Wellspring – The Unroll.

This is a screen grab from Rhino3d, showing the 3d model and the component surfaces “unrolled” (flattened). The flattened shapes are grouped here by material (mostly stainless steel) and thickness (14 gauge, 12 gauge, and 1/4 inch stainless; plus 1/8th inch tinted polymer).

A Wellspring for Adams County.

After a nearly uncountable number of casts and bait changes, I finally landed one. To be done in stainless steel and tinted polymer sheet for the Adams County Government Center, right here in Colorado. Really looking forward to building this thing.

Bookmobile – Installed

2009 07 30 Leichliter Bookmobile 02

Back from a quick whirlwind trip to Little Rock, AR in the rain. Got the Bookmobile piece installed – everyone was happy with the way it turned out. This one was a little weird in that I had no way of seeing what the finished work would look like until it was on site and finished – just not enough space to do a dry run beforehand. The Rowlux plastic really makes it all work.

Metal Mermaid

OK, the mermaid is pretty much done – I have a couple more hours of texturing and touching-up, but I’ve got all day tomorrow. We put her on a truck for Norfolk on Tuesday. Here are a few shots showing the assembly process. (Descriptions are UNDER each pic.)
2009 05 20 Mermaid Fabrication  3
The flat pieces, cut according to the pattern I posted earlier. Cut with a laser from 14 gauge stainless steel.

2009 05 20 Mermaid Fabrication  4
Beginning the process of sorting out who goes where – these are parts of the tail fin. You can see the leading and trailing edges up front and the side faces in the background. I use the neighboring pieces as bending guides; as the edges are drawn together, it forces the planar sheets to curve into the proper shape.

2009 05 21 Mermaid Fabrication  6
The tail tacked together.

2009 05 24 Mermaid Fabrication  8
Her hair being assembled. You can see some of the printed out guides from Rhino that I use to keep myself somewhat less confused.

2009 05 27 Mermaid Fabrication  11
The face was, ahem, a real bitch to get to fit properly. I should have broken that center strip up into at least 3 parts – this would have saved about 3 hours of bending and tweaking due to the tight curves in opposite directions lying right next to each other. I printed out a profile section at 1:1 scale from Rhino to use as a guide. Do you get the idea that I love that program?

2009 05 28 Mermaid Fabrication  14
Parts being finish welded.

2009 06 01 Mermaid Fabrication  17
One arm is assembled and chased, with another underway. This is about when I remembered fully just how hard 304 stainless really is. There is carbon in there, and it precipitates into the Heat Affected Zone around and in each weld – making it just that much harder right where you need to grind. Weee.

2009 06 04 Mermaid Fabrication  19
The other arm roughly finished and the start of the main portion of the tail.

2009 06 04 Mermaid Fabrication  21
Attaching the face to the hair – with both mostly chased out. This was the last of the small parts to get done before moving on to assembling the tail/body and hooking them all together.

2009 06 07 Mermaid Fabrication  24
2009 06 11 Mermaid Fabrication  30
Putting the structural member in. I designed the structure keeping in mind two factors: the fountain construction docs called for a 6″ sleeve to receive the sculpture, and aesthetics. I used 5″ standard pipe to slide down into that 6″ sleeve, plus the thick pipe looks less like a lollypop. Structural engineers in Norfolk analyzed my design and found it adequate without any changes to account for all the forces in play on the piece – that means I done goodz.

2009 06 11 Mermaid Fabrication  32
Torso panels going on.

2009 06 14 Mermaid Fabrication  39
Attaching the first arm – I was able to spin the pipe on the table in order to work on both left and right halves. My back thanks me. At this point, the size of this thing in comparison to the garage is becoming really evident.

2009 06 19 Mermaid  Upright
John Kinkade of the Guild and Mike Allison helped me stand her upright. I built a shipping stand for her so she can ride upright on the truck out to Norfolk – I like to avoid having the piece in contact with the flatbed when possible to minimize the risk of denting the (relatively) thin sheet metal. I also prefer not to attempt to cover the sculptures – the coverings tend to do more harm than good.

2009 06 20 Mermaid Fabrication  45
Yours truly doing some final chasing on the parts I couldn’t get at in the garageshopstudio.

2009 06 21 Mermaid Fabrication  48
Got a sunrise shot of her the next day. Basically done but for some final texturing and nitpicking.

This was a huge project for me – not in terms of size, but time. Start to finish in just about a month is pretty much unheard of. I wasn’t sure if I could do it. 10 hour days for 30 straight days will do it, I guess. That and lots of beer and the support of a really awesome woman.

And some great friends.

And a good portion of too stupid to know better.

EDIT 2017-12-29 Updated pictures with local copies instead of flickr links

Bizzy. Backsun.

I’ve been out in the shop (studio? – either way, it’s just the freaking garage) bending and welding sheets of stainless steel into the shape of a mermaid – for 18 straight days.

Why the hell would you want to do that, Mark?

The City of Norfolk, Virginia contacted the Guild looking to have their iconic mermaid logo sculpted into three dimensions. Ren put together a package of potential artists, and, long story short, they chose me. The single greatest criterion for this choice was most likely the simple fact that the fabrication method I use permits a much faster design-to-finished-sculpture time frame. Ya see, Norfolk first contacted us at the tail end of April – with an unveiling date of July 2nd. That pretty much rules out anything cast – and should rule out any kind of sculpture at all, unless crazy people happen to be involved – ooh, look at the grouse!

I spent a couple weeks in May coming up with two designs for them to choose from, both based on their original logo.
Mermaid 01 1
The first idea was simpler from a fabrication standpoint. It consisted of a series of plates bolted together.

(Pic missing)

This concept was nixed – probably a bit too industrial. I loved it, most likely because I’d be done with it already.
Time was so tight Ren put her considerable drafting skills to work on the second design while I doofused around in Solidworks on the first one. Here’s what she came up with:
Fullsizeoutput 14c
Hmmm. Who’s the artist on this project?
Showing perfectly sensible good taste, the City chose Ren’s design.
(Time for dinner. More later.)

So, now it’s time to figure out HOW to make it. I struggled for just long enough to realize that Solidworks is just not the right tool for such a task. Nor would any of the other tools in my toolbox be fast and accurate enough (in my hands at least) to build the complex surfaces needed for the mermaid. FormZ? I’d have thrown my computer out the window after half an hour. I realized that an old friend was going to be required – hey Rhino, how ya doin’? Before I lost my marbles and abandoned the Windows world for a Mac, Rhino was the program that first enabled me to make the switch from carving stone to computer sculpting. I was amazed at how it all came back to me – I was able to jump right back in almost as if the last 5 years hadn’t intervened.

Nonetheless, I was still too inept to just start building developable surfaces that looked like the mermaid in Rhino. I needed something to start from – so I modeled the rough form in Modo.

(another missing image)

It was pretty easy to flesh out the shape I wanted – that sort of work is the bread and butter of polygonal modelers like Modo. Plus, it exports formats that Rhino has no problems translating. Here’s the mesh out of Modo with the beginnings of surfaces (the tail) that will eventually be the sheet metal of the mermaid.

(this photo is history, too)

Some more progress:

(as is this one)

And the finished model:

Screen Shot 2017 12 29 at 8 26 03 AM

From here, it’s time to unroll all those surfaces so that they can be used as a pattern to drive the laser cutter. My Rhino rustiness let me make a few problematic surfaces – they were curved in two directions, which is pretty damn hard to persuade 14 gauge stainless steel sheet to do. Happily, Rhino also includes tools to compensate for this – actually, Rhino seems to be one of those programs that allows you to do pretty much anything you can think of; the tools are there if you just dig deep enough.
Anyway here’s what the unfolded parts look like:
Screen Shot 2017 12 29 at 8 27 53 AM
And here’s the final design, all gussied up for its trip to Italy:

(holy crap, this one is gone, too!)

(No, it’s not REALLY Italy – just a cheesy computer render)
I’ll post more when I get some time.


In an effort to make up for a dearth of posts, here’s a whole bunch of crap vomited into the tubes all at once.
2009 07 15 BookMobile  bottom 2
Book mobile design for a school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Here’s another angle:
2009 07 15 BookMobile  top

2009 10 03 Ristra  3
Have some good clients down in Santa Fe who are looking to find a way to bring some durability to the omnipresent ristra. (They are having problems with the wind, mice and ants destroying the traditional ones.) This was my first concept, which fails on the wind-resistance front. Presently working on iteration number two.

EDIT 2017-12-29 Edited out a picture that is missing from my archives and updated the two that aren’t.

Skinning the bases.

2008 11 07 Water Power 002  Copy

Ren helped me install the second layer of 12 gauge sheets to the bases. In the lovely “November in Colorado” wind – a 30 mph gust can sure make 150 pounds feel like 300. Yippee! Drilled and placed over 200 rivets over the course of three days.

Bitching aside, it’s that much closer to being done.

Water and Power – installed.

2008 10 08 Water and Power Install 019

The Water and Power sculptures are (finally!) in their rightful places. I was a little too busy to get any good action shots, but I’ll see if I can’t find some and post ’em. In the meantime, check out my flickr photostream for more.

These things are really, really big. And blue. And yellow.

EDIT 12/27/2017 Replaced the broken image link to my now-defunct flickr steam. So, yeah, ignore that hyperlink up there.

Water & Power – the end is near.

2008 09 24 Footings are done

I intended to follow up on my previous post with a little info about my new computer and new software, but forming and pouring 30 cubic yards of concrete sorta stifles the urge to make blogginess. I’ve been having a blast, despite working my ass off, due mainly to getting a chance to work with my big brother Scott again. Couldn’t have done this one without him.

Thanks dude.


Thing are under construction around here. I’ll post a more detailed explanation of what’s going on soon – but for now, suffice it to say that I’m moving back to Blogger and using it as my main web portal. I was able to consolidate all my old Emptyful posts into this new Exocubic Studio blog using Google’s Blogger in Draft mode, which allows importing and exporting whole blogs. So if you haven’t had a chance to look at the old stuff, there are actually some pretty interesting posts from way back. Here are a couple:

Making a Monument

Talk about coming around full circle:

“Water” being sandblasted.

TD manufacturing in Greeley, Colorado prepping the “Water” piece for powder coating. Lloyd from Master Metal Works and I ran out to look it over and correct any flaws (I point out, Lloyd corrects). The metal looks really good. I’m excited that this project is finally starting to coalesce.

2008 08 05 Water and Power 2326

Meme is finished.

2008 07 03 Leichliter Meme03 angle

Jafe Parsons got some preliminary shots to me this weekend of the finished “Meme” sculpture. Really, really pleased with this one. I think it is my best work to date – if that statement actually means anything. I oftentimes feel that my latest effort is my best; it takes a bit of time and perspective to get a true sense of how a single work fits into an oeuvre. Yet this does feel like a less tentative, bolder statement of form that is derived intrinsically and exclusively from my current process – the computer as primary tool for sculptural expression.

Number Six.

2008 05 15 LG Together LR Install 2188

Back from Little Rock, Arkansas having installed my sixth major piece of public art. None of these installations comes off without a hitch, but it seemed like this one was actually easier than some of the others – perhaps indicating that John* and I are actually learning? Personally, I was able to relax a bit more, which in turn allowed me to communicate better with our crane operator and everyone helping us. The elderly crane owner was there (in addition to the operator) and his expertise made a huge impact – but he was very soft-spoken and had the thickest Arkansas accent I’d yet encountered. It took a conscious effort on my part to pause and really talk things over with him in order to comprehend what he was advising. I think I’ve finally gotten mature enough to shut off the ego and do what’s needed to achieve the goal. About time. Also, the Little Rock Parks and Rec guys were there to help us out, and they REALLY did. The strongest lesson I came away with was that we collectively are much more capable and wise than any of us is singularly.

* – John Kinkade, the Executive Director of the National Sculptors’ Guild and my dear friend of 16 years. (That’s him on the far right above.)