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CNC Robot at Work on Binkley Public Art Sculptures

I can finally show you how 60% of my public art sculpture project for Vancity Savings Credit Union was done. For the period of production of the two granite sculptures, I was under a Non-Disclosure Agreement with Vancity, as they wanted the project to be a surprise when they were installed. Titled “Perception/Perspective”, the sculptures now grace the entrance to the Chinatown branch of Vancity at the corner of Main and Keefer Streets, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

I originally sketched my proposal in pencil (below left), but when I was short-listed to the semi-final of the competition, I then drew the sculptures in 3D, using a virtual drawing program called ZBrush (below right).

michael binkley sculptor stone sculpture granite commission vancity savings vancouver chinatown

Since the design had identical spheres and a circular pattern on the front of each cube portion that would have been difficult to carve by hand, enlisting the help of an assistant seemed a logical and practical approach. Many stone sculptors down through history have chosen human assistants, and most have been Italian craftsmen called “artigiani.” However, technology has made machine assistants very accessible.

I chose to work with Doratti Studios for my project, and their CNC robot is in the video. It is an Italian machine, so it was almost like hiring a human Italian artigiani! Doratti took my 3D virtual file and converted it to language the robot could understand. The robot then carved away each of the granite blocks into two identical pieces.

Once the machine had carved each identical sculpture for me to the 60% mark, they were shipped to my studio where I completed each piece. I created uniqueness in each in the waves that each sphere appears to float on, the negative spaces cut into each sphere to depict the Yin Yang and Circle of Life symbols, and the engraved graphics of Chinese calligraphy and First Nations spirit animals.

Here are the finished sculptures.

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