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WaterShapes LogotypeEric Herman

Sometimes the simplest ideas shine the most brilliantly.

Take water, for example: For all the complexity of “shaping” it with hydraulics, chemistry, structural engineering and dealing with the hard-line issues of technology and craft, it’s the hypnotic, aesthetic and even spiritual qualities of the material that ultimately turn watershaping into art.

Watershapers aren’t alone in pursuing those qualities, as great artists and creative minds have always used nature as a primary source of inspiration. One might even say that the endless variety, subtlety and surprises found in natural materials and settings couldn’t be conjured by the human mind without nature’s being there as a guide.

In that sense, true creativity comes from allowing the natural world to inspire and incite – an interaction that takes many forms, as can be seen in two features in this issue of WaterShapes. As can further be seen, the form in which that inspiration materializes and the observation of nature influences art can come from near-opposite perspectives.

Let’s start with “Primitive Modern” by Roger Hopkins: Here we take a peek into the work, philosophy and wry humor of one the most inventive stone sculptors working today – a tremendously talented guy who creates his rugged fountains and sculptures in the desert heart of California’s Coachella Valley (click here). Some of his works involve water, others don’t, but all are fascinating examples of how natural observation may be used to drive design.

It bears mentioning that Hopkins is something of a celebrity, having appeared on three episodes of the PBS nature/science series “Nova” as one among a cadre of artists, archaeologists and historians who have tried to figure out how the Egyptians raised their massive stone obelisks and built the pyramids. His current “day job” has him applying the grand traditions of stone sculpting to create uniquely abstract works of organic art – a form defined almost entirely by his appreciation for the interactions of light, stone and water.

On the far extreme of the natural world (but in a fascinatingly similar vein), there’s “The Dance of Light” by David Knox (click here). The author spent many years in researching and developing new lasers for industrial applications, but these days his firm is engaged in manufacturing a wonderfully intriguing form of glass tile.

In this discussion, Knox describes how he uses his refined awareness of the properties of light to create his intensely subtle products, then broadens the coverage to demonstrate how these same principles are in play in every watershape and indeed in just about every visually creative pursuit in which human beings engage.

If this all sounds heavy, what amazes me is how warm and entertaining these discussions are while making serious points about nature, art and artists. These are men who know how to communicate complex concepts with an ease and persuasiveness that is both disarming and, in my opinion, thoroughly enjoyable.

In both cases, the prime lesson we can take away from their stories is that by learning to “see” the world around us in new and different ways, we are empowered to uncover great works of beauty on our own.

It’s inspiring stuff – enjoy!

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