ELKO – Winners of the 2017 Mayor’s Arts Awards will receive handmade trophies designed by kinetic sculptor Barry Crawford of Elko during a presentation in December.
The Elko Daily Free Press sat down with Crawford to talk about his work on the awards, his creative process, his journey as an artist, and previous projects he has displayed in the community.
Crawford has lived in Elko for the past seven years. Before moving here, he studied mechanical engineering at Southern Oregon University and lived in a small town called Halfway, Oregon. Crawford uses a myriad of skills from his studies at the university and his previous jobs as a mine maintenance mechanic, jet-boat mechanic, auto mechanic and carpenter.
How did you end up choosing to be an artist?
I was definitely not going to be an artist when I was a kid. My dad is an artist. I was going to be an inventor. I was always interested in machinery and making things that moved. I’d take apart little VCRs and make robots out of them, and Legos were a big thing for me. I was always more interested in the mechanical aspects of things. As I got older, I discovered that the most fun things to build weren’t something that you needed. It was something that you wanted. They turned out to be the easiest to sell. I just found that the mechanisms for my sculptures just had to be interesting, and, at that point, I shifted heavily towards the arts. That’s now most of what I do.
When and how did the arts council approach you to construct the 2017 Mayor’s Art’s Awards?
A friend of mine told me that I should put in a proposal for doing the awards this year. It was quite a while back. So, I built one of the awards, minus the coloring, and took a picture of it. I filled out the application and turned it in. A couple months later they contacted me and told me that they wanted me to do the awards.
How did you create each individual sculpture, and what inspired the design of the sculpture?
I used basically parts from everyday machinery: a chainsaw chain, sickle sections from a sickle bar mower, screws, nuts, bolts, C-clips on the rough edge of a tractor type motor. Some of [the materials] people give me, some I buy down at the store, some people trade me for, and some I go dumpster diving for.
I based the way the [trophies] are put together on the other sheep goats sculptures people have seen around town, and that I’ve been selling. I put a little bit more effort into the bodies, feet, and legs than the other ones I am selling. The heads are fairly similar to the head of the smaller goats, but it’s scaled larger. The pyramid I came up with as something they could stand up on. I built the first one and that was a lot slower. The design is a big part of the process, and then I kind of get into an assembly line where you build all the heads at once, all the bodies at once, and then you just get set up to do the exact part of the thing.
What I kind of had in mind is the Lamoille Mountain goats. It’s a place I really like to go up to. You know the goat would be symbolic, like climbing to the top of the mountain as climbing to the top of one’s field in the arts. It makes sense as an award for something.
What is your process of creation on a sculpture project?
It’s different depending on the project. With the more complicated sculptures that I do, and the bigger ones, I generally will have parts that will actually move, and a mechanism that I want to move. Everything else [in the sculpture] kind of comes together around that. I try to design mostly in my head, and that’s where I connect all the moving pieces. I’ll have the parts that look like art to me, and then I fill the stuff in-between. Sometimes, I’ll have a frame or a cardboard cut-out to use so I can visualize the parts that aren’t there. Then, I use parts I make, or the rest of the area, to fill in, or make it, so it looks the way I want it to.
What are the tools and materials you like to work with on projects?
The trig welder gets very little rest. I use a lot of cut-off wheels on a grinder and my drill press. I do a lot of hammering.
Obviously, steel is my main thing, but it’s reasonable, affordable, common, and there’s a lot of interesting shapes you can make from it. I use a lot of dry chains. I use a lot of rocker arms out of an engine and engine parts because they’re common and easy to access. I use a lot of machinery parts, and buy a lot of parts down at the store here.
Could you walk me through what a typical day is like as a kinetic sculptor?
I go out in the shop and build stuff, and I take a break occasionally. Sometimes, I have to stop and order something for a project and it stops the project for a long time. Sometimes, I need to figure out how a project needs to be. Generally, if it’s not one of the bigger sculptures, I will work on a project for a while, and then, when I’m not sure where I want to go with it, I will switch between it and another project for a while to do something else. That keeps the productivity going.
How many projects do you work on at one time?
It varies a lot. When I worked on the squid, it was the only thing that I did. It was my sole goal to get the squid done. If I got confused on one part, I would switch to another that I knew how to work on. On that particular project, time was very tight trying to get it ready for Burning Man. I had to keep going at all times. I would charge right through it, even if I really didn’t know exactly what I wanted, or when I couldn’t feel like I could physically make it, or how to [get it] to work properly. It really depends on the project.
What are some of your previous projects as a kinetic sculptor?
In 2013, I brought a large, mechanical dragonfly to Burning Man. That was my first large-scale piece I had there. It had wings that would rotate and a body that breathes. I took a year off, and then I built a giant squid that was on display at the [Elko] Convention Center for two to three months after Burning Man. Both of these Burning Man pieces were made possible by a grant by the Burning Man Arts Foundation. They helped pay for the materials. The squid was my most famous sculpture. It’s at my house right now, but I take it down to events every so often since it’s been built. I take it to maker fairs and raves, and I set it up for the short duration of the event.
Burning Man has been good. There’s this Halloween Ghost Tour, and they have a really cool venue there. They have a lot of neat art, and a very cool old building that is rusty and goes with my stuff. That’s always enjoyable.
What are the greatest hindrances or challenges you face on projects you work on?
The biggest cliché hindrance is financing. That’s a problem for most artists earlier in their careers. Sometimes you’re not going to get paid at all for the thing you make, and sometimes it might pay off years down the road. I’d say that’s always been the biggest difficulty with what I do, besides keeping up with the time constraints and deadlines. … It’s with anything that I figure out how to make it pay because this is like any job, and I need to be able to afford to live a life.
Sometimes you cannot get the materials you need because you cannot afford to buy the used parts you need to make the piece, or you cannot find them broken anywhere. That could stall a project for a long time. I’ve got a scorpion project that’s going right now that has some issues that make it a challenge. The smaller you make it, the more challenging this particular project becomes. It’s kind of a tough spot to be in because I cannot scale it down within any reasonable time. It would take more time to build a small one than a big one because nobody manufactures that small of a chain at those sizes that you can find. I would have to make them myself. If you can find them, then they’re really expensive, but if you do the larger sculpture, your steel prices are ridiculously expensive. It’s a worrisome thing. Sometimes the technical challenges on the bigger projects can be very challenging.
Once a sculpture is built, how do you maintain the moving parts of your sculptures?
Most of my sculptures I’ve put out don’t move very often and not very fast. Most of them are table-top size, so they don’t get that much wear. I’ve never had anyone call me about fixing one.
The squid, on the other hand, almost requires constant maintenance on the damage that comes from moving it around. It needs new motors occasionally, I’ve replaced bearings, and it, as well as my other works, need to be greased. It’s heavy, has a lot of moving parts, and it’s electrically powered, so it moves for a long time.
I’ve had to maintain the dragonfly, and I’ve only had to repair it once. It depends on the piece, and it needs to be greased periodically.
When I do have a problem, and it [the sculpture] keeps failing, I will generally upgrade it with something stronger so I don’t have to maintain it. The goal is to not have to do a lot of maintenance work if you can avoid it. I’ve never really had any complaints about them [as] a lot of them are hand action, or you push a button, and they only go until you’re tired with messing with them.
What’s your favorite part about what you do?
There’s a point in every project where it’s generally two-thirds to three-fourths of the way done, and I know how it’s going to be. When how it’s going to be is what I was going for, [and] it’s going to work, is a satisfying point for me. I guess that’s the main thing I look forward to in a project. When all the mechanical parts work, and when it’s got enough of the superficial parts so I can see what it’s officially going to be … I like that. It’s always a nice time.
Of course, it’s always fun to see people enjoying and reacting to what you’ve done as an artist. Mostly, my reactions have been very positive. My favorites are the little kids who have some of the best reactions. It’s fun to see them react to it and the moving parts. Sometimes people don’t expect that. It’s fun to get them to jump or squeal or whatever, and that’s pretty great. If I’m putting a smile on people’s faces, that’s good. It’s fun to see people enjoy it.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Fur trappers are asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit from wildlife advocates who want to block the export of bobcat pelts from the United States.
Attorneys for trapping organizations said in recent court filings that the lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service infringes on the authority of state and tribal governments to manage their wildlife.
The plaintiffs in the case allege the government’s export program doesn’t protect against the accidental trapping of imperiled species such as Canada lynx.
More than 30,000 bobcat pelts were exported in 2015, the most recent year for which data was available, according to wildlife officials. The pelts typically are used to make fur garments and accessories. Russia, China, Canada and Greece are top destinations, according to a trapping industry representative and government reports.
Federal officials in February concluded trapping bobcats and other animals did not have a significant impact on lynx populations.
The Fish and Wildlife Service regulates trade in animal and plant parts according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, which the U.S. ratified in 1975.
The advocates’ lawsuit would “do away with the CITES export program,” according to attorneys for the Fur Information Council of America, Montana Trappers Association and National Trappers Association.
“They are seeking to interfere with the way the States and Tribes manage their wildlife, by forcing them to limit, if not eliminate, the harvesting of the Furbearers and at the very least restrict the means by which trapping is conducted,” attorneys Ira Kasdan and Gary Leistico wrote in their motion to dismiss the case.
Bobcats are not considered an endangered species. But the international trade in their pelts is regulated because they are “look-alikes” for other wildlife populations that are protected under U.S. law.
Critics of the government export program argue the government review completed in February did not look closely enough at how many lynx trappers inadvertently catch in traps set for bobcats or other furbearing species.
Pete Frost, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the fur industry’s move to throw out the case “seeks to deprive citizens of their right to court review of the federal pelt export program.”
Between 2.3 million and 3.6 million bobcats lived in the U.S., with populations that were stable or increasing in at least 40 states, according to a 2010 study from researchers at Cornell University and the University of Montana.
NEW YORK (AP) — As the holiday shopping season officially kicked off, retailers are counting on a lift from a better economy. But they’re also looking beyond economic data and mapping out ways to pick up sales from other retailers as Amazon expands its reach.
That can mean opening earlier than rivals on the holidays or even jumping into new product categories. So shoppers may find some surprises: toys and TVs at J.C. Penney, Barbies at Best Buy, kitchen appliances like wine refrigerators at B.J.’s.
At Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan, it was the deals like cosmetic and perfume sets from $10 to $20 as well as 40 percent off on boots and shoes that drew attention. Its Apple shop was packed too, with deals on gadgets like the Apple Watch.
Tiffany Lloyd, in town from Columbia, Maryland, was visiting tourist sites when she realized stores were open.
“This is not a traditional Thanksgiving. We ate pizza,” said Lloyd, who was buying a pair of Naturalizer shoes at 40 percent off and said she planned to buy three more pairs. She said she also picked up sweaters on sale at Old Navy.
Despite the early crowds at stores, analysts at Bain say Amazon is expected to take half of the holiday season’s sales growth. And Amazon is the top destination for people to begin holiday shopping, according to a September study by market research firm NPD Group.
“The retailers are in survival mode. It’s about stealing each other’s market share,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD. “Amazon is the Grinch. They’re stealing the growth.”
Abi and Sush Gyawali — both 27-year-old biology graduate students at the University of Missouri — were among hundreds of people who lined up outside J.C. Penney in Columbia, Missouri, before the store opened at 2 p.m. Thursday. Abi Gyawali normally shops online on Amazon or Best Buy for Cyber Monday, where he said he finds some of the best deals.
But he said the couple wanted to check out the scene at the mall before friends came over to share a meal. He and his wife planned to just collect coupons that were being handed out, but ended up getting a discounted air fryer.
With the jobless rate at a 17-year-low of 4.1 percent and consumer confidence stronger than a year ago, analysts project healthy sales increases for November and December. The National Retail Federation trade group expects sales for that period to at least match last year’s rise of 3.6 percent and estimates online spending and other non-store sales will rise 11 to 15 percent.
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Salvation Army in Las Vegas is working to locate people who may have been involved in a needle mishap.
KLAS-TV reports two students in the health program at Southern Utah University led a free health clinic in Las Vegas during the school’s fall break.
The students were performing glucose screenings to check for gestational diabetes using a lancet device at the Salvation Army. The university says, a “concern involving a finger prick with a lancet, may have involved up to four screening participants.”
Dr. David Blodgett, of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, says the mishap may have opened participants up to the possibility of infections, including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
The university says results from the tests will not come back for several months.