and hard to focus on.  Eric was wanting some measurements and he started writing down information.  I’m not sure if it was Eric or Brian that did the sketch.  For me, that sketch was the starting point – the spark.  He had a drawing with a broken rim and I thought I could work with that.  The rest of the time we spent working up some rough details and measurements.

With a rough sketch and some idea of a pursuit we decided what the order should be for the different parts and what to do first.  We assigned tasks to do.  Then, tired but energized, we all went home and let things stew for a while.

For a while it seemed as though we were checking out designs, testing out the water and seeing if the project would be feasible, and if we could indeed work together.  But after a certain amount of time and energy invested is seemed as if there was no turning back.  That’s when it was time to commit.  I appreciate Eric and Bryan for their integrity and commitment.

At various times we had conversations about artistic expressions and honoring ourselves and each other.  We wanted to be able to express ourselves in a an authentic way and we wanted to let our creative talents come forth but not overpower or monopolize the project.  We also wanted to have this project be a combination of our individual expression –  a combination that was truly intertwined with intention and not something that looked like we stuck two or three things together.

In a discussion with a friend, he asked me when and who was to credit for the artistic creation of the sculpture.  I think in some cases it’s easy to see who created the art.  With this sculpture it seemed like all of us were working on it as a unit.  Lots of ideas, and those ideas generated more ideas, and then it fed it’s self and generated more excitement.  That was the fuel that was the key to the creation.  I believe it was created by all of us.

The next step was working on some three dimensional full-size mockups with materials that were around our shops:  cardboard, scrap wood and miscellaneous parts to give us an idea of space, proportion and sizes.  Then sketches and drawings to help us understand what each other were thinking about and the materials we would be using.

Eric and Brian started working on an armature that would hold the mechanical devices and provide support for the sculpture.  I turned a finished rim and cut it into quarters, made up corner blocks and made the sides of the barrel that would hold the mirror system.  These were all made to the final shape, and to the correct size.  The wood parts were used to help with measurements and to orientate the wood to the metal.

At this point the ball was in Eric and Brian’s court, so to speak.  I went on to do other business and they worked on their part of the sculpture.  We communicated with email, text and phone conversations.  Photographs and drawings were exchanged with either email or text, which was very helpful when they had questions.  I could answer them in a logical order, sometimes with drawings attached.

We did have a deadline to meet, which was probably for the best because we could have worked on this piece, likely forever, and I’m not sure it would have helped out with the end result.  I believe the restraint and limitation of time helped keep this piece focused.

About three weeks before the deadline Eric and Bryan finished up their portion of the work and delivered it to me to start the woodworking and optics part of the sculpture.  At this point I know they had a lot of work and energy into the sculpture.  I have always wondered what it was like for them to deliver it and let go of how it was going to turn out.  I was guessing it probably took a lot of trust on their part.  I did have some of the wood work done.  I then proceeded to work out details on other parts of the venture.

Again, with a few weeks to go, time and energy had its limitations and I had to work within those constraints.  There are a lot of things that happen creatively when there is a deadline.  In some ways it’s good because there isn’t time to overwork and totally mess things up.  It is also frustrating and it seems like every single minute of every day is consumed by the project.  I am always concerned when I’m tired that I still have the ability to keep a healthy perspective.  In the final few days coming up to the deadline it seemed as though everything pulled together very nicely.  A few setbacks but nothing major and I was very pleased with the whole project.  It was a little less than a year from our initial introduction to the end of the project.

The mystery of creation has always seemed to be a very spiritual and personal experience, so to open this process up to include three artists was a step outside of my comfort zone.  Working on the sculpture and doing it in combination with other artists has been one of the more rewarding things I have done in a long time.  I’m amazed and grateful to have this opportunity and of course I would like to continue working in collaboration if at all possible.  Talking with Eric and Brian they seemed interested in continuing with more projects.  I’m excited and I’d like to continue developing the collaborative spirit.

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