Don MacLane Bio:
I have been making objects since childhood. I built toys in our basement woodshop and then, as a teenager, a small sailboat. In high school, I took an evening class with Roger Bolomey who traveled up each week from New York City to teach sculpture.
At Antioch College, I spent two terms working for a cabinetmaker making custom hardwood furniture. I studied sculpture with John Ritterscamp who had been an assistant to George Rickey. John introduced me to welding. Then I spent three terms as a resident sculptor at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art’s Act Workshop working along side sculptors John Weidman, David Philips and Mac Beal. Returning to finish up at Antioch, I made my first kinetic pieces.
On graduating, I continued making kinetic work and studied sculpture with Paul Buckner at the University of Oregon. My welding skills steadily improved and lead to summer employment first making steel buildings then heavy equipment
After completing an MFA at Oregon I returned to Boston to work with the friends from the Act Workshop. I had a small studio shop in New Hampshire and spent summers helping a friend there move and reconstruct old timber frame barns.
After four years on the east coast, I moved back to Oregon and worked as a welder before enrolling in the mechanical engineering program at Portland State University. I alternated between periods of full time study with periods of full time welding. I finally received a BSME and went to work developing color printers for Tektronix then Xerox.
As a student then engineer, I had little time for sculpture but started to play the hammered dulcimer. I began to study the science of musical instruments, finding that their vibrations are remarkable close to the oscillations of my kinetic sculpture. I started making instruments. The first was a hammered dulcimer. I played it nearly daily however it was not very portable. When a work assignment sent me to Japan for weeks at a time, I needed an instrument that I could take with me. An idea to make a hammered dulcimer like instrument with clamped cantilever bars like a thumb piano lead to development of my Hammered Mbira instruments.
I must have made a dozen different versions of the hammered Mbira before early retirement from Xerox allowed me time to make both sculpture and instruments full time. All the years as a welder, engineering student and engineer provided skills and knowledge useful for making instruments and kinetic sculpture. Over that time I had built up a well-equipped studio. Retiring from Xerox in 2006, I picked up making kinetic sculpture right where I left off years earlier.
You can watch an interview made for Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Oregon Art Beat:
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Sculptor & Luthier, Portland, Oregon, 2006 to present
Mechanical engineer: design and development of color printers, for Tektronix and Xerox, Wilsonville, OR 1984-2006
BSME, Portland State University, Portland, OR, 1984
Steel fabricator and engineering student, Oregon, 1979-84
Blacksmithing and timber frame construction, Harrisville, NH,1975-78
Member, Sculptor’s Workshop, Somerville, MA, 1974
MFA, Sculpture, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, 1973
BA, Sculpture, Antioch College, Yellow Springs, OH, 1971
Artist in residence, ACT Workshop, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA, 1970
Apprentice to Simon Watts, Cabinetmaker, Putney, VT, 1968