Kyocera gets its name from the little metal badge on its chest which I removed from a vintage film camera. I like the idea that these robots have specialized appendages for very specific jobs, although I t’s rarely clear exactly what those jobs might be. My favourite aspect of Kyocera is its glass-domed head. It magnifies and refracts the light in a very pleasing way.

A better view of the glass dome.


This is V.I.N.C.E. So called because the disc on top was spring loaded, so when you pushed it down and let it go, it would spring back up. This action was reminiscent of a kitchen appliance that was advertised by an overly-energetic pitchman named Vince. Anyway the Robot’s name was also an acronym for Very Intelligent something something, I forget now.

Constructing found object robots is very fun, but they seem to be less appreciated by others than my ray guns. Perhaps it’s because most of my robots are not so friendly looking. To my eye they seem quite goofy, but perhaps the claw hands and staring eyes are not endearing them to my audience. V.I.N.C.E. hung around Argyle Fine Art for ages and now he’s staring at me from a shelf as I write this.

Pixel art inspired by V.I.N.C.E.

Little Rockets

I have always liked the way rockets in classic sci-fi movies used vertical takeoff and landing. When I constructed these found object rockets I would never have guessed that we would see vertical landings in real life thanks to the efforts of SpaceX.

Put on your anaglyph 3D glasses!

These rockets are both accompanied by a tiny “maintenance robot”. My vision was that of a rocket landing on some distant outpost in the galaxy and a robot quickly rolling out to perform any required repairs or refuelling.

Photo by Argyle Fine Art
Photo by Argyle Fine Art.
The Maintenance Robots. Photos by Argyle Fine Art.

Matchbox Robots

Really? 2011?? It’s hard to believe these little junk robots were built for a show at Argyle Fine Art that long ago. These robots included boxes with artwork on the covers. I was inspired by the sometimes less than honest packaging of my youth.

The Mighty Galactic Destructo Robot came with a city skyline to threaten with its springy “angry arm action.” The Atomic Oracle has a blissfully grinning silver baby face behind a freely rotating optical lens. All the better to see and know all!

If you have anaglyph 3D glasses now is the time to put them on!
The Mighty Galactic Destructo Robot
The Mighty Galactic Destructo Robot. So scary!
The Atomic Oracle with 360 degree vision!

And, as usual, the folks at Argyle Fine Art took more reasonable photos:

Photo by Argyle Fine Art.
Photo by Argyle Fine Art.

An Insect

An old microphone, springs, plumbing fixtures, typewriter strikers, and a vegetable steamer all lent parts to this insect sculpture. I came up with a scientific sounding name for it at the time but I can’t remember what it was now. I do remember that an expert pointed out an error in the name. It had to do with the number of wings.

Whatever you want to call it, this piece is definitely insect-like. And while I was very happy with how it came out I found it difficult to photograph well. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m no photographer and clearly I was not shooting under anything like ideal conditions. I’m sure I took photos in our kitchen with a smartphone. Not great.

I feel like it was this piece more than any previous one that made me think an accurate 3D render would be useful. With a render I can control various aspects of the virtual camera, surroundings, and lighting that would require equipment I don’t have in real life. Also, it’s another excuse to practice 3D modelling and rendering. I enjoy the variety of switching from actual to virtual building. When I’m tired of being in the basement I move to the computer in my little home office. Eventually the computer will become tedious and it’s back to the workshop again.

Not terrible, but I’m no virtual lighting expert either!
Argyle Fine Art did a better job with their photo.

The Flying Saucer.

In 2015 I built this Flying Saucer. I like everything about it and it became one of my all-time favourite pieces. My memory on this might be wrong, but I think this may be the only junk sculpture that I started and finished on the same day.

I was so certain it would be sold quickly and I would not see it again. But it seems I was almost alone in my appreciation for this little saucer. It sat on display at Argyle Fine Art for ages. They really gave it every chance but it was just hanging around, going nowhere.

An idealized 3D render.

Eventually the saucer moved on to a group show in another town that I mentioned in an earlier post. I thought surely now after being seen by a new group of people it would finally find a home. I sold a ray gun at that show, but the little saucer came back.

I was now resigned to the idea that the saucer would just stay with me and it would be a mystery to me why no one wanted it. And that is when it sold. Apparently my brother-in-law saw it at that group show in Annapolis Royal and expressed interest in it. When I mentioned to my sister that the flying saucer had not sold, she said she wanted to buy it for her husband. Now, selling art to family members seems like… cheating… or something. But technically it was finally sold and I still get to see it when I visit them.

The real saucer sculpture with a blue light under it. I’m no photographer.

Is the point of this story that you should not give up on a piece that has not sold for years? Sure, keep trying. Maybe the point is you should be careful about your reactions to art at art shows. Someone might decide to surprise you with it as a gift later. The lesson for me was something like “make art that you like yourself. It might be yours forever. If a friend or relative gets it you don’t want to be embarrassed every time you see it”. It’s not a pithy moral, but I’m no writer.

Finally Finished. (maybe)

It was a strange and busy time here when my daughter suddenly had to stay home and attend school on-line back in early March. We live in a part of the world that has had no new covid-19 outbreaks for months, so my daughter has been back at school since September. My wife and I can both work from home. So many people have far greater challenges these days and we are keenly aware of how lucky we are.

With time to spend tinkering in the workshop again, I have made significant progress on a ray gun I started woking on years ago. I finally settled on what pieces to use and worked out how to make them fit together. I found some of the details for this one especially enjoyable to work on, such as the power supply label, and a metal switch plate that i fabricated myself from a large steel washer. Making custom metal parts is not something I normally do. It was very satisfying.

Custom Switch Plate.
Custom Label.
Label in situ.
Tiny dial for tuning the forward sensor.

I often make virtual 3D models of my completed ray guns, and this one is no exception. I spent more time trying to make this virtual version’s materials look accurate, not just the shapes and dimensions.

Virtual 3D version

I’m often not entirely certain when a piece is finished, but at this time I don’t see much I would want to add or alter. I do need to construct a stand for it, and I’m also working on some printed material to accompany the piece, specifically a manufacturer’s parts catalogue.

I hope to have the real piece available for sale at Argyle Fine Art (Halifax, Nova Scotia) soon!

TS-8445 at ARTsPLACE Gallery

To The Moon and Back will be showing from June 23 to July 21, 2019, at ARTsPLACE in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. This is a group show featuring myself along with artists Rhonda Barret, Ted Lind, Geoff Butler, Don Pentz, Rion Microys, Martha Little, Sharon Kennedy, Bonnie Baker, Ray Mackie, Julia Redgrave, Lauren Soloy, Eva McCauley, Amy Rubin Flett, and Sally O’Grady. There will also be space memorabilia on display.

I’ll be showing a few pieces along with a new found object ray gun, TS-8445, a.k.a “SIOUX”. This piece was a long time in the making, but I finally found the right parts to finish it. I was especially surprised how quickly I found parts to make the perfect disply stand for this piece!

Update: This piece sold at the show opening.

3D render wit boring textures.


Not every piece is a hit or finds a home. This was the (perhaps predictable) case with “KA-74 Stand Mounted Ray Gun Canon”. It’s not that people didn’t like it, but this thing was big and ugly and few people would have a place to put it. I built it for my first show of rockets, robots, and ray guns and never really expected it would be sold. In fact there was a tag on it that read, “No returns due to spousal disapproval.”

So what to do with a beast like this? Well, as it had so many parts that are still useful I eventually dismantled it. It’s been re-rejunkenated. Some of the parts have already been used in other creations. In truth many pieces meet this fate, but luckily most of them never left the shop.

Spoon Beetles!

 In 2015 I made a series of insects using old spoons, forks, and other small parts. Working at a this smaller scale was a very different experience as every tiny part has such a big impact on the over-all piece. A single screw or bolt on a ray gun can almost disappear, but on a small beetle it becomes a major feature. I  know one day I will be moved to make more pieces inspired by insects.

Photo by Argyle Fine Art.

I’m not exactly sure which ones were sold. Perhaps there are still some available from Argyle Fine Art.