Well, a few weeks ago, Sarah, August and I had the opportunity to do a bit of traveling. We got to see friends and family in Brooklyn and New Jersey, stayed for a few days in Lake Placid and visited Syracuse University, where I presented a lecture about my work.
It was great getting to visit Syracuse again and I enjoyed the company and conversation of Barbara Walter (she's the head of the Metals Dept.). We shared a bunch of interesting conversations during my brief visit but one thing that I've been revisiting in my mind was a conversation we had about tools. More specifically we were talking at one moment about how important it is as a graduating student to have already begun and/or plan a big purchase of necessary equipment. Barbara mentioned an exercise she has her students do at some point during their final year. She has them go around the studio and mark how many times they remember using each piece of equipment/tool (perhaps overall or maybe just within the past semester or two... I forget). The student should then have an accurate list of the pieces of equipment/hand tools that they need to invest into first. This exercise is important to emerging artists, especially metalsmiths, because we tend to develop a tool fetish and there are plenty of items that would be nice to have but we do not really need right away perhaps. For instance, a decent flex shaft motor is probably a more important purchase than say, a hydraulic press. Of course, every maker's situation is unique and should be approached in that manner.
A related conversation Barbara and I had was about forming stakes. I was mentioning to her about how I finally worked up the courage (and money) to invest into larger forming t-stake and blow horn stake. Now, the blow horn stake I would recommend finding a good quality, used pexto or roper whitney brand. They are often on ebay and for sale on websites like Marty's Classic Machinery (check out the misc. tools under inventory for forming stakes). However, the larger, traditional shaped forming stakes are a lot harder to find. Most suppliers do not offer the larger sizes, Kevin Potter being an exception (I've been told his stakes are great).
However, I went with purchasing a cast ductile iron stake from a seller on ebay. It was an unfinished casting and I have been spending time with an angle grinder refining the shape just the way I wanted, but I only had to spend approximately $130.00 (with shipping). THEN, Barbara mentioned to me, had I studied at Syracuse, I could've just cast one own in the sculpture foundry... and that got me thinking. There's a small foundry not far from San Antonio that supposedly works primarily with artists and they cast in stainless steel. I am wondering if I brought some of the beautiful, large t-stakes my school's department has if they could do a sand-casting replica. I guess the point is as an emerging artist, you have to figure out a way to outfit your studio that is most efficient for you. Some things I would rather buy brand new from a supplier and others I think can be acquired in a more unique manner.
PACKING ARTWORK! Ok, so the other topic I thought I'd briefly mention is packing work. As a professional artist, you're going to have to ship work to a location at some point. So, approaching packing in the same manner of detail as your work is important. My graduate school professor, Billie Theide, once told us that your piece of artwork is not finished until you have good quality photographs of it and a well built crate. So, recently when I was shipping Wowzers! off to participate in the 38th Annual Toys Designed by Artists exhibition at the Arkansas Arts Center, I took photos of the packing, both for my records and to send to the gallery.
I like to photograph the process of opening up the box and revealing the work for the gallery, no matter how simple. This also makes sure you have a really good chance that your work is returned to you in the same box with the same packing material in the same manner. You'll also notice that I used the box-within-a-box method. The exterior box is just filled with sheets of insulation board to help protect the interior box from punctures and other unknown scraping. The interior box provides an enveloping cushion of high density foam around the artwork. The difference between the last two images is that little piece of cushion that protects the crank handle. I've found with shipping mechanical works, that you often need to insert cushioning around mechanisms to help from rattling during transportation. I've had galleries report that screws and pins had wiggled loose during the trip. So, this has been my answer to help solve that problem.