Studio Art Student Uses CREATE! Micro-Grant Funds to Produce Sculpture of Balisong Knife

As a 2022 CREATE! Micro-Grant recipient, Ryan Freund, a junior majoring in Studio Art, produced a sculpture featuring a single, manipulated Balisong knife. Titled Intersection, Freund utilized the knife’s four handle scales to complete the piece.

“I find flipping Balisong knives to be very beautiful and have been doing it since I was 13 years old,” Freund said. “Their handles are used as a form of protection and represent safety from the blade. In my metaphor, the blade is COVID and the systems of infrastructure can be represented by the handles.”

Two side-by-side photos of an individual wearing a welding helmet and safety gloves while welding handle scales.
Ryan Freund, a junior majoring in Studio Art, welds handle scales for his CREATE! Micro-Grant art piece.

A Balisong knife is a pocketknife native to the Philippines. It features two handles that unfold to reveal a hidden blade concealed within their grooves.

Intersection is representative of the systems of infrastructure that allowed society to keep moving during COVID,” he said. “The sculpture addresses the sentiment that these systems allowed us to find unity and growth through separation, yet it also addresses the collision of these systems through the intertwining of form.” 

A small standing sculpture of four metal handle scales interlocking at an intersection.
Ryan Freund’s art piece, titled Intersection, features four interlocking handle scales from a single Balisong knife.

Freund used a pair of specifically designed screwdriver bits to detach the four screws making up the hardware of the knife by turning them in opposite directions on both sides of the handles at once. Taking off the four handle scales next, he then wove them together into a pyramid shape with an overhang at the top to produce one stable yet chaotic form.

“My form is representative of the growth and balance of a community, as the legs of the prism are separated and only united toward the top, but dependent on each other,” he said. “It also speaks to the growth after the pandemic, as each handle pokes through and surpasses the point of intersection.”

“With my art, I hope to speak for my communities and for myself and encourage all to grow and learn to be better in any way they can.” 

Ryan Freund

Working instinctively, Freund began the sculpture over the summer before finalizing it in the fall.

“Taking apart the knife and dry fitting the pieces took about an hour and a half, then I welded it together in the early fall, which ended up taking about an hour and half in total as well,” he said. “Overall, the sculpture took me about three hours from start to finish.”

With a concentration in Sculpture, Freund prefers to use metal to compose his work.

A portrait of a smiling young man with curly blond hair.
Ryan Freund

“I came to the conclusion that all of my separate hobbies are united by a single commonality: metal interest, or more specifically, the implementation of metal parts within the tools of each practice,” he said. “The thing that inspires my practice the most is metal utilitarianism, graffiti, and the nature that grows through and around these stable structures.”

Offered by MSU’s College of Arts & Letters and supported by the MSU Federal Credit Union and funders from across the University, the CREATE! Micro-Grant initiative is facilitated by the Dean’s Arts Advisory Council (DAAC) to help student artists explore the issues of their generation. Unlike most awards given to students at MSU, the initiative invests in the pure potential of a student’s vision, rather than in the end-product.  

“With my art,” Freund said, “I hope to speak for my communities and for myself and encourage all to grow and learn to be better in any way they can.” 

Written by Kseniya Lukiy