Richard Serra's Process: design and art?

What is the process behind making a Serra sculpture?
When I began working with Richard, he’d already developed a method of model making using what he called a wagon wheel–two wooden discs, with identical elliptical shapes. He’d nail a 2x4 between them and rotate them so they were a top and bottom plate of plywood. Then he’d roll a sheet of lead on the ground, and that would define the outline of the metal plate. After that he would wrap the plate around the wagon wheel and that became his model. I would take that model and digitize it, so that it was in the computer. The problem was the metal was warped and bent, and when you digitized it you weren’t getting a pure ellipse. Eventually I said, “Instead of sending these big lead plates”–he’d send them in crates–“just fax me your dimensions: height, radius, angle.”

I wonder if Mr. Richard Serra would remark that part of his process is lost, and that CAD has taken the physical link from him and his work? It seems much more streamlined to work in CAD, but the physical connection of him forming the material with his hands and ‘feeling’ the form is disrupted.

Is it that way with ID? how many of us actaully work in physical 3D before engaging directly in concept development in CAD? does it matter anymore?

Has CAD become our “hands”


I had a chance to see his stuff in person (big whoop) back in '97 - I thought it was interesting about the scale of his work - nowadays scale (making little things really big) is so hot - sort of played though - it could be said that he was there before anyone else - Starck too with his hotels - I’m not an art expert so I’m sure I left out some other people doing stuff with scale early on - heck most sculptors with large work could be included.

As far as actual models - it seems whatever the client will pay for determines whether we go straight to cad or not (often with some issues when tooling is made - especially with scale) - I would say maybe instead of doin’ it in the shop it may be easier to do an FDM now or an SLA, it’s not perfect - like carving it out yourself, but it does help you see it and make changes before tooling.

Also, when I work on my own stuff at home - I tend to sketch it up, draft out orthographics, then do it in CAD - I don’t have an FDM, then import it into a renderer to see it from a bunch of different angles - that is very effective - but whenevery I get a prototype made from it there are always surprises.