Buck’s Fruits And Vegetables

A Canadian city north of Toronto is in the process of updating its library and landscape.  They have devoted some of their property to the development of a space suitable for a farmer’s market.  I suspect they are interested in the library being a community center of sorts, which will attract lots of visitors-for lots of reasons.  I like this idea.  I do think libraries are very important.  Books tell stories, and teach.  Libraries give anyone, everyone, access to books.  What is written or pictured in books is priceless-they are in a way the sum total of our knowledge and our art.  Farmer’s markets are another community icon-over the growing of fruits, vegetables, and flowers.  Much of the fabric of a family is woven over shared meals.  This is the sum total of our community.  I place as much value on this as I do the works of Shakespeare.  The landscape architect commissioned four steel sculptures which will be placed in the new market area landscape.  He was intrigued by Buck’s strap steel spheres, and wanted sculptures in that manner to represent fruits and vegetables.        

I think Buck must have more clamps than any other artisan on the planet.  When he is welding steel straps to one another, every piece must be clamped into place before he fires up that torch.  Before the clamps came out, he did a series of drawing based on the architect’s specifications.  Once the drawings were approved, he printed the vertical steel ribs on a plotter exactly the size they would be in the finished sculpture.  These drawings were 20 times the size of what comes out of my printer.  The steel could be laid to the paper, and bent in the proper arc.        

The vertical ribs were bent in a 3-axis vertical roller.  The steel may appear slight in these pictures, but steel is very strong.  It cannot be bent evenly in a prescribed curve without a mechanical slip roller.  Each vertical rib was welded to a 24″ diameter steel base.  The sculptures will be installed over a light fixture which will illuminate the sculptures at night; this base will accomodate that light.    

The vertical ribs were bent to exactly match the curves indicated on the drawings.  The hroizontal ribs-now the fabrication gets very difficult.  The horizontal ribs needs to be rolled in circular shapes to start.  But in order for those ribs to lay flat on the vertical ribs, they needed a second rolling. A rolling that expresses the cant. You see how this lowest rib lays flat against the vertical rib-there were multiple steps getting the steel to perfectly mimic this shape.

This strap steel pumpkin is a low oval shape, without many clues as to its identity.  Strap steel does not lend itself to delicate gestures.  The curved stem is a signature. 

The raw steel shows all of the welds, and the streaks that come from high heat.  The stem is constructed from vineyard bar-steel embossed with the pattern of grape vines. All of the construction marks will disappear, once the piece gets its finish.  Sculpting in steel is exhausting work.  Buck came home plenty of nights to tell that this sculpture was just about to get the best of him.    Every moment is consumed with handled the weight and changing its shape with high heat and electricity.  This stem will make the identity of this sculpture easy.  

The apple is tall and gracefully curved.  I will confess it reminded me of a hot air balloon-until he attached the stem and leaf.  Poof-apple here. 

It interests me that these very abstract shapes got a representational identity boost with something so simple as a stem and a leaf.  This part of the sculptures was more about sculpting than recreating a paper based drawing in steel.   

This squash is almost 6 feet tall. Imposing, this.  No stem was called out.  I think it will hold its own just fine.   

The pear was the bear.  The shape is not in the least bit symmetrical.  At some point, I saw Buck and Dan throw their drawings away, and fabricate by instinct. Drawing this shape may be easy-making it takes a world of time and trouble. I am sympathetic.  There are times that I need to leave the landcape plan in the car, and just dance.   

Tomorrow these raw steel sculptures will enter the first phase of finishing.  I promise to post pictures of the final finish, before they are crated and shipped. This is a quick visual on the way to a finished sculpture.  Buck and his group turn out some very fine pieces-yes.

Lead Garden Ornament


The manufacture of garden ornament, vases and sculpture in many ways was a revolution of sorts.  Most garden ornaments of  antiquity were created at great expense and time, as in hand carved, or sculpted, one piece at a time. This meant great garden ornament was restricted to just a few patrons of the garden arts.  As lead is quite malleable, and melts readily,  it can be cast. This meant ornament could be cast in multiples, and a  favorite stone ornament could be reproduced at much less expense than hand-carved stone. Imaginative manufacturing techniques made lead ornament of all kinds readily available.  This drop dead gorgeous stone and lead garden ornament pictured above was designed by, and executed under the direction of Beatrix Farrand, and installed at one of her best known landscape projects, Dunbarton Oaks, in Washington DC, in the 1920’s. 

The Bulbeck foundry in England produces some of the finest lead garden sculpture, ornament and pots available anywhere in the world. The giant egg cup with acorn, oak, grape and rose motifs  is astonishingly beautiful.  It is a modern interpretation of an old lead planter from the National Trust gardens at Anglesey Abby. The Bulbeck square planter, with its delicate Florentine scrollwork decoration, clearly illustrates the degree of detail possible with lead casting.   Bulbeck lead is what I call the midnight blue four-door Ferrari coupe of garden ornament.  Lead panels out of the mold are rough beyond belief; the art here is in the hammering and finishing which produces the fine ornament you see here. The people who make these pots are artists; they literally sculpt these pots from a rough approximation of the finished piece.  Of more modest provenance and finish , the small plain lead egg cup pictured here is the work of the noted Canadian lead manufacturer, Richard Davies. His lead has some steel content; the difference in surface and color between the two manufacturers is evident.  Any or all of these pots would make much of a planting. 

713This lead running fox is the work of HCrowther Ltd, which has been manufacturing lead garden ornament  in London since 1908.  Their sculpture is particularly fine. This very appealing sculpture is as at home in a stone trough as it would be in the lawn.  My personal choice-set in a bed of European ginger.

This Crowther fountain is equally as striking.  An entire garden could be designed around it.  This fountain design has been in production many many years.  Lead, and classic lead design, weathers and ages in a garden so gracefully.

99This very old lead cistern carries the evidence of its age. The dealer in England from whom this piece was purchased thought it likely was at least two hundred years old.  Wave the history card in my face, and I am done in. 


Lead garden ornament has become incredibly expensive.  The lead itself has doubled in price in a very short time, and the process is dirty, dangerous, and laborious.  The steel furniture, spheres, and boxes pictured above have a  finish very reminiscent of lead. This finish has the added advantage of protecting the steel from rust.  Steel is strong enough for furniture.  Boxes and pots made of steel do not collapse from their own weight, as lead is prone to do.  But best of all, this beautiful look can be had for much less than lead. 

This old French iron snake urn has a new life, and a vastly different feeling than the rusty original.  Rarely would I touch the surface of an antique piece, but this piece was rusted beyond charming.  Removing the rust brought the snakes, and the beautiful shape of the urn, back to life.213
These acid washed steel boxes and galvanized planters are awaiting painted liners in the color of the client’s choice.  Steel combines well with other materials.

The galvanized sheet metal liner of this steel box has also been acid washed.  We can manufacture this large box very reasonably. I like good quality garden ornaments being available to lots of people.  Manufacturing in multiples, with less expensive materials, makes this possible.

Whether you choose lead or acid treated steel, it is indeed a very handsome look.