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How to Create the Base of a Sculpture



Kevin is working on a sculpture titled Building Blocks, which is really a maquette, or model, for a larger sculpture he hopes to build one day. It is made of aluminum, allowing him to do some AC welding instead of DC welding for a change.

One of his viewers asked recently what Kevin thinks about when he makes a base. How do you know how big to make it? How wide? What metal to use?

Kevin likes to keep in mind the functional considerations, such as whether it will be big enough and heavy enough and have a big enough footprint to support the sculpture. There are also aesthetic considerations: Will it look right with the sculpture? You don't want to a cinderblock for a base just because it's the right size and weight.

Building Blocks' base has a nice width and depth, but the sculpture is pretty tall. So Kevin had to give it enough mass so that if someone pushed it, it wouldn't fall over, and the wind can't blow it over. He got around that by filling it about 4/5 full of sand. Kevin says you have to be careful when you're welding, though, when filling a base with sand. He welded the sides and the base - everything except one corner. Then he used a funnel to pour in the sand and welded that last corner shut. Now the base itself weighs about 25 pounds, so it's pretty solid.

Next Kevin shows his 9.25' tall sound sculpture Cohesive Curves. Its base started with a harrow disc that gave him a 2-1/2 foot diameter wide, flat base that provided contact all the way around. It was a juggling act between the weight and stability at the bottom to counteract the height of the stand and the big bell. In this case, he brought the base off ground level and built the front of the base forward of the bell a little. Then he put plenty of steel and weight to the back of the stand. In fact, without the bell itself, the stand is almost too far weighted toward the rear. When hanging, the bell is maybe a little bit forward of centered over the base. So there is about 60 pounds of steel in the back of the stand countering the 125 pounds of steel in the bell itself. It's a real juggling act.

Next he shows the sculpture Square Up, which moves - Kevin says it's like a big "Slinky" on steroids. It has a nice wide base with good depth so it can stand safely. When installed, the base will be sunk in concrete, or he will add rebar to the bottom of the base and put that into concrete. Then, no matter how hard you push on it to enjoy the upper movement, the sculpture itself won't go anywhere. Another option for this sculpture is to box out the base, adding a little depth and width, slanting the sides, perhaps with the bottom wider than the top.

In the office, Kevin shows the sculpture Dorothy's Nightmare, which has a really small base compared to the size, width and diameter of the sculpture itself. It weighs about 90 pounds, so there's a lot of weight fairly high, but it's all centered right over the base. Because it will be inside on a pedestal, it isn't going to be subject to wind or people playing with it.

The last sculpture he talks about is Cyclone, which has a lot of mass hanging over one side and a little on the other side. It's standing on tiny pads. The secret is that it actually has legs on the other side of the center mass. Once again, it's a balancng act. It took Kevin about six tries to get it balanced right. There's a lot of math and guesswork involved, as well as some experience. So when making a base, make sure it looks right and is big enough and heavy enough.


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