Why the Free Bird Sings – waterglobe

So, if you didn’t have a monitor and couldn’t see this snowglobe, you could ask me to describe it.

Close your eyes and imagine: there is a beautiful tiny birdcage with a steampunk feel, brass bands and hardware, tucked inside a snowglobe. On the outside of the cage, perched on the open door, is a mechanical duck. At least I think it’s a duck. It’s some kind of waterfowl. If you peer inside the birdcage itself, you’ll see a little swing, but wait … there’s a man on the swing. He doesn’t appear to be unhappy, in fact, if I could read the mind of a teeny tiny man, I’d say he’s listening to something classical on a Victrola. Did I mention there’s a Victrola?

Or, as one viewer said, “I get it: you have a mechanical duck with a pet person.”

Yeah, that’s about it.

Here is the interior of the globe (two views), take a quick peek and see if this is what you imagined. Truth is, I love the way it turned out, but I had no idea until I finished it how it would look. I’ll tell you how my creative process worked. It’s the equivalent of writing a murder mystery and having your characters tell you who dunnit, instead of writing it as planned.

So my creative process leads me as much as I lead it; and I’m a happy follower sometimes when I surprise myself.

It started with a birdcage and the thought: how would a steampunk birdcage look? And I added an elaborate base, brass and hardware, then a weathervane made from a clock hand, just to balance the piece and draw interest to the top as well as base.  I thought putting a bird inside the cage was too easy, so I decided to build a metal bird and let him be outside, so he had a choice. The bird came together well, and I found watch pieces that were left and right shapes that reminded me of wings, not bad. I found a metal bead for the body and a brass bead for the head. Nothing I had was right for the beak, so I fumbled around and decided to cut a cone-shape in half to make it work.

But the cone-shape didn’t look like a beak to me. Not at all. It said “gas mask.” Now, I don’t stop and ask myself: why would a mechical bird need a gas mask, instead I decided to go all out and add aviator goggles.  Nice touch if I do say  myself. (And remember, this whole sculpture is 2.5 inches tall, so when I can make bird goggles that are a quarter of an inch tall, it’s a good day.)

Then I take a look at the cage … seems so empty. But I don’t want another bird, and suddenly it strikes me, “why not put a person inside the cage, and have the bird outside?” Okay … but I have to work to get a tiny man who doesn’t look unhappy, because that’s not the point, he’s not a prisoner, he’s just in the cage by choice.  It hits me: what would make me happy sitting inside an open bird cage? Music! So I add the tiny gramophone and I’m pleased.

The globe base is embellished with metal feathers, and I have a plate engraved. As a nod to the great Maya Angelou, “Why the Free Bird Sings.”

Here’s a slide show including the finished globe with a shower of metallic dust sparkling down on my mechanical duck and his pet person. Why not?

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Making up “Lost Time”

I’ve been thinking about lost time lately. The time I’ve spent trying to beat Randy’s score at computer mahjong. The time I’ve spent watching television. Time I’ve spent staring at my workshop, trying start a new project, but being distracted.

Where does all that “lost time” go? Does it vanish like a melted icycle, or is there a place where it gathers, tucked into nooks and crannies? A place that you might find someday and say “wow, here’s that fifteen minutes I spent looking for the sunglasses that were on my head” or “amazing, I always wondered what happened to that lost hour when I couldn’t find parking and arrived at the gate just after the plane had left.”  Maybe it’s not really lost, it’s just transformed into another kind of time. The time you spend thinking can be as important as the time you spend doing; but most people are only going to see the results, not the thoughtful effort that made those results possible.

Since I’m working on deadlines, in my real life and in my art life, I’m always aware of time. This waterglobe reflects some of the ways I view time: small time, big time, fast time, slow time, and random time. With a two-sided, slightly crooked grandfather clock, miniature Big Bens, watch parts and clock faces and hands, I lost count of the clock pieces inside the waterglobe.

Lost_Time custom snow globe

“Lost_Time” waterglobe, 2012

As an added bonus, the sparkles and confetti in the liquid include metallic silver numbers which swirl about when shaken. You can see a number seven settling in this photo. I like to think of them as the lost minutes I almost could reach out and take back.

Here are four sides of the waterglobe: Lost_Time.

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Steampunk Snowglobes … unwound

I make snowglobes, or snow-less waterglobes, whichever you prefer. Since I’ve never used “snow” I make up my own terms.  Someone asked: how did you get into steampunk designed snowglobes?

It’s a chicken and egg, water and globe, spark and fire kind of question. I was making snowglobes and tiny sculptures before I’d ever heard of steampunk and steampunk art. I connected with the shapes, the colors, the materials and the essence of steampunk when I was introduced. (Thank you to John and Max, my big influences there. Without you, I’d lead a very sheltered life.)

A few of my globes are classically “steampunk” if there is such a thing: incorporating the watch parts, the repurposed components, the industrial bases with hardware embellishments. The use of a steampunk icon, such as an airship or zeppelin is a giveaway. Here are two clearly in that category:

Unwound, 2012

Airship One, 2012

But I make other snowglobes that — while they may be appealing to some who like and live steampunk — are probably in a genre yet to be named.  The snowglobe “Point of View” with its Escher-like staircase and endless marching figures is one of those.  I make what I like, and what amuses me. Sometimes it feels “steampunk” and sometimes it’s pure fantasy, sometimes it’s just an emotion or visual balance that I find wistfully appealing. I’m working on another staircase piece now, but it uses impossibly tiny Mechwarrior-like Metal robots instead of people on the stairs. I have no idea what slot that will fit.

If a rose by any name would smell as sweet, then I can hope my waterglobes will appeal to some people, or not, regardless of the category or the name. I like going back and forth between styles and developing along parallel paths.

Point of View, 2012

Indecision Waterglobe

This is one of my favorite snowglobes as it was a departure from my usual designs. It features several tiny people who move slightly, but never get anywhere. Two men (nicknamed Norm and Al) are high above the world on a teeter-totter, but only bounce a fraction up and down. Another figure is in a circle that rolls slightly left and right, but always returns to center.

This waterglobe represents that moment where you are stuck between yes and no, off and on, up and down. Indecision can be a pleasant place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Size and Perspective

How big are the sculptures and assemblies inside a Camryn Forrest snowglobe or waterglobe?

Very very small.

Here are some of the insert photos before the scene is enclosed inside a globe. The ruler gives a clear idea of just how small the space is. I find this to be a welcome challenge, and not a restriction. If I did not have such small dimensions limiting my artwork, I would not have been forced to find interesting and creative solutions.

The ruler is in inches.

Interior of “Penny Farthing Bike” aka “the Big Wheel.”


Welcome to my world of custom waterglobes, snowglobes and curious inventions

All my life I have been fascinated with miniatures, from dollhouses to tiny souvenir buildings, to the worlds within snowglobes.

At many art galleries and shows, I wondered why I never saw snowglobes presented as art, and I began to experiment with making tiny sculptures to place inside globes. In addition, with the rich metallics, brass, leather and wood of my designs, “snow” did not seem right, so the floating glitter in this liquid is copper, gold, silver, and rich pewter in tone, glimmering as it sinks and swirls slowly.

The result is my collection, Camryn Forrest Designs.  I hope you enjoy them.