The Wishing Tree

 

I was excited last fall when I received a commission from Richlands, NC to build a piece of artwork in their downtown area. The idea was to start atree s revitalization effort by adding a point of interest in the park downtown.  They want to bring more people back to the downtown area, and the park was a great place to start.

When I received a call asking if I was interested… of course I said yes. The town manager came up with the idea of creating a wishing tree.  The concept involved a leafless tree with branches reachable from the ground.  The people would take small strips of cloth and write their dreams, their wishes, or their prayers on them. These cloth strips would then be tied to the tree as leaves. They would blow in the wind until they dissolved away.

I first talked about this project back in the fall.  You can read that post by clicking here.

The design process was a lot of fun.  The structure had to be strong enough to withhold the kind of abuse it would receive, yet still appear to be natural and interesting.

I started building the internal frame after drawing the picture of the tree on the floor of my studio. I laid out two x two x 3/8 inch tubing and started welding the square structure together.  As the work progressed, the structure was worked to become round and textured like a gnarled oak tree.  The trunk followed a small plaster model I had made to give me some 3-D guidance. The trunk was sheathed in 16 Gage steel, which was textured, bent over an armature, and welded in place.

Here is my blog showing the roots and the structure moving upward. joint s

 

The branches were another story…

They had to be strong enough to potentially be grabbed and pulled on and yet still light enough to look natural… and they had to be low enough to be reached from the ground by most people.  I started using 3 inch rigid tubing and reduced the sizes down smaller and smaller ending up with one inch tubing with steel ball bearings welded into the and give them a nice smooth rounded end.

 

It took a few tries, and some consultation with my art director (my wife) to get the design right. But I finally had it finished and ready to go to the sandblaster.blasting s

After bringing the two pieces back from the sandblaster, I started working on the finish.  Originally the idea was to rust the entire structure and seal the rust with a clear coat. But I decided to use a metal dye which would color the metal brown color give me some optional color with heat and sanding.  The finish it turned out fabulous and the sanded areas did bring out the texture of the trunk.

kids s

 

We invited small children from the local preschool to bring leaves over and embed them in the cement foundation for extra texture… and it was a wonderful morning of laughing and being part of the art.

 

The tree was later mounted to the base and dedicated by the town.

ribbons s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The occasion was a fun time for all. The day involved about 60 adults, and about 60 children from the local elementary school. They received the honor of being the first ones to have their wishes and prayers flying on the tree.

tree kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a 5 min time lapse video of the whole process… you will be tired after you watch it…but it is fun to see.

Overall the project was exciting to use as a test of my imagination, and my skill…AND how much weight I could pick up and move around shop!

The next time you are driving through eastern North Carolina and would like to see the tree, go to Ventors Park in Richlands, North Carolina and check it out. Open the little green box and write your wish on a piece of cloth, tie it to the tree and let it go.

 

It is the first phase of the park revitalization and I’m excited over watching the process in action.

You can leave comments with the form below …or, as always, email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

.

 

 

 

North East Themed Wall Clock

 

Here is a quick look at a wall clock I just finished.

It is for someone from the north east who wanted to remember his earlier days.

clock s

The piece features a warm sunset positioned inside a compass dial with a silver star on the NE point.  The large curves are accented with rocks curving down into the surf at the bottom and maple leafs curving up to flying birds at the top.

 

I think it is a good execution of the of the idea.

 

I would love to hear you thoughts,

Send me an email at

steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

or just use the form below.

 

.

The Cat Table

I have a friend who is a cat lady.

No! not the kind you are thinking of!!!

She is not crazy, or old, or disheveled.

She is just interested in helping animals and has a great caring heart.

I was tasked with making a entry table for her home. An entry table is the one in the foyer where the keys and purse land as you walk into the house.

She let me decide on the design and, of course, I thought it needed some connection to cats!

cat table1s

My idea came out as a collection of cats with their tails up in the air holding up the tabletop. But a little experimentation showed I would be a need some sort of legs to aid in holding the tabletop.

I drew the cats on the computer and had them water jetted by Nash at Accurate Fab. in Wilmington. Those guys did a great job. The seven cats were all perfectly hunched down. I welded their tails on to finish the look.

cats 3s

But look closely and you will see something different… right in the middle of the cats is a small mouse hiding in plaine sight.

mouse 1s

It was a fun project and turned out great.

 

As always:

I would love to hear your comments or observations.

Use the form below or email me at

steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

 

.

 

The Edging Stones are Growing

As many of you may know, a while back I started working on some edging stones for my backyard.

 

Now my backyard has a lot of flower beds and while thinking about the stones, I realized this was going to take a while. I have tried to make one a day for the past month or so…I have ended up with 12 so far.

 

But that is not so bad because they’re about 16 inches wide and they are first going to be placed around the most important flowerbeds “The most visible ones”. Then when you look out at the garden, you will see the stones and not notice the old brick edging. Then as I get more and more I’ll continue on with the areas not seen as much.

 

Well I brought home the first 12, and laid him in the backyard to let them cure even more (it really need about 30 days to make the concrete totally hard).

stone 2

I have taken some iron oxide (which is in item which you can buy at the lawn and garden stores) and started the ageing process. Iron oxide is used to raise the iron level in your soil, but it’s also will permanently stain concrete rust red.

 

But the idea of having a rust red concrete blocks in my yard is not what I’m looking for… I am just looking for some sort of accent for the details in the stones.

I’d like to eventually cover them with moss, or something of that nature, to make them look old, but the goal right now is to make the design stand out.

 

The thing about iron oxide is that whatever that dust touches, the concrete is going to turn red.

stone1

So you have to be very careful with it. What I do is I take little bit in my fingers and sprinkle it on to the spot I need the color, then take a small spray bottle and spray water on that spot to activate the iron oxide i.e. start rusting the concrete.

stone 3

I’ve done all 12 of them because the first trial version went pretty well.

I hope it works out well and we’ll see as the days go by as it rust and becomes more permanent.

 

I will fill you in later as it happens.

 

As always, I am open to your ideas, comments or suggestions.

Contact me at the email address steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

Or use the form below

 

A Day in the Life

 

A little while ago I bought a time lapse camera to record some of my work while it was in progress.

I have been playing with it for a while now and have made a short film I would like to share.

I call it…

“A Day in the Life of “The Wishing Tree” Maker”

How in the vain of total disclosure, this is not a total day.  It is half a day.  But that does not sound like an interesting title….

”Only HALF a Day in the Life of The Wishing Tree Maker”

 See, it doesn’t just flow off the tongue…does it?

Anyway,  check this one out.  It is a lot of fun.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSiGGHDFYfk

 

As always I welcome your comments or questions.

 

My email is steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

Or

Just use the form below.

 

.

Giant Helmets!

Over the past month I have been working on something totally unheard of before today.

A four foot wide fire helmet.

front s

No we don’t have big headed firemen in the area. (well we might, but that is a different story)  but we do have firemen with an imagination.  And as you know I love people with imagination.

The Beulaville NC fire department has been in the process of remodeling their fire house for a while now.  As the build was coming to an end they started looking at the asthetics of the building.  The new stucco was on and looked great.  The additions matched with the older building.  The office areas were nice.  But something was missing.

The discussion turned to the door awnings.  One of the officers of the department took a small foam helmet off a car antenna and cut it in half.  In doing so he was able to show his idea of how the awnings should look on the building.

Yes. the awnings over the doors were going to be big red fire helmets.

And he said “I know just the guy to do it”.   Thank you Patrick, I have had a great time building them!!

The process was an interesting challenge.metal one s

I started with a real size helmet.  It had ribs, a brim, and a shield identifying the unit.  Then I noticed the shield was held in place by an eagle.  So there was more to the idea than I first thought.

Bending the steel pieces for the ribs was something I farmed out to an ironworker who was able to bend the tubing for the ribs of the helmet on a special roller.  They were then welded into the helmet ribs.

I started hand cutting the shape of the shield from 16gage steel using a plasma torch.  It turned out to be about 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.  It was braced and its’ attachments to the ribs was worked out so that it could be sent to be powder coated and hand lettered.

The design of the eagle was a challenge but came together beautifully.  He attaches to the top of the helmet, and the shield is held in his beak.

All the pieces were sent to be powder coated “fire engine red” (what other option was there?)

two s

They were installed the other day.  I think they will be the talk of the town at all the fire department meetings in the area.

As always,  I would love to hear your comments,

use the form below

or email me at steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

.

More Carved Stone

(OK maybe not Carved Stone… But close).

I have a backyard with a number of flowerbeds… In my brain, if you make a flower bed, you work hard for a little while and it is done.  If you have a lawn, you work hard every week.  So I have made flower beds from the beginning.

The trick to a nice look with your beds is to have sharp, clean borders.

I achieved it with vintage bricks which I salvaged from the demolition of downtown Jacksonville.  (no surprise to anyone who knows me)

Well, the bricks get knocked  around and run over by the lawn guy

               (no I don’t cut the grass myself anymore, so some of that introduction doesn’t work anymore…)

So I decided to design and cast my own edging stones.

I have tried this on a smaller scale with edging for the herb garden around my pizza oven.  Here is a photo.

small stones

I wanted a bigger stone for the beds,  one that would be further in the ground and hold more mulch behind it. 

First, drew out a design and got it approved by my art director (aka. wife).

drawing small

 

 

 

 

I carved the design from plaster.  It is a whole lot softer to carve than wood or any other material I know.  And if you screw up just add more plaster and start again.

plaster

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next came the process of making the mold.  The “Smooth On” company ( yes, that is their name) has a number of “rubber” mold making materials and will gladly explain it to you on their web site. 

I bought a gallon mixture of mold making stuff, mixed it as directed, and poured it over the plaster piece…                                   waited one day…   and ta da  it worked.

I have been casting one piece a day for about a week.  I made a rolling cart, which is my version of a production line.  The mold and a new casting is on one side, the newly cast, one day old piece on the other.  After they are out of the mold for a day they are gently set aside to cure for another day.cradle 2

 

So far so good.

But remember, I have a lot of flowerbeds so this may go on for awhile….like maybe a year….i guess I should do the math and really see how long it will take.

As always I would love to hear your comments or suggestions.

You can use the form below or email me at

Steve@stephenzmetaldesigns.com

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 378 other followers