Baran Mickle

Bill Baran Mickle Metalsmith 98110
Ca: 1988. Nickle silver, brass, glass marbles, carved and painted wood.

The centerpiece is the nickel silver “teapot” form based on the Alessi Teapot. It is a spiral. The bird echoes that on the whistle element of that teapot. Then the pot starts remarking on the history of art. The spout is a cubist rendition, fractured and tilted. The flock of birds flying under the wood frame represents the “gift” of art as recognized and “understood” for special people to be called artists in the Renaissance Period [see: Giotto]. The bird sitting on the outside base frame, facing in but not “in”, is a Northwest Native American styled figure. This is personal as I had …. And had finally learned of the treatment of the “American Indian” as project assistant in a Title 8 program where I taught the arts of three Indigenous Tribes of Turtle Island per year to high school students. I was the only non-native American instructor. Under lead teacher Rowina Jacobs, I learned so much. The marbles and pyramid forms reflect various mystical theories of art and life, which, growing up in the late 60’s California, I found somewhat attractive to contemplate.
This sculpture was born of frustration, aimed at The Alessi Company, Italy. They began a series of architect designed “Coffee and Tea Piazza” collections made in sterling silver. Michael Graves designed one of these, in 1983, and subsequently designed “The 9093 Kettle” in 1985. This steel form became the ubiquitous teapot marketed worldwide. The original series had employed a workshop of silversmiths in Italy to make them. At the time I was training to be a silversmith. That was one of my dreams. I had enrolled to learn the practice from world renowned model- maker for Georg Jenson, Hans Christensen of Denmark, who was teaching at the School for American Craftsmen, under the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. I realized I could not compete. So, I deconstructed the famous Kettle.
I entered this sculpture into an exhibition in Portland, Oregon in 1990. It drew the ire of a reviewer as a blasphemous and outrageous attack on the Kettle. Read the review here: [1990 “New Generation Metals,” The Oregonian, Portland, OR]

Adding to the difficulty to become a silversmith was the famous “cornering of the silver market” by the Hunt brothers of Texas over the December holiday period of 1980/81. This was when the price of an ounce of silver went from $5 to $50 nearly overnight. I had been in the prestigious annual National Student Sterling Silver Competition in 1979 held at the Lever House in New York City. It was the rare competition where the organizers paid the accepted silversmiths…. per ounce of their entry! The competition soon died after the Hunt Brother’s antics.

Rhodes Update to 1989

Rhodes Update
1989. Copper, brass, nickel-silver, wood, paint, dyes.
Based on a sterling silver water pitcher (#432A) by Johan Rhodes for Georg Jensen of 1945. This pitcher is another iconic form from mid-20th century. As a student of Hans Christensen, a former model-maker for Georg Jensen, these vessels, their style and clean surfaces, were key important Scandinavian Modern Design . In my ultimate rejection of the practice and style for my own practice, I overlaid the “current” or “contemporary” stylings of the day: heavy/rough surfaces, spirals and squiggles, colorful touches, and ultimately the pedestal and the fractured framing.

Successful Season

A Successful Season (A memorial artwork). Ca: 1984. 20 x 16 x 5 inches
I completed my MFA in 1981(signed off officially 1982) from RIT/School for American Craftsman. Half my studies were under Hans Christensen for silversmithing. A year after I graduated, I worked as an Instructor in the Metals Department teaching Continuing Education (electives) courses. I taught for there for 3 years. Toward the end of my time there, Hans was killed in a snow related road accident not far from the school. I created this double-sided sculpture based on that accident and loss, to me as a mentor and to the field as a world-renowned talent lost too soon. Iconography: Based on Model 992, “The Pregnant Duck,” that Henning Koppel designed for Georg Jensen in 1952.It was one of the quintessential Scandinavian designs of the time. It was my understanding that my professor, Hans Christensen, was a model maker for Georg Jensen at the time and worked creating the original vessels like this one. I created its form in relief but having been run over, broken, on a sort of landscape. This was used as imagery on the plexiglass itself. In the corner is a photo of Professor Christensen. The reverse used the shadow of the vessel’s form to contain historic images of master silversmiths of the mid 20th century.

Untitled Coffee Cups

Untitled (Coffee Cups) 1996 9 x 14 x 9.25 inches. Brass, copper, paint (wood underbase)
This is an icon-update of the famous sculpture of two beer cans by Jasper Johns. The ale cans were most likely ubiquitous at the time, certainly with John’s himself. At the time of my sculpture, the most ubiquitous drink container in my view was the take-away coffee cup for lattes, Americanos, etc. In addition, I made them in a ridiculously large size, I thought, to call attention to the excessive cup sizes of the day. However, I was soon outsized in America’s demand for consumption, and my ridiculous size was simply more of a “large.”

Homage to Two Guys Who Changed the World a Lot

Ca: 2005. 9 x 24 x 24 inches. Brass, copper, nickel-silver, archival paper, colored pencil, aluminum frame.
This work is based on the two important artisits, examples below, Dale Chihuly and Frank Stella.
Dale Chihuly, Glass forms stacked.
Frank Stella, painting ca. 1961

Wedding Vanitas

I created this wall relief as a means to propose marriage to my “significant other.” With the help of one of my sons, as advisor, I had asked a dear friend to design and make our rings. Ann Marie Montecuello of Healdsburg, CA, made the engagement ring first, pictured here.

I enlisted a friend and photographer, Marilynn Gotleib, to help me transfer a photograph of Michael Foucaut’s XXXXX print [from the XXXX] to my metal background. This was to bring in my future spouse’s academic background ….. I then added a formed and fabricated French symbol of the Fleur de lis, again reflecting her love of French Culture [literature PHD, lived in France, Professor for university and high school levels, etc]. This symbol became a “vase of sorts” holding flowers favorite to one and both of us. Along the bottom was a patch of California “ice plant” which I, as a youth, played with, throwing it at my brothers, etc.

However, on the right and the left sides of ice plant, I created a drawer of sorts that pull out, each holding a ring. As I presented the wall relief as a gift to her, I then revealed the drawer and its contents and asked her to marry me.

Scroll to Top