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Karl Carvalho

Action figures

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Aloha

 

Recently, I experienced three events that have a common thread (or you decide).

1) Appraiser friends of mine were evaluating a collection of netsuke (50+) from the 1930's. As I handled them, I was drawn to the "trick" pieces that had human figures with rotating heads and insects with folding wings. (There was also some erotica.) As an online auction proceeded, these same pieces were the first to go. I myself bid on several, but prices rocketed beyond my humble means.

2) We have a Japanese antiques shop here (actually quite a few) with a sizable collection of tansu for sale. They allowed me to examine a lock mechanism that had unusual moving parts. Two cranes flanked the kagiana (keyhole). Inserting the key and turning rotated the overlapping wings to expose the tegakejo (button) that connects to the locking latch on omotejo (single action) locks. Pretty neat and distinctive.

3) I caught the trailer for the Transformers movie. Wired magazine gives the backstory on their creation in Japan. It's going to be huge.

 

So my questions are:

1) Why is not more work with moving parts showing up? It seems to have client appeal. Beautiful sculptural work is evident, but does it appeal to an evolving audience? Can "static" work compete with the plethora of multi-sensorial offerings today?

2) Is this line of thought heresy? The precedents are there. Would this be bowing to the crass gods of commercialism?

3) Is the risk of failure or a return for repair too great?

 

KC

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Aloha Karl,

 

You've raised a fascinating question I think. I have always liked mechanisms in sculptural objects. In my vision of my future work when I'm carving some very cool fantasy pieces, I want to add mixtures of woods, metals and stone, I definately want to add some movement(maybe (heresy?) even electronics and sound). I've enclosed some poor photos of an egg I carved some years ago with a trick lid opening - I'm also posting a bad magazine photo of another egg I made with more integration of materials. I'd really like to see some of the insects and figures you described.

 

Magnus

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Hallo Karl and Magnus,

 

indeed an interesting question you have raised. I think the interest of people to create artifical things with an artificial life is as old as mankind. Of course it is art but rarely done because of the difficulties involved. Even a simle hinge is not so easy to do for an untrained person. Here is a piece I did almost ten years ago when I was still an apprentice.

 

 

 

The piece in motion.

 

 

 

The brooch is constantly moving while wearing because of the use of ball bearings and strong magnets.

 

 

 

 

Here are some links regarding the theme:

 

Alexander Calder`s Circus

 

Droz´s Writer

 

How the writer works

 

Droz`s Drawer

 

This Swiss based watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz is absolutly incredible but the Japanese also have an ongoing passion for automata (karakuri in japanese) and robots. Some Okimono are also articulated particulary insects and lobsters. The ectoskeleton is proberbly the best pattern for hinged metalwork and robotics.

 

 

Karakuri

 

The first european watches in Japan were tried as netsuke but not that highly praised for that because they used to become deranged quickly. :blink:

 

BTW Magnus, your little box has a lovely mechanism. Its shape reminds me somewhat on a helmet.

 

Karl, it would be really nice to see some of the figures you mentioned, esp. the erotica. :D;)

 

regards

Berlin Karl

 

Edit: Here is a Japanese Karakuri in Action-

;)

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Perhaps one reason is a void in training or experience. Perhaps lack of initiative, or apprehension about putting in the time for an unknown return. I simply forget and don't plan it in. Sometimes I think about it, but the "clever" addition becomes the focal point, while the rest of the piece becomes only support rather than subject.

 

One's point of view will determine if pieces with moving parts is crass commercialism, from both the artist's POV and the audience's. It works for some people, but not necessarily for those of us as members, for the time being. Stirring the pot with such ideas may make a ripple in our inventive minds! Good questions!

 

I have done at least a couple of these:

 

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The technique is fairly simple. The inside end of the grub has a slight enlargement, the channel in the Boxwood acorn has an area that is a little smaller diameter. One would compress that particular area in the channel, insert the grub, add hot water to the channel and the wood ring swells, trapping the grub (tagua nut). Final finish sanding and coloration, then it is done.

 

Karl W that is a fun, nice looknig and lively piece. Good idea to use the magnets!

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Hi,

I have an interesting story about "Action Figures". When I was doing the GI Joe stuff I found it just as easy to make many of the pieces function as not function since I had to make most of the parts anyway. Here is an example of a MP-40 with folding stock and spring loaded working bolt. I thought kids and collectors would like a piece that worked. Not so. I had to solder the pieces solid. The trend now is to have working pieces so I hear they are un-soldering many of my pieces in China to make them function. I have seen some of the very high quality iron moving fish, dragons, crabs and lobsters. The best pieces were made by sword makers after swords were banned in Japan. They are unbelievable pieces and very scarce and very, very expensive. That is why you don't see them often.

Karl, Magnus and Janel,

I really enjoyed seeing your moving works of art.

Dick

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Aloha All,

 

Many thanks for the great responses.

 

Magnus

Whoa. Nice work. It is something that I can appreciate as a former machinist (although that looks hand-made and cast). I am in line with your thinking about “multi-sensorial”. Tansu makers here used put harmonica reeds at the back of drawer slots (partly to show off tight fits) to create pleasant sounds. I use aromatic woods like sandalwood, cedar, camphor and sugi pine to give a puff of scent with each use. I am presently looking for the old “Tibetan chime balls”, from the hippie days, to cut open and inspect. Their gamelan toned sounds must be tuning fork driven.

 

Sorry, did not think to take photos. It happened pretty fast. A short description would be – netsuke with inset rotating heads. A female form with Okami (?) and a demon face as opposite sides of a bead inserted into the head cavity. Other male forms, including a Dutchman, also with a demon alternate face. Perhaps an early form of political commentary.

Insects, such as cicada and beetles, wings pivoting at the top, to reveal nice textural detail.

 

Erotica with male phallic parts emerging when inverted, similar to Janel’s example (sorry Janel ;) ).

I have seen similar examples in texts, but cannot locate them at the moment. Jack Lord (Steve McGarrett) the actor was a prolific collector. He left a huge collection of reference books to the state library system. I’ll check and see if I find anything in print.

 

Karl

I nominate you for Researcher – Eastern Division. I enjoyed the links. You must be into automatons. Your apprentice piece is quite inventive and certainly deserves the kinetic descriptive. Here’s one for you, Masami Teraoka. While not a 3D artist and totally off topic, I feel that he took traditional forms and techniques and fused them with the modern world. With huge success.

Btw – Aren’t the Documenta festival and Sculpture Projects going on now (as well as the 52nd Venice Biennale).

 

Janel

You bring up valid points as to artistic merit and balance. Consider this. I sometimes try to put myself in the place of a craftsman (or woman :blink: ) of long ago. You are one netsuke carver among thousands; how to make your work stand out? From a purely commercial sales point, the “clever” addition is the focus. Example: erotica.

I think craftsmen would take advantage of any new technology that develops. Here’s one, memory metal.

 

Dick

Apologies if I overlooked your work when formulating my question. It is art and definitely kinetic.

My teacher has a set of lobster etc. that he picked up in Japan. They were made by a retired banker as a hobby. Guess it was subsidized by his pension. Here’s another reference, Japanese articulated jewelry.

 

I may be wrong, but work of this nature is made earlier in a career when one is full of it or has not yet settled down to the realities of survival. A box artist, in the Pacific Northwest, shuts down production once a year for several weeks to make limited one of a kind work with some kinetics. He always sells out and has a waiting list.

 

KC

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Hi Karl,

 

I think Janel has an excellent point about training. It is rare (outside of the members on this forum) that a sculptor or jeweller would have some of the training or experience to make these moving parts. Various cultures have approached this in different ways. As you mentioned, the concept of transforming sculptures is deeply imbedded in the work of native artists on the Pacific northwest coast. This is primarily because of their mythology, or religious beliefs regarding transformation of animals into humans, and back. It is also a central theme to many of the winter dance ceremonies.

 

I have always liked the concept as well, but have never put it into a sculpture, I suppose only because I thought it might take away from the piece. Maybe I should!

 

Phil

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;) It couldn't be helped!

 

I understand the philosophy from commercial sales point of view, having watched various examples succeed or fail at the long craft shows I have attended. Being so different from other work at those shows, my work stands out, only if the audience individuals stop walking and focus close inside the show cases. Otherwise, it is invisible. I've watched folk's fascination with kinetic netsuke, and they do garner more attention. Everyone wants to move the part(s) at least twice for one's own experience with it. So, the involvement of the viewer is not quiet, internal viewing and memory jogging of the static pieces. The kinetic work, its movable parts, involve the viewer in an experience with the piece that is different and perhaps more memorable than the static pieces. I don't know if I would strive for every piece to have a movable part, but it is a good thing to be reminded of, while considering some future pieces.

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Hi Karl,

"Apologies if I overlooked your work when formulating my question. It is art and definitely kinetic".

No apologies necessary. The GI Joe pieces I created are definitely not Art. Good craftsmanship and lots of fun but not Art. I just thought it was an amusing story about "Action Figures" that move. I have always been interested in sculpture that moves. I have been thinking of making some of my "box medals" function in some way. I was into kinetic sculpture in the 70's and created quite a few pieces. They ranged in size from table top to over 6' tall. Here are a few of them.

Dick

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Hi There All,

Karl - your kinetic brooch is very nice work - I can tell you had a good teacher and were quite the good apprentice!

KC - I like the idea of the reeds behind the drawers. The chiming balls are very nice - I cut one open once - silver combs (like you'd have in a music box ) soldered to the sides with silver cubes falling around against them - It spoiled the magic a bit to learn just how they were made. I have always wanted to build a large sculpture to place in a public space where concerts might be held - the various sections of the sculpture tuned to chordal patterns so as to sympathetically vibrate with the music - an acoustically interactive sculpture - I think it would have to be a collaborative project - any thoughts on that?

Dick - Wow - you do so many really cool things!

Janel - I like the subtle simplicity of your acorn piece.

Phil - you are so right about the complexity that even simple mechanisms add to a piece - ( I'm speaking of handmade)

You also mentioned the transformational masks of the Pacific Northwest Natives - I've been priveledged to see a dance performance live with these incredible masks - some weighing 60 lbs. and having 3 transformations.

Tom - thanks for the great link.

Blessings,

Magnus

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Hi Karl & Magnus,

 

thanks for the honour ;) !

 

I really enjoyed Mr. Masami`s work. Its not easy to transform classical Ukiyo-e into something modern. The result reminded me somewhat on stained glass windows of old churches.

Yes Karl a lot of art events are rightnow running here in Europe - quite arty farty :blink: . Documenta Kassel

 

regards

Berlin Karl

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Aloha Magnus,

 

An interactive audio-feedback loop. Hmmm. I had to ponder that one over a Cohiba and VSOP last night. The approach might be separated into two parts.

1) Signal capture could either be direct as in a feed (from musicians) to the device or indirect as in something like pickups on a guitar amp. The latter might also include audience responses.

2) What to do with the info? It would be easy enough to modify magnets, as in the amplifier analogy, to cause vibration. The result would affect a limited number of people directly. If used otherwise, say to go visual, you could mount many little reflective pieces to shimmer or work with piezo-electric crystals to create flashes or memory metal with the prior two to add delay effects. Depends on how you want to express yourself. (Remember Laserium? Check out some Kitaro performances.)

 

Low frequency vibration is subtle. Higher levels may compete with an ongoing performance. I suppose this could be done digitally. My analog approach betrays my dated experience. Take a look at Edmund Scientific.

 

KC

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Magnus and Karl,

 

You might find the attached link from the Canadian Museum of Civilization's website interesting. This Haida transformation mask, which turns from an eagle into a human face, is one Canada's great treasures, and one of my favorite pieces in the museum collection.

 

transformation mask

 

Phil

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Hi Phil,

The north west coast Indian masks are some of the most beautiful works of art created by any culture. Here is a piece I did a few years inspired by those masks. This piece deals with birth, life and death. The masks can be placed on the faces and entire piece stacks together to form one piece. I did another piece which had the masks hinged so that they open in stages to reveal the person wearing the mask. The center piece is 4 1/2" in diameter. It is bronze and stainless steel.

Dick

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Hi Dick,

 

Nice work, and a great concept! The photo is very deceiving, it looks huge.

 

I had a real fascination with Haida art when I was a kid. My father was from the west coast, near Vancouver, and we used to go out there for a few weeks nearly every summer. It was my impressions of this art form that got me into carving when I was very young. I kept it up obsessively until my early twenties, but if you are not Native, like me, it's considered a bit of a faux pas in Canada to create this type of art, at least for sale. However, I slip back every now and again and do a piece in this style every few years.

 

Phil

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