Last January Joe Koches of The Blacksmith Shop came to me with the idea of making the Buddha Bowl Stand. He told me to take as much time as I needed and to make something “really cool”. That was the extent of his requirements. It was a unique and wonderful opportunity, not to mention an interesting challenge.
The challenge was to lower the center of gravity of an 80 lb , two foot diameter , precious, beautiful glass piece while holding it up at eye level using only three attachment points and not letting those points interfere with the viewing of the bowl from front or back. My first thought was” this is a math problem”. I started to get excited. My favorite thing about blacksmithing is trying to find balance in the mixture of the practical and the beautiful.
I went up to the Blacksmith Shop to look at the bowl. The bowl is 24 inches in diameter and about 6 inches deep. It is smooth clear glass with a pattern of tiny gold leaf buddhas radiating out from the center like a sun. It is a thick, heavy piece of glass but it looks airy and light. It looks like it should be floating.
George Bucquet makes contemporary hand formed hot cast glass. His pieces appear to give off light. As I looked at the bowl I wanted to know why he had made it so I asked him. He told me that he had been to Talmage, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and had seen a temple that literally had 10,000 buddhas in it.
George gave me such a gift when he sent me this e-mail. It gave me a place to start. I looked up the temple in Talmage. I read the Alan Watts quote about the ocean and people. Look it up. It is beautiful. I came up with a few designs. I wanted the piece to flow. To be surprising. To defy gravity. I got caught up in cantilever for a minute.Then I remembered the math. I did have a few physical constraints to consider. In order to lower the center of gravity of a wide weight that is supported at 4 to 5 feet above the ground you must provide a greater weight as close to the ground as possible.The other weight I had to consider was my own. I work alone most of the time. The mass at the bottom had to be something I could move around. It had to be made of multiple parts.
With these parameters I began sketching again. Multiple parts in a piece to me means joinery. I knew I wanted to begin with the unrefined and move to the refined. I knew I wanted to have a connection through the piece of continuity. I also wanted to design the stand in keeping with the sentiment of the artist who made the bowl.
The buddha bowl stand is made of eight pieces. Four of the pieces are wrought iron and four are mild steel. I used wrought iron as the central vein from the ground to the bowl. The top and bottom joints were designed to show the contrast between the two metals.
The middle joint is the heart or gut of the stand. It joins the two main wrought iron parts together. For this I forged a lapped mortise and tenon joint by fullering and then drifting the square holes. The joint is highly stable when pegged. The bronze pegs are removable.
I wanted the bottom leg joint to contrast the fastidious center joint and to address George Bucquet’s inspiration for the bowl, the idea of “ source”. I pulled a round tenon out of the lower half of the wrought iron center and then split and fullered and punched the front and rear wrought iron legs to receive the tenons. When I squeezed the fullered lower leg around the tail and tenon of the upper piece it created a much more organic, unconventional joint at the bottom of the stand.
Keeping the weight at the bottom while trying to maintain a sense of movement and lightness,the feet are fullered and folded in a radiating pattern.
The stand holds the bowl at four and a half feet ( 1.4 meters) high. The base is 24 inches (60 cm) wide at the bottom.