Justin Gershenson-Gates composes steampunk insects out of the glass, gears and other discarded bits of machinery rescued from "dead old watches." On top of invertebrates, he also makes intricate accessories, fantasy creatures and jewelry out of clockwork parts. "My biggest influence would have to be my father and grandfather," Gershenson-Gates tells The Verge. "Through them, I had found a real love for gears and industrial equipment, and I wanted to show the beauty that I saw in these parts to others."
The Georgia-born artist, who had been making skeleton-hand pendants previously, first became inspired to create mechanical bugs after encountering a house spider on the beach. It quickly dawned upon him that the techniques used to make the pendants could be re-purposed for spider legs. "Everything just kind of fell together. After that, I began experimenting with other bugs, like dragonflies, butterflies, a mantis, and eventually a scorpion."
Gershenson-Gates generally begins each new piece with a roundabout idea of what he's hoping to accomplish. However, he also leaves room for it to "create itself." Because of this, Gershenson-Gates says he has seen grasshoppers morph into dinosaurs and spiders turn into gorillas. All of his pieces are completed in a single sitting. According to Gershenson-Gates, a scorpion can take anywhere between a grueling eight to 12 hours to finish.
"I can never leave something unfinished," he confesses. "I'll lose sleep if something is lying around without being completed."
In addition to custom orders, Gershenson-Gates is also developing prototypes for new sculptures. He wants to give his sculptures some degree of flexibility — even though finding or creating hinges measuring just 1/16th of an inch can be challenging. "To be stagnant and doing the same thing over and over would just kill me," he says.
The creative force behind A Mechanical Mind says that when he thinks of success, he thinks of talking to his ten-year-old self and "wondering what would be cool for him to be when he grows up."
"I remember saying that I wanted to be an artist/heart surgeon, so at least he'd be pretty happy with half of that equation. I don't want to ever let him down."