• Posted June 07, 2011
    Hello! The sculpture is up! We finished it and set it up on the site on Thursday, June 2. We had great help from a wonderful group of volunteers who manhandled the parts into place -- some of them stayed the whole day until we had it completely anchored in place. I'm so grateful for everyone's help and patience. This includes you, of course, the supporters of this project!

    Here are a bunch of photos, hopefully giving you an idea of the final steps in the process, starting from where I left off last time.

    1. Tom cutting the locust pole to a rough fit.

    2. The pole rigged up so we could slide it in & out without pivoting.

    3. Chiseling the initial opening for the bolt.

    4. Tom shaping the wood to meet the contour of the rock.

    5. A good fit!

    6. Drilling through the locust to accommodate the connecting bolt.

    7. With everything connected, this was the 1st time we took away the shims holding the rocks -- pleased to see how stable it was!

    8. Dylan digging one of the footers at the site (after the Town of Burnsville backhoe helped us out).

    9. Pouring cement for the footer for the forked side of the piece.

    10. We bolted angle irons to the bottom ends of the legs....

    11. ... then, Don Walker welded the angle irons to steel plates, which were eventually anchored to the footers.

    12. Don & Mark Turczyn attaching a retaining ring to the top of the pole.

    13. Jeff Todd (right) helping us lower the forked locust piece, with a rock & the rod still attached, to prepare for transporting to the site.

    14. At the site, setting the Fork in place on its footer, and shimming the rock to support it up top. As you can see, we had a police escort -- they were nice enough to leave a patrol car, with lights flashing, to make sure motorists gave us a wide berth as we were unloading the trailer at the site. We had great cooperation from the town all the way through this project.

    15. Placing the rocks in their proper alignment.

    16. Dylan bolting the steel plates to the footers.

    17. The crew at the end of the day: (l to r): Jeff Todd, Dylan Katz, Tom Dancer, and Mark Turczyn.

    18. Breathing a great sigh of relief, with the Town Square in the background.

    19 & 20. The finished piece after a bit of landscaping & mulching. (I thought it looked amazingly similar to some of the drawings I had made...) It stands about 9.5 feet tall and 14 feet wide.

    I hope you'll all be able to come & visit and see the sculpture in its new habitat.

    If you had requested a premium at the time of your pledge, I hope to start sending those out sometime during this month. In the meantime, if you are near our area, please keep in mind that the Toe River Arts Council's Spring Studio Tour is this coming weekend (June 10-12) -- a great time to visit lots of studios, including mine, where you can see the 2 prototypes mentioned in previous updates.

    Thank you again for all your wonderful support!

    All the best,
  • Posted June 02, 2011
    Hello! Just a quick note to let you know I plan to install the sculpture tomorrow, June 2. Hopefully we'll get started around 9:30 AM. So if you're in the Burnsville area and have a moment to stop by, we'd love to see you. Who knows? --maybe we'll put you to work! Sorry for the last minute notice on this -- I wasn't sure if everything would fall together just right.

    I'll try to send another update, with pics, pretty soon, so you can see how it goes.

    Best Regards,
  • Posted May 21, 2011

    There have been some delays in working on the Project, mostly due to a last-minute glass commission that I needed to take care of. But we've definitely made progress, and here are some shots of where we've gotten to lately. (I hope these are in the right order... if they're backwards, you can hopefully figure it out!)

    1. Dick Kennedy kindly lent us his 16' trailer, so I'd have a level surface to build on.

    2. We built special walk boards to use on the scaffolding -- they were built extra sturdy to support the rocks, which now weigh a total of 450 lbs.

    3. We were scratching our heads about some of the engineering issues we encountered, so we went right to the top! Mark Turczyn, who was Chief Engineer of the Hubble Space Telescope Project, stopped by. (He lives nearby and his wife has been a great supporter of this project.)

    4. A detail of the top of the forked locust -- we scribed it to fit the outside profile of the 1st rock.

    5. Taking off from an idea gleaned from Mark, this steel plate fits into the wood, to create a "blind attachment" for the threaded rod, so we don't have to drill a hole all the way through the wood.

    6. The 1st rock resting on the wood, with steel plate underneath, and the rod coming through.

    7. The 2nd rock in place, with rubber gasket taped on, ready for the 3rd rock.

    8. The rest of the rocks in place.

    9. After looking at it for awhile, i decided it needed a 6th rock, which you can see up there, placed on the left. On Sunday, Tom & I will finish fitting that last rock, and then will begin fitting the locust to the outside of that rock.

    It's amazing how much time some of these steps take -- fitting rocks to each other, fitting rocks to wood, making special devices just so we can go on to the next step. The larger scale brings its own set of problems too. Everything needs to be supported, and we're working 12 feet off the ground -- definitely a new experience for me.

    Well, I hope the next update will show some shots of us installing the piece. Hopefully the weather and everything else will cooperate!

    Best regards, and thanks again for your support.

  • Posted May 06, 2011

    Some pics here on the work we've done on the 3rd & final piece.

    Picture #1. Back in February, Tom & I went out near Bakersville and found a large fork of locust. It was hung up in some trees and we decided to come back for it.

    #2, 3, 4 Early in April, Tom, Dylan & I, along with our friend Don Walker, went back & cut and hauled it down the mountain. We also gathered some single poles to use on the other side of the piece.

    #5. Back here, we raised up the fork.

    #6. We rigged up a lever device to raise the other pole.

    #7. We set up some scaffolding so we could work at the other end.

    #8. I made a styrofoam box to approximate the scale of the rocks.

    #9. Hauling rocks out of Browns Creek using Paul Lundquist's winch/crane truck.

    #10. We got a geology lesson from Matt Tibbits, who also found some great rocks in the creek behind his house.

    #11. A foray to the river to gather a few more rocks -- there are a few there! Collecting the materials for this piece has been quite an adventure, but also quite time-consuming.

    #12. Dylan using a strap to haul a large rock through the water.

    #13. One of the rock profiles I made at the river. It seemed like a great place to just play around with some different combinations.

    #14. After trying lots of different combinations with the rocks I liked, I finally came up with one that made sense to me.

    #15. Marking the rocks for drilling.

    #16. To avoid cracking the rocks, we started each hole with a very narrow drill bit, then worked up through a series of larger diameters.

    #17. This shows how we gauged the exact angle needed to drill through the rocks.

    #18. Threading the rocks onto the rod, which we slowly bent to accommodate the curve of the arch.

    #19. The final stack, bolted together.

    That brings things pretty much up to date so far. I had to take a break from the project this week to work on a glass commission, so we'll be back at it next week. Hope to have it installed by the end of the month (or sooner!).

    As always, thanks again for your support & interest.

    Best Regards,
  • Posted April 23, 2011
    Here are shots of the 2nd prototype we've made, an intermediate-sized sculpture.

    1. We collected a lot of rocks from Browns Creek and found a group that worked well together.
    2. I decided to work on the rocks more to get them to sit well together. Here, Dylan is flattening the face of one of the stones.
    3. I ended up using 6 stones to get the arch I wanted. (There's 1 on the very bottom that's hard to see.) We bent the tie-rod to better accommodate the curve of the stone arch -- here, Tom & Dylan are plotting the path to be drilled through the rocks.
    4 & 5. The rocks, now tied together, are ready for the wood to be cut at the correct angle. We ended up using a different keystone-- a beautiful wedge shape that Tom found along the Creek when we were collecting the other stones.
    6. After the wood was cut to the correct angle, I chiseled out the end of the wood to better match the contour of the stone.
    7. T & D plotting the angle to be drilled for the tie-rod to go through the wood.
    8.When the piece was all connected at the top, we put several braces on it to move it to its location. We found it was too heavy to raise it up more than a few feet.
    9. D & T devised this simple pulley system to raise it upright.
    10. The top of the sculpture with bracing, and the pulley behind it.
    11. Digging holes to plant the piece in the ground.
    12 & 13. The piece installed. Finished, it stands 8 feet tall.
    14 & 15. Some shots of the finished piece -- out standing in its field.
    16. My 4 year old grandson Oscar has discovered he loves running under & through these arches.

    As with the first piece, we learned a great deal from working on this one. We've since been working on the final piece. I'll try to send some shots of our progress on that in another week or so.

    Thanks again for your support & interest.

    Best regards,

  • Posted April 08, 2011
    Update #2

    We completed our first prototype sculpture last week. We learned an incredible amount by doing it, and are now working on a 2nd, intermediate, larger piece. So I wanted to show you some pictures of the process of working on that 1st one. I hope these pics end up in the right order, so here goes:

    1.Rocks on side edges in sandbox, to figure out the profile.
    2.Tom stacking rocks to make sure they are centered with each other.
    3.Drilling rocks individually, held in place in sandbox.
    4.Dylan & Tom tightening the threaded rod which has been put through the group of rocks.
    5.Laying it all out on the ground, figuring out the angles for the wood to meet the rocks.
    6. The piece (and me, for scale) sitting in the field. (oops, I think I reversed pics # 5 & 6)
    7,8,9. Several shots of the sculpture installed in the field. (We buried the legs about a foot into the ground.)

    The sculpture now stands about 5 feet to the top of the rocks.

    It felt great to finally have made this object (albeit on a smaller scale), which I've had in my mind and on paper for so long.

    I'll try to send another update soon, with pics of the next step. If you have any questions about the process, please feel free to contact me directly at levinglass@gmail.com.

    Thanks again for your support!

    All the best,
  • Posted March 25, 2011
    Hello! I just wanted to send a brief update about the project. The funding period ended last Saturday night, with a total of $6,915 pledged from 49 supporters. So first, I want to thank you all for your support and encouragement throughout this process.

    To update: with my friend Tom Dancer, a stone mason and woodworker, I've been collecting wood and stones for some smaller scale versions of the sculpture. (I hope I've successfully attached a shot of the wood, leaning against my studio.) Starting Monday, we hope to start working on a couple of prototypes to help to figure out some of the structural issues involved with working this way. I hope I can figure out how to start a blog, through this US Artists website, to keep you updated about further developments as we work along on this.

    So thanks again-- your support not only is helping me create this piece, but it also contributes to a larger vision to place more public art in Burnsville and Yancey County. So there are wider implications for our community, and for how a community can support the arts.

    With best regards,

    Rob Levin

A mixed-media sculpture, made of native materials, for the Toe Valley Trail Project of Yancey County, NC