Every February for the last 28 years, metalsmiths and other artists gather to exchange ideas, explore new work and have a great time. The Yuma Symposium is held on the last full weekend of February. Artists of varied disciplines are invited to speak and sometimes demo what they do, talk about where they have been and generally inspire the rest of us.
In addition to the presentations, there is an art exhibit featuring the presenters and students, an annual pin auction, pin swapping and the National Saw, File and Solder Sprints.
This year I was asked to make one of the three sets of trophies that will be presented to the three teams with the best times in the National Saw, File and Solder Sprint. In thinking about what I wanted to do, I thought about gathering with friends in Yuma and having a beer or two – and thought I might want to integrate that somehow into the trophy. So I went to my local Goodwill and found a couple of interesting beer type glasses – but there were only two of the interesting style – but I got them anyway, because you never know what might work out. Then I found some more interesting glassware and while I was looking for something that might go with the first set that I bought – or even the second set or maybe a third set yet, I spotted a large glass vase. It was really pretty so of course I picked it up, too. And in that same trip I found a second large glass vase. Now I really had to think about what I wanted to do. I started thinking about trophies and got the image in my head of the racecar driver holding the huge cup over his head. And I thought about the World Cup winners and what that trophy looks like – and the America’s Cup… and I decided I didn’t want to build a small something – I wanted a TROPHY.
Since each team is made up of three people – one saws out a ring, one files all of the edges and pounds it into shape to be soldered and the third person solders – it was necessary to have three trophies. I also really wanted to honor what each individual contributed to the competition, so one trophy is about sawing, one about filing and one about soldering.
I finally found a third large glass vase at the Amvets in Escondido so I was set to begin trophy construction. I still didn’t have designs nailed down, but I had parts…. Lots of parts. I had solder tips that no longer functioned, old bench pins and saw frames, old files that I would feel bad about taking into school (the students can only stand so much frustration) and lots of copper, so I was off and running. I really wanted to create something that used the parts associated with the activity and at the same time was not so literal as to stick a file or torch tip or saw onto a glass vase.
The trophy that intrigued me most was the File Trophy:
I wanted to bend the files to so they conformed to or accentuated the shape of the vase. I wasn’t sure that my air-acetylene torch would be hot enough to do the job, but there’s nothing like putting a file in the vise, heating it up and seeing what it will do. I used mostly smaller files (large needle file size) and found that not only could I bend them, I could hot twist them! So I chose the vase I wanted to use and shaped and twisted the files. Then it was only a matter of arranging them and figuring out a way to make them stay in the position I wanted. The result was exactly what I was after. The trophy used the files as the dominant visual form, but it was abstract enough that unless the viewer took the time to investigate closely, it just looked like an interesting metalworked vase.
The second trophy I made was the Saw Trophy. I had several bench pins that should have been firewood years ago, and several old saws that I had acquired over the years. The first thing I did was to create a base that accommodated the vase. I took the three benchpins, two pieces of copper and riveted them together to create a stable base and to allude to the traditional jeweler’s workspace for sawing. I attached the sawframes and put in LARGE sawblades (I think they are coping saw blades). This piece is more literal than I would have liked, but I do enjoy the formality of the three very used benchpins and three ancient sawframes arranged to hold the vase.
The last trophy I made was the Solder Trophy. I had nine torch tips that over the years had quit working and the replacement filters cost almost as much as new torch tips, so in never seemed quite practical to repair them. Then again, it never seemed reasonable to just throw them away either. After all, they are brass – and who knows, someday maybe I could find a case of filters on Ebay…
To construct this piece, I went back to the copper pile to figure out how to hold the solder tips. I ended up not using the largest tip or the smallest tip as they made the difference in height of the legs just too great. The result, like the File Trophy, is abstract enough that the causal observer would only notice that the legs are different sizes. On closer inspection, the viewer sees that the stand is made of torch tips. I am very pleased with the resulting design. Again, it suits my formal aesthetics while integrating the playfulness of using the “found objects” along with “treasure” from Goodwill. Who could ask for more than that?
The next issue was the badge. Each trophy needed a badge to identify what it was a trophy for. I have included pictures of several drawings I made in the process of creating a design that I felt embodied the character of the trophies and would also be something the winners might wear.
This ended up not being practical, but at design time was part of the criteria I was working with. I used copper to forge the final design, and altered the design to make the “trading pins” that I don’t really trade, but give to friends I see on the trip.
I really had a wonderful time with this project…. but if they call next year, I’m busy. Although I do have all that leftover glassware…