curious oddities


Curious Clocks: the extraordinary work of Eric Freitas
July 29, 2008, 5:31 pm
Filed under: Steampunk | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I always find myself drawn to those who push beyond the surface, and really dive into the craft that carries their art. Anyone who has seen work by the extremely talented clock builder Eric Freitas will understand why I was compelled to get in touch with him. Eric builds timepieces in his Michigan workshop that are the perfect marriage of delicious aesthetic and hand-built quality.

“In some part I’m making clocks this way to celebrate the mechanics of clocks by making the parts themselves pieces of art.”

Each component is painstakingly designed, cut, contoured and aged by hand. The completed clocks almost always look exactly like the preliminary sketches, which are beautiful on their own.

Eric’s mechanical clocks are especially intriguing as their gears and working parts are exposed. In this world of digital devices, who’s inner workings are a mystery to most, it is a pleasure to see the mechanism- to see how the pieces all work together. They resemble something old and solid, part of our human history, but have been manipulated to appear from a different place or time-not quite our own. Eric was kind enough to answer some questions for me.

Hi Eric, thanks so much for your time, I really appreciate it.

I appreciate the exposure. Thank you!

I share your interest in gears, pulleys and old mechanical systems- what inspired you to focus specifically on clocks?

I have to laugh a little when I get this question, because I’m not sure I always knew. It started as a whim; a simple idea of contradicting the structure often found in timepieces, with forms that were so strange and random that the time was almost unreadable. I created these rusty, gnarled clock faces and used plastic motors to control the hands. Then, half-jokingly, my friend said “you know, what you should do is make the gears and everything, and make them look all gnarled to match the faces”. It was practically a dare. One of those inaccessible ideas that sounds spectacular, but no one ever really follows through with. I think the difficulty of this undertaking was alluring to me. I was just ready for something bigger than the painting I’d done previously, and this idea seemed like it would be worth the hard work. There’s something very inviting, and gravitating about seeing mechanical things at work. I wanted to make these strange, and almost inhuman-looking clocks to really invoke curiosity and astonishment in people.

Clock/watch building has traditionally been taught mostly through apprenticeship, how have you found self-teaching- has it been a big challenge, or are there lots of resources available?

Learning how to machine all of those parts was without question one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Prior to this, I’d only used art supplies, so every little step was foreign to me. Having a teacher certainly would have made the process faster, but looking back I’m very glad I did it myself. There are plenty of books available on clockmaking, and I liked the personal nature of working through all of the problems myself. Just me in my garage, with some machines I didn’t know how to use, and some books I didn’t quite understand yet. I think learning from a traditional clockmaker would have put me in the wrong mindset. I needed to be able to say “why not?”, and not have an answer.

You build both quartz clocks and a mechanical clocks, what is the difference between them? Do you have a preference?

The mechanical clocks are made completely by hand. They’re powered by a weight, and regulated by a pendulum swinging back and forth. The quartz clocks have faces that involve the same kind of style and metalwork, but the hands are turned by a commercial motor. I definitely prefer the mechanical clocks, but I really do love some of the things happening with the quartz ones as well. They’re a great way for me to try different visual things in a very immediate and unrestricted way. Also, there are some designs that are simply better suited for a motorized piece. The integrity of the sketch is what’s most important, so if a design looks cluttered with gears, I won’t use them.

You are being featured in the world’s first steampunk group show, can you tell me a little bit about it- what can we look forward to seeing as your contribution?

On August 16th, at the Hamptons Antique Galleries, an eight day show will begin that’s boldly titled “STEAMPUNK-THE NEW GENRE OF ART+DESIGN”. There have been shows that implied the idea, or sort of danced around the label in the past. I think It’s great that Art Donovan, the curator of the show, is just putting the word out there in big bold letters. He knows this is a hot movement right now, and that a lot of people are curious about it. Part of steampunk is taking the old technology we love so much, and pushing it to new levels that were never achieved because something new replaced it. It’s easy to latch on to this romanticized version of the past, because in today’s world, we’re surrounded by so much plastic and mass production; the soul has been ripped out of the things that we use on a daily basis. This is the aspect of steampunk that I identify with. I’m creating functional objects that are very personal, and have a lot of life in them. For this show, I’ll be including two of my mechanical clocks, No.2 and 3, and my fourth quartz piece. I’ve also got a new one in store for everyone. A quartz clock that incorporates working gears on the face! I’m very excited about this, because it offers a taste of the mechanical clocks, without winding or maintenance.

If you are going to be in New York in August, be sure to head down to the STEAMPUNK-THE NEW GENRE OF ART+DESIGN exhibit.  Now there is a fine excuse for a road trip!

You can view more of Eric Freitas’ work, including sketches and detail shots, on his Flickr pages. His personal website also contains more information about the designing/building process, and regular updates on his projects- the site is beautifully designed and well worth a visit!

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7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I adore the clocks of Eric Frietas!

Comment by stick nymph

[…] I interviewed Eric Freitas back in July, if you missed it, here is the link. […]

Pingback by Eric’s New Clock and updates « curious oddities

Wow… amazing clocks.

Comment by Camille

I LOVE EVERYTHING YOU DO… how do you do it? and where can i get it?!

Laine

Comment by Laine Pearce-Rees

The beautiful clockwork is by craftsman Eric Freitas and he can be reached through his blog:

Comment by curiousoddities

Please tell me where I can purchase one…I must own one of these…they are breathtaking!

Comment by Nicole

For sure! Here is his website.

Comment by curiousoddities




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