Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Negative & Positive space in design Part 2

This article is intended to demonstrate how to use negative and positive spacial relationships in design. The example I am using actually composes an image in the negative space, creating quite a treat for the viewer.
The example is from a fireplace screen, Fire Dancers, and was designed by Smyth Boone and Robin Boone. All of the drawings are by Robin Boone. The drawings are all full-scale.
Here is the first line drawing that shows the connection of the eight positive "figures"(only two in this photo) which form a circle when laid out. Notice the suggestion of a figure in between the two positive figures.

The line drawing above is not visually clear on the negative and positive attributes that will become the highlight of the design. So... here is a drawing that has been shaded to show the positive(solid) compared to the negative(spaces in between the positive aspects).The negative and positive spacial relationships jump out at the viewer. Now, it appears that the heads and hands of the positive "figures" face each other with their hands extended above their heads forming a suggested circle. This is an example of using positive space to suggest a form in the negative space. The circle in the middle is simply suggested.
An artist has the ability to force the viewer to look in the direction that he/she intends. In this example, your eyes automatically follow the lines of the positive forms leading you to the center of the design.
Another form that has now shown up is the negative space "figure" in the space between the positive "figures" which is facing away from the middle circle.
So.. not only does this design draw the viewers' eye to the suggested circle in the center, but it also, by using the negative space "figures", draws the viewers' eye back out of the center circle simultaneously. This combination of moving one's eyes in and out simultaneously is a very active, fun, and successful design characteristic.
The drawing below illustrates this point.

Now to show one more cool feature highlighting the negative and positive spacial relationships and the actual function of the piece. Lets add fire to the mix...
The fire constantly changes and moves highlighting the positive and negative spacial relationships.
The use of positive and negative spacial relationships is quite an asset to the artist and can make very interesting and intriguing art that pleases both the viewer and the artist.

Smyth Boone

Monday, August 25, 2008

Go Green! Recycled Steel...

Boone's Hooks uses 100% recycled steel for all of it's forgings! With great design, Boone's Hooks transforms the recycled steel into useful functional artwork for your home... to last approximatley 2-5000 years!

This is a great claim that I am proud of for my business. Steel happens to be the most recycled material on the planet. All of the raw material steel stock that I buy at the steel supply yard has been recycled.

According to Wikipedia... (
Steel is the most widely recycled material in the United States.[24] The steel industry has been actively recycling for more than 150 years, in large part because it is economically advantageous to do so. It is cheaper to recycle steel than to mine iron ore and manipulate it through the production process to form 'new' steel.

Iron is the base material in steel which is one of the most plentiful materials on the globe. Iron ore is mixed with a few other ingredients which creates steel, a much harder and usable medium.

Here is how it works... old cars, iron structures from buildings, old washers and driers, etc... are all collected and melted in big batches(imagine a BIG pot of boiling red hot molten metal!). Once the metal is melted it can be re-poured into the forms the industry uses consistently. These forms are either bars stock, sheet metal, or industrial stock.

Feel free to support your local blacksmith.. they are working towards a greener planet for us all!

Smyth Boone

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I have found that different places for advertising take different artistic approaches according to the potential clients that will see the ad.

This top ad photo is clean and classy. I use this ad on my local movie theater screen. I am able to trade work for the ad space. It shows before all movies and events at the theater, The Paradise, in Paonia, Co.
I live in a small town and I find it very important to let the locals know about my business. I have had lots of local clients let me know that they have seen the ad and are glad to support my local business.
It is difficult to trace the direct effects of the ad, but am sure it gets the word out to the local community which I feel is critical for success. The locals are great for recommending one's work when guests visit and are looking for art/crafts.

Next ad...
This is the paid ad that I run in The Mountain Gazette magazine.
The Gazette is a free publication distributed throughout all mountain towns in the western U. S. It highlights incredible writers and is a very cheeky vibe which relates well to the local populations living in mountain towns.
You can see the ad reflects the style of readers. Hopefully, the reader finds it interesting and funny enough to check out my website. I have had good results and plenty of good comments and a reasonable amount of sales. The ad runs monthly which is critical for product recognition and potential sales.
Currently, I do not track where all of my sales come from, but that is maybe something I will be able to fine-tune in the future.
Future discussions involving advertising may include discussions regarding the artwork, information, locations of ads, costs involved, and results.

Smyth Boone

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Art for Ourselves or the Client?

Here is a topic for discussion that I have been pondering for years... The original conversation comes from "Craft Versus mass Production" blog on

Do we create a piece of art for the client/viewer or do we create a piece of art for ourselves?
I had a blacksmith tell me a story about his project of restoring a small railing that was way up on top of a hundred foot high church steeple. After the blacksmith took down the old piece, he looked on the inside of it and there was some very fine chisel work. The chisel work was extensive and very well executed. The chisel work could never be seen by anyone viewing from the ground, not only was it 100 feet high, it was also facing in towards a wall.
This leads to the question... why did the blacksmith put such amazing art where it never would be seen? Was it for the client or for himself?
I tend to lean towards the idea that, as an artist, we create beautiful artwork for ourselves first and then the viewer/client second. I do know that I feel much better making my art as good as I can for my own satisfaction and integrity regardless of what the client sees or feels from it(within reason, of course). Maybe, and hopefully, the client will someday appreciate and understand the art, but sometimes, if ever, it takes along time for another to absorb the true meaning the artist intended.

I am interested in your opinion on this one...

Smyth Boone

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Boone Blacksmithing Legacy

I am very proud to be part of a family that has been passing down the craft of blacksmithing for at least 18 generations. Yes, at least 18 generations!

According to family folklore the Boone’s have been forging iron since the time of the Vikings. Don Plummer, author of the book The Boone Blacksmithing Legacy, 1991, has traced the blacksmithing line back eighteen generations from the current smiths in the family; Dan Boone VII, Tom Boone, and M. Smyth Boone. Daniel Boone the famous American hero and explorer was a farrier blacksmith in George Washington’s army.

In the early 20th century the Boone blacksmith’s were working in the shop of their father, Kelse Boone, in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. The invention of the automobile was being developed allowing delivery of products to even the most remote locations and the industrial revolution was in full swing. General farmer blacksmiths services were no longer in such great demand due to the creation of mass produced and cheaply replaceable tractor parts and a cost effective delivery system.

Kelse Boone, Smyth’s great grandfather, told the boys in the blacksmith shop that if they wanted to continue to be blacksmiths, the family trade, that they would need to switch from being farmer style smiths to become artist blacksmiths.

Kelse’s sons Daniel Boone VI and his brother Lawrence Boone, Smyth’s grandfather, heeded this advice and became master blacksmiths of the twentieth century. The Boone brothers were hired John D. Rockefeller to do all of the forged ironwork in the famous restoration project of the city of Williamsburg, Virginia in the 1930’s. The Boone’s also forged the incredible ironwork in the Asheville Hotel and the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina.Daniel Boone VII, Smyth’s father, learned the art from his father and has gone on to become one of the more respected and successful blacksmiths forging in the U.S. today. Dan teaches the art of forging at many blacksmithing schools and regularly demonstrates his masterful signature item… dragonheads.

In the late 1980’s, Dan Boone VI taught his son M. Smyth Boone the art and craft of fine blacksmithing. Smyth has been forging notable commissions and has been teaching his skills internationally since 1991. Smyth combines his inherent blacksmithing skills with the versatile design talents of Robin A. Boone, artist extraordinaire. The unique arrangement of Smyth’s internationally recognized forging skills and Robin’s complex designs combine to form one of the strongest unions in the field of contemporary ironwork.

Tom Boone, Smyth’s brother is forging incredible commissions and demonstrating at some of the finest art and craft festivals on the East coast. You can find some of Tom’s beautiful forging in Dona Mielach’s book, Fireplace Accessories, Schiffer Books 2002.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Great quote

Here is one of my favorite quotes dealing with art and humanity as a whole. It gives me hope as an artist and an imperfectionist.

"As machines become more and more efficient and perfect, so it will become clear that imperfection is the greatness of man."

~Ernest Fischer (1899-1972) Austrian editor, poet, critic. The Necessity for Art, ch. 5 (1959, trans. 1963)

This quote will lead us to a nice discussion on design in the future...


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Design Topic 2: What is good design?

I would like to share my personal opinion of what I feel creates good design.

My experience comes from years of working on all facets of the craft of blacksmithing. I have taught numerous classes on blacksmithing and explained this discussion to the participants with regard to the topic of design.

I will use this railing sample to illustrate my explanation.This is an original Boone Wrought Iron design by Robin and Smyth Boone in 1997.

Here is another view.
This design is located on a large house that one drives up to. When a person drives up, they will notice these horizontal lines with some sort of uprights/verticals holding the lines perpendicular to each other and sitting on top of a stone wall on the perimeter of the house.

Next, in the vertical dimension, one notices the oval shapes with "arms(scrolls)" crossing over each other on top and reaching out to connect to the straight vertical bars. The scrolls are attached with collars and seem to hang the whole center element in the air. This motion lifts the viewer's eye higher into the design. It is not a static design, it is active. The "hanging" of the central element gives the design some stress( another blog subject to come...) and seems to have the element floating from the upper connections(collars) which creates visual stimulation.

A lot of suggested triangle shapes present themselves to the viewer in an inverting repeating manner. One can quickly realize the interesting patterns and are then hopefully interested enough to look more as they get closer.

As the viewer gets closer to the railing they realize that the upright straight bars have a twist just above half way up which creates another relationship between the twisted bars and the height of the collar on each oval element. The twist also creates interest for the viewer. The details keep coming alive as one gets closer to the piece.

This drawing is by Robin Boone:
Please note the imaginary triangle between the three collars. Humans are naturally attracted to triangles which is one factor that helps this to be a successful design.

Next, the viewer will notice the positive and negative spatial relationships going on. The positive space is the solid bars and the negative space is the air between the solids. This is one of very interesting aspects for your eyes to actively perceive. Once again drawing the interest of the observer.

The next aspect, after the viewer is enjoying the design and is interested in learning more, is touching the forged railing. This is the ultimate for the blacksmith/artist because not only is the design successful enough to engage the viewer visually, they can be assured the person will love the soft hand forged feeling(texture). All of the bars have had they corners softened by being hand hammered from the fire and sanded for a soft touch. The observer then finds that everything is soft to the touch, yet very hard due to the fact that it is made of steel and is an impenetrable border. Irony is intriguing; and therefore, another successful design technique for the artist to use.

Another interesting aspect once one is very close are the forged details that show up. For instance; riveted tenon joinery, the collars are made of 1/2 round stock, and the overlapping joints at the main upright bars, to mention a few.

So... my idea of what constitutes good design is...

At every vantage point the viewer finds something intriguing and interesting from the design keeping them participating by engaging their mind/soul by continuing to look at, absorb, touch and/or "feel" the art.

Hopefully, the art is memorable and perhaps subject for further discussion and exploration.

Smyth Boone

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Design Topic 1: positive and negative space

This piece is a forged scroll measuring approximately 10" in diameter. At first the viewer is drawn to the simple elegance of the universally appealing scroll. Why?
Here is one reason...
The appealing element of this scroll is the use of negative space and its' relationship to positive space. A perfect scroll always has an increasing negative space.(note: this particular forging has a growing negative space towards the center of the scroll and then a diminishing negative space on the outer edges in my attempt to create more of a circle for this sculpture.)
Positive space is what we refer to as the solid material. Negative space is the blank space between the solids.
The artist can use the positive space to create an interesting negative space that engages the viewer. This is what humans are drawn to. Interesting relationships.
Forged iron is an excellent medium for expressions in positive and negative space usage. Steel/wrought iron is a very strong, yet fluid material that creates bold lines(positive) and makes one see the artists' suggestion of design found in the negative space.
Once you can see the detail a little closer, one realizes that there is a flower suggestively chiseled into the scroll. This will lead to our next discussion on the gestalt style of design and suggestions for the viewer.
Another very interesting design element, to be discussed in the future, is the use of the golden mean.
I look forward to your comments and ideas.


Welcome to my blog.

I plan on adding many interesting discussions regarding design, positive and negative spacial relationships, forging steel, the Boone blacksmithing legacy, teaching art/craft to mention a few.

I am open to any topics related to art, blacksmithing, marketing, sales experiences, etc...

I look forward to networking and learning with you.

Smyth Boone