Unfortunately, it eventually became obvious that the price for each sculpture rarely (if ever) compensated for the long hours and incredible amount of labor it takes to produce each piece. It simply isn't cost effective, and therefore continues more as a sideline and a labor of love. Adding to this was the fact that I was diagnosed in 2006 with severe allergies to the materials I use in creating BIGHEAD mechanical sculptures.
Because of these factors, I retired briefly. However, I have returned, but only to accomplish my original goal of creating 50 BIGHEADS. As that final number draws near, I know the BIGHEAD chapter in my life is coming to and end, so I am very careful to only choose commissions that I really feel inspired to create.
If you feel you have a character concept that screams to be a BIGHEAD, then send it in for consideration. Please read all the information on the FAQ page before submitting, I know you fully understand my style, approach and everything that goes into creating a BIGHEAD mechanical sculpture.
The first commissioned carving using this "Freestyle" approach was "Cappuccino Joe". Everything seemed to fit like the pieces of a puzzle. I developed a "plank system" for carving the heads and their trademark appearance became even more evident.
Something about my wifes choice of words made sense. I knew that if I was going to pursue this endeavor, I needed a reference identity, so the name "BIGHEAD" became used to describe the style and approach to their unique creation.
A few more experimental carvings followed, including the figures "Nash" (pictured left) and "Naussius" (pictured right). However, while my skills as a carver seemed adequate, they didn't share the same passion as sculpting. I know when to step aside and admit that there are so many carvers far better than I could ever be. My specialty has always been with sculpting, so I began searching for materials that would allow me to continue my exploration in character design and mechanical configurations.
ENTER THE "TWO-STAGE" PROCESS.
I experimented with endless combinations of materials, but none possessed the right "feel". Then I tried "Magic Sculpt" and everything fell into place again. The consistency allowed the freedom to create the character I had swimming inside my head and was durable enough to withstand transportation.
It was at this time that I decided to create my mechanical sculptures for art collectors and commercial display. I mention this quite a bit on this website. Even with this disclaimer, I have been commissioned by some of the best entertainers in the world to create characters that they continually use in their performance (see FAQ page for more information regarding collectors and performers).
The first BIGHEAD mechanical sculpture created, using this method was "Terrence" (Pictured left). Commissioned by a professional performer in Canada, this sculpture also possesses the first "pistol grip" headstick design I developed. While a bit heavier than later BIGHEAD mechanical sculptures, "Terrence" demonstrated that I could pull out more character by sculpting, which allowed me to further develop my techniques.
Because my sculptures are intended for collectors and businesses, I offered the option of enclosing the sculpture in a Plexiglass cass, which had levers to operate each animation (pictured right).
Note: In 2009, "Terrence" was inducted into the Ventriloquist Central collection.
Where would you like to go next?
When I was younger, I spent a portion of my youth on the hippie communes and indian reservations in the Pacific Northwest. Although I appeared to be a cheerful extrovert, I was actually quite shy. As a manner of coping, I studied ventriloquism and aquired a "partner" called Randy, who basically became my mouthpiece and social connection. We were inseperable and I often donated my time to volunteering for "Volunterer Varieties". This was a group that went around to entertain in childrens hospitals and senior care centers.
I have always been sculpting in one form or another, and my "partner" often fell victim to assorted transformations as I developed my skills. I have always admired the ventriloquist figures made by the McElroy brothers and began experimenting with my own creations. My first few "figures" were modifications to existing figures, but I quickly became inspired to create unique characters that were constantly swirling inside my imagination.
As the years passed, and my artistic pursuits became centered in other directions which included both small sculptures and large scale designs. While static sculptures were pleasing to the eye, the pull of kinetic art became overwhelming. Intricate mechanical configurations have always fascinated me and I believe ventriloquist figures to be the perfect blend of character and mechanics. My background in ventriloquism paved the way to try my hand at producing original, yet fully functional pieces of art.
BIGHEADS actually began as a simple experiment in wood-carving. I noticed a solid block of wood, someone had thrown away. It was sitting next to a dumpster and possessed a moment of inspiration. While I always felt comfortable with resins, hardners and assorted clay compounds, I knew little about wood carving, so the challenge was eagerly accepted.
Using only knives and chisles, I carved the lil' fella pictured here from that block of wood (my wife was not too happy about the mess I had made). The head possesed a simple trapdoor mouth and side to side eyes. His body was carved from soft foam, but this carving was enough to ignight my curiosity in what was possible.
Things progressed and I soon incorporated power tools, which assisted me in developing the unique "look and feel" I envisioned. The first few "fully carved figures were "Baby Dee" and a character I simply called "Dawderhead".
"Dawderhead" was intentionally goofy in appearance, with exaggerated features. As a lark, I placed him on Ebay and the response was overwhelming to say the least. I seemed to have hit a nerve, which humbled me as an artist. While the auction mentioned that "Dawderhead" was not up for sale, it offered to carve figures which were similar in appearance. I accepted the commission of two clients (both ventriloquists). "Dawderhead and "Baby Dee" were later destroyed in a fire.
I went to work carving and produced the two figures (pictured right), named "Deeder" and "Dooder" and really enjoyed the caricature aspect of the larger heads and smaller bodies. A theme began to emerge and I pondered the possibility of creating a community of such characters for clients. I called these early carvings "Spoonheads", due to their unusual features. While the first client was pleasd, the owner of "Dooder" didn't quite understand the character, so I placed the carving in my own private collection.
As things progressed further, my style and approach to carving wooden figures continued to develope and take shape, as I experimented in finding my footing. This period produced the two wooden figures "Agustus" and "Johnny Two Lips" (pictured below). Suddenly, the name "Spoonheads didn't seem to fit the style. After one look at a final carving, my wife said, "Now THAT is a big-head."
I developed a unique "freestyle" approach to each carving, which allowed each character to virtually create itself. Basically the client only submitted a very brief character description (a few sentences). I incorporated this description in with the chemistry I felt from the client and allowed the carving to dictate the course of its own creation. It is a very scary process, because neither the client nor myself know what the final character will look like until it is complete.
The ambition of many artists is to leave behind a legacy (a sense of immortality, for lack of a better phrase). It became a goal to create a community of only 50 sculptures, knowing that some of them will live on many, many years after I am gone. Painting, sculpture and kinetic displays were all possible avenues, but I decided to center on the area that challenged me in all areas of art (painting, mechanical configurations and sculptured character). Unlike most forms of art, these sculptures possess the ability to make people laugh and smile over a hundred years in the future. The following is the roots of this adventure.