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Guest DFogg

CNC is for production use and is the antithesis of handmade.

 

I have a fiend who was commissioned to do a piece for an Italian company that they were going reproduce. They took the piece, 3D laser scanned it and then fed the information to a 3D replicator and machine cut the part. It made a pretty good reproduction.

 

This is a tool enigma question. There are fantastic tools out there today, laser cutters, 3D replicators, hydrasonic polishers, CNC, EDM, the list is long. You can get powdered metals, precious metal clays, synthetics in all forms. Should we not avail ourselves of the technology, but if we do how does it impact the work?

 

This is an ineffable question, but how does the tool, material and method of manufacture affect the spirit of a piece?

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Hi Don,

The computer milling machine put me out of the toy prototype business. They scan blueprints and the computer cuts molds for toys with no steps in between. There were several very good portrait sculptors who had a great business doing movie star portraits for action figures. Those portraits are now created by 3D scanning the person and the computer cuts the steel molds from that scan. This technology can make work easier for the sculptor on large pieces. Any small clay model can be scanned in the round then a 3D machine cutts the piece to any size in styrofoam. That styrofoam sculpture can then be cast in bronze. A small bass relief plaque can be turned into a movie screen size bronze relief. It can save a lot of work however, I think much of the artist can be lost in the process.

Dick

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sometimes I think that when a new technology, tool, or material is invented, there is a breaking-in period it must go through within the arts before something of quality is made from it. When acrylic paints were invented, artists used them in a manner similar to oils until their intrinsic nature was better understood. Modern wood laminates have enabled furniture designers to create forms not possible earlier- but you can bet that initially it was the same old stuff being regurgitated.

 

I guess everything has its individual nature. As something new is created, we naturally try to find its analog in something already existing (a need to compare/identify with an already conceived notion?). It takes time before people experiment and explore and appreciate something for what it is.

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I have to agree with what Doug has said here about the breaking in period. I’ll offer a few analogs to computer controlled equipment, analogs already thoroughly ensconced within the fine art world. Prints. Starting with Gutenberg, or even earlier I’m sure, but looking at today, any 2D artist can even create their very own with a scanner and ink jet printer in full living color in their living room, with conservation quality media and inks. I hear very little bitching and moaning about Giclee (ink jet) nowadays, having gone through exactly this same argument process a few years earlier. Also consider photography, where previously an artist was employed for a painting or sketch. Would be fascinating to research the resistance to photography a hundred years ago. Maybe some of you art historians have some insight there.

 

At long last, sometime in the near future 3D mediums will have an affordable means of producing “multiples,†maybe the only way to make a decent wage at producing art. Perhaps we should be spending our argument energies here discussing an ethical approach to using such devices. As an ethics example, consider the print market and “Artist Proofs†and premium prices. Once upon a time an artist proof was the initial test sets of prints made during development and refining of silk screens, wood or linoleum cuts, etc and actually having more actual artist involvement than production prints. Nowadays, artist proofs are actually just 10 percent of a printed run, with the artist writing AP on the print and charging more money for the AP label, only having touched the print for signature and edition numbering – no “proofing†involved at all. I think of that as foisting a small deception on an unsuspecting art public. At the same time I’ve listened to painters sneering at ink jet prints as being “digital†while selling “Giclees†of their own work. If we can create a decent work of art, sell the original at an original price and then produce less costly reproductions, as long as we sell them as such, why not? Even if we create the art completely within the digital environment, so what? Good art is good art, regardless of how it was produced.

 

In one of my previous reincarnations I did technical studies and analyses using computer models. One thing I became acutely aware of about such models and have since noticed in everything I see nowadays, is that every one of those computer models all drew a line somewhere. If you wind up on one side of the line, the result is “A.†On the other the result is “B.†Listening to the endless arguments about which model, which evaluation technique, etc all boiled down to where the line was drawn (or moved to). I think that’s what we’re really talking about here. Right now CNC is on one side of the line, but as soon as we see the need we’ll move the line to include it, sneer at it for a while, then use it often and profitably.

 

Think of the equipment we use in our daily work: bandsaws, electric and pneumatic grinders, steel and carbide tools made by somebody else (probably in CNC equipment), wood we picked up at the lumber store and drove home in our cars to be used in our centrally heated studios, yada yada yada. You get the picture. So I have to ask, what are we considering hand made, or made with our hands? What does that really mean? If we didn’t dig up the flint with a deer antler we picked up, walked to the tree in our personally made moccasins and haggled it down with a stone tool we personally made, are we really using only our hands? At some point in time, each of these things was on the wrong side of the line, but subsequent artists moved that line as the need (or resistance) changed.

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Guest DFogg

The ethical argument is what has embroiled the knifemakers more than the objection to tooling itself. When a maker has all his parts cut and basically assembles the knife should the product be allowed to compete as handmade without qualifiers.

 

The market doesn't seem to care whether the part was cut out on a bandsaw or edm so those who are behind the curve perceive they are losing market to the guys who do. Is there a palpable difference?

 

My orientation is toward play and discovery not business so access to new materials and tooling is like being in a toy store. I am currently fascinated by microwave and powdered metals. I haven't figured out anything useful to do with it, but it has got me thinking about metal in a different way.

 

What is it we are doing with our time and where is the value?

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CNC has had a radical effect on the work I do for the film industry. I completely understand why it is being used, and overused. It is like a new toy, and art departments love to employ it, eventhough it is more expensive than the traditional methods of human hands. We sculptors have been hit hard by this trend, and see our work bleedling out to CNC vendors. Ironically, A lot of the work sent out, comes back to us, because it looks dead. It lacks the pazazz(sp?) that little incongruities add to the work. Every piece that comes off of a CNC mill has to be cleaned up by hand, and it is seldom faster than a skilled craftsman.

The advent of CGI had much the same impact on the make-up effects industry out here, and lord knows that it is much more expensive than a good monster make-up, but that is the way it goes.

 

I doubt seriously CNC, Stereolithography, or rapid prototyping will, should, or can have much of an impact on the art produced in this forum. The patrons that value it, value it precisely for the fact that a fallible set of hands and eyes made that particular piece exist. It is like magic to them, and to us as well, and we know how it was done. I vote for magic over machines.

 

Derek

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  • 4 years later...
sometimes I think that when a new technology, tool, or material is invented, there is a breaking-in period it must go through within the arts before something of quality is made from it. When acrylic paints were invented, artists used them in a manner similar to oils until their intrinsic nature was better understood. Modern wood laminates have enabled furniture designers to create forms not possible earlier- but you can bet that initially it was the same old stuff being regurgitated.

 

I guess everything has its individual nature. As something new is created, we naturally try to find its analog in something already existing (a need to compare/identify with an already conceived notion?). It takes time before people experiment and explore and appreciate something for what it is.

 

[i think Doug Sanders nailed it in his reply above. Yes, the first thing people do with any new technology is to try to duplicate things that were done with older methods, taking advantage of the higher "perceived value" that this will afford. But later, people will realize that there are things that the new way of doing things makes possible, that weren't possible before, while the older technology is still valuable for certain things the new technologies can't match. There are still people who deplore, for instance, the use of rotary carving tools - the work that's done with them has some differences from that done with steel blades, and it can make things somewhat easier. People who are invested in the older way of doing things have a natural resistance to what they see as the deprecation of their hard-won skills, and often rail against the adoption of new techniques. In some cases, they are quite justified in that, especially when they lose their livelihoods to faster, cheaper production methods that produce work that is similar to what they'd been making, but shoddier. A hand-weaver named Ludd led a revolt in 18th-century England against the introduction of mechanical looms; from his point of view, these new machines produced a product without soul or craftsmanship, and threatened his family with starvation. Yet we've become accustomed to having clothing that's much cheaper and more consistent in quality; few would advocate turning back the clock to the pre-industrial age.

 

As individual artists in the modern era, we can adopt any historical (or pre-historical) style and technique we wish. Some people derive great satisfaction, for instance, from flint-knapping, and become quite skillful in chipping at pieces of stone entirely by hand. Certainly, there are effects possible with this technique that can't be matched by using the motorized diamond grinding tools available to the modern lapidist. But only the most radical knappers would advocate a ban on other methods of stone-working, or seek to bar people who use them from talking about how it's done in general stone-working forums. A more reasonable position would be to value what can be achieved within a certain set of parameters, and by disclosing ones methods, or the set of restrictions one imposes on oneself, to seek validation within the frame of reference thus defined. If you want to kill a deer in the cheapest, most effective way, you get a gun and shoot it. If you want more of a challenge, you might use a bow and arrow. If that's not enough challenge for you, you might chip out an arrowhead from a piece of flint, make an arrow from a reed, and hike around until you find the right feathers to fletch it with. This won't be the easiest way to kill a deer, but it might be more satisfying when you did - and it would make a more impressive story to tell over your venison stew.

 

Artists who take a romantic view of art tend to deprecate the use of technology to achieve artistic ends. Perhaps they've taken to art-making as a refuge from a society they see as overly mechanized, and associate machinery with everything they deplore about it. But when the history of art is written, it's those who seize the opportunities that their time affords them who get into the book, while those who cling to the past become footnotes. In our era, computers are the big game-changer, the latest enhancement of our ability to create. One can ignore them, and confine ones endeavors to methods of some period in the past, but for those who care to take advantage of what they can do, some very interesting options become available. 3d scanning is one of them. Much as photography made it possible to capture images, it allows us to capture spacial information from three-dimensional surfaces, information that becomes available for manipulations of various kinds. CNC milling is another powerful tool that is just beginning to become available to individual artists. Within the Cartesian envelope of a multi-axis machine, a cutter can be directed on a path that cuts away everything but whatever part has been defined in the virtual space of a 3d software environment. A sculpture, in other words, can be reduced to a data-set that can be transmitted instantly around the world, and duplicated seamlessly, putting sculpture on the same footing as recorded music or film. While doing that may have both positive and negative effects for the art and the artists, it is an undeniably powerful change in the landscape of art that needs to be reckoned with. We now have vast power at our fingertips - what we end up doing with it is still unknown, but the potential is very exciting.]

 

Andrew Werby

www.computersculpture.com

post-2312-1258325992.jpg

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We now have vast power at our fingertips - what we end up doing with it is still unknown, but the potential is very exciting.]

 

Yes.. I imagine this is going to revolutionize traffic cone design. :lol:

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Welcome to The Carving Path, Andrew.

 

[Thanks, Janel! You've done a great job making this site a vibrant resource for people bitten by the carving bug. Congatulations on reaching the 5-year mark - that's a geological era on the Internet...]

 

 

Could you tell us about the three pieces shown above?

 

Janel

 

[sure, Janel. They were all made by capturing surface data from natural objects using a 3d scanner, which were then rescaled, mirrored, merged and recombined in a 3d modeling environment, and output using 4-axis CNC (Computer-Numerically Controlled) milling machines. The one on the far left is carved in elm, based on a crocodile skull and an anthurium flower. The one on the far right is carved in boxwood, based on some fossil turtle scutes and the mineral aragonite. And the one in the middle is in boxwood and vegetable ivory (a Caroline Islands palm nut), based on a fish (the "sea robin") and the piassabia (another palm nut). This is an example of an assemblage sculpture technique transposed into carved media, where carving becomes functionally equivalent to casting. It's the sort of thing that this technology makes possible, that would have been prohibitively difficult to conceive of any other way. Any other questions?]

 

Andrew Werby

www.computersculpture.com

 

PS: Traffic cones and lots of other stuff besides, Clive - there's really no limit to what can be done.

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It's the sort of thing that this technology makes possible, that would have been prohibitively difficult to conceive of any other way.

 

Errr hardly!!

 

... although all those reproduction netsuke carvers beavering away in the Hong Kong sweat shops, knocking out a couple of netsuke a day to sell on E-bay for $5 must be worried.. this new technology will knock out a dozen an hour and sell them for 50 cents.. well for a while anyway.. until nobody wants them anymore.

 

So Andrew.. while I admire your sales hype.. I won't be rushing out to buy one. I'm sure one day, somewhere, some fantastic work will be made using this tecnology because some gifted sculptor got round to using it, but it'll be that way precisely because he/she was gifted NOT because they couldn't otherwise.

 

Good luck with it all though

 

Kindest regards

Clive

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Hi Clive;

 

I appreciate your hostile reply; it makes it easier to enunciate ones views when confronted with opposition to them. But don't you see a bit of contradiction between your first and second paragraphs? The reproduction netsuke factory, which isn't using the technology to add anything to what can be done by hand, is essentially in the same position as the "gifted sculptor" you adduce in your second example. If they don't take advantage of the unique advantages new technology offers, they are just making inferior copies of what is better done by hand. That was the point I was trying to make in my remarks above.

 

At this point, sales are still driven by people like this, who are basically trying to do the usual sort of thing faster and cheaper. So if selling was my major motivation I would be better advised to focus on those benefits. By stressing the artistic rather than the economic advantages of the new advances in carving technology, I am, if anything, undercutting my sales efforts - I should be out knocking on sweatshop doors, not wasting my time talking about aesthetics in online forums and disparaging my best customers. But I'm excited about the new artistic possibilities of these tools, so when I found the whole thing dismissed as a "dirty word" around here, I thought I might try to make the case for the defense. I'm sure I won't convince everybody that this is something they should do, but I'd like to think that some, at least, won't dismiss it out of hand.

 

All the Best;

 

Andrew Werby

www.computersculpture.com

 

 

Errr hardly!!

 

... although all those reproduction netsuke carvers beavering away in the Hong Kong sweat shops, knocking out a couple of netsuke a day to sell on E-bay for $5 must be worried.. this new technology will knock out a dozen an hour and sell them for 50 cents.. well for a while anyway.. until nobody wants them anymore.

 

So Andrew.. while I admire your sales hype.. I won't be rushing out to buy one. I'm sure one day, somewhere, some fantastic work will be made using this tecnology because some gifted sculptor got round to using it, but it'll be that way precisely because he/she was gifted NOT because they couldn't otherwise.

 

Good luck with it all though

 

Kindest regards

Clive

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I appreciate your hostile reply; it makes it easier to enunciate ones views when confronted with opposition to them. But don't you see a bit of contradiction between your first and second paragraphs? The reproduction netsuke factory, which isn't using the technology to add anything to what can be done by hand, is essentially in the same position as the "gifted sculptor" you adduce in your second example. If they don't take advantage of the unique advantages new technology offers, they are just making inferior copies of what is better done by hand. That was the point I was trying to make in my remarks above.

 

At this point, sales are still driven by people like this, who are basically trying to do the usual sort of thing faster and cheaper. So if selling was my major motivation I would be better advised to focus on those benefits. By stressing the artistic rather than the economic advantages of the new advances in carving technology, I am, if anything, undercutting my sales efforts - I should be out knocking on sweatshop doors, not wasting my time talking about aesthetics in online forums and disparaging my best customers. But I'm excited about the new artistic possibilities of these tools, so when I found the whole thing dismissed as a "dirty word" around here, I thought I might try to make the case for the defense. I'm sure I won't convince everybody that this is something they should do, but I'd like to think that some, at least, won't dismiss it out of hand.

 

You might think it makes it easier to "enunciate" ones views.. but upon repeatedly reading your subsequent sentences its seems only to have resulted in gobbledygook.

 

Your basic premise is false.. I'm personally not hostile to new technology.. CNC is an interesting new tool.. but I can't see it fundamentally changing the artistic landscape as you have claimed...well at least not the quality end that's worth talking about.

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