A mind of metal and wheels: The watch art of Justin Gershenson-Gates
When I first put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) on Timepiece Chronicle I knew that this was just going to be a website about timepieces. No articles about fashion, lifestyle, cars or anything else that can be tangentially connected to watches. On the other hand I never specified what condition these timepieces had to be in so I thought I'd take a quick detour and showcase some of the art that Justin Gershenson-Gates has created over at A Mechanical Mind.
Now if you've been around Etsy, ebay, any indie/alternative clothing store then you'll probably have seen watch jewelry before, I myself have a watch movement cuff link and tie clip set that I'll wear on occasion. What separates Justin's creations are the attention to detail and use of watch dials in his work. I've seen countless standard movement pieces but never have I seen such creative use of watch dials before. There are some really nice imaginative uses of watch components throughout all of Justin's work; regulators that form a bird's head and barrel bridges with the center of a Incabloc shock absorber to create a fossil to name just a few. As Justin's materials are mostly 99% reclaimed watch parts, all of the pieces he makes are unique and no two are exactly alike. I spoke with him briefly about the his work.
TC: How do you go about sourcing watch parts for your pieces? Do you have a design in mind, say using a particular type of dial, and then search for the part or does the part inspire the design?
J: Generally, I am making pieces to order, so I look for watches that I know will have the pieces I use (such as birds and hearts pieces). Times when I can have more fun creating are those when I just order large lots of old watches from Ebay, Etsy, or estate sales, and make completely new and different things. At those times, I usually will not have a design in mind unless I've kept myself up the night before trying to mentally put the pieces together. I mostly tinker until I find a visual balance that is pleasing to me.
TC: Roughly how long does a piece take to create, obviously a heart gear pendant will be a lot quicker than a complex sculpture like Chronotron
J: On average, I'd say necklaces take anywhere from 1-4 hours to complete, and from 4-40 hours on the sculptures (especially longer on the newer articulated humanoid sculptures I've been working on as of late) The intricacy plays a big part in how my prices go, as I generally charge based on frustration level when making something.
TC: What would you say differentiates your work from other artists who make similar pieces?
J: I have seen a lot of art using gears and watch parts, and it seems to be growing in popularity amongst the artists catering to the steampunk crowd. I've never quite completely fit in there, as I am not really into the sci-fi aspects of it. I enjoy the aesthetics of gears and machinery and always have. My aim is to transfer these cold hard pieces of metal into something more ethereal and beautiful. I am a bit of a deconstruct-reconstruct style of artist, and you will never see a chunky, full watch movement hot glued to a chain in my work.
TC: Do you have any plans to use parts of a quartz movement in a pieces?
J: I have used several smaller plates and some coiled copper from quartz watches in my work, but generally just pass quartz watches on to other people I know who will be able to better use their parts. Most of them just do not fit into the look for which I am going.
TC: And finally, what watch do you wear? (Or has it been turned into a project!?)
J: I have a 1952 Waltham model 645 that I carry around with me. It's not the best watch for keeping time, but was my great uncle's and then my grandfather's, so it is mostly sentimental. It helps keeps them close.
For me what separates Justin's work from others is the time and attention to detail that each piece is given. I mean who else is making an articulated model out of watch parts?! I agree with his comment that whilst the concept could be conceived as "steampunk", I think Justin's execution makes him stand out from the crowd. His aim of breathing life into these pieces of metal succeeds completely, especially with the smaller sculptures.