Though I am fond of almost every geometric shape, I am especially enamored of spheres. Spheres in any material or arrangement.
I manufacture large garden spheres, thanks to the conceptual and fabrication talents of one Buck Moffat. An architect for 30 years, he now fabricates pergolas, boxes, furniture-and these spheres, from welded steel. We galvanize and acid-wash the raw steel, which produces a finish not unlike the look of lead.
This finish is as close to permanent and maintenance-free of any exterior finish on steel that I have seen. Although I recognize that anything to do with gardening, or life for that matter, requires maintenance, I like these things that quietly and effective resist the elements.
Designing and fabricating these spheres was his idea. Only after he built the first one, did he do a CAD drawing of it. Its a gift, to be able to conceptualize like this. He’s a person who loves old industrial steel in any form-bridges, buildings, gears and the like. He thinks the old factories along the Rouge River in Detroit are gorgeous. One of his favorite possessions is a collection of the fabrication drawings for the Eiffel Tower.
It’s quite a feat, building these spheres. The strap steel is rolled, hoisted up on a bridge crane, then each strap is placed on a specially made jig- in order to spin the steel ribs in the round without having to lift them. Each juncture is hand riveted, so the finished shape is precisely spherical. They have mass and presence with no mass. They describe a specific volume of air. They are all the more compelling for what isn’t there. I have seen them roll off in a wind.
The rod steel spheres approximate a perfect sphere in a believable way, and are less labor intensive to construct. We hang them from trees, set them in very large containers, or simply roll them onto a lawn. Most large spheres I see are constructed in two hemispheres. This just isn’t the same, as a sphere all of a piece.�
Jonathon Hofley owns the Michigan Gardener Magazine, and Motor City Publishing; he has done all of my advertising and PR for many years. He kindly agreed to photograph the spheres for me in the tall grass which came with the property where Buck makes these spheres; thanks, Jonathon.
Like a good landscape, these spheres look all the better for the environment in which they are placed .
That garden sculpture can energize a landscape space with a particular point of view is a given. But I hear music when I look at these spheres.