I work as an artist/craftsman for two reasons: First it’s about resources; secondly, the pleasure of creating art. My art objects often feature wood. Wood is a resource that ought not be wasted and much of the wood I use had been abandoned by others. When wood is cared for (shaped, polished, stained, waxed, or sometimes even just left alone), it is a wonderful, expressive media. It can be luscious to touch, it can be rugged; it can be in the foreground, it can form the background. Its own internal patterns and/or its natural surfaces can be highlighted. It can be formed to contrast well with metals (brass, stainless-steel, aluminum). In addition to being bright and shiny (or sometimes rusty and dull), the metals are fire-proof and especially appropriate where light and/or flame are part of the art. Resource-wise, the first preference for acquisition of metals is, of course, surplus and recycle centers.
Another resource is that of “found objects.” Years ago the engine in our family car failed; its camshaft was saved and became, more than 20 years later, the central part of a Hanukkah lamp. That camshaft is the upright stem, the candle bench is an aluminum extrusion from an industrial recycle center. Altogether this assembly is a thing of beauty. However, my saving- treasures-habit does have its limits (Where do I save and store “it?” How do I find it when I need “it?” When will I get to THAT treasure?) and I have observed that I can not rely on found objects alone to make an object d’art. For example, the brass candle-holders in that auto-part lamp were newly machined since one does not find brass just lying about that is shaped for holding candles. Parts selected for their utility, their attractiveness, or their narrative, all play into the dynamics of color, texture, contrasts and proportion that are engaged in converting an object into art.
My resource concern/saving habit plays directly into my second reason: the pleasure of creating. I like turning found-objects including wood (and other “raw” materials as need-be) into things that are useful as well as valuable and beautiful. I do find joy in creating objects that will be appreciated, looked after, cherished.
Why do I make Hanukkah lamps? Well, Hanukkah is a festival that lights up the Northern Hemisphere’s mid-winter doldrums. It is a participatory event that engages everyone in the family with traditional foods, song, prayers, and, of course, the lighting of candles, be they fueled by oil, tallow, or electricity. During Hanukkah season, the lamps provide support and a focus to the festivities. I create Hanukkah lamps because it allows me to respond to my feelings on the ethics of resources and to enjoy the pleasures of actually creating art. But equally important is that their production offers me the additional challenge of working both within a strong set of rules about what is proper and, at the same time, doing so in a context where there is no one fixed model/solution already in place. Fortunately for me and my design efforts, contemporary forms and materials, that respect the rules, are quite acceptable.
I find that my lamps are able to play a central role in Hanukkah; I hope they trigger a meaningful recalling of the event, bring visual pleasure to those who view them, and are treasured throughout the rest of the year and the years to come.