Willow was conceived as an abstract female figurative piece using the forging techniques of drawing and upsetting of Corten Steel belts. Contrary to how it looks, the steel was not bent, it was pounded and forged with a 50-ton trip hammer. Willow stands 16’ high and is placed in the middle of a 100’ x 20’ retention pond. The permanence of iron is wed to the mutability of water creating a sense of movement with static materials.
Because it is the focal point in the courtyard of a Presbyterian Senior Residential Community entry-way, I wanted the piece to inspire and represent longevity. The solidity of the material over the water creates an immense reflection, an often used metaphor for life and our departure from it.
In particular, Willow was inspired by a 93-year-old woman who possessed an unusually spritely spirit. I purposely chose iron, the element from the core of the earth to mirror this woman’s intense and memorable presence.
This project was collaboration between the family members who commissioned the piece, the architect from the city of St. Louis, the architect of the residence community, the city’s building inspector, the blacksmith Christopher Thomson, an engineer, and me. The entities stretched across four states.
Translating the maquette from inch to foot required everyone’s expertise and openness to ideas. For example, the engineer needed to assist with the numbers, the weights, the angles. Thompson, the blacksmith, figured out how to load the forge with a 1200 pound piece of steel, move it to the hammer and the forge while yellow heat temperature (2200 degrees F), move it back to the forge when too cool to work (approx.. five minutes), which proved difficult but not insurmountable. We did this with four, twelve-foot, 1200 pound pieces over two weeks. Producing Willow was the largest forging in the state of New Mexico since 1942, when the railroad made locomotives here.
Installing the piece was equally as challenging as pounding the steel into form. We removed 12 square feet of soil from under the existing retention pond and filled it with concrete to secure the foundation for the weight and height of the sculpture.
The project’s success was the result of Herculean efforts on behalf of everyone who participated. It represents the true definition of collaboration, and the beauty of it is that it will stand for millennium!
Share Via Email
CODA: Collaboration of Design + Art
The global online community that celebrates design projects featuring commissioned artworks.
[ manifesto ]
Art matters. Attention to the details of our environment leads to love of place, which brings us to take responsibility for the spaces where we live and work. And by extension, the people with whom we live and work. And by extension, to our local communities, our cities, our nations, and our world.
We champion the role of artists in our society. We need artists to provide us with inspiration, creativity, and imagination, and to help us envision a better world.
Architects and designers know that remarkable design can change everything. They connect the dots across disciplines, collaborating with artists to make the world a more beautiful place. They are the ultimate patrons of the arts.
In the process, design professionals promote imagination and creativity, and through their commissions, make original art integral to and accessible in people's lives.
Art in our public and private spaces helps us fight ordinary buildings, ordinary streets, ordinary cities. We celebrate the extraordinary.
The architecture of our buildings and the design of our interiors affect our happiness and well-being. Each of us deserves a daily dose of inspiration.