Local Metal Fabricator Helps Build Huge, Funky Sculpture in New York City

Next time you sigh in line at a CVS because your girlfriend wants flowers, be thankful. It could have been worse. I mean, what if she wanted this thing?

Just look at it. How does that happen? What kind of insane genie do you have to rub to make that thing appear? Where would you have to rub said genie?

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The Sculpture Committee of the Fund for Park Avenue, along with New York's Department of Parks and Recreation, wanted this installation, called "Paper Chase." The agencies rubber-stamped a proposal from sculptor Alice Aycock to create this piece and put it smack dab on Park Avenue, between 52nd and 66th in New York City. For help building it, she came to a small metal fabrication shop in Fort Lauderdale.

That shop is EES Design, and its founder, Eric Small, and head CAD (Computer-aided design) designer, James Vandernoot, tackled the project eagerly.

Eric Small first met Alice when his previous company worked with her on a water sculpture in Central Broward Regional Park & Stadium. He must have said something right, because when Aycock started her Park Avenue project, she thought of Small.

Small left that company soon after, and started saving money to open up his own shop. He eventually did just that, and opened EES Design on 206 SW 16 Court, right next to Broward General. His friend and first real employee, James Vandernoot, joined him a couple years later.

"It went from being one guy in a garage, and now we have employees, payroll, and all this other stuff," Vandernoot says.

By the time Aycock contacted them about Paper Chase, they had the space and equipment necessary to say yes.

Vandernoot, who graduated from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in 2007, says EES Design's ability to process the art on a computer really changed the way Alice worked.

"We were like, yeah, we can do this on a computer -- all this stuff that you've been doing by hand," Vandernoot says. "It really expanded her mind in terms of what she can build with the artwork."

"If you Google her stuff," Vandernoot says, "you'll notice that the Paper Chase is a lot more advanced and a lot more complex than some of her earlier work, because the earlier work was all done by hand. Now we can make really big stuff -- really complex stuff -- and we can guarantee that it will all go together."

Aycock's goal with Paper Chase was to capture the random energy of New York City. "The notion is that there is this big wind that moves up and down the avenue, and that it makes the forms or blows the forms and leaves it in its wake," she told the New York Times.

The installation cost over $1 million, and was mostly funded by Aycock's Berlin-based art dealer, Galerie Thomas Schulte.

Aycock sent EES initial sketches of the sculptures, and, from there, Vandernoot says it was a collaborative effort. But despite the fanciness of this particular project, it was really just another day at the office for Vandernoot and Small.

The two are used to doing ordinary metal fabrication work. "Locally we just do a bunch of simple metal parts," Vandernoot says. He recalls a recent order of filter brackets that EES had to make. The production process between the brackets and the Paper Chase sculptures really wasn't all that different.

"In reality, what we did with the sculpture is no different than what we do on a day to day basis. It's just a lot less straight lines and a lot larger scale," Vandernoot says.

In all, there are seven different sculptures in Paper Chase, and EES Design built four of them.

The whole process started in 2012, and is just now getting finished, but Vandernoot and Small hope that EES Design is just getting started.

"We want to start making our own stuff, building stuff of our own creation, our own design," Vandernoot says.

Here are some more pictures of EES Design's Paper Chase sculptures.

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