Alan Evans

Spirals, scrolls and growth lines...my understanding

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This has come about because I was asked to expand on a brief description of scrolls and growth lines in another thread in the 'critique my work' section. It is slightly less brief but still just scratches the surface.

I am on a bit of a hiding for nothing trying to describe elements of my design philosophy here so I stress the “my understanding” bit!

I have never used the traditional scroll form in my work, but studied them and made many of them on 18. century restoration jobs when I assisted Alan Knight in the seventies.

The spiral is one of the earliest forms used by man. Examples are found inscribed in 4000 year old Stone Age tombs in Ireland and 40,000 year old rock petroglyphs in Australia. It is said to symbolise the reproductive organs in the form of the Earth Mother and is often found on “goddess” figures. The Australians interpret the form as symbolising running water. Both fundamental concepts. These were often “clock spring” spirals neither the incised lines nor the spaces between them varied in width.

Similar spirals to those which we associate with the 18. century European ironwork style can be found in nature in the arrangement of pine cones, artichokes, whirlpools, galaxies and snail/ nautilus shells and etc. A logarythmic spiral can be drawn based on the Fibonacci series numbers which resolve into the golden section (1to 0.618) can also be used as the basis.

The classic 18. century scroll depends, like many sculptural forms, on the spaces between the shapes as much, if not more than the shapes themselves. In this instance the space is progressively opening away from the centre. The progression is key.

I think it easiest to describe this in terms of a taper.The progression of a tapered bar shares many of the same characteristics. We are all aware that the eye will follow the line of a taper towards its tip, we can see and sense the movement.

Tapers come in four main types:-

1, Convex or cigar shaped where there is little movement to start with and then it speeds up to the tip, these can look either dumpy or strong, depending on their context
2, Straight where the progression is regular and the movement therefore constant
3, Concave or hollow where the movement starts fast but then slows up towards the tip, these can look either elegant or weak depending on their context.
4. Irregular where there may be a parallel section in the middle or just one too many hammer blows at one point which interrupts the movement and disturbs the eye!

They all have their place and contribute to the whole by complimenting or contrasting with the other elements of the piece.

The spiral space described by a scroll in the classical 18. century work is a number 2, a constant taper.

The growth line I refer to is that of the same movement along an element or in a piece which has greater mass at the base and is lighter and finer at the top; think relative weight of trunk, branches and twigs of a tree. This may be described by a taper or a series of section changes where the mass is constantly diminishing. It can be very minimalist; a square or rectangular section bar that has chamfers run along half of it will generate this apparent movement. If a number of these bars are placed beside one another as verticals (in a grille for instance) with the chamfered section at the top, the amount of light passing through the grille is increased in the chamfered area making the bottom section appear heavier and more dense.

I almost always use this ‘massing at the base’ in my work. In the case of gate panels the weight gathers in the bottom hinged corner, so that towards the latch side and the top it is lighter both visually and physically. In gates this has the real advantage of less strain on the hinges and less inertia to overcome to open them, as well as any subjective aesthetic merit.

I think I will stop here otherwise I will go on all night.

Alan

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Alan - you have made a very good explanation on scrolls,
- one could go on and on but youve made some good points on the subject to make it understandable.

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Thank you for taking time to write this, you write/explain it very well. Do you have anywhere to direct us to for more learning on this?
r smith

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post-74-0-10828100-1345431750_thumb.jpg

I responded a little while ago on the related thread with this photo of a shell section. It shows the "horn of moon" expansion in the central area, but then the distance between convolutions remains fairly constant. Most of our forged scrolls don't have this same distance idea. Some few do.

Much of our scrollwork has the negative space growing, as it does in a chambered nautilus, for instance. Alan's likening this to a taper better explains the latter.

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its very heartening to hear you talk about the visual weight alan, and i absolutley agree that the taper of the piece should also be in the spirals spaceing. and so your point with michaels piece was that he was mixing the two styles of spiral? the fibbonnacci (scuse spelling - not my strongest skill) type, and the clock spring type? i like your clear definitions of tapers for us - the despcription of the irregular one made me wince, i hate that..... : ( and also the concave makes me nervous... i have yet to fully appreciate and learn these arts!!! thinknig about vertically placed elements tapering towards the top, instinct says that the negative space left beside the narrow tops should (for best visual effect) be less, OR more than the size of the mass at the bottom end, but not the same? or maybe thats just what my mood dictates this morning :) (reminding me of 60's op art illusion drawings... in my minds eye!) who knows.. maybe i should have drawn that before i commented.... i will go and do it now.... :) this is a useful thing to focus on for myself... :)

ps alan - i LOVE LOVE that thing on your id photo or whatever it is we call it - what IS it? i love it! it is visually totally arresting! :)it looks perfect, if we are talking about visual weight and such, and the energetic kind of weight and direction of it ( there will be a better word i realise that - you will know it and inform me i hope! ) it looks extremely satisfying, is a perfect exploitation of the material - showing many of the reasons we all love the stuff... or like a piece of concise poetry for Matter. why exactly is that? the reasons things are so successful visually interest me very much.. is that to much for half ten in the morning...? i do appologise..;)

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francis that was very entertaining viewing! what a nice chap - thanks for that :) im not THAT clear how i would use these calipers to design a certain spiral - or have i missed the point? i understand how you could define the other side of a rectangle if you already have one length, but can i use these with fibonnacci curves? or not....? please excuse my appalling grasp of maths....

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Alan,
For a man of few words and imence artistic skills, you seem to "have it" on the spirals too!(a lot to ponder upon)

Beth,
Your grasp or lack thereof ? blame the Dept. of education :D

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Good video

Alan,
Good description and it may make for a widely read article in BABA with a few photos or drawings or bits of forged work to illustrate your points.

I will add the below as an example of what happens when you get rid of the negative space entirely and bring a scroll into a solid...and then consume 40 foot of bar.
http://www.doorcountyforgeworks.com/Furniture_and_Home_Accents.html
My initial plan was to do an increase in dimension from nothing at the center to an appropriate size at the end...but I quickly realized that would have meant ending with a 12" square bar...which is a bit beyond my ambition.

Ric

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I am pounding out a response to the responses but while I do, I encourage you to have a look at the film linked below.

It will give a better experience of the notions of the golden section than the caliper above which I think is a bit of fun but of limited use.

I just use a calculator...It is easy to remember the ratio of 1:1.618 and when you understand that the reason it is golden and elegant is that it is the same ratio as 0.618:1 that it also comes out of the Fibonacci number series is double joy!

Danger Dillon had it right in the other thread when he said:- "I tend to just work on a composition until I am happy or it is suitable to live with. This work went through many changes a evolution that was shown in the design sketches. I am not rooted in historical reference and tend to go with my gut and what feels right, intuition."

Spoken like a true artist! I thoroughly agree that that is what we should be doing. We should not be getting hung up on academic exercises...(I know I know I started it!)

I think it much more important to ask yourself "why" questions. But if you must know "how" to set out a spiral using those calipers do a google image search on [golden spiral] , the first image I get shows a spiral plotted on a series of golden rectangles as measured in the caliper video.

For a much better understanding look at the movie and wonder. Of course there is a bit of a fudge in it. The nautilus shell is similar but does not actually conform to the golden spiral, it is just another lovely spiral all of its own!



Nature by Numbers

http://www.etereaestudios.com/docs_html/nbyn_htm/movie_index.htm

My connection / computer was too slow for the vimeo version but the You Tube one played fine.

The web site has a really well explained background section in Spanish and English.

http://www.etereaestudios.com/index.html

Alan

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Ric- Nice table (it must weigh a ton!) I also love the dinner bell! I've never seen one like that. Great idea, Can I use it? :)

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(And if so, can you send or post a picture of the balance point? I've never forged a pin!)

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Wow Alan, I did find this an interesting read and would love to have photos to accompany some of the explanations. it certainly shows up a massive inadequacy in my mathematical abilities when it comes to applying those rules in my blacksmithing techniques ! Maybe that is why I design in an organically freehand way. I like to think and believe that some blacksmiths appear to have a natural ability of knowing when something looks well balanced and just right with no calculations involved, they just seem to know when to stop. ( I certainly struggle with this ) Is that inherited, or just years of making and over time it just develops or maybe a bit of both ? Some of us never ' get it ' yet are very fine blacksmiths, and some of us very definitely do get it. I really do wish I had the confidence and mathematical abilities that you and many others have in abundance but that is what draws me to this site to strive to learn more. It is also wonderful to know that so many people like you are willing to share their knowledge with us all. Thank you !

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He we go, Pandora's box and a can of worms spring to mind!

I would like to state that one of the reasons I have never used scrolls in my work was that when I started out in the seventies the only form of ironwork in this country was based on the 18. Century vocabulary of collars, scrolls, acanthus and water leafs. At best it was faithful reproduction but the great majority of it was poor pastiche of this wonderful style.

I felt it a waste of an incredibly versatile material that to be making something for the 20. century and only referring to 200 year old forms was awful. In no other art form was this true. Our houses, motor cars, clothes, diet, attitudes, sculpture, painting, indeed life had all moved on over that period, why not forged work?

The controlling guilds and associations of the fifties, sixties and seventies and their teachers and masters of the craft honoured the vocabulary and process of the 18. century masters but I felt they did not honour their creativity. The revered Tijou for instance was only able to produce his work by exploring the properties of the cutting edge products from the rolling mill; straight bars and flat sheets.

These same dyed-in-the-wool masters bizarrely linked morality to traditional process. Anything other was blacksmithing heresy! Our joyous exploration of non traditional forms (which arguably owed more to industrial forgings than the 18. century idiom) and use of “cutting edge technologies” (mainly arc welding, power hammers and gas profiling) were frowned upon; not "proper" as it was not "real" or "good" blacksmithing. The fact that the 18. Century vocabulary was developed as a direct response to the properties of the charcoal-reduced and wrought iron of the time mattered not a jot. No celebration of the properties of mild or stainless steel was to be permitted or considered!

So my studies of the scroll were done more in the spirit of "know your enemy!" It was because they had become formalised and were attributed with moral value... right or wrong... that I avoided them.


The paragraph below came from a paper I gave at a craft critical writing symposium at the University of East Anglia in 1997, it was in the section of my talk summarising the revolutionary development of artist blacksmithing in the previous decades


“The more interesting women’s show at Collection in Ledbury recently took our revolution and turned it over again; we had rebelled against the classic elegant scroll work of the eighteenth century style which was still being reproduced ad nauseum in 1980; but here every piece in the show included the scroll or spiral in one form or another, although none were of the refinement of proportion and finish of the 18C. These artists had none of our hang ups and were doing wonderfully crude and barbaric scrolls of such humour and power. 15 years ago they would have been thought of as merely incompetent smiths. Our little rebellion had enabled them to explore the expressive quality of one of the most powerful and basic forms known to man....something which I feel is still denied to me.”

Talk about hangups eh!

Alan

P.S. You may notice that I did not mention the development through the design flowering of metalwork from the Arts and Crafts movement, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Charles Rennie Macintosh. To the 18.Century fixated Blacksmithing Establishment in the seventies these were mere aberations and thus to be ignored.

P.P.S Just thought of another one that might be better for the first line “cat amongst the pigeons”

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female smith i totally relate to what your saying - and i think in GENERAL women have not been taught in the same way as men in school, certainly in this country, and are far more likely to use a more instinctive "artistic" approach, either becasue we lack the maths /engineering teaching (having spent a fair bit of time cooking and sewing at school rather than at the tech drawing board or the lathes...) Or are given more confidence in the instinctive from an early age in our culture?? (dont want to start a fight - its only my personal experience, and that of female artists around me..) when i made the gate recently with the peony on it the spirals on the bottom half were by far the hardest bit for me, not becasue i dont know what looks right, i absolutely DO, BUT i dont have the skills yet to produce what i want. i ended up in an horrid compromise of using what i could make, and making the best of it. i knew i wanted a fibonaci curling shape like a snail shell, but to make two the same, that fitted the gap i already made, that joined in the middle in the right place, at the right height, and started at the same point as each other..... was very challenging to my amateur skill levels... i find i rely UTTERLy on my reasonable eye and instinct, not to make a fabulous job of it (Yet.. ; ) but to rescue a situation visually from total disaster.... im convinced we dont need to measure this stuff, just get our eyes in, if that is the way we like to do it. i draw continually, all sorts of things, and i think this helps for this part of what we are doing. what your talking about alan, about creative freedom is very much what ruskin talks about i think, with his gothic stone masons, and giving them the freedom to go their own way and create something unique to each man, not to endlesly follow tradition, or a set of tight rules. some talk in the blacksmithing world is entirely based around reproducing set pieces, which whilst it is an admirable way to hone motor skills at the anvil, is personally something i find very stifling and not at all apealing as an end practise... ideally we need to have enough basic skills and some kind of understanding of the material, plus a good eye, to be able to carry out personal ideas of design and art to a level that works. maths is one way of doing it - not my way as it happens. it is only suitable for some - counterproductive for others!

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Beth the gague will help to lay out the boxes needed to make the golden rectangle if you watch the whole video on you tube by Disney you will understand how it applies. with the golden rectangle about 8;40 in time is where you get into the rectangle and you can see how the dividers would help

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRD4gb0p5RM

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Sorry Alan, I need some visuals to fully understand, how bout some picture of the work :D


Okay :( yet another few hours digging out stuff, sigh, maybe tomorrow... :)


post-74-0-10828100-1345431750_thumb.jpg

I responded a little while ago on the related thread with this photo of a shell section. It shows the "horn of moon" expansion in the central area, but then the distance between convolutions remains fairly constant. Most of our forged scrolls don't have this same distance idea. Some few do.

Much of our scrollwork has the negative space growing, as it does in a chambered nautilus, for instance. Alan's likening this to a taper better explains the latter.


There you go! That varied pitch of the shell looks to me like a fine precedent for the lower scrolls on Michael's grille!


its very heartening to hear you talk about the visual weight alan, and i absolutley agree that the taper of the piece should also be in the spirals spaceing. and so your point with michaels piece was that he was mixing the two styles of spiral? the fibbonnacci (scuse spelling - not my strongest skill) type, and the clock spring type? i like your clear definitions of tapers for us - the despcription of the irregular one made me wince, i hate that..... : ( and also the concave makes me nervous... i have yet to fully appreciate and learn these arts!!! thinknig about vertically placed elements tapering towards the top, instinct says that the negative space left beside the narrow tops should (for best visual effect) be less, OR more than the size of the mass at the bottom end, but not the same? or maybe thats just what my mood dictates this morning :) (reminding me of 60's op art illusion drawings... in my minds eye!) who knows.. maybe i should have drawn that before i commented.... i will go and do it now.... :) this is a useful thing to focus on for myself... :)

ps alan - i LOVE LOVE that thing on your id photo or whatever it is we call it - what IS it? i love it! it is visually totally arresting! :)it looks perfect, if we are talking about visual weight and such, and the energetic kind of weight and direction of it ( there will be a better word i realise that - you will know it and inform me i hope! ) it looks extremely satisfying, is a perfect exploitation of the material - showing many of the reasons we all love the stuff... or like a piece of concise poetry for Matter. why exactly is that? the reasons things are so successful visually interest me very much.. is that to much for half ten in the morning...? i do appologise.. ;)


There is no should about it Beth, you will see in my other follow up posts here that my whole relationship with scrolls and indeed ironwork is that there should not be any restrictive design rules. We should just follow our hearts!

If you reread my initial query in the other thread you will see that I observed and remarked upon what Michael had done and asked why. I made no judgement. See my response to Franks' image above, there is all the justification any body could need if it was needed (which it ain't)!

I am not quite sure about the weight scenario you posit. I think the context of the arrangement will determine the actual amount of metal to space ratio required. The same effect of weight at the base could be achieved with 100mm bars and 100mm spaces or 10mm bars and 100mm spaces just maybe less pronounced. At Danger Dillon's request I will sort out some images to help illustrate...I hope he wasn't joking.

Thank you for your kind words re "Spring Piece" it is the best one of three variations on a life-cycle theme I did from some 60mm square. I fancy it scaled up to be forged from 600mm square....maybe ask Michael if I can borrow his new steam hammer!


this is a great video on the subject with a wonderful teacher. Here is the gauge you can build that makes the job easier to lay out. second link it is a easy build comes in very handy



http://www.zram.com/...liper Parts.pdf


Yes, he is good fun isn't he! I tend to do what he does, design and make the thing then just measure it to see how close to 1:1.618 it is!

I am sure I remember the Disney film he refers to. The sequence in my mind is the invention of axle lubrication on a chariot which then promptly runs over Pythagoras and when he picks himself up he sees his flattened shape in the sand and it is in the form of a right angle triangle with a square coming off each side!


Good video

Alan,
Good description and it may make for a widely read article in BABA with a few photos or drawings or bits of forged work to illustrate your points.

I will add the below as an example of what happens when you get rid of the negative space entirely and bring a scroll into a solid...and then consume 40 foot of bar.
http://www.doorcount...me_Accents.html
My initial plan was to do an increase in dimension from nothing at the center to an appropriate size at the end...but I quickly realized that would have meant ending with a 12" square bar...which is a bit beyond my ambition.

Ric


Ah Ric your marvellous table is a perfect example of the sort of scrolls I think we should be exploring, very elemental! Very barbaric!


Wow Alan, I did find this an interesting read and would love to have photos to accompany some of the explanations. it certainly shows up a massive inadequacy in my mathematical abilities when it comes to applying those rules in my blacksmithing techniques ! Maybe that is why I design in an organically freehand way. I like to think and believe that some blacksmiths appear to have a natural ability of knowing when something looks well balanced and just right with no calculations involved, they just seem to know when to stop. ( I certainly struggle with this ) Is that inherited, or just years of making and over time it just develops or maybe a bit of both ? Some of us never ' get it ' yet are very fine blacksmiths, and some of us very definitely do get it. I really do wish I had the confidence and mathematical abilities that you and many others have in abundance but that is what draws me to this site to strive to learn more. It is also wonderful to know that so many people like you are willing to share their knowledge with us all. Thank you !


Well don't get me wrong. I was writing about my studies of the shapes, and certainly not in order to encourage people to make them. It is just useful to be informed! I design/create intuitively just like you. The mathematics doesn't rule the heart! Although I did teach myself to use CAD and 3D modelling programmes so that I could construct some of the projects on the computer, I still create either direct under the hammer or with charcoal/pencil doing perspective sketches.

As I have already said I will try and put some images together tomorrow.

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Alan, thanks again for the compliments. Glad to read the insights of your training in a culture that has ruled iron forever? Especially how you as a artist have developed your eye to truly see. Since you were so gracious to go out on the limb I might as well throw this idea out there as well. Forging iron into the forms I wish to create, for me relate to "vibration" as well. Example would be nature in motion more than the quick snap shot of a line or form, a wave against the shore, patterns in the leaves of the trees. I think there is also the physical action of hammering that reinforces this idea and how it is captured forever in the material.

I have not had the pleasure of seeing your work in person and sorry to say the photos do not do your work justice. I do wish you to post some of your work and speak directly about its content and physical process.

Uh, and YEA! You should definitely come and play! :D

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Beth the gague will help to lay out the boxes needed to make the golden rectangle if you watch the whole video on you tube by Disney you will understand how it applies. with the golden rectangle about 8;40 in time is where you get into the rectangle and you can see how the dividers would help



Thank you for posting that Francis, I have just watched it. Similar-ish but it wasn't the film I was thinking of so I shall have to do a You Tube search for that one.

What do you think of Nature by Numbers animation?

Alan

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Forging iron into the forms I wish to create, for me relate to "vibration" as well. Example would be nature in motion more than the quick snap shot of a line or form, a wave against the shore, patterns in the leaves of the trees.

That sort of "understood but not seen" element I probably verbalise to my self as the spirit of the piece, the character. I know when the piece is right it sings! It takes on and gives off confidence and power.

I think there is also the physical action of hammering that reinforces this idea and how it is captured forever in the material.

I had a curious experience a few years ago when I became aware of a sense of inhabiting the work piece rather than looking down on it and feeling the changes of section whilst I was forging it, quite uncanny!

Peter Parkinson gave an inspiring talk to some students which I was lucky enough to attend and he referred to the material "recording the process by which it was formed", and how we can read it back. I certainly think that the concentration and effort (and enthusiasm or love) that goes in to a piece can be read by the viewer even if they cannot analyse or understand the reason.

I have not had the pleasure of seeing your work in person and sorry to say the photos do not do your work justice. I do wish you to post some of your work and speak directly about its content and physical process.

The photos may flatter it, ever heard of PhotoShop? :)

Uh, and YEA! You should definitely come and play! :D

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Ric- Nice table (it must weigh a ton!) I also love the dinner bell! I've never seen one like that. Great idea, Can I use it? :)


Use away..it is a variant on something I recall seeing in the 1980's. Mine rests on a 1/4" pivot pin relying on gravity to hold it all in place....which means that every once and a while an energetic soul knocks the thing across the room when chiming in. I should have made an undercut and hot swelled a rivet half into the hole..still gravity dependent to spin, but it will not come apart.

As to the weight of the table...1/20th of a ton actually.

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Alan,
I've come to hate those of you who can make metalwork into shapes I have not considered and do it at a level that makes me want to quit. I have a large library of metalwork here...perhaps 1200 volumes...all filled with things I would like to make.
It is a trap to see other's work or an historic trend/style...you become used to some shapes and then you (well... "I") unconsciously incorporate them...its insidious.

I have done play work in the shop from time to time and rather like one result or where it leads to others...only to see something similar in the library....the question becomes "Did I do that shape or did my subconscious see an opportunity and pull me that way?"

I am so much the control freak that I do not even like being led by myself.

Ric

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I've glimmed the responses so far, and I may have missed something which I consider basic. Casting numbers aside for the moment, the 'golden rectangle' can be drawn simply with pencil, rule, and compass. Bisect the base of a square and set the point of the compass to that midpoint. The drawing point of the compass is set to an upper corner of the square and a curved line is drawn to intersect with an extension of the base line. By completing the 90 degree lines, you obtain the proportionate length to width. Because you have obtained the golden rectangle and can design with it, does not make it perfect, nor an end all and be all. However, it is something we should have in our lexicon of ironworking knowledge. I have enclosed my primitive drawing.

I am insistant that scrolls have varying ratios, yet if well proportioned, they are legitimate. The scroll based on the golden rectangle is not the same as a chambered nautilus scroll, and that is OK! Once one has a feel for this work, one can do what Alan purported to earlier. Collapse a scroll; make it elliptical; make it ragged; make it angular; make it out of rebar; make it 3D; get rid of negative space. etc.

post-74-0-32630600-1345515958_thumb.jpg

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