The only wood used for the backgrounds is cabinet grade plywood. Sawmill grade, kiln-dried oak, walnut, and cherry planed on front and back are used for framing and some design work. Tubular and sheet copper is often used as an element as well as glass and ground lenses and stained glass leading. And then there are the nails, a great variety of nails in fact, often bought in boxes, some as big as 50 pounds.
The tools are whatever gets the job done. Hammers are used, of course, the farrier’s hammer and ball-peen hammers, usually along with a variety of punches. Three power sanders are used for shaping and surfacing, but the final sanding is done by hand. There is a small and large adjustable drill press. There is a table saw, a scroll saw, and a compound-complex miter saw, and framing blade along with a variety of framing jigs. The frames are glued and then dowelled with bamboo for extra strength. Background finishes include water-based stains and venetian plaster sealed with polyurethane. The frames are finished with 4-8 layers of tung oil on 400 grit finished boards.
This work is totally self taught with very few examples to study. From basic compositional layout and element design the goal is closure. The lowest level has to be set with the first nail, and, ideally, closure is achieved with the last nail. Along the way there is very little room for adjustment and every nail has to be constantly monitored in all 3 (or 4 or 5) planes in relation to itself as well as the adjacent nails and lines of contour.
The work is challenging and demanding and, therefore, rewarding . . .
the goal is to tickle the spirit of creative experience which we all presumably share.
Working in an obscure medium such as nails provides challenges in developing new techniques. One such challenge in working with metal is dealing with oxidation reductions. When the metal is iron based this oxidation takes the form of rust. The great majority of the nails which have been used in these works are pre-treated at the factory with galvanizing, plating, or cement coating which neutralizes the onset of rust by keeping the oxygen out.
In addition a final generous sealing with polyeurathane is standard procedure to protect the nails from moisture and inhibit rust. After using this technique for over thirty years, no poly treated pieces have developed rusts signs that are not intentional. Sometimes, rust is used as an intended patina (Steel Magnolia). Several pieces are being left untreated so they will rust to their best patina before they are sealed with polyeurethane.
All things are in entropy, however, and poly might eventually begin to break down and allow oxidation. Just like many brushed-work applications (oils, acrylics, etc.) periodic cleaning and restoration might be called for.
There is an issue with a few of the photographs. The entire catalog of photos was taken over a period of 10 years or so by a number of different photographers. The majority of the photos are just fine, but there is an issue of colors in the backgrounds of a few. Look at Mother and Child #3: green is true to actual color, but picture number three has a gray cast. In Ibis #1 there is a lot of foreground blue that really isn't there. Our priority task is to finish the website and then we will retake the photographs and replace them as needed. Thanks for your patience.