The artist in his studio at The Mills at Salmon Falls, New Hampshire

The artist in his studio at The Mills at Salmon Falls, New Hampshire

About the artist

David Random graduated in 1969 with a Fine Arts degree from The Massachusetts College of Art. A resident of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, he has spent many years combining antique and vintage re-purposed artifacts to create what he calls "Retro-Rockets." His fascination with the fantasy airships of Jules Verne and Flash Gordon have given him the nickname "Rocket Man." His creations have been widely displayed in museums and galleries in many states, and were the inspiration for the award-winning film "Rocketship," which has played in theaters from coast to coast, and was also featured on Virgin Airways in-flight movies. (The entire 15-minute film may be viewed online at Click on "Vimeo" and enlarge to full frame.)

RE-PURPOSED ARTIFACTS: Reclaimed from antique and vintage mechanical and architectural parts, my creations evolved after years of collecting. From heating grates and lawn sprinklers to kitchen utensils, I collected them because I enjoyed the detail designed into something so utilitarian. Eventually, I realized that many of the pieces seemed to fit together almost as if they’d been made to. That’s when things took off. My “Antique Airships” and “Retro Rockets” have been an evolution of this process of fanciful combinations.

Combining parts requires special attention to the details of conformity. If a piece includes a lot of beautifully tarnished brass, you can’t just throw in a piece of chrome, even if the shape is right. That same sensibility does not permit a component from the 1940s to be used in combination with one from the 1890s. The whole credibility of a finished piece would be suspect with that type of inconsistency. These aren’t supposed to look like patchwork quilts. They must have an integrity that allows one’s imagination to see them as something designed and made with a single aesthetic and purpose. And when components need to be fastened by means of screws or bolts I go to my stash of salvaged fasteners. It would destroy the effect of a finished piece to use new hardware, no matter how inconspicuous.

A FEW WORDS ABOUT WELDING: I don’t do it. Welding forces pieces together that do not naturally join. I like to use pieces that fit together as if they had been made for each other. That’s why pieces can take so long to create. In some cases I may wait a year or longer for the right artifact to turn up at an antique shop or flea market.

AN ARTIST'S PERSPECTIVE: Look at almost anything designed a century ago. It has a sense of aesthetics that transcends its function. Compare a toaster made in 1922, for example, with a new one. They both make the same toast, but the old one does it with style. Its metal sides aren’t just straight and smooth. They are embellished with incised designs of flowery and geometric motifs. The control knobs do not have the blank stare of today’s. They are embossed with details and shapes that make a beautiful statement on their own. But yesterday’s frills and flourishes disappeared with the last automobile tail fins when we were forced to embrace a more generic and unimaginative standard of beauty. It’s this sense of embellishment from an earlier age that attracts me. When artists at the beginning of the last century envisioned space travel, it was with an aesthetic flourish that often defied aerodynamics. That’s what I like about it. It made room for an artistic sense that today seems to get in the way. So when I design my fantasy sculptures, it is with a nod to the early artists who went into space long before any scientist did. It is with a flourish and often a whimsical eye. And, yes, it is with a tiny, imaginary me aboard, hurdling through space thinking, “Now I’m flying in style.”