Monday, August 19, 2019

2019 CLA Show: Photos

Ken Gahagan, Ian and Maryellen Pratt Display

These firearms were conceived and built by two contemporary artists whose works are inspired by 18th century weapons, iron work , furniture and other aspects of this earlier culture. A myriad of learned skills required to work in these various disciplines were employed to create these unique guns.

It was agreed that each builder would be allowed to work in whatever style he chose , not necessarily following any particular school. Both guns were constructed as composite firearms which often feature elements from multiple regions and time periods. Upon completing the building process, the gunmakers exchanged firearms to be modified and finished in any manner they chose - with the stipulation that each piece would receive a painted finish.
Why Paint ? ... looking into the past, there would seem to be many reasons our ancestors decorated everyday items. These folks were closely tied to the earth and nature. The vast majority were farmers. The objects of their material culture were made of natural substances; home interiors, furniture, utensils, pottery, ironwork, and clothing all took on subdued earth tones. Adding color through the use of painted patterns based on familiar natural elements like flowers, birds and ferns provided great relief in brightening up their surroundings. Certain motifs and styles of rendering served not only as reminders of cultural heritage, but also as a means to pass traditions along to future generations. Dower chests, cupboards, clocks, chairs and other furniture crafted by woodworkers were frequently decorated in this fashion. Potters creating sgrafitto redware, delftware and other forms of decorated pottery applied colored glazes to plates, jars, mugs and a great variety of other objects. Fraktur artists provided families with colorful written records of major events in family history such as births and marriages. 

In our current world where our surroundings are frequently punctuated with or at times dominated by bright colors, the decision to paint these two guns came from a desire to expand the boundaries of our work while simultaneously following the artistic traditions of our forefathers; similar considerations also spurred the unique construction of both pieces.  Attempting to strike a balance between our reverence for the work of the past and our dedication to the creating of new art, our goal was to present pieces that would exhibit a strong 18th century American folk art aesthetic while concurrently pushing the limits of the longrifle's evolution. With an eye on the future and a nod of respect to the past, we would hope that if somehow these folks could see our work they would smile and appreciate that our thoughts and efforts were solidly based upon the wonderful foundation they provided for us.

Gun built by Ken Gahagan, finished by Ian Pratt

By no means a copy of any existing piece, this gun brings together new twists on traditional concepts of gunmaking and decorative techniques. The gun is stocked in the French manner - long and  slender with a curved buttstock like many New England fowling pieces - and It utilizes an old Dutch lock paired to a 52” long . 69 caliber smoothbore trade gun barrel.  Brass furniture includes three ramrod pipes, a rare " winged serpent" form of trade gun side plate, a punchwork decorated buttplate and a most unusual  side opening patchbox with an inventive catch assembly and spring arrangement.  A blacksmith made iron trigger guard which runs the length of the underside of the butt rounds out the list of furnishings. 

The paint scheme is inspired by Dutch Delft designs, particularly those seen on early tobacco jars. There is an underlying "tobacco theme" to this piece ; along with the use of the jar motifs, a stylized rendering of a tobacco plant is painted under the forearm, and the door of the patchbox is a repurposed Dutch tobacco box lid. Certain parts of the stock have been left unpainted  to  provide contrasting color and interesting proportional effects. The underlying wood has been stained , indicating that the paint on this gun could be regarded as a "later addition". 

Barrel by Getz
Lock by Rifle Shoppe with modifications by Ken Gahagan
All Other Parts by Ken Gahagan

Gun built by Ian Pratt, finished by Ken Gahagan

With its remarkably bold painted finish and sweeping stock lines, this gun is a truly unique piece. Drawing many of its architectural elements from American arms in the earliest stages of transitioning from European work, the gun is stocked in a distinctive, previously unseen style with strong yet flowing lines. The multicolored painted designs are inspired by traditional German folk arts including Fraktur art, pottery and painted furniture, the motifs having been adapted and redesigned to perfectly complement the gun's form.  A true composite piece, the gun is built around an early 18th century .62 caliber French trade gun barrel and is fitted with an English dog lock and forged iron trigger guard which would both date to an earlier period than the barrel. A swaged brass buttplate, a wrought iron sideplate of unknown origin and three trade gun style ramrod pipes complete the list of components.

The stock is embellished with German phrases and words -

Edle wahrheit muss besichen (besichern)  -  Noble truth must be secured
Freiheit darf nicht untergehn (untergehen) - Freedom may not be defeated
Gesamtkunstwerk - a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so.

Barrel by Rice Muzzleloading Barrel Co.
Lock by Rifle Shoppe with modifications by Ian Pratt
All other parts by Ian Pratt

Photographed at the 2019 CLA Show by Jan Riser.

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