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the bird claw fork

I am currently working on a project which focusses on the manipulation and exploration of every day objects.

My object "the fork".

I have chosen the fork as it has an interesting history; despite its ubiquitous place in our culture it had a relatively late adoption in to British tableware,

The fork was not seen in England until the 17th century; it was first brought over from Italy by a man named Thomas Coryate and was quickly adopted by royalty and the rich and fashion conscious, it was seen as a status symbol and a marker of refinement. By

Fig 1 colection of forks foind inantiqu shops) contrast a the other end of society the fork was seen by many as effeminate, unseemly and even ungodly; those who used them were mocked by those who did not, and some clergymen even drew attention to their likeness to the pitch fork held by the devil

My interest was piqued by this everyday object and how it could be capable of causing such a social and religious divide.

during my research in to some of the stigma surrounding this utensil I came across the poet Charles Simic who in the 1960's wrote a series of object inspired poems, one of which was entitled "The Fork"

(fig 2 3D printed bird of pray claw"

The Fork” ~by Charles Simic“

This strange thing must have crept Right out of hell. It resembles a bird’s foot Worn around the cannibal’s neck. As you hold it in your hand, As you stab with it into a piece of meat, It is possible to imagine the rest of the bird: Its head which like your fist Is large, bald, beakless, and blind

Simic's comparison of the forks prongs to the claws of a bird reminded me of the

animosity of the church and there ugly comparisons of the fork.


inspiration and design

Taking inspiration from Simics poem I started looking at how I could bring his words to life I experimented with different ideas.

- Creating sculptural birds using forks (during my research around this idea I came across the American sculptural artist "Gary Hovey" who specialists on large scale metal sculptures using cutlery)

I experimented with this idea on a (fig 3 artist Garry Hovey alongside his art work.) ​smaller scale by gathering a set of

silver forks witch I then manipulated to resemble bird feet. Although I enjoy working with found objects I wanted start from scratch this time taking the idea of the fork in a new direction..

(fig 4 simple bent fork in style of bird claw)


My final design idea was to create a set of fine, but useless forks by casting a set of bird feet. Focusing on the relationship between the utensil and bird claws I reversed my previous ideas. The image on the left is a silicone mold made using a crow’s foot, when set I tested the mold by creating a wax cast,


(fig 5 cilicone mold of claw)

Having been successful I proceeded to replicate the design in pewter a material historically used in table ware by those who could not afford silver (commonly referred to as the poor man's silver). Unlike the

(fig 6 original calw, wax and pewter casts)

traditional mixture of tin and led, I used a newer mixture of tin and bismuth ( a crystal that when mixed with tin displays the same qualitys as lead without the harmful effects.)

As I was using a soft silicon mold the heat of the molten pewter began to damage the silicone (after repeated use) causing the quality of the casting to deteriorate

this meant that later casts produced held less detail and needed more refining.

(fig 7 final pewter cast claws.)

after I finished casting the forks I began designing the handles

I experimented with a couple of materials

including 3D printing (this would allow me to get the exact measurements and fittings for the forks to rest) but aesthetically it would not fit the design.

porcelain slip cast in to a two part mold (this would fit well with the design) unfortunately there was not enough time to create this design. but i will definitely carry this on in the future.


wood (this was the material I chose for the final design) these handles were made from chestnut wood

the design was created free hand on the lathe,

After I was finished on the lathe I sanded of any rough edges and dipped the wood in oil then left it to dry when the oil had soaked in and the wood had dried I added a thin layer of bees wax, both the bees wax and oil were added to condition the wood bringing out the colour of the grain.

(fig 8 finished hand turned handles.) I then measured the base of the cast forks against the tops of the handles drew around the shape, using a small jewelry dremel with a coned drill bit attached I cut out the exact shape of the end of the fork to ensure a snug fit, when finished I added a small amount of Epoxy glue in the holes and attached the two parts leaving them to dry.

(fig 9 drawn plan for fork box)

lastly I needed a display container, this was designed as a simple wooden box mesuring 15x5 cm with a simple slot lid. I then painted the outside gold

and lined with a dark navy blue velvet, lastly I placed the finished forks.

(fig 10 unfinished box durning construction.)

(fig 11 finished forks and box presented for guild exhibition.)


It is now January and I am moving on to the second half of this project, our brief this time is to take our finished item from last term and either reinvent it again or to evolve it in to a better/stronger product, I have chosen to focus on the latter.

hear are some of the changes i am going to focus on making to the bird claw fork

(fig 12 graph showing changes i wanted to make during second half of project.)

lets focus on the handel

nowadays the fork is considered a necessity in western cultures, a common/simplistic tool were low cost and practicality out ways artistic design. but this minimalist design is a resent development,

when first brought to England the fork was seen as an instrmant of fine dining its makers reflecting this in there handle designers often experimenting with different materials and techniques including wood, silver, coral,bone, glass and ceramics. Cutlery was a sign of wealth the more outlandish and extravagant your designs the wealthier and more refined you we seen.

Travel/ storage Case

The second part of the design I wanted to revisit was the case, my initial design was a 15x5 simple wooden box with a fitted slot lid, was a very modern concept acting as storage rather than a travel case,

(fig 13 case design insparation.)

(fig 14 handle designs from the 17th-18th century.)

I experimented with a couple of designs taking my inspiration from traditional handles, I did this by listing first materials and then design and decoration

one of my design ideas for a handle to create a finer more delicate utencle compared to the rather chunky and out of proportion designs of the original.

when first redesigning the handles I considered creating a continual metal column witch morphed in to a bird head bursting forth from the end. (this sketch led me on a slight unsuccessful duck themed detour.)

Duck design experamentation

(fig 15 duck fork design sketch.)

after looking at different case designs from the 17th century , I moved onto creating a smaller easier to transport case, taking inspiration from my research I designed a couple of ideas

in my original design chose a simple box as my container but an other colored glass or porslin jar with a hollow bird head lid (this will be used to identify the type of fork within depending on the birds foot.

(fig 16 duck head container sketches.)

I began by molding the head out of clay (I initially wanted this to be a crow but my ineptitude with clay resulted in a duck) after building the head I set about casting a mold from plaster.

(fig 17 clay duck head for casting plastermold from.) due to the irregular shape of the head the mold had to be built in 3 parts to prevent any under cuts.

(fig 18 casting process of 3 part plaster mold.)

Due to lack of time I was unable to cast the final head in porsalin so I cast it in plaster. i then attached it to the top of the bottle to create the lid.

(fig 19 plaster cast duck head from mold attached to bottle neck.)

when designing the container for the forks to rest in I considered 2 different options slip casting a simple porsalin container and then glazing it (i was running low on time and it was unlikely this would be finished by the end.​​

the second option was to recycling and reperpousing a glass container this was

tricky with the lid already built as i would have to find a container to fit, I was also looking for colored or opaque glass,

(fig 20, 21 sprite bottle for potentule container.)

In the end I found the perfect design ​​in an old glass sprite bottle.

I had the top or the bottle removed to create my container

(fig 22 resist design for sand blast design.)

A resist decal was placed on to the outside and then sand blasted for the desired effect, unfortunately due to an imperfection or small crack when cut the first bottle cracked when placed in the sand blaster,

This meant a new bottle had to be found, cut and sand blasted.

when finished I lined the inside with dark blue material similar to the one that lined the original box

(fig 23 crack caused by imperfection when glass was cut (bottle 1.)

claw casting

unfortunately my original mold had already began deteriorating meaning that the casts produced were rough this meant that i gad to purchase more silicone

(this is the brand I brought)

(fig 24 screen cap of silocon purchace.)

As the head I molded for the lid was a ducks head I intended to include another set of forks

cast from ducks feet (based on ice cream forks popular in the 1800's)​

(Fig 25 Kirk Stieff STIEFF ROSE (STERLING) Ice Cream Fork.)

(these art some of my sketched designs. based on the concept of a duck foot ice cream fork)

(fig 26 duck foot ice cream fork sketch.)

I began looking in to purchasing taxidermy bird feet (these proved to be harder to locate than other birds)

these were the web sites that suplied the feet

i was having trouble locating UK suppliers of taxidermed duck feet online so i began looking for raw supplys (i could dry them myself using a food dehydrator.)

I ordered this quantity but on the day i was to receive the order i instead received this email stating that my order had been cancelled I contacted the company and was informed that there couriers did not deliver packages under 5kg (a declaration left of there order page)

(fig 28 screen cap of email rejection.)

After this setback I began contacting local butchers in the airier including Martins, Jones & Champion unfortunately know one in Plymouth supply raw duck feet.

as i was unable to locate any duck feet i decided to see if i could replicate the effect using toy dinosaur claws, as the silicone had not yet arrived i began by sand casting an imprint of the claw

(fig 29 claw casting pewter.)

unfortunately these casts were unpredictable and inconsistent.

finally the silicone arrived so i began casting them in pewter,

(fig 30 silicone cast mold.)

there was not enough pewter to create 3 fill casts so i created a set of tooth pics from the claws (I have postponed this direction fore the time being I may return to it in a later project)

list of traditional materials

- bone -(During my the carving path research I could not find anywhere to purchase materials online but found out through a web for-room called that most carvers purchase from butchers (the website also stated that the best bone to carve is the shin bone of a cow)

- ivory (now illegal)

(fig 29 screen cap of antler purchase research.)

- silver (suplyers expensive.

(fig 30 silver chips used for casting.)

- pewter -I'd rather not have a full pewter fork as I feel that it would distract from the claw.

- stone -- I would be unsure about creating a full stone handle but many traditional decorative forks were set with semi-precious stones.

(fig 31 18th century calved stone set knife handles.)

-ceramic- I have considered using porcaline for for the handle design and sip-casting my original wooden handle

shapes, but when discussing it with a tutor I was made aware that this may look like a light pull

(fig 32 porsalin handled fork and knife 17th century.)

- gold-far to expensive even if I was to plate pewter the prices were beyond my budget

- carved wood-this was the design for my original forks

- cora -while surten speaces of coral are strong enough to be used all of the species I found online were to brittle.

- glass

-recycled handles- when resurching for this project I collected many different styles of fork, and even a tooth brush (from my previous attempt at casting handles in jesmonite)

(fig 33. 17th century coral handle knife.)


I experimented with a couple of my favorite materials from the list including wood, bark, pewter and the recycled handles. I attached the original fork heads to them to prevent me from wasting the pewter claws

(fig 34 handle experamentation.)


although I did not originally like the idea of a pewter handle when sand cast from a twig the results were quite attractive, although I felt that it was to wide and distracted from the bird claw so did not continue with the design. although it did fit well with an original fork head

(fig 35 sand cast pewter handle.)


from the wood left from my pewter casting I fashioned 2 simple handles, The sections of the branch that I picked both curved slightly witch meant that they sat comfortably in the hand i striped the bark from one to create a thinner handle (this thinner design fit the bird claw as it did not swamp the design) and left the bark on the other for a more natural design (this would look amazing if electroformed.

(fig 36 wodden handles .)

recycled handles

the forks I purchased from the antique shops consisted of varying designs,and metals (including pewter, steel and nickle. etc) I have removed the heads and am attempting to attach the cast claws to the handles

(fig 37 pewter claw atach ment experamentation on to nickle handle.)

I filed a groove in to the pewter so that it sat more comfortably in to the nickle handle I then attached both using a brass bezzle. This was the final design I went with.

design and decoration

from the V&A museum. from top: ivory handle with silver piqué work and red and green painted enamel, 1698; handle of horn and mother-of-pearl

- carving

- enamel

- casting

- paint

- inlay (usually mother of Perl).

- plating

(fig 38 handle insparation for handle decoration / style.)

I decided to keep a simplistic design for the recycled handles as they all held individuate markes or imperfections from previous lives and owners, but when setting the handles together I noticed an issue each fork was comprised of 3 separate metals all of witch were a

(fig 39 copper plating finished forks using pickle.)

different colour this made them look unfinished and poorly designed, due to costing and minimal time I was unable to get them plated, plated at the sam time as another piece of mine (bras) the result was a thin copper coating on all of my metal, the metal that I thought was silver-plated turned out to be full nickle.luckily the answer presented its self to me via a mistake made the previous year when attempting to pickle an object I thought was fully silver

I used this knowledge to coat my fork (to prevent contamination to other students work I removed small amount of liqiude from the pickle in witch to soak the forks. An unexpected outcome to this chemical reaction was the pewter claws turning a dark gray/ black I have chosen to keep this effect as the original claw was from a crow making the design seem more realistic.

(fig 40 final design forks copper plated)

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