We’ve featured Michael Grab‘s work in the Friday Smackdown before, but we wanted to take a closer look at his process and share more of his work. At the very least, his work is inspirational. At most, it could provide ideas about how you approach your own design problem.
Michael is a balance artist – a practitioner of a special kind of art that involves balancing objects in such a way that they form complex and seemingly impossible arrangements. Michael specializes in stone balancing, building rock sculptures that are absolutely gravity-defying:
How Does Stone Balancing Work?
To create the structures and balance rocks, Michael doesn’t use any kind of adhesive. The only thing holding them together is his attention to detail and the laws of gravity. According to Michael, the process is more complicated than the structure themselves. You need:
1. On-the-fly problem-solving skills
2. Steady hands
3. A whole heap of patience
With this, there is a key aspect to balancing objects with irregular surfaces that are completely different from one to another. For stone balancing to work, it takes finding the right number of contact points and complementary surfaces.
Most solid balance points are the result of two surfaces coming together, ideally one concave and one convex, so the two rocks essentially hug one another via 3 (minimum) contact points per balance point.
finding balance points to work with is another huge dimension of the creative process that goes mostly under the radar in photographs. the natural shapes of the rocks are really the only limitation i have to work with.
one of the most useful points of advice i’ve encountered thus far for advancing skill was a bit from Bill Dan a few years ago. once you finish a creation, spend some time looking at it. from as many angles as possible. then take it apart and build it again with a slight complication (more rocks, smaller balance points, counterbalancing, etc).
To do this however, you need to slow down your breathing, concentrate, and take your time – much like yoga (or a very tense game of Jenga). In fact, Michael considers the whole process, from conceptualizing the sculpture to making the video, as his yoga practice. You may not get it the first try (or maybe even the fiftieth), but he says the journey is way more rewarding than the finished product.