Flake, developed for the Denver Art Museum, comprises multiple long and arching red slivers. The flake shapes derive from residual solids made by ants boring into tree cellulose, but I imagine them as the primordial arabesque: the beautiful warp of space, described equally by the theoretical physics or the mosque ceiling. This is decoration that lifts away from fixed surfaces, metastasizing and drifting down as a physical body.
Each flake is of two elements: the long and concave plane of smooth clay stiffened by an array of cells on the back. The array of 800 ellipsoid bricks (produced using a RAM press), abstracted from insect hive cells, laminate and lend rigidity to an otherwise impossibly thin and vulnerable slab, the longest of which is 9 feet.
The flake silhouettes are interpretations of actual wood flakes I extracted from weakened spruce trunks. The fragile wood ones were simply scanned and these graphic iterations were amplified by orders of magnitude as large templates. Wanting to place the viewer within a bowl or perhaps a small amphitheater, the installation demanded a new geometry - a torus was elected as organizing mechanism. The double curve of each flake was therefore the whole curve of the installation, interrupted by the same spaces as happened within the tree itself during the insect assault.
The concept and design of the Flake installation is by Neil Forrest. Architect Yusef Denis assisted in final designs of flake variants and preparation of large plywood/plaster mold and individual cell. Greg Sims refined cell drawings for rapid prototyping. Andy Brayman managed the project, wired kilns, made molds and devised many systems to handle the unusual requirements of a large-scale project in ceramics, making a remarkably creative work environment. Dave Fredrickson designed a unique and flexible kiln to accommodate the problematic of especially long clay objects. Many assistants in Canada and United States helped realize the project. Neil Forrest worked side-by-side with Andy Brayman at his Matter Factory to realize this project.
- Flake torus concept: extracting and developing the flake curves for proposed installation. From these computer drawings, two types of molds were fabricated: large oversized plaster curves and digitally cut polystyrene molds developed by Andy Brayman for his CNC router.
- Flake installation proposal: the group of 3 different flakes (of which 2 were repeated).
- One of several sketches to assist in developing a fabrication methodology. While the matrix assembly and custom kiln strategies were implemented, the “milling idea” was ultimately not used for this project.
- “A” mold: Yusef Denis plotted plywood ribs in Rhino software as templates to construct a plaster mold with a wood frame.
- “A” mold: plywood, poultry mesh, and plaster.
- “B” mold: Andy Brayman operating CNC router to mill polystyrene mold.
- “B” mold: completed milled polystyrene mold on MDF base.
- Rhino model of insect cell: the pattern of cells acts as a structural stiffener for the long, delicate flake shapes.
- Gel negative master molds, 3D printed positive model, and gel positive: the 3D printed positive was produced from the Rhino digital files. Gel master molds were cast from this print and then used to produce a flexible positive model which was in turn used to produce the Hydrocal molds necessary for the RAM press.
- RAM press with molds: steel and Hydrocal upper and lower molds in hydraulic press. RAM is a proprietary clay-specific industrial hydraulic press with pneumatically controlled air passages inside gypsum molds. With this mold, each pressing could quickly produce four clay cells.
- Assembling freshly pressed wet clay cells, prior to trimming.
- Assembled cells on double-curved plaster “A” mold.
- Mounting cells onto flakes.
- Using a coping saw to cut cells to match mold shape: once mounted and joined, the edges of the laminated clay were aggressively sawn to invoke the original shaping of insect mandibles.
- Fabricating the flipping device: the flakes were fabricated upside down, then inverted for drying. Here Brayman attaches the custom fit clay cradle onto flake cells.
- Framed and held secure, each heavy clay flake was flipped over along with its mold and cradle. Here the wet flake sits on its own drying cradle that accompanies the object during shrinking and drying periods. The mold has been removed and is next to the flipping machine on the left.
- Drying flakes with forced air: a powered fan distributes air though a manifold box that feeds dozens of vinyl tubes inserted into drying cradle. The tubes were inserted deep into the support cradles that cushioned the flakes as they contracted during drying.
- Each flake was fired on the same support cradle in a 12’ long bespoke kiln designed and fabricated by Dave Fredrickson. Here one side of the custom-built modular electric kiln is removed to load smaller flakes prior to bisque firing.
- The pieces were fired to stoneware temperatures in the “Fredrickson kiln.”
- Flake glaze prep: bisqued flakes ready for spraying.
- Lead-glazed flake: test piece not used in final installation.
- Flake installation at the Denver Art Museum (DAM), June-Sept 2011.
- Flake suspension: discreet divots cover the glossy red surface of each flake and provide locations for select strands of stainless wire that allow the flakes to pivot accurately to the curve of a torus.
- Installation at DAM: Flake suspends as a cluster of simple jagged shapes that float in the low horizon of the gallery.
- Installation at DAM: obverse (cell side).
- Installation at DAM.