James Garvey, November 1015


            On the sidewalk, a mundane attitude is frequently due to remedial progress in an overcrowded herd displacement.  One’s attention unwittingly becomes a detective seeking any semblance of human sentiment.  If we compare the fabricated stainless steel public fixture to an object made by an experienced artist craftsperson, the handmade article produces a physiological bonding because it has been realized in accordance to a profound understanding of human presence. Hand made design is rare because it is labor-intensive; the economic paradigm for street furniture has been, “It is OK to put the heart on hold.” There is growing recognition that community wisdom is improved as the ‘bottom line’ is displaced by the ‘quality of attention’ that is used to make things that we bring into our neighborhood. Since the Bauhaus, mass production has been the prevalent way to make public fixtures. There are remnants throughout the five boroughs: minimalism, post-modernism, ‘disneyism’, and the currently popular, ‘Extreme Functionality’ (def. by JG). This trend uses the newest novel synthetic materials and may employ adaptive features using smart technology that is able to interact with the individual. 

            James Garvey has set a precedent to bring handcrafted public fixtures into our streetscape. The expertise of a qualified artisan has evolved with tens of thousands of hours of practice; the potential affect is cultured the way an oyster creates a pearl. It is the same way as the chef, or the musician. By creating uncompromised works under the direction of a master artisan, there will be a mutual benefit. We work to provide an impression that goes beyond function. Our street lamps, park benches, and even our litter stands shall be like cultured pearls, friendly impressions being sewn into the fabric of our cityscape. It is not possible to get pearls from a duck or a hen. It must be an oyster. Only an artisan can realize an aesthetic impression that will reach fellow human intellects.

            The Lariat series is based on an original form, the JG Bend; a knuckle-like form in which round bar is forged back onto it self before it proceeds in the new direction. The hand forged designs include: bench, bike stand, litter stand, seawall fence, bollard, entrance door, street light, bollard ties, tree guard, and gates. Nearly every fixture has been approved as a Permanent Work of Art by the New York Arts Commission; prior to submitting to the Arts Commission each item had attained regulatory compliance from applicable agencies such as: Landmarks, DOT, Department of Sanitation, Fire Department, MTA Engineering, and the local Community Board. Many of these designs have been realized at intersections, public parks, and subway stations in Manhattan. Within ten years, half of these were displaced. Highly motivated newcomers would lobby with the succeeding administration for a place to realize their career. It became apparent, the most significant threat for longevity is, “administrative disfavor”. 


What inspired the Lariat Series?   In the first decade with Blacksmithing, my work was inspired by these individuals: Christopher Wren, Mazzocoteli, Albert Paley, 13th century Spanish ironwork, Bartoldi, Richard Serra, and Mark DiSuvero. Since 1989, I am solely inspired by the wonderfully intelligent dialog of form that proceeds in my mind.


 What is the Challenge to implement the project beyond the present status? It is necessary to retain a character that is not being compromised. The benefits need to justify supplemental resources because it is not feasible as a commercial project.


 What is constant in the work?  The designs are intended to last in the range of 75 years. The presence of this fixture needs to ‘cross a threshold and affect the individual’; it must have recognizable vitality. The most significant criteria for longevity is, whether the object is being ‘taken for granted’. The mechanical features that are apparent need to be custom designed because ‘ready made’ components become an obvious eyesore in the composition. In order to realize fixtures that can survive in the range of 75 years, I work to form genuine kinship with the community; I work to become a member of the family and stay healthy. I pursue "feudal design mentality"; people never seem to tire of hand forged aesthetic; it has an immediate affinity.  I came to understand that it is necessary to unlearn fabricator mentality and realize a vocabulary with forging.  Every segment on the surface is transformed with deliberate attention.  The materials being used are solid; a blemish can be sanded down and the surface can be renewed. Solid bars and one inch thick plate is used to make jambs, columns, posts and base surfaces because after twenty years, embedded structural steel and hollow structures tend to rust out.  The soft corners of the JG bends are much friendlier to shin bones and fine clothing than the chipped corner of a cast planter.  It is a significant design advantage to eliminate moving parts. For example, gravity is used to perform the ‘return action’ for the latch on the Urban Monks Gate; there are no springs that rust out. The hinge for this gate only has one moving part; a single pivot is designed with three-inch diameter solid stainless steel pin that cantilevers a 700 lb. Gate panel. The mass is a deterrent to impulsive theft. The sustained respect by the community is effective to avoid abuse or vandalism.