Nick Schade The Hatori Hanzo of Kyak makers!
I stumbled upon Nick Schades work while researching what other artists and craftsmen are were making out Cedar (Cedar is the primary material of Ursula Von Rydingsvard). Nick Schade a former Navy engineer, made his first Kayak in 1986 out of the belief that he could make a sea worthy, responsive, light and durable kayak from the strip built method.
The strip built method (which previously had been used to craft canoes but rarely if ever kayaks) is a process of laying down and gluing dozens of western red cedar strips on to a form. The strips generally run the entire length of the kayak which may be as long as 20 feet. The form itself is around 20 MDF cross-sections of the hull of the kayak (cut out on the band saw) attached to an aluminum strong back held up by saw horses. Once the strips are glued together, the long process or plaining and sanding begins. A light stain is then applied to the wood to bring out wood grain and color. After this dries a fiberglass fabric is placed on the kayak covering the entire hull. Epoxy is brushed onto the fabric making the fabric transparent and exposing the rich color and grain of the cedar beneath it. The fiber glass servers to strengthen and to water proof the vessel. A similar process is repeated on the inside of the craft with a carbon fiber and kevlar woven fabric.
Nick Schade has become well renown not only for his kayaks but also his willingness to share designs and strip building processes. He has published two books on strip built kayaks and will also custom build a kayak through his business http://www.guillemot-kayaks.com/guillemot/. Schade kayaks have been written about in national publications and are shown in the American Craft Museum as well as the Museum of Modern art in New York.
While the prospect of making my own kayak is equal parts exciting and daunting, the process of strip built wooden sculpture is very interesting. Strip building would allow for sculptures with complex curves to be light weight and even buoyant. One could craft strip built wooden balloons fill them with helium and tie them down to uprooted stump. What if Jeff Koons giant silver balloon dog was strip built western red cedar? Perhaps the greatest advantage of strip building is not the complex curves (as these can be achieved through carving) rather it is the light weight durability of the finished work. This would portend well for any works that may involve buoyancy or a dramatic contrast of scale and density.
Another artist that employs strip building in some of his works is Martin Puryear. Durring his youth Puryear actually learned to build guitars, furniture, and canoes! Most likely he employed the strip built method around a form for the canoes. In Puryear's pieace "Brunhilde" which I had the pleasure of seeing in person at SFMOMA a few years ago) Puryear utilizes a open strip built basket weave method to create a form that is like that of an expanded basket. This piece I was imediatly drawn to for it's large scale, volume, and negative space. "Bird Martin" by contrast also uses the strip built method. Rather than lining up each strip and glueing the edges together, Puryear hi-lights the process of making the form by over-lapping each strip in a random patternless binding. This simultaneously connotes the random weaving of a birds nest and also an emotive connotation of entrapment or imprisonment.
Strip building, like wood joinery, is another tool I am interested in adding to my sculptural tool belt. It is not technique that I would use exclusively, rather a method I would use when light durable organic curves are called for.