Ancient Metalurgy

There’s a reminder of just how sophisticated ancient peoples were in the field of metalurgy discussed in the March/April issue of “Archaeology” magazine. The article comments on how the ancient Egyptians made jewelry beads from iron sourced from meteorites! These kinds of discoveries never fail to impress upon me just how far in the past complex metal working is and how creative ancient civilizations could be, given what we consider today to be “primitive” technology. These ancient beads were considered, in their time, as more valuable than gold, since the production of any iron based objects was rare and only for the ruling class individuals. These objects very likely also had ceremonial/spiritual functions, as the source material literally came from the sky.

Foundry at Western Washington University, 1974

foundry at Western Washington University, 1974

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The Aviator Returns

Yesterday, I picked up my wife from the Tri-City Airport and discovered that the “Varney Aviator” sculpture I created in 2001 has been moved back to its original site inside the entrance. This was done while the airport undergoes major remodeling/rebuilding. I don’t yet know where it will wind up after all the building is complete in another year or so. This is a life size realistic portrait bust of a 1920’s era aviator complete with goggles and headgear, which was commissioned by the Franklin County Historical Society. I also designed the display cabinet and had it built by a cabinet maker in the local area to my specifications. One of the best design aspects of the piece is the large Plexiglas cover over the bust, which does exactly what I wanted, and that is to visually “float” the sculpture in space. This art piece celebrates the first airmail runs in Pasco after the end of World War 1.

"Varney Aviator" by Tom

“Varney Aviator” by Tom

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Facial Reconstruction Notes

My last bog entry dealt with Naia, the 15 year old dating from almost 13,000 years in the past and her facial reconstruction. Another reconstruction that I mentioned was “Spirit Cave Man,” whose reconstruction I also worked on in consultation with Dr. Chatters. I’m going to use him as an example of the layering of facial tissues interpreted with modeling clay. Once the 3D print or plastic cast of the original skull is set up in a neutral position on a sculpting stand, and the soft tissue thicknesses determined, (these are designated with eraser markers here.) then the muscles of the face are built up in the proper sequence. After that is cross-checked for anatomical accuracy, then the skin and fatty tissue layer is modeled into place to give us a face. Finally, the age of the individual at the time of death is created with lines of age and environmental influences taken into account.

Muscle layer on skull casting of Spirit Cave Man

Muscle layer on skull casting of Spirit Cave Man

meet Spirit Cave Man

meet Spirit Cave Man

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Naia

As I stated in an earlier blog, I was invited to work in partnership with Dr. James Chatters to create a forensic facial reconstruction of “Naia,” a 15 year old girl, who died 12,800 years ago and whose skeletal remains were discovered in the Yucatan, Mexico in 2007. As Jim and I worked on the reconstruction, we were photographed by the National Geographic Society and filmed for an upcoming documentary by NOVA. Jim and I worked together on the reconstruction of Kennewick Man in 1997, and on a couple of other facial reconstructions, including Spirit Cave Man. The process of facial reconstruction is a complicated and tightly controlled effort, involving a system of interpreting the facial tissue layers with clay over a 3D digital reproduction of the persons skull. The National Geographic Society just published their article, “First Americans,” in the January, 2015 issue. More on this later. Stay tuned.

3D print of Naia's skull by Jim Chatters & Tom McClelland

3D print of Naia’s skull by Jim Chatters & Tom McClelland

Naia reconstruction almost completed by Jim Chatters & Tom McClelland

Naia reconstruction almost completed by Jim Chatters & Tom McClelland

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The Word

The totally recycled and rebuilt “The News!” sculpture is now finished and ready for exhibiting and purchase. It is now entitled “The Word.” If you look at the pictures, you’ll see why. With the rebuild, the piece took on an altered content from the earlier sculpture, but the general idea is very similar, since the content has always been about the history of written language from earliest pictographs to modern digital symbols. I like the physical form of this new piece better than the older form, as it is simpler and includes the stainless digital symbols. The coloration is also changed as the patina was completely altered from the earlier sculpture. So, I have this new piece to offer to you collectors out there. Come one, come all! P.O.R.

"The Word" by Tom bronze & stainless steel

“The Word” by Tom
bronze & stainless steel

"The Word" detail

“The Word” detail

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An Open Mind

I have been working on several new sculptures lately, as mentioned in my last entry. I completed a couple of them and have another under development, which is entitled “An Open Mind.” It is still in the clay stage, and will be cast into bronze at a later date. I have included a picture here of the piece in process. The book forms you see will be developed in clay, like the head of the woman, and then I will mold the piece to produce waxes for casting into metal. This sculpture was inspired by my own on-going interest in book learning and education and has a twist of humor to it. The head is approximately 3/4 life size. I think “An Open Mind” would make a great piece for a library, educational center, or private home. If anyone is interested in commissioning a bronze edition of this sculpture, please let me know through this web site, and I will work up a quote on the cost.

"An Open Mind" by Tom in the clay stage.

“An Open Mind” by Tom in the clay stage.

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New Work

I mentioned, a while back, that I was reworking the old “The News!” piece. It is finally completed and, as you can see from the pictures, has changed considerably. The new look has come closer to conveying my original intentions with this sculpture. It has a more direct presentation to the content. I am still working on a new title, since the old title doesn’t fit the piece anymore, and I’m not sure it ever did. Titles are important to me, as they go to the heart of content, and show a solid commitment on my part. Sometimes, they come to me before I even start the physical assembly, and sometimes they come slowly, usually when I’m not looking. Look for my work in the field of forensic facial reconstruction in the upcoming January issue of National Geographic. I will have more on that story after this publication.

The new piece by Tom, as yet untitled

The new piece by Tom, as yet untitled

Another view

Another view

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Introspection

As October unfolds, and we get closer to All Hollows Eve, I’m reminded of the stories of Ray Bradbury and his brand of introspection. With the harvesting all around me, including the grape crushing I help my friend, Larry Oates with at Sleeping Dog Wines, I sense the winding down of the year, and I find myself pondering life, death and renewal. I’ve been working on some facial reconstruction sculpting of ancient individuals, who very likely built their belief systems around seasonal changes and the planting and harvesting of crops, changes in the cosmos overhead, and, in turn, created visual symbolism that related to the flow of nature and how it effected them. When I study long periods of history, I tend to feel humbled at the scope of natural forces surrounding me and respond accordingly.

Another in the Spirit Catcher series by Tom

Another in the Spirit Catcher series by Tom

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Fall is in the Air!

Fall is here, and the light outdoors is getting that wonderful low angle to it. Along with the crisp edges and shadows, objects stand out in contrast and appear even more three dimensional. Although it is still warm here in the Columbia Basin area- close to 90 degrees as the high- most of the day is pleasant to be out, which feeds my hiking hobby, and the resulting nature observations fuel my art making. I have several new ideas I am working on in my noggin, and a few are becoming tangible, as well. More on all that to come very soon.

One of the "Spirit Catcher" series by Tom ,1979

One of the “Spirit Catcher” series by Tom ,1979

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20KLUS Ongoing

There’s a lot to communicate about the “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” (20KLUS) series of illustrations, since it has developed over about 50 years of my life. Verne’s novel was the first book I read all the way through from my grade school library- and that was a really poor translation with half of the content left out! The Disney movie certainly grabbed me visually, and many other versions of the story over the years. When I finally got to read Miller’s translation, with all the original content in place, I could pull all the pieces together into my own visual interpretations. Why black and white? Probably because the novel is a story of the opposition of forces and extremes. I also wanted to give a tip of the hat to the original illustrations, which were wood engravings and printed in B&W.

#2 in the 20KLUS Illustrations by Tom

#2 in the 20KLUS Illustrations by Tom

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