toward a bell design begun several years ago…
I have no idea whether I will ever finish it.
They become rather like “emoticons” for this post.
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I’ve been silent of late. I arrive here now to show explanation…
Winter is design time in my calendar of decades’ habit. I go quite non-verbal as I dive into form… waxing, literally, along with the requisite equivalent waning, of course.
Wax being my medium… I struggle with both it & these words.
I come to some notion that music might often exist first in the physical form of its instrument. While I do not consider the bells “musical instruments” in any strict form, they do make sound… they have voice. Voice out of numerous, inexplicably variable, qualities a particular form my wax carved imaginations might acquire translated into metal.
The very hard wax that I prefer is even so quite a non-resonant material. Still, nearly all materials have resonance at some level, be that a sustaining ring or a thud nearer to the death of sound inside near silence of plush.
Or of that deeper chthonic time-space noise which is mama magma’s gift.
I must believe, then, that I can project, from what I feel in the “hearing bones” of my imagination, how the sound of this wax bell might resonate when cast… honed through subtle changes due to polishing of that master, then the shrinkages of second generation waxes replicated by a rubber mold… those parts of the involved translation of a production bell into my line… all resulting hopefully in a “good voice”…
That is some projection!
At this stage I am working with the visuals as sculptural form, both positive & negative versions which must consider the ways molten metal or wax will eventually flow into the several interim molds requisite for translation by the process of lost wax casting.
Ultimately it boils all down to flow…
Sound has much about flow in ephemeral ways. A tuba’s sound resonates with its physical form; a fat column of thus more slowly resonant air pushed from loose lips. A clarinet’s form produces a voice with a similar column of air yet quite different for its direct form… & its origination of breath through a reeded mouthpiece.
A violin, however, dances with air in different ways… horsehair scraping on gut amplified by crafty negative volume inside woodshape… more ephemerally about material vibration & less about breath.
All sound evolves from vibration of material form, columns of air, oscillating strings or the resonance resulting from a strike between two material forms… the strike of hand on a drum’s head or a bell’s clapper upon its sound bow.
Bell sound is then first of all… percussive.
So I play with wax as both sculpting the essential visual shape of the idea so as also to promote the flow of materials requisite for its production & then, to an even greater degree, the flow of vibration within the resultant form.
Such process rather becomes one long “negative” drawing by strokes of removal.
Drawing in three dimensions toward the center… A drawing on paper can never, no matter how many variations, accommodate very well the development of a design that must exist in fully rounded space. But by the time I have made all those drawings into my wax, I have carved a bell.
Beginning with a block of wax I “draw” first with a saw, then with files & burrs, constructing & construing a 3D “canvas” into which I can continue to draw with stylus & graver-like tools. I draw lines moving around the ever-refining wax form, erasing with broader strokes, refining surfaces for more drawing. Deeper into form then the ever more finely realized idea can find surface & form on & in which it can develop. Eye-mind-hand sees ever more completely what ultimately becomes, for me, a rather fully rounded universe.
I get to experience then how much less than god-like I am at creation. My waxes are such small universes, with such limitations. Yet they are 3D forms inviting sound… a possible fourth dimension.
I would only invite some fifth… that of delight in response to that sound… I get to observe a certain satisfactory proof of that, often while the bells collect their humans at the displays in my studio.
Drawing becomes whittling. I repeat the common story of Michelangelo explaining that his sculpture was simply removing whatever might be extraneous, releasing the form trapped inside the rough stone…
I must trust there is a bell inside my chunk of wax. I must celebrate the little bit of knowledge I have about what makes a good bell. I must draw it out… inviting solid chunk to reduce gracefully down into a shell thin enough to imperceptibly move, to vibrate pleasantly when its clapper strikes… all at miniature scale, still… audible.
So the bells have to do with time in intricate ways. Resonance, at base, is time.
Then, as I have danced with the bells these 26 years I have come to appreciate their archetypal rhythmic replication of the primitive calendar. After winter solstice comes gestation of new life toward the sexual market of spring. Then look forward to the various lessons one can take in the resultant long harvest.
So there is some pressure. My goal is now to produce what will support such ultimate harvest. What I am working on now might not come to market for a year or more. Still… I am more actively working to push it toward production in time for this season’s long harvest.
The MONSTERA DELICIOSA that fascinated me in Hawai’i broke my fast into this season’s creative spell… this wax is now waiting for me to refine my touch toward finishing it.
This constricted medallion, a detail on the BON MARCHE building in Seattle has long captivated me with its simple wheat & flower forms supported by dramatic deco spirals.
I would say more about my carving ruminations but for the knowlege that those are better & best stayed, sub-verbally attempting description of subliminal experience.
Most recently a new verion of GINGKO bell has been ariving, carefully reducing this popular design slightly into more comfortable size, as well as to explore evolution rounding the “cow bell” form into an even more graceful hand & hug…
I am exploring a repetition of ribbing in these designs, a pattern which affects & is much affected by flow: of material in casting as well as the microscopic flow of molecules along surfaces during polishing…
These last views, into the developing sound chamber, show the loop from which the clapper will hang… growing out of still too thick walls…