May 5, 2015

Clockwork Chiropterid

        Today I finished the block I worked on at my open studio show this past weekend.  I didn’t know what people would make of the design as they watched me carve, and I must confess I was rather surprised by the positive response.  I think only two people used the word “steampunk,” so this probably isn’t the population that’s a natural target audience for Nycteris & Flederer’s Patent Mechanical Chiropterid (Model 3).  Nevertheless I had an unexpected number of fun conversations about the charms of robot bats.
        It’s my son P who’s been encouraging my predilection for steampunk animals.  (He’s been advocating for a clockwork pelican, which may come in time, although I actually want to do a real pelican, too.)  I thought a bat would be cool because I was picturing how a mad scientist-type might build such a thing, and I originally envisioned it with kitchen funnels for ears.  But I couldn’t make them look good despite several attempts.  I think I redid the ears more than anything else on my sketch before settling on placing the wind-up key atop the head (or, since it’s a bat, below the head, I guess.)  Because I’m not really an engineer designing a real functional device, I admit I’m a little vague on the actual workings of this critter.  The wind-up key implies clockwork, while the dials imply steam power.  I make no claims that the gears shown would produce successful powered flight.  What I was aiming for was a basic level of plausibility, topped off with a dollop of all the fun stuff.
        As for the carving, I wanted this bat to be hanging in the dark, with enough shadows that its eyes would look like lit lightbulbs.  I’m not sure I quite succeeded in that - I just can’t seem to help myself from carving out plenty of white instead of leaving dark and shadowy texture.  But I’m happy with it anyway.  After all, I never intended it to be spooky or sinister.  I wanted a friendly robot bat, and I think I got one.
        And now I need to come up with another idea for another block, because my next chance to sit carving for a weekend comes up in just two weeks at Dedham Open Studios.  Hmmm… So many wonderful possibilities!

[Picture: Nycteris & Flederer’s Patent Mechanical Chiropterid (Model 3), rubber block print by AEGN, 2015.]

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