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W.Va. artist makes sharp piece

ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY MAY 5 AND THEREAFTER In this Monday April 23, 2013 photo Nitro artist Nik Botkin displays a Saber Hawk sculpture that he created using 1,025 pieces of secondhand silverware and two ball bearings at his studio in Charleston, He chronicled the bird’s creation on the Facebook page of his Apartment Earth art studio. (AP Photo/Charleston Daily Mail, Paul Fallon)

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By Charleston Daily Mail
Saturday, May 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nik Botkin put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into his newest creation — a 36-pound red- tailed hawk made of kitchen utensils such as knives, spoons, forks, nutcrackers, nutpicks and even an ice cream scoop.

It was the knives — the hawk's wing feathers — that drew the blood.

“I got cut like 10 times,” said Botkin, 35, of Nitro.

He welded and hammered together the piece, which he has named the Saber Hawk, during about two months. The process took him on a personal journey through inception, creation, frustration and, finally, accomplishment.

Botkin said he had to custom cut each individual spoon handle used in the hawk's wing and bend them one at a time, he said.

This part of the process was the most time-consuming and emotionally draining, Botkin said.

Saber Hawk made its public debut on April 18 in Botkin's studio, Apartment Earth, during ArtWalk in downtown Charleston.

But that was not the first day the hawk was seen: Botkin had chronicled its journey on Facebook.

He posted pictures of himself making the armature from a 22-foot rod and of turning the utensils into the bird of prey.

“I posted everything — the good and the bad,” he said.

He used Facebook to document his artistic journey as well as the process of craftsmanship.

“I don't know if this is a universal thing for sculptors, but to me, the process is the most interesting part,” he said. “To me, the process is kind of more important than the finished product.”

Halfway through, Botkin had yet to identify what he would use for talons. He took the piece to his grandfather, Edward Botkin of Nitro.

Edward, an artist, had put Botkin on a creative path in life.

The elder Botkin would hold his grandson on his lap as the youngster doodled. The grandfather then would turn the doodles into a sketch.

His grandfather had a helpful idea for the hawk.

“He asked what I was going to do for the feet,” Nik said.

When he said he wasn't sure, Edward got out Nik's grandmother Mida's antique nut picks. He had eight, a number that worked perfectly for the talons.

Nik's grandmother died about two years ago, and although he was reluctant to use her antiques in the piece, he and his grandfather eventually concluded that would be Mida's contribution to the project.

“She was always fascinated with our art,” Nik said.

His next project might be a small mammal such as a rabbit, he said.

“My ultimate goal is to make a life-sized mountain lion.”

He wanted to start with the hawk because of what it represented, he said.

“When I started, I was thinking about freedom a lot,” Botkin said. “That's what the hawk represents.”

The hawk is for sale, but Botkin didn't want to quote a price. Anyone interested in following his work can do so by “liking” his studio's Facebook page — Apartment Earth.

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