Patrick Quinn (Illinois)

Head Feathers

Medium/Materials: Mild steel and copper

Dimensions: 23" x 18" x 18"

Year: 2014

Artist Statement: 

Flight is something that has always interested humans. I am exploring elements that make flight possible by using its beauty and mechanics to drive my work. My inspiration derives from early drawings of flying machines, and the beauty and function of birds. I draw from both of these to create sculptural objects that reference the differences and similarities between mechanical and animal flight. Through my sculpture, I interpret certain aspects of flight by creating my own language with balance and moving parts.

 I use balance as a metaphor for flight and feel that it can be equally mysterious and intriguing. Both balance and form help me portray motion in the sky and on land without the use of motors or electricity. Whether it’s a bird in flight or the way specific parts of a bird move, I am creating abstract scenarios that bring to question the very nature of flight.

 I have always believed it is crucial to truly know how to work with materials in order to accurately represent concepts. This is why craftsmanship has always been of highest importance to me. As an artist blacksmith, I embrace all aspects of metalworking; from forging, fabricating, machining and work with non-Ferris metals alike. I find the contrast between heavy forged iron with evidence of fire scale and very delicate, balanced 24 gauge copper feathers to be quite striking. This contrast offsets the “clunk” often found in blacksmithing. I am using this variation of techniques to contrast the beautiful, delicate and organic aspects of birds with flying machines, industry, and mechanics. 

Each work focuses on specific areas of a bird I find inspirational. I use loose formal parameters and guidelines of balance to unify my sculptures a group. The balance point is a driving role in the layout of my structures. I have an educated guess of where the balance point will be based on the guidelines I follow. I proceed by building a fully adjustable kinetic sculpture that balances the area of interest. I make the balance point adjustable because I do not do any math or use any scales. 

Every part, besides the micro fasteners, I make by hand. Every feather is cut, folded, formed and scribed individually. Because everything is handmade, the weight and balance point cannot be completely determined until all parts are constructed. This being the case, I have a good idea of where the balance point will be, but it needs to be adjustable so I can calibrate the work to my liking. 

The greatest pleasure for me resides in the moment I first set up an entire piece. The sculptures I build are comprised of several components that I can only visualize until they all physically come together. Assembling work from handmade elements is very satisfying because it gives my work a sense of integrity. The challenge of making something work and balance with several moving parts is an activity that inspires me.


Patrick Quinn received his MFA in blacksmithing from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Currently Pat runs the Smithy at The Center For Metal Arts, and is the forging program coordinator.