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Repurposing cardboard into steampunk airship gondolas – Artsmith Craftworks

09 May

One of the major activities I engage in when creating my art is repurposing everyday objects into something else. A couple of the things I repurpose the most are paper and corrugated cardboard…  simple and seemingly utilitarian materials that we all take for granted. Not me. I look at these materials with love and excitement. I’m passionate about art using repurposed materials, but at the very core of my being, I love paper and other materials made with paper, such as cardboard, fiberboard, handmade paper, recycled paper, papier mâché and on and on.

In today’s post, I include a video in which I talk about how I transform scrap corrugated cardboard into the framework of the steampunk Victorian airship gondolas I create. Once these cardboard pieces are put together, I cover them in a variety of outer skins, from wood to copper and brass to steel or other metals. Of course, what I use is not really wood or metals…it’s paper…made to look like metal. That’s just how I roll.

Enjoy!

What materials do you like to use in your art? I’d love to hear your comments! Also, please share these posts with other friends and artists you know. Let’s get a conversation started!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

My artistic philosophy

28 Apr

I create many types of art, from paper mache animals, to mosaics, to paper sculptures, to steampunk airship sculptures. However, most all of my art involves the use of repurposed materials and found objects.

In the video below, I detail my artistic philosophy!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

Google airships fly!

11 Apr

Back in November, I told you about building two commissioned steampunk airships for a production designer in Chicago. The build went very well and my client was very happy with the results. He drove from Chicago to my home near Flint, Michigan to personally pick up the airships so they would not be damaged in shipping, since they were for a corporate holiday party he had been hired to stage. The party was to have a steampunk theme.

He had told me when he arrived at my house, that his corporate client had been quite picky about the look and size of the pieces, since after the party, they would most likely be hanging in their corporate headquarters. You might also remember that when I asked him who his client was, his reply was GOOGLE!

I have been asking him for photos of the airships hanging at the party and he promised that he would send them as soon as he could, but that the photos would have to be approved by Google first.

Well, finally, after asking for about the third time, he replied that Google had finally approved some photos of the airships in place at the party venue BEFORE the party, during set up. I guess they didn’t want to worry about photo releases for those employees who might have shown up in the pictures. That’s OK I guess…at least we get to see what the set up looked like!

Photos of steampunk airships by Artsmith Craftworks hanging in place at the 2015 Google Holiday Party in Chicago.

Soaring in the clouds!

Photos of steampunk airships by Artsmith Craftworks hanging in place at the 2015 Google Holiday Party in Chicago.

Beautiful illuminated clouds…

Photos of steampunk airships by Artsmith Craftworks hanging in place at the 2015 Google Holiday Party in Chicago.

I hope to get to Chicago and try to see the airships hanging in the Google offices. When that happens, I’ll be sure to post photos of that trip!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

Propeller process

07 Mar

I get asked all the time how I made a particular part on one of my steampunk airships. I’m also told that I should do DIY pictures and videos, and truthfully, I do take progress photos when I’m working on an airship. I do this because I have always thought that someday I’d do some sort of steampunk DIY book or something.

With that said, I thought I’d post a few photos showing how I did a particular propeller for a particular airship. Of course, this is only one example, because I’ve done dozens and dozens of different propellers in many different ways.

This one is made using a scotch tape core and 8 of those little plastic tasting spoons…you know, the ones they have in samples passed out in grocery stores. So they started like this…

Photo of repurposed pieces to be used in making a steampunk airship propeller.

Then I cut slits in the outer ring of the tape core and glued the ends of the spoons into them. You’ll also notice that I cut a thin cardboard ring that was glued to the top side of the tape core for a smooth look. For plastics, I either use super glue or E6000, depending on how the pieces go together and what stresses they may be subject to. Super glue is great for “matching fits” and the E6000 is a gel-like glue that can fill small spaces and it a bit more flexible, so it was what used in this case. As with all volatile glues, don’t breathe the fumes. Use in a ventilated area or wear an approved respirator!

Photo of repurposed pieces glued together, making a steampunk airship propeller.

After all the glue dried, I then spray with a copper spray paint for the metal look I wanted. I use a couple different ones depending on the desired finish. In this case, I used Rustoleum’s Hammered series in copper color.

Photo of copper painted propeller made of repurposed materials to be used on a steampunk airship.

Finally, I used a couple different green acrylic paints to add a patina or corrosion look to the propeller. Some people like the shiny copper look, but I’ve always been partial to the patina look and think it adds realism and character to the piece.

Photo of copper painted and patinaed propeller made of repurposed materials to be used on a steampunk airship.

So this is what you wind up with after adding the patina. See how it looks rusty and aged? This is why I like it so much. After the patina, I’ll add accents like copper rivets, (just blobs of paint), which adds contrast and interest and even a bit more realism.

What techniques do you like to use? Send me comments and photos and I’ll be happy to show what some of you are doing!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

What I love most about building my steampunk airships

22 Feb

What makes me the happiest when I create my art, specifically, what part of the process do I enjoy the most? In the video below, I talk about this and even show you around my workshop a bit!

What do you love most about your artistic process? What part excites you most? What part makes you day dream about it? Drop me a line in the comment section and let me know!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

What started me building my steampunk airships?

16 Feb

People ask me all the time what in the world set me off on this path, building steampunk airship sculptures of all things. When I tell people I’m an artist, they usually ask if I’m a painter.   Nope… not in the classic sense anyway…

In the video below, I describe how I got started with airships and what other art I like to do.

What craft do you love and what got you started? I’d love to hear about it!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

How large are my steampunk airships?

13 Feb

When people see my airships online or see photos of them in other places, they nearly always ask me how large they are. Often the photos I’ve taken have no way to show scale and since they are quite detailed, it’s difficult to tell how large they are. In the video below, I talk about the sizes of my airships.

In future videos, I’ll show how I choose individual pieces to get implemented in my airship construction. You’ll see how something discarded as junk can become wondrous, whimsical and magical as art! Cardboard becomes copper by painting, plastic when reused as building material becomes amazing art. When you recycle old stuff into art, it becomes cool stuff.

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

What inspires my steampunk airships?

09 Feb

I get asked often what inspires the airships that I build. How do I come up with ideas? What kinds of materials do I use and how do I choose what found object becomes what part of my airship build? In the video below, I talk about that process.

In future videos, I’ll show how I choose individual pieces to get implemented in my airship construction. You’ll see how something discarded as junk can become wondrous, whimsical and magical as art! Cardboard becomes copper by painting, plastic when reused as building material becomes amazing art. When you recycle old stuff into art, it becomes cool stuff.

What art have you created by repurposing something? I look forward to your reply, just use the comment section below!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

My artistic philosophy

05 Feb

Why do I create artwork using repurposed materials? Well, aside from the fact that the found object craze in art is in full swing, I do it because I see magic in shapes. In the video below, I describe my artistic philosophy.

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk Victorian airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

I love happy collectors!

22 Jan

When I get a phone call, a text or a comment on this blog with inquiries about my work, I obviously get very excited. Here is an opportunity to make someone happy by building the steampunk airship of their dreams. Sometimes they have some parameters for the build, but other times, they will say, “I like the one I saw at _____!” Or, “Can you make one similar to_____?” Then I’m off creating their piece.

The cool part is when they take delivery of the piece, usually via carefully packaged ground carrier. The emails I get, assuming no damage, are great…

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“Hi Stephan,

It arrived safely yesterday and my husband loves it! We hung it today (no mean feat as it involved drilling holes in solid concrete), and it is flying proudly in our study. Pix attached.


Thank you so much for your creativity and care – and for getting this done on a tight deadline. We will enjoy watching “Zeppo” fly for many years to come.”

Photo of a steampunk airship by Stephan J Smith of Artsmith Craftworks.

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“I am impressed, its an amazing work of art. I know u said it would add more work and time to put the red scalloping on the balloon I was wondering if that is still an option? i think it would bring the colors into balance or proportion by adding the red to the center of the balloon. let me know what think u can do. like i said it is a truly amazing piece of work. i had no idea what to expect and it really came together. thank you for taking on this project for us and making the short time line.”

Collage photo of a commissioned blue and white steampunk hot air balloon with red banners and flags.

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Then there was this one, which was a two airship order for a Production Designer in Chicago who was hired to stage a steampunk Holiday party for a large company…

“They’re absolutely gorgeous. Be sure to give me some of your business cards and any other info you have. I’m sure that they’ll be a big hit and people will want to know the artist who made them. I’ll take pictures of them installed for you to put on your website.”

Then when I inquired as to how things went after the party…

“They loved everything. The zeppelins are going to hang in the offices. I am waiting for photos now and will share them when they come in. I passed off your cards, so they know who made them. Hopefully it leads to some business for you!”

This was the customer who when asked who his client was (the one throwing the holiday party) replied…GOOGLE!

I haven’t seen the actual party photos of the airships in place, but I’ll post them as soon as I get them.

I love happy collectors!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

Repurposed art

11 Jan

Since my artwork revolves around the repurposing of discarded and found objects, I want to periodically post examples of what other people are doing using repurposed materials in art. Repurposed art can range from simply creating an abstract object by grouping random pieces and parts together (assemblage), to making specific items such as furniture, wall hangings, and other useful items out of similarly shaped found object components. The new pieces can be painted a new color in order to create a uniform appearance or left unfinished to show off the repurposed components. Found objects such as furniture can also simply be reused for another purpose. I’ve seen dressers used as TV stands and baby cribs or mismatched dining room chairs turned into nice benches.

The items shown in this post are not my work, but rather things I found photos of on other sites. Appropriate credit will be given when possible.

from trash to treasure (5)

from trash to treasure (11)

from trash to treasure (3)

from trash to treasure (7)

from trash to treasure (8)

from trash to treasure (6)

from trash to treasure (10)

from trash to treasure (19)

My friend Allan Curtis, Ask the Pool Guy of Legendary Escapes Pool Co. is a master of using flea market and estate sale finds in the fantastic swimming poolscapes he creates.

Repurposing objects takes just a little imagination and a desire to prevent trashing things with character and life left in them. It’s an art form and a philosophy of thrift and ecology as well.

What will you create repurposing found objects?

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

Airship Christmas ornaments

21 Dec

I recently finished two different sets of little steampunk airship Christmas ornaments for some friends of mine. I had started them awhile ago, then with the other work I was doing, I had put them on the back burner. They turned out even better than I expected and they were a huge hit; so much so that I have orders already for next year. Guess I better get busy. I’ll post links to my Etsy site once I get some finished for 2016. Set #1 is very Victorian looking with red, gold and green colors. In this set, there are two airships and one steampunk hot air balloon.

Photo of a set of three steamunk airship Christmas ornaments. Colors, red, gold and green.

Set #1 Victorian steampunk style in red, green and gold

Set #2 is a bit more grunge steampunk looking, with metallic colors and rigid gondolas…

Photo of a set of three steamunk airship Christmas ornaments. Colors, metallic copper, bronze and brass.

Set #2 Grunge steampunk style in copper, bronze and brass

Needless to say, the sets didn’t last long. They were for a party raffle and were so popular that they were separated into individual pieces, not sets, so that there were 6 prizes instead of two.

As always, I encourage comments and dialogue. Drop me a line to ask questions, make suggestions or order a custom airship of your very own and let me know what you think or the ornaments and if you want a set for next holiday season!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

Airships in Chicago

14 Dec

Early in November, I got a call from a man named David Krause of Big Works, Inc. Seems David, or “Big” as he is called, was hired to stage a corporate holiday party in Chicago. The theme of the party was to be steampunk and he found my website and wanted to commission two medium sized airships. After some discussion about specifics, I got busy working on them because he had a deadline of November 30, since the party was on December 3rd.

Since Big wanted progress pictures sent, I snapped a few shots as I went along…

Photo montage of a grunge steampunk airship by Stephan J Smith of Artsmith Craftworks. Commissioned by Big Works, Inc.

Airship #1

Photo montage of a Victorian steampunk airship by Stephan J Smith of Artsmith Craftworks. Commissioned by Big Works, Inc.

Airship #2

When the airships were finished, Big drove from Chicago to Michigan to pick them up personally and take them back so they would be safe. When he arrived, he was very happy with them and excited to reveal them to his client.

Next post, I’ll include photos of the staging at the Chicago party, as well as reveal who the client was…hint…it’s a VERY well known company!!

As always, I look forward to your comments…

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

The “Hot Rod” Airship

16 Nov

A steampunk airship can take on many personalities and styles. I say this because steampunk itself embraces many sub-genres and styles and is very often blatantly anachronistic. The steampunk airships I have built have ranged in style from more classic Victorian to Grunge, and from Angry Warship to cannon-lined Pirate ship.

This airship that I built this past summer had yet a different look. I was inspired by a child’s toy to do an airship that was reminiscent of a 1950’s hot rod.

Photo of Hotrod steampunk airship sculpture

“Hot rod” Airship

The airship fins have a flame pattern and the gondola has a “boat/car” look with that 50’s feel. It must have been as desirable as I thought it was when I built it, because it sold in less than a week at The Artisan’s Bench in Brighton, where I have many of my works for sale.

Closeup photo of Hotrod steampunk airship flame fins.

Hot rod airship flame fins

 

Closeup photo of Hotrod steampunk airship gondola.

Hot rod airship gondola

I currently have an airship in process that has a horn-shaped gondola suspended by a single pillar. I’m not sure what style I’d call THAT one, but it illustrates the variety possible within the basic shapes I often use. Other varieties possible include variations in the shape of the airship envelope itself, which I may do sometime soon. Funny thing is, the favorite seems to be the classic Victorian arrangement, with a ship-shaped gondola suspended with netting.

That’s OK…it’s a cool look…

I’d be happy to hear what ideas you have for airship configurations. Please comment with your ideas, and be sure to like my Facebook page!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

Airship Zeppo flies in Sarasota

30 Oct

I recently finished a commissioned airship order for a nice lady in Sarasota, Florida. She had seen the website and wanted to order an airship for her husband’s birthday. She liked the Victorian airship I had done that was purchased by my friends at Legendary Escapes, (home of Ask the Pool Guy). That ship had beautiful filigree on the bow and fins and was what we’ve come to call th “Maki size”, which is about 36″ long, plus or minus. She didn’t think she had space for one that size, so she decided to go with the smaller sized airship I do that is about 18-20″, but she wanted the filigree. So this is what the airship looks like, delivered and hung in their office. It’s a great location because it seems to float in an opening between their office space and the room beyond…sort of a balcony/overlook. When she sent me the photos after they hung the airship, she called it “Airship Zeppo”, so here’s Zeppo in flight…

Photo of a steampunk airship by Stephan J Smith of Artsmith Craftworks.

Airship “Zeppo” flies at it’s new home

Photo of a steampunk airship by Stephan J Smith of Artsmith Craftworks.

Photo of a steampunk airship by Stephan J Smith of Artsmith Craftworks.

I think the airship looks fantastic in it’s new home and I hope that the new owners enjoy it for many years to come!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

Cool steampunk art!

18 Aug

I just ran across this really cool steampunk piece that I had to share. The artist is Patrick Reilly and he has quite a few different pieces on DeviantArt, most of which are either steampunk or a retro futurism in genre.

Click the photo below or go to his page here.


Steampunk by PReilly on DeviantArt

Great stuff PReilly!!

What digital paintings are you currently doing?

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

Steampunk Airship delivery to Legendary Escapes!

04 Aug

This past Thursday, one of my latest creations found it’s way into the “clubhouse” and offices at Legendary Escapes Swimming Pools, and is now sailing next to it’s older sister ship, the “Original Maki”. The matriarch of Legendary Escapes, Sandi Maki, who the “sister ship” was named after, couldn’t resist the almost magnetic lure of the new airship when she saw it and sought at once to make the purchase!

Below is a video, shot by Sandi herself, of me talking about the newest addition to the airship collection at Legendary Escapes.

The owners of Legendary Escapes, Al Curtis and Sandi Maki, have always been ardent supporters of Artsmith Craftworks and the artworks that I create using repurposed and found objects. You can find them at the link above, and their very active Facebook page here.

Photo of Maki size medium Victorian Steampunk Airship by Stephan J. Smith of Artsmith Craftworks.

Maki Medium Victorian

Drop me a comment line and let me know what you think of the new airship!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

Prepping found objects for use as art media

19 Jul

In my last post, I spoke of re-purposing being the thing that was nearest and dearest to me artistically. However, I couldn’t use found objects in my art without a little preparation first. In many cases, pieces you find will look cool as is and will need no further preparation, but lots of things will. Below is the short list of material types that I usually use in my work, along with the description of how I prepare them to be used.

1) WOOD – Wood is easy. The surface has a “tooth” to it, even when sanded smooth, so most paint types adhere well. A little scuffing up with sandpaper is often all you need to do to get your new paint to stick and cover well. Wood is also easily shaped and cut if you need to modify the overall outline. You may need to seal the wood with a water based coating before painting to keep the paint from soaking into the wood and looking weird.

2) PAPER – Paper is also easy to use, and believe me, I use it a lot! On my steampunk airships, the areas of copper sheeting and plating are not copper at all, but rather painted pieces of smooth cardstock or cereal box cardboard. It takes paint of nearly any kind, it’s easy to cut into any shape, most glue types work on it and it bends fairly well. You do have to be careful that it doesn’t buckle or separate when bending it though, or it will not retain the metal look. Sometimes paper will need to be sealed before painting if in has an uncoated surface. Metallic paints look dull if you don’t coat the paper or cardstock surface first. If done right, you almost can’t tell that cardboard is not metal.

3) METAL – I don’t use very much metal except for wire and other fasteners like thumbtacks, pins, staples and such. I do use an occasional washer or bolt, but often they’re for ballast and weight more than for construction. When they’re visible, I try to leave them in their nature metallic look with a bit of painted patina or wash for looks.

4) PLASTIC – I wind up using a great many plastic bits and pieces. Like I’ve said before, I save milk jug and peanut butter jar lids, caps from toothpaste, packing and packaging materials, etc, etc. This stuff often has a lot of cool or utilitarian shapes, but the nature of plastic is that it’s very shiny and smooth and it’s usually brightly colored. I do a lot of steampunk stuff and bright colors are definitely NOT the palate, so the pieces need to be painted or stained in some way. The problem is, even when using paints that are specially formulated for plastics, they often don’t adhere well or they flake off if flexed or scraped. And many of the paints you may want to use are not formulated for plastics at all. So… you have to do a decent job of preparing the surface to be painted. I often use a fine grit sandpaper to rough up the surface, however, if I’m using a found plastic piece that has a complicated or grooved or textured surface, sandpaper doesn’t work well. I tried using a scrubby wheel and a dremel tool, and that worked okay, but I now use a vibrating parts tumbler with sand in it. I then use a plastic primer and then my metallic paint.

5) GLASS – I don’t use glass much in most of my work except in my mosaics, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. Many people use repurposed glass as sculpture, in garden art and in window applications. I think mostly, it just needs to be clean and dry so that it accepts glue or other media.

Most anything can be repurposed, you just need to use a little imagination. Experiment with pieces of your own using stuff laying around the house that you don’t want or need anymore. Don’t forget to use the stuff you’d normally throw away as trash!. Have fun and send me pictures of your work!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

Re-purposing… a personal passion

07 Jul

For awhile now, I’ve been thinking about doing a regular post on the different elements that surround what I do. There are many topics to talk about, including re-purposing methods, raw materials, types of glue, detailing and antiquing, tools, assemblage techniques, dumpster diving, etc, etc.

Today, I’ll start with something simple, yet the very heart of my style…re-purposing.

As Americans, we throw away a lot of stuff. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we’ve always had plenty. More than 500 years ago, we came to a land rich in natural resources and we’ve sure exploited them. The result is that there’s a steady stream of new, better, latest, bigger, faster and more. It used to keep us all working, but not so much anymore. Now it keeps the Chinese busy and the stuff we have is cheaper…in all ways. Things are now made to break and need to be replaced, Gone are the days when you had something repaired if it broke. Now, we just chuck it and get a new one…it’s cheaper to do that…by design.

Now we have land fills that are brimming over with not just our food waste, but our discarded stuff. Much of the stuff is still quite good, with a lot of life left in it, even if it’s not the latest style. This fact has prompted a movement that I certainly have joined, in which the discarded stuff is reused in some way. Sometimes it’s as is…vintage whatever. Sometimes we dress it up, put a fresh face on it and sell it as “reinvented” or “flipped”. What I do is even more deeply made over. I turn “junk” into parts for sculptures.

I say junk because often what I save are the everyday objects that truly, nobody else wants. Food container lids, bottle caps, pieces and parts from packaging materials, scrap plastic pieces, scrap wooden pieces, paper of all sizes, weights and colors, cardboard boxes, cereal boxes, paper and plastic tubes, pen parts, discount paint…and on and on and on. Believe me when I tell you that my wife is a saint. She not only has allowed me to fill our basement with all these assorted bits, but she actually participates sometimes in the hunt. She won’t go legs-up in a dumpster like I will, but if she spots something tasty, she’s been known to grab it. I have a rule at my house that no cool piece of anything gets tossed until I approve it. Even peanut butter lids are saved from the trash heap if I spot them first. I’m a hoarder, you say? Maybe, but if so, I’m a hoarder with a vision.

Photo showing scrap plastic objects that will be re-purposed into artwork.

Lids and caps

Photo showing scrap plastic objects that has been re-purposed into artwork.

Fin hub with stabilizers

I save all this stuff because at their very basic roots, these things are raw materials that I use to sculpt with. It’s really no different than any other artist going to an art supply store for their paint or clay or canvas or glue. I just use discarded shapes and colors and textures as my art materials. The really interesting thing is, these pieces already have an inherent character. A detail that adds to their appeal once incorporated into a sculpture piece. Anything can become anything if you learn to look at a golf tee and a ballpoint pen clip and imagine them as the nosecone on a steampunk airship. A piece of Venetian blind as a propeller blade, a section of a metal veggie steamer basket as a stabilizer fin. You just need to put on your special glasses and see things, not for what they are, but what they could become.

This is the core of my passion. This is how I do art.

Join me…

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

Fellow steampunk fan loves his new Artsmith Craftworks airship

08 Jun

I got an email from a man named Don yesterday, who had purchased one of my airships in The Artisan’s Bench in downtown Brighton, Michigan. (I’ve mentioned them before). Don’s email was very complimentary and I’ve included it with permission below, along with the picture of the airship that he took of it hanging in his creative space. Thanks Don!

“Hi, Stephan: My wife and I were in Brighton yesterday and stopped in to The Artisans Bench. Saw your zeppelin’s and balloons and it was all over. I collect old clockwork toys (planes, tanks, submarines, armored cars), cannon models, dogs, dinosaurs, minerals, and on and on – a regular cabinet of curiosities.  Your airships are a perfect match – handmade, vintage vibe, mechanical mojo.

At one time I did a lot of pen and ink drawing (way back in the 80’s). Among the usual sword and sorcery stuff I liked creating fantastic machines. One of my favorite drawings is a man ‘o war hanging under a big zeppelin!  Buying your airship might just motivate me to get that one framed so they can hang together. Until then, I’ve got it in the computer room, hanging next to a working steam power motorcycle (I made the hangers from ladder chain and some old erector set pieces).

I’ve attached a picture of your airship in it’s new home. Thanks so much for making these masterpieces.”

Don

Photo of an Artsmith Craftworks steampunk airship hanging in its dispay position in its new owner's home.

Don’s airship in its new home

When I asked Don if I could post his email and photo, he went on to say:

“The very nice people at the Artisan’s Bench told me about your blog and web site and I read them when I got home – really great stuff. I haven’t seen work as well done as yours since I discovered the crabfu website (I think he’s an engineer or something, but he takes radio controlled cars and trucks and turns them into steampunk steam powered insect-like tanks – even a fully articulated steam powered centipede crawler).

I like the repurposed nature of your work, at first glance your pieces look all hand cast – then you start to recognize the forms within – very cool. I collect all the old toy parts I can find – then when building or repairing or setting up dioramas they all come into play.

Keep up the good work.”

Don

Thanks for the compliments, Don!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.