Friday, December 15, 2017

cory barkman’s chinese plum tree: coming into bloom, one flower at a time.

On his facebook page, industrial artist Cory Barkman has been sharing the journey to design and create unique hand-made furniture and fittings for a contemporary Chinese tea-room. I am going to describe more about bringing the Chinese Plum Tree screen installation into bloom, as I have the slightly scary task of making the 600 chased and repousséd bronze flowers.

Chased and repousséd bronze flowers - overlaid to create the feel of the finished Chinese Plum tree branch, loaded with spring blossom. Christine Pedersen. 2017.

With so much work necessary to create all the pieces, Cory has faced a serious problem - how to find enough hours in his working life to make it all: "Sometimes jobs are bigger than ourselves, and the sheer volume of work needed is more than one person can feasibly or efficiently achieve on a good timeframe”.

Cory and I have worked on a previous major project - the “Return” tree sculpture for Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation, with Jeff de Boer, as part of his LEXM artist collective. As Cory says about LEXM: “It means that together we can finish an art work more quickly, and we get to draw from each other’s experience in solving problems - we may find a better, or more aptly suited solution”. And of course, with large complicated pieces, Cory continued “…working together also allows each of us to grow independently, our individual contributions benefit the team, and we carry forward the experience of making the piece in all of our tool-kits."

Process shot: 4 different sized flowers per sheet of die-formed bronze. Christine Pedersen. 2017.

As an artist who specializes in chasing, this is a fabulous opportunity for me to really go deep with a particular form and explore technique: every hammer blow is a choice, the weight and angle determine every nuance of the flowers’ character. It is also physically very demanding, and I make 4 complex curled flowers, or 6 open-form flowers each day. Eventually, each flower will have taken around an hour to complete.

Cory’s hand-carved walnut and aluminium screen is 12 feet long and 5 feet high, and he estimates we will need around 600 blooms for the layered and highly detailed form he has designed. As I write, I have made approximately 350 flowers.


Making the bronze flowers - read on for more.