Don Dougan  sculptor
recent works: the ladder pieces
Recently a longtime friend of mine, Donna Pickens (who is also a sculptor) and I were sitting in her new living room talking about tables, and how she needed to replace the little one she had in front of the couch with something better.   Because Donna has done a number of sculptures about ladders (in cast iron, fluorescent, and neon to name a few versions), I immediately thought she needed to do something with the the ladder imagery.  When she said something about not having enough time, I said I had an idea for a table with ladders . . .  but that it was very nebulous and I'd need to work it out.  She said OK, but added the "table needs to be round."  
I went home and started playing with some ideas first in my head (and a few quick lines in my sketchbook) and thereafter in maquette form.  The table idea was in many ways a modification of an idea I had for a landscape sculpture begun years before but never completed.    
The two maquettes I ended-up making for the table ideas took form over a period of several weeks.  There was much back-burner thinking time between work sessions while I also worked on another project.  This other project also involved a maquette for a two-meter tall marble sculpture in a carving symposium for which I had been invited to enter a design.  I should mention here that it is very rare for me to work from sketches or maquettes — I generally find it much easier to simply dive right into the material and work out the details as I carve and assemble.  Though I find the necessary frame of mind (of having to work in maquette form) rather limiting, in this particular case it was necessary to work out my ideas for the round table before moving to full scale.
When making the maquettes I quickly found the ladder-making to be the most tedious and time consuming part of the process, so after the first couple of custom-size ladders I decided to make some ladders-by-the-foot at the same scale.  These long ladders could could then be cut to size for each maquette as needed.
However, after the second ladder-table maquette I decided that making more models would be counterproductive, which left me with several already-manufactured ladders.  My mind could not let go of the the ladders however, so . . .
Genesis Of An Idea
Necessary Frame Of Mind
Parts of the unfinished limestone landscape I had started working on years ago still sit outside my studio.  The bottomside-sawn/topside-rough slabs of stone were going to be layered one-above-the-other with a series of metal ladders forming the structure between the three layers.  The slabs are all cut into rectangles, with an opening or two cut through the stone from top to bottom through which the ladders would pass. 
By The Foot
brass, slate
4" high x 6" wide
brass, limestone
4" high x 6" wide
slate, limestone, cold & hot-worked glass, brass, copper, wood, travertine, tooth, bone
36½" high x  7½" x 4½"
left: view of the top quarter of piece shows
slate, limestone, cold & hot-worked glass,
brass and copper

  below: the lower half of the piece showing
  slate, limestone, travertine, tooth, wood, brass                      and copper

I added several found elements that had been stored in a drawer in the studio for several years — an unidentified carnivore's tooth purchased in a Paris flea market, a small wishbone found under a park bench, a wooden-threaded knob from an antique woodworking tool found amongst thick cobwebs in a basement of a 12th century building in Italy, a couple of iridescent blue marbles purchased from a little toy shop.

Though I knew I wanted to use glass
at the top of the design, the form
the glass would take evolved and
changed over the six or seven
weeks it took to complete the work.

When I finally settled on the idea of using the fused glass grid with the marbles the final assembly work went fairly quickly.
. . . I used the ladders in a slate wall piece on which I had already begun work.
To accommodate the ladders I cut and fitted protruding limestone shelves.
showing the brass and copper ladders with a dark patina against the slate and limestone
As usual, finding the right title for the piece took some effort after the physical labor was complete.   For me the titling process is when I figure out where my intuition has led me in the process/journey of making.  The title is the the key to that personal metaphor.

Climbing Heavenwards was the working title — what I called the piece during the weeks I worked on it — but that title didn't really fit quite right after the final resolution of the glass elements.
As always, the key to my own understanding of the piece begins with the materials and the forms which they take.  Add to that the imagery, then factor in all the spatial and material relationships between the elements and I begin to understand where my intuition took me this time.  And, just as the table maquette 'left-over' materials led to this piece, the glass grid and the idea of ladders led me to the next piece: FROM THE THE WAVES TO THE MOON