This series of posts will document my current work, which I have dubbed the Star Project. It is a forged steel sculpture consisting of thirty rings which connect at twelve points, forming a symmetrical, spheroidal object.

Please note: this first post will be a fairly dry discussion of some formal properties of the sculpture. The process of it’s making will be covered in further posts, and will be of much more interest to the craftsman, blacksmith or metalworker. I will cover several blacksmithing techniques that I have developed which are somewhat unconventional, and there is more to the piece than what I will reveal at first.

Here are a few pictures of an unadorned model of the Star. The rings are made of metal strapping duct taped to wooden dowels. The dowels are stand-ins for more elaborate forms that I will address later. The dimensions of the steel rings will be roughly double those of the model, which are about eight inches in diameter. The overall size of the piece will be about four feet in diameter.

The form is founded on classical geometry. Plato proved the existence of a class of regular polyhedra that consists of five solids; the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron. These are unique in geometry because they are the only convex polyhedra that can be constructed using only congruent regular polygons. Simply stated, each of the five Platonic Solids are constructed with identical polygons; the tetrahedron is made up of four equilateral triangles, the cube of six squares, the octahedron of eight eq triangles, the dodecahedron of twelve pentagons, and the icosahedron of twenty eq triangles. See the Wiki page for Platonic Solids if this is interesting to you.

The Platonic Solids are fundamental to western math and science, so they are ubiquitous in design, industry and culture. Over the years, my work in sculpture has drawn obliquely from them, though in an intuitive and unfocussed way. I might illustrate this in more detail later. Gradually, however, I began to recognize ways in which the forms I was making related directly to principles governed by the properties of the Platonic Solids.

In this piece I am working with the dodecahedron and the icosahedron (12 and 20 sided polyhedra, respectively). Clearly, my object is not a polyhedron at all, but it is closely related to both. Essentially, I have replaced the thirty edges (straight lines) that constitute an icosahedron with thirty circles, each of which is oriented on a plane that passes through the center point of the object. In doing so, the twelve vertices (points of convergence) of the thirty edges (now circles) of the icosahedron are no longer convex “points” but are recessed within the hypothetical sphere defined by the object’s outermost loci. I warned you this would be dry!

Each of these twelve “vertices” (the bits represented by the dowels in the model) can now be understood as defining the central circle of a torus (doughnut shape in geometry). Each torus is defined by the five rings that converge at each dowel, and each ring is shared by two adjacent tori. Therefore the piece could also be understood as a quasi-dodecahedron, consisting of twelve comingling tori instead of twelve conjoined pentagons.

In actuality, the way that I arrived at this object was through tinkering with tetrahedral models (again, made up of circles, so they were “quasi” tetrahedrons), so the Star could be understood as an assemblage of tetrahedrons.

It is, of course, not at all necessary for the future viewer of the sculpture to know the specifics of what I have just discussed. Everyone has seen countless examples of the various mathematical archetypes I have described. Anyone will instantly recognize that the sculpture is “geometric”. As is apparent in the photos, the piece exhibits varying symmetries depending on the angle of view. Our brains are wired to recognize pattern and symmetry – we have a sort of primordial appreciation of it.

The point of all this is to illustrate how the piece exhibits characteristics of multiple essential “truths” at once, depending on how you choose to define it. By emphasizing one aspect over another, our total understanding can morph into another. This slippage – of perspective, of vision, of understanding – is more important than any particular dissection. This notion flies in the face of the essentialist underpinnings of Plato’s philosophy, which holds that all things can be defined by fixed and unalterable “essences”. This view of the universe, which has for centuries driven and underpinned scientific inquiry, is threatened with obliteration by today’s ideas of the “multiverse”, wherein physical laws and properties are not consistent throughout.