Spring Newsletter 2021 – Around the World in 66 Rocks

Circle of Spirals Revisited – 22.5″ diameter, 2021
Fossil ammonite, dumortierite quartzite, limestone, syenite, pyritized ammonites

In The Studio

From Olduvai Gorge to the San Rafael Swell to Mount Quincan, there are rocks to be collected, and collect them my client did!  Over the course of his exploration career, he worked in 40 countries and always brought home his interesting finds. Hundreds of them. These rocks collected dust in his garage for decades until he finally decided to…give them to his kids!  “Oh no, Dad, please no!” The prospect of that reaction made him rethink how this gift to his children could be made palatable – turn his rocks into a piece of art!

He liked the symbolism of a spiral’s “continuity without end, like time.” So with that design in mind, he started selecting good-sized rocks that were stout enough for the cutting and polishing process. After months of getting the slabs prepped, and debating which ones to use, he turned them over to me. I laid out a color-directional spiral, made photocopies of the slabs, and made a paper mockup of the piece before proceeding.

Each of his stones is utterly unique. These are not commercial stones I could buy at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show that have stood the test of the lapidarist’s wheel. Nope, these rocks are au naturel – complete with hidden fractures, irregular surfaces, and various thicknesses – and I’m never sure how they are going to cut. They are too small to send to the waterjet. Two-part epoxy is my best friend. But if that preventative reinforcement fails, and one crumbles despite my best efforts, I have to move to the next slab. Hence, the pattern evolves as I cut the stones. Draw pattern, tape, cut, grind, layout, repeat. This is a completely new way to work!

Cutting inside curves with a straight tile saw blade is not my idea of a picnic in the park. It can scare the bejesus out of me at times. Holding the slab freehand at a 45% tilt from the table, my fingers are inches from the blade. I take tiny cut after tiny cut, until just the line on the pattern remains. Meanwhile, said pattern is slowly disintegrating as water seeps under the tape. No matter how tightly you burnish it, water leaks in and starts to loosen the pattern. Toward the end, the pattern is only being held by surface tension or perhaps my ever-increasing grip. 😉

But you can’t think about all of that while you are working. One down, 65 to go. Two down, 64 to go. It becomes a rhythm. What I love about this project is that it makes me reflect on my own wanderings in the field, the treasures uncovered, the rocks picked up in wonderment. As I carefully cut and grind all of these special rocks by hand, I remember things that were only known to me. This commission truly honors the field geologist in art.

   1. Fred’s Spiral paper mockup ~24″                              2. 18 Down, 48 to go

It is uncanny that my client chose a spiral design independent of my history with spirals.  Circle of Spirals Revisited (pictured above) was on the design table when he approached me with his project. Of course, my geologic time spiral from 2015 represents the continuity without end that he was thinking about.  If you are as interested in spirals as I am, you might enjoy the 1998 German movie, Run Lola  Run, which is filled with spirals and touches on chaos theory’s butterfly effect.  Great food for thought!

Another project we have been working on sans waterjet is Faults Interrupted. It started as a fun way to combine a Faults design with wave remnants.  I like the feel of the energy in the fault zone as the sides are slipping past one another and grinding the colorful rocks into black gouge.

3. Time Spiral – 34” diameter, 2015                                        4. Faults Interrupted–20” x 12” x 2.25″, 2021

In The Field

I have another collector, Chris Osterman, PhD, who is still exploring and is involved in a major discovery! Stu and I were very fortunate to be invited to visit his Phoenix Silver Project earlier this month. The property near Globe is owned by Silver One Resources, Inc. and has yielded the largest surviving group of native silver nuggets in the world!  Their Big Boy “mega nugget” weighed 417.8 pounds when excavated.  Big Boy and two others, an 80- and 120-pounder, are now on loan to the University Of Arizona Gem & Mineral Museum.  For more information, you would enjoy Helen Serras-Herman’s detailed article about the find in the July 2020 issue of Rock and Gem Magazine.

Since we were in Arizona briefly for the rescheduled Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, it was an opportunity to visit the property, see several nuggets, and discuss some future artwork to be created from the material.  One goal is to inlay some of the polished silver in an artwork illustrating the ore body’s cross-section. It is an exciting opportunity!

6. Susan and Dr. Chris Osterman at the Phoenix Silver Project near Globe, Arizona

In The Gallery / Exhibition Hall

Three of my abstract Color Studies will be an exhibition at the Lakewood Arts Center in May.  These are pieces I have been experimenting with using colored mortar and stone remnants.  It has been an interesting learning experience during Covid times. Please drop in if you are in the area!

May 2 – May 28

The Power of Color
Lakewood Arts Centre
6731 W. Colfax Ave.
Lakewood, CO  80214

Other shows that I usually attend were cancelled in 2020 but may be reemerging in the Fall, 2021.  Stay tuned!

7. Color Study 4 – 6.75″ x 7.5″ x 1″ , $150                          8. Color Study 6 – 7″x 7″ x 1.25″, $150

9. Color Study 1o – 7″ x 7.5″ x 1.75″ $150

All the best,

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