jack hillman



the processes
With the many years as an industrial designer, a skill was honed for discerning and balancing forms, proportions, directions of lines-of-sight, relational influences of adjacent details, positive-negative spaces and overall homogeneity; the development of a sensitivity to the visual and tactile effects of only three-thousandths of an inch (.003 or paper thin) variation. This seeming hyper pickiness was important since hundreds-of-thousands of the same item would be produced. Now that pride of craftsmanship heritage is being carried forward with my sculptures.

Fabrication of the sculptures is achieved by utilizing hand manipulated tools to finesse the metals into shape. I have heard that “horse whisperer” cowboys in the wild west USA have a particular moment of connection in the taming and training of range wild mustangs and stallions. At that certain moment, the instincts of distrust and protection from the wild, soften and yield to an understanding and cooperation which immediately moves forward the learning process. Bending steel rods is much the same. I frequently experience this resistance, then understanding, yielding cooperation happens as I am physically bending and striving for fluid forms in the lines of metal I work with. I don’t have adequate words to describe the exhilaration and passion which flows in the moments when this occurs. It becomes a total oneness with the sculpture. From that point forward the sculptural form which you also connect with, very intuitively and fluidly evolves.

As with the bending/forming fabrication, the joining process is something I take great pride in. The elements could be mechanically joined, but the potential for a certain clunkiness in these minimalist pieces could interfere with the overall fluidity of form. I chose to invest the time to learn TIG welding for the joining process.  At art shows where I have exhibited, I frequently have seasoned welding and manufacturing pros complement me on my quality of craftsmanship. That’s a nice affirmation. Where joining occurs, I make sure there is penetration of heat and filler rod so strength and durability will be inherent. But I don’t just stop with the structural; I continue to apply heat deposited filler to build the flowing continuity you see at each intersection. But that is only the beginning; many hours are spent physically grinding, filing and finessing the fluidity which the experts respond to.

the materials & finishes
I work with mild steel and stainless steel. The mild steel is the material I began with and yields the emotional evolvement of form described above. Every piece is finished with the most durable materials I can obtain so that the sculptures will give lasting joy in an outside or inside environment. With the mild steel pieces, I most often use the proven durable powder coating application for color and for UV resistance, achieving the energetic colors collectors respond to. If conditions may require future touch-up, then automotive quality polyurethane spray paint is the color finish of choice.

Recently I have developed a new-for-me more subtle finish for the mild steel, as shown on a few of the examples on the “small” pieces page. An application of wax coating is applied multiple times and then heat scorched for protective impregnation each time, yielding the refined subtle dark gray to brownish coloring. It is not totally predictable but for myself, very intriguing. The multiple layer process gives a natural and semi-durable finish. Outdoor site selections will require periodic unheated reapplications of the wax finish and weathering changes in patination coloring will occur, which again is part of the beauty for myself.

The bright stainless steel sculptures are a newer media for me. This material has a stiffer ductility than the mild steel, therefore larger hand manipulated machines are utilized. I’m still able to achieve the fluidity of form which has become my hallmark, but they do require a different set of skill techniques to achieve. Basically the same but different. The stainless steel finishes are achieved with circular motion hand held equipment that requires a practiced hand/eye coordination to give a complementary effect. Wax and/or special liquid applications are all I have found to be necessary for weatherability. If a particular color is desired, then the spraying processes are utilized.

Some of the “small” pieces have additional Indiana Limestone base enhancements which give a natural joining with the earth connection. These have been sanded and a sealer applied to keep a freshness to the finish.

the future directions
As I move between scale of sculptures, I also move back and forth between the above materials and finishes as well as adding in elements to the more kinetic wind responsive pieces. Also, I have begun incorporating stainless steel wire rope and rods to enhance textural and wind responsive variations.

Stay in touch to see how these continue to evolve.

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