by Thomas Hawk
Magnetic Modern Art Forms
Magnets, electromagnets and magnetized objects are being used more and more creatively as a new medium for artistic endeavors. Magnetized elements have the potential to hold their structure and still be mobile. This kind of art form gives the creator the ability to make unique and fluid pieces. It can be as simple as steel balls rolling on a sandy platform to create beautiful repeating wave patterns, or as complex as hundreds of tiny mirrors moved electromagnetically to change their reflection points and create dynamic vibrant images. No matter what the artist chooses to design, proper materials are necessary.
One of the most useful and most commonly found components in magnetic art are steel balls. Common types consist of stainless steel, nickel-plated steel, and chrome steel. None of these three is inherently magnetic, but all of them can be magnetized. The stainless variety has good durability in harsh elemental conditions, but is not rust proof. Chrome steel can rust as well and needs to be kept free of potentially corrosive materials like salt. It also needs to stay dry, and so is not a good choice for outdoor work. Nickel-plated balls are composed of steel, which has been coated in nickel plating. These tend to be brighter in coloring and they are slightly softer than either of the other two. The biggest advantage is that they do not rust but they must also be protected from materials like salt to prevent pitting and corrosion.
Chrome-steel balls are most often used as bearings but they can make good junction points and flex joints in magnetic art sculptures. They are sold in a range of sizes most commonly starting at 1/8 inch and proceeding to a diameter of 1 inch. This is also typical of Stainless steel balls. These are able to take more wear and tear and abrasion then the chrome steel, and are better for long term usage or highly flexed joints. They are also slightly more expensive than their chrome-steel counterparts are. The most expensive choice of the three kinds tends to be the nickel-plated variety. They are very useful for junction points and joints in magnetic sculptures. Nickel plated balls should not be used for load bearing components however, since they do not have the specific hardness that is required. They are also sold in a slightly smaller range of sizes, though different sizes of any of the balls can be custom ordered.
Art is limited only by the creativity of the artist and the imagination of the viewer. This new and beautiful art form is taking scientific principles and simple objects and creating something unique and elegant. Magnetic sculptures and magnetic art represents a modern art form with classical beauty.
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