the Artist :: Found Objects & Constructions
One of a kind creations, welded iron and steel. Evoking images of basic earth workings, simple mechanics and antiquity. Most pieces in the collection are found objects from central Virginia.
This style of composition is sometimes called 'whimsical'. Les Ateliers Rubicon prefers the description of 'serious industrial'. The form and content of each piece is generally massive, deriving from original function and purpose - industrial, mechanical, agricultural.
Most of these pieces worked hard during their natural lives. In many cases they were transitional elements between human, mechanical and animal forces and the earth, where the human or organic form transitioned to the mechanical. Examples are handles, pedals, plow and agricultural pieces.
This is a defining characteristic of Les Ateliers Rubicon. Where man has laid his hand in toil, there is a form of sanctity. Preserved in adaptive forms, these objects retain their original auras of purpose. It is for the viewer to imagine their uses...and the stories each has to tell...
Les Ateliers Rubicon has its official location at Plant Zero in Richmond, VA. There is also an annex studio in Goochland at the Field Day of the Past showgrounds, under the kind benefice of the Rockville Historical Steam & Gas Machinery Association.
Among the inventory:
> Horseshoes (made by St. Croix Forge & Diamond). Made into bookends, wall or post mount hooks
> Valve and hydraulic hand wheels, pump parts (Crane, various manufacturers, mostly cast iron). Bookends, decorative elements, assemblies
> Lifting hooks, rigging gear, shackles, pulleys, sheaves, lifting blocks, chain and rope falls of many sizes ( Crosby-Laughlin, McKissock) Bookends, doorstops. These pieces usually incorporate very graceful line and symmetry
> Compression and leaf springs (i.e., Caterpillar Tractor). Envelope holders, support elements
> Gears, sprockets, cogs, wheels, rims - wide variety. Used in practically any composition
> Mower scythe bar tines (Deere, Case - Canadian & US). Bookends, finials, spear tips
> Carbide Tip Rotary Mill Tooth - Western VA Underground Coal Mine
( Ingersoll-Rand, Dresser). Doorstop
> All types of wood forming and cutting tools, manual and powered
> Welded Steel Table (Les Ateliers Rubicon) This piece was titled 'For a Disarming Conversation in a Hard Edged Relationship, Sit Here.' It was sold on consignment at Caravati's. Included a tractor seat mounted on cast iron axle housing (see sculpture).
> Other miscellaneous: handles, pedals, linkages, chain, cable and fittings, wide assortment of automotive parts, industrial and commercial hardware, tools from a wide variety of traders and applications, fire hydrants, metal cutting and forming tools, hinges, railroad track related objects, vises, anvils, clamps, work holding tools, fasteners of every imaginable sort, various scale parts and weights, wheels, rims, pedestals....just about any odd piece of iron I find is accessioned into the collection.
A common element in most of the collection is rust. Surface oxidation creates a wonderful patina on most of the ferrous metals in our collection. Occasionally a piece will be painted, but most often the natural surface exposure is preserved. Year round exterior exposure is unlikely to appreciably affect this iron.
A word about metallurgy - a general rule in this iron business is 'The Older The Better'. This is a simple fact of economics and industrial evolution. Around the turn of the century, cast iron and wrought iron was cheap, plentiful and contained a very good grade of iron ore and had a carbon content welds nicely. Old cast iron and wrought iron is great to work with.
By comparison, the utility and strength of carbon steel makes it great to work with, but it is rarely formed into the beautiful shapes found in iron. Cast iron from the 1960s forward seems to have become much poorer in quality and takes a little more work to weld. It needs to have more pre-heating and post-weld heat, otherwise cracks will appear.
One final note and acknowledgement to Roger Smith, who is a truly remarkably skilled blacksmith. A few years back I was hanging around with the Central VA Blacksmith Guild and used to visit Rodger in his shop right off Brook Road. He taught me all kinds of things having to do with working iron, but I remember one thing, kind of a small bit of trivia, and it's a nice distinction for an iron collector.
We were looking at old hand wheels, and I had a couple on the truck. He pointed out the difference in the spoke pattern. Apparently they can be roughly dated, with the oldest (and most desirable) being what Rodger called the 'weeping' spoke pattern, as compared to the single curved spoke.
The 'weeping' spoke has two curves in each spoke and creates a beautifully proportioned symmetry. They are usually very old, probably early to mid 1800s.
The single curved spoke design is also a graceful profile, but in comparison, one readily appreciates the difference. Probably after WWII the straight spoke pattern became predominant and that was the end of that particular collectible adventure.
I try to have the crew at Fonnie's watching for these oldies, but needless to say, my heart is continually broken when I find the fragments. All the spoke is doing is transferring the rotary radial force from the human to the axial plane, turning the wheel, and to think, through such a graceful series of curves. Nice old stuff.... This illustration might help appreciate why the collection has grown to its present size.
Les Ateliers Rubicon accepts commissions for sculpture, Americana, furniture and objects.