Falls Park, Artisphere, Saturday Market. These are but a few of the nearly 300 words and phrases cut into the surface of The Spindle, the new stainless-steel sculpture installed in the Village of West Greenville’s plaza to commemorate Artisphere’s 15th anniversary. Designed by artist Blessing Hancock, who is currently based in the Seattle area, Spindle is the first commissioned Artisphere sculpture to be located outside of downtown Greenville.
At 21-feet tall, including its base, the abstract cotton spindle speaks to the culture of West Greenville. “In looking at some of the history of West Greenville, I became interested in the Brandon Mill, which you have kind of a catty-corner view of from the plaza,” Hancock explains. “The sculpture reflects the textile heritage of the area and how that has informed what the neighborhood has become.” The spindle itself is a historic reference to the textile heritage of West Greenville, while the contemporary voice appears on its surface in a jumble of positive words, with an emphasis on Artisphere and local place names. Like most of her pieces, The Spindle incorporates color-changing LED lights, which cast shadows of the words onto the plaza at night.
Hancock, who grew up in Tucson, Arizona, has always been interested in three-dimensional art. “From an early age, it was all about solving puzzles and putting pieces together. I really enjoy math and science, but as I got to college, I realized I wanted something more abstract. Art is about defining a sense of place for me. I do these site-specific sculptures to try to tune into local communities and create a voice for that particular place. So my pieces are all a response to their location.”
After submitting her design, which she drew on the computer using a 3-D modeling program, and winning the commission, Blessing collected all of the text for the sculpture from locals who visited her booth at Artisphere last year. This type of community engagement is an integral part of her process. “If I get a commission for a specific place, I want it to be about that place and those people,” says the modest sculptor, who has worked all over the world. “As an artist, I’m not that comfortable with a lot of attention. But there’s also a side of me that really wants to engage with people, to make sure they’re heard. When it comes to accolades, it’s not about me, it’s about those people who were involved, and it’s about the work.”
Most of her sculpture is in metal or polycarbonate, materials that withstand the rigors of weather and human interaction. “I like curves,” she says. “I like soft, big, round volumes of form. I like sculptures to feel really friendly; that’s what draws me to them.” When she started Skyrim Studio in 2008, she was fabricating and welding her own pieces, but the scale of her work quickly outgrew her capabilities. Now she hires a team of subcontractors to engineer, fabricate, and install the sculptures she designs. At any given time, she might be juggling 7 to 10 different projects.
Hancock hopes Greenvillians will truly experience her sculpture, and in so doing, connect with their community. “I’d like to see people visit The Spindle and remember some of the language they contributed,” says Hancock, who currently counts more than 40 installations throughout the United States and abroad. “I’d like people to take away a connection that they didn’t think was possible—a connection to art in general. Maybe they’re walking by in the early morning and they happen to catch a view of it, and they didn’t realize it was there. They might catch a word or a phrase on the surface of The Spindle, and that sticks with them during the day, and they bring their family back in the evening to see it change color. It’s something unusual and unexpected that changes your day-to-day experience.”
See more of Blessing Hancock’s work at blessinghancock.com. Portrait of Blessing by Paul Mehaffey, photograph of sculpture by Eli Warren