Q. Where can I buy your work?
A. I rarely have any work in stock, though I sometimes do have a few pieces available for sale. The main way to get my work is to commission a piece directly from me. If there is anything you are interested in, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'd be happy to explore any ideas with you.
Q.How much does your work cost?
A. Suits of mouse armor start at $1,500 and go up from there, depending on the complexity of the design. Cat armor starts at $12,000. More elaborate suits can cost $20,000-$25,000. You can order just the helmet for a cat, as well. They begin at $3,000. All other work is individually priced, based on how many hours the work will take.
Armour for Cats and Mice
Q. Where did you get the idea to build armour for cats and mice?
A. To answer this question, I have to give some background. At the time that
I made my first armour mouse and cat, I had been building armour for many years.
In fact, by 1985 I had completed seven full suits of armour for people. I had
been studying the history of armour for many years and had an extensive collection
of books on the subject. At the same time, I was just in my second year at the
Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD), majoring in the jewellery design program.
In truth, I made a suit of armour for a cat first. I did it as a project for
a sculpture class. As you might appreciate, I didn't have much time to work
on this first piece; it looked okay, but it was a poor example of armour. It
turns out that my tendency for exploring opposites came into play at this point.
I felt that as a sculpture, the cat armour was great, but I wondered what it
would look like if I could have made it with the kind of materials that would
have pushed it from sculptural to real armour. I had a book of drawings by Albrecht
Durer, including some sketches of parade armour that was supposed to have been
made of silver.
So it all came together. First, I had many of years of experience and knowledge
of armour. Second, I had made an example of cat armour but felt that I could
do better. Third, I was working in the jewellery department and had access to
the kinds of tools it would take to produce a real suit of armour for a mouse.
The moment was the sum total of everything coming together. So as a result of
having made armour for a cat, I felt that I had created an imbalance in the
universe. The only way to fix it was to do the same for the mouse. Fortunately,
I had much more time to produce this work and the resulting object that came
of it changed my life forever.
Q. How long does it take to make a suit of armour for a cat or a mouse?
A. Someone once asked a famous painter how long it took to complete a painting.
His response was "25 years." It is not just the amount of time it takes to actually
build a piece, it is also the years of work needed to attain the necessary skills
and tools. I have always been able to work quickly and with few mistakes. Still,
it does take time to make a mouse or a cat. Some silver mice can take up to
20 hours to build and another 10 hours to polish, and we haven't even made a
base for it yet. Some mice are less complicated or have different finishes,
thus taking less time to build. With this in mind, I would say that a mouse
will take from 10 to 40 hours to make. As for cats, the same thing applies,
but as you go bigger, things simply take longer. A cat will take from 50 to
Q. What are they made of?
A. I like working in all sorts of materials: steel, silver, brass, bronze,
nickel, copper, leather, fibre, and wood. Depending on the kind of armour I
am making, I simply work with what is appropriate. I haven't explored all of
the possible materials yet, but I have no problem incorporating whatever is
Q. How are they made?
A. Every part of my work is a construction. That means that I do not cast my
parts. The process that I go through is as follows. First, I have an idea or
part of an idea. I start with research and drawings. From there I decide what
the proportions and effect of the final piece will be. At this point, I will
make a full-scale model in plasticine. You can imagine that a full-scale model
of a mouse is not very big. I have developed a process for drafting patterns
from these models. I always start with the head. I decide what will be the first
piece and make a pattern for this part. Then I cut it from a flat sheet of metal
and go through the process of hammering it into shape. I then check this piece
against the model. If I feel that it is good enough, I attach it to the model
so that I can work from it to plan the next part. In this way, I can control
the way that the final proportions will turn out. If a part doesn't fit or starts
to change the look of the overall work, I throw that part away and start over.
In this way, I build the prototype. I keep the patterns and model in order to
build three to seven examples of the idea. Each copy, however, will have some
variation added. This is the way I produce my editions. I think it is worth
noting that as each piece is hand built from scratch, no two are exactly alike.
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Q. Have you ever put a mouse into a suit of armour?
A. If there was one question that I have been asked the most, this is the one.
I have not put a mouse into a suit of armour. I have, however, tried it with
one of my cats, and have the scars to prove it. Yes, it can be done, but that's
not the point. I think the fact that this question keeps being asked has more
to do with a wish to fulfil the image in some way. The image of armour for a
mouse stirs our imagination in a deep way. We look at it and try to imagine
what would happen if we did try to fit it on a mouse. I think it is this reaction
of the imagination that make the work Art and not just some clever craft. I
think in our minds we will have a perfect image of what it would look like;
to actually do it may not be as fantastic.
Having said that, we are working on a Photoshop poster that will combine images
of my rocket cats and mice with real cats and mice. This image has been in the
works for some years and is due to be released soon. I can say this much - this
image will be fantastic!
Q. Are you still making armour for cats and mice?
A. Yes, I am. However, I don't make as many as I used to. It's not that I don't
like making them, it's just that I have so many other ideas and projects to
work on. As the years go by, I continue to grow as an artist, craftsman, designer,
writer, lecturer and teacher, not to mention having a home life. I know this:
the making of the first armour mouse was the first time I was able to put the
sum total of my being into something. I have learned in the years that followed
that I can do the same with many other things. I have moved on to work on these
other things, but I still feel the need to return to build a few mice or a cat
each year. They are always different because each time I am different . I know
that when I am old and tired I will probably still have the parts of yet another
mouse on my bench.
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Armour ties and sword-handled briefcases for executives:
Q. Why did you start making armour ties?
A. It was another "sum total of being" situation. First of all, at the time
I had been doing virtually nothing but armour cats and mice. For this reason,
I was involved in more research into armour and I was beginning to try to understand
and develop a business around my art, something that doesn't come easily to
artists. I was fortunate that some of the people who were drawn to my armour
works were very good people as well as very excellent in business. One such
person even went so far as to help pay for some of my education. It seemed to
me that chivalry was not dead in the world.
I had been working on my own for a few years, when one day I had a realization
and was able to put together what was going on. I realized that there was no
difference between something like a great historical battle, such as the Battle
of Hastings in 1066, and a modern corporate take-over. The players are the same
and the emotions are the same. There was no difference between an office tower
and a keep; they served the same function. A little research into the history
of the business suit revealed that it had its origin in the arming doublets
that were worn under armour or even as armour. The cut and line of a modern
suit would still work as padding for the tasses that hung from a breast plate.
And what of the handshake, and words like freelance or blackmail? Yes, all the
traditions that we mindlessly take for granted have their origins in the world
and code of the warrior class.
And what of the silk tie? It was first worn around the neck in the form of
a scarf to prevent chafing. Regiments had special colours. In Britain, uniforms
featuring family tartans soon were integrated with regimental scarves, and evolved
into the modern suit with the tartan school tie of the noble class.
It seemed to me that to go to work every day unconscious of the traditions
and responsibilities of one's warrior class was a form of barbarism. The only
salvation would be to come around to an awareness of one's reality. To wear
an armour tie is the act of demonstrating to oneself and to others this awareness.
They don't even have to be worn, as the ties come with a display frame so that
they can be hung on the wall, serving as a daily reminder of the need for chivalry
in one's business life. The tie, in the end, was meant to serve as the symbolic
armour of awareness that one dons each day to confront the intellectual and
emotional arrows of modern life.
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Q. What are the armour ties made of?
A. I try to use the same materials as would be used in the construction of
different armour from around the world. I produced a Japanese tie that was made
of lacquered copper pieces laced together with silk ribbons. I produced a Maximilian
armour tie made from aluminum and brass. Some ties are made using hand-linked
chain mail, while others are made from combinations of leather and metal. Different
cultures and different time periods make up the different material requirements.
Q. Are the ties heavy to wear?
A. It is safe to say that some of them do not blow over your shoulder in the
wind, but for the most part they are not so heavy that a strong person would
notice. The most popular tie is the chain mail tie. It is made of aluminium
rings and is very light.
Q. How do you put on these ties?
A. All of the ties are put on the same way. They have a leather strap with
a buckle that does up behind the neck and is hidden under the shirt collar.
Q. How long do they take to make?
A. Like all things, they do take some time to make. I have experimented with
several production versions that I made in editions of 100. When you build things
this way, the time drops as the boredom factor goes up. I prefer to make originals
when I make ties. At the very least, I like to keep my editions very low. On
average, a tie will take from 5 to 20 hours to construct.
Q. Why did you design the sword-handled briefcase?
A. If one continues to break down medieval images in the search for their parallel,
what would be the modern equivalent of the weapon of the knight, i.e., the sword?
If you break down a sword into three parts - the scabbard, handle and blade
- and then break down in the same way the elements of a briefcase, the comparison
works. The body of the briefcase is a scabbard or sheath. There is a handle
as well. Contained within, like the blade, are the papers or contracts that
don't extract blood but instead extract time and life from others in the form
of service for money. The power of this weapon can be used for good or evil
and can, if not wielded correctly, even cause as much if not more damage to
the wielder. By the way, I also built a catapult that threw fax machines.
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Q. What are exoforms about?
A. I have a reputation as being an artist with a sense of humour, a sense of
craft, a sense of design, and a sense for the classics. All of these things
are fine, but when it comes to pure Art, we begin to move into another realm.
The exoform is my sense of Art, beauty and truth without visual limits or definitions.
Exoforms are abstract works based on my experience with armour, in the same
way that the abstract works of Picasso were based on his experience with painting.
When I produce a work such as armour for a mouse, my audience is huge, from
children to old art critics. In the making of a mouse, quite often I will make
an interesting form that becomes one of the parts. I get to see this interesting
and beautiful part, but in the end, my audience does not. The reason for this
is we become too hung up on the image of mouse armour. That is where we stop.
The image is so literal and easy to read that it becomes difficult to see it
any other way. The power of this makes it a great intellectual metaphor, but
it is a metaphor with imposed limits. Quite often I give a sculpture a title
because I use the title to give the piece a context or to give the viewer a
clue, but these things, too, can limit a piece.
Exoforms exist outside the limits of context, title or reference. I usually
don't give them titles. Often when I exhibit them, I only give them a number.
People looking at these works are free to go to a book in the gallery and write
down the number and beside this number write down a title. They can, if they
like, even go so far as to write down what they think would be an appropriate
artist statement on my behalf. In this way, I believe that without my imposition,
this work has the possibility of being seen differently by every person who
looks at it, something that I can't say for an armoured mouse.
Exoforms are about form, forms found in nature. The metals that I use to create
them were formed in a super nova as an ancient sun exploded. These materials
through time and destiny have made their way to me and I have worked with them
to give them form. They now exist as they were destined to exist.
It has been my experience that I am not able to truly see these works until
my final labours are finished and I step back for the first time. Only in that
moment of my first true look is the exoform truly created. In this same way,
it is recreated each time someone looks upon it. The viewer is the creator.
To give the piece a title or to write a statement would only limit the possible
interpretations and creations.
Of the exoforms I can say this: they were at the beginning of time, they are
in the present and they will be at the end of time. They are containers of something,
something that we all share. They are my most mysterious, spiritual and abstract
works. They are not created because I am clever, talented or have great craftsmanship.
They know nothing of pop culture or trend. They may not have the mass appeal
and easy readability of something like an armoured mouse, for they are closer
to that nothingness from which things without limits are possible.
Q. How are they made?
A. I described my technique earlier with the mice, how I work from drawings
to metal forms. Exoforms are made in much the same way, only larger. Because
the forms are larger and in many respects simpler, they cannot hide. They have
to be right in every way; the line, the relationship to the base and the positive
and negative space become very critical. It is ironic that they have a great
deal of simplicity and for this reason show flaws. That makes them very labour
intensive, as I find myself spending a great deal of time working the surfaces,
coming back over many days to look at them and make subtle adjustments until
I feel they are right. They cannot be rushed.
Q. What are they made of?
A. I like to work in sheet metal. I will make them from steel, copper and bronze.
Sometimes I will use natural stones for the bases, but usually I will carve
a special base from a solid block of wood.
Q. How long do they take to make?
A. Again, it depends on many variables. On average, the time will be from 20
to 200 hours.
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Q. Why did you start making rocket lamps?
A. I produced a large body of exoforms back in 1990. At that time, I began
to explore some new ideas about what could be armour. I thought, what is a rocket?
It is a metal form that is riveted together. Its function is to protect a heroic
individual who uses it to get through a hostile environment to accomplish a
special task, usually grabbing land. On top of this, I was beginning to look
to 1930s design for inspiration. Putting it all together, I started to make
some lamps that were sculptural rockets.
Because of this work, I also produced a piece called the "Venus of Venus".
In this work I took a 25,000-year-old image, the Venus of Willendorf, and gave
her two antennae to transform her into a martian. This work began my interest
in the relationship between martians and humans as a form of Yin Yang, good/bad,
male/female. From this came my first ray gun, as well as the new works of flying
rocket suits for cats and mice.
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