Monday, November 24, 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes!

Well, first of all -- here are those natches I neglected to gouge into the first piece before the second pour, in case you were confused before. The second pour went great, and now my mold is drying in the oven. The oven isn't on, it's just a drier place than the cold garage -- I just have to remember that it's in there before turning on preheat! Oh, the stink of those rubber bands could put me off Thanksgiving altogether! And again, the plugs worked perfectly! Buck-a-wah!

I have to restore the original clay (it got damaged demolding it), and then pour a rubber master mold of it. Now I should have done that before casting the plaster mold, but I'm pressed for time with Christmas around the corner, and the plaster needs to dry before I can cast from it. This way I can make minor changes, too, to ease production and to make the castings from this mold special in their rarity (a plaster cast will yield only about 30 castings).

Anyhoo -- onto the real subject of this was bound to happen. I could watch it creep up each year, really. Like a train wreck in slow motion -- I ran out of shelf space for my books! Some people collect baseball cards. Some people collect bottle caps. Some people even collect rubber bands. I collect horse picture books and equine anatomy books. It's like an addiction. My friend, Tina, gave me a joke gift -- a teeensy tiny miniature horse book, about 1 x 1 inches, because, she told me, that even though I seem to have every horse book ever printed, I certainly do not have this one! And well...she was right! I should belong to Horse Book Anonymous. "Hi, I'm Sarah, and I'm a horse bookaholic,"....Hi, Sarah." One would think, "
Geez, ya weirdo, do you really need all those books?" And my answer is, "Heck yeah!"

I truly use each and every one in some fashion, at some point. Aside from the inspiration, each image offers a different insight into the movement, physics, spirit and anatomy of this beautiful animal, and also a new take on the human perception of him, too. Likewise, each anatomy book has a different perspective, or some fascinating morsel of information the others lack -- no anatomy book can be taken at face value, or regarded in seclusion. I have reams of horse magazine and calendar clippings organized into binders according to motion that I'm constantly using for reference, as well. Besides hours of life study, these things are an essential supplement to anatomy books because, we have to remember, anatomy books are depictions of dead horses! An artist needs to be well-versed not only in anatomy, but in the eccentric nature of the flesh and physics, the play of motion and emotion, the energy of the moment and immediacy, and the profundity and soul of the individual, otherwise she risks a kind of lifeless sculptural formula that seems to sap all that is sublime and energizing about this animal. But when your shelves are stacked disasters, being able to access these resources becomes, well, tiresome.

So we took a trip to an office supply store on Saturday for a bigger, taller bookshelf for my picture books, and Hubby put it together that night (what a trooper!). Now, you know when you start something, and about a quarter of the way through, you realize that what you thought was a "quickie chore" is actually a waaaaay bigger project than you anticipated? After the 8th load of lead-like books piled onto the bed, I realized, "Crimony! I'm going to be at this all day!" And so it was -- load after load of books and binders were piled on our bed, so heavy I thought it would snap through the floor boards!

It didn't end there, though. I decided (of course) to rearrange my studio somewhat so I could use that discarded shelf in the studio rather than moving it into the storage barn, which meant pulling everything out and on top of of all my cabinets and shelves (of course), cleaning them, moving things around, and then piling everything back in. It didn't end there, however! I decided I needed to clean my entire studio, too. It was like a car out of "park," rolling ever-faster down a steep hill. Hey, it needed cleaning, but after a full day of heavy lifting and moving big, cumbersome cabinets, it probably wasn't the best idea. But when you're plowing forward, you have to keep going! Suffice to say, I was completely pooped Sunday evening. Happily though, my back was fine, but boy my arms and legs! (I'm still feeling it today!) I was in bed, snoozing away by 9pm -- super early for me! It was well worth it though --- My horse books....

Keep in mind that in the "before" shot, there are books stacked behind what you see! And yes, books spilled out on the floor was typical since there just wasn't any more room! Now my anatomy books...
My newly cleaned painting station (below, which you may remember from my very first blog post! On there is an old commission on a lovely Brioso I'm painting for nth time -- I finally have the technique down to pull this color off how I want it):
...and sculpting station (below):

The two cabinets together (below, the left one holds my reference binders, and the right one holds my anatomy books...the TV is constantly playing Mystery Science Theater, and the dedicated microwave is for heating clay to soften it for sculpting)...

After a good vacuum, phew...a clean, newly functional studio, ready to be destroyed again by the ravages of creativity!

"I've got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom." ~Thomas Carlyle


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Eureka....and DOH!

I had two moments today, one of "I RULE!" elation and one of...well...let me say that if I'd had a fork in my hand, I'd be in the emergency room right now with it stuck in my forehead (Joanie and Lesli -- prepare to chuckle).

OK...let me backtrack a bit...I hate hate hate gouging out pour holes from plaster molds. I probably hate it more than prepping resin sculptures for painting. It's messy, tedious and it hurts my hands something fierce. While Sonya was here, we cogitated ways to get around it, and she came up with some grand solutions that, frankly, went over my head. She has waaaay more casting experience than I do, and gave me perhaps a bit too much credit in the grey cell department. To be quite honest, I'm a bit of an idiot, and one fated to learn through turgid failure (as you'll see in a moment)..."And so...I flail!" should be my motto.

Anyway, I had to figure out a way to short-cut around gouging pour holes, when an idea popped in my head (much to my surprise)...the "eureka" moment. Now I knew that what I was about to do was either alarmingly stupid, or would save me heaps of hassle -- the potential pay-off was just to great for me not to try. Public humiliation on a grand scale or easy street? Hey -- it's a fair wager.
So forging ahead, I used some craft clay that I use for claying up, and rolled a blunted cone on a flat surface (in this case, a kitchen tile I bought at a DIY store): Then I stuck a toothpick in the end, being careful not to distort my thingamagig: I made two of them and poked them into the back of my oil clay ornament, already stuck in the first pouring. I pre-poked holes into the back of the ornament, since that clay is much harder than the gooshy craft clay (being careful not to be too aggressive and poke through and damage the inner side of the front piece). Once in, I gave them a little twist back and forth to make sure that joining was snug, and I made sure they were upright, too:
I proceeded as usual:
Now...those of you experienced in making plaster molds for slip-casting will notice I've done something remarkably silly...the "doh!" part: I've neglected to make keys in my first pour! Keys are natches that the second pour oozes into to create a male-female lock that makes sure the mold is aligned and locked tight when the two sides are joined together for pouring. I was so fixated on my contraption, and making sure I'd soaped this puppy before pouring (I nearly forgot again!), that this essential step just plain slipped my mind. Again, hosing up in spectacular ways is my best teacher...sad, but true. Anyway...I make the pour (because I hadn't realized the key thing yet):
Everything seemed to work just fine! I was concerned the cones would move or dislodge, but nope...they stayed as sturdy as concrete, even when I tapped the table to ease air bubbles up to the surface. And I guess Fate was kind to me...this pour was pretty bad, even by my own lame standards. It set up way faster than I expected (or I got sorely distracted and lost track of time and texture, which is what probably happened, let's face it), and I apparently didn't mix it as well as I should have (there were lumps in it!), so I had to rush the pour. Afterwards, I didn't expect this section would be a keeper, but that's fine. I can do another, and it did prove that these cones would stay put even in a ramshackle, hasty pour.

So I let it set and off I go grocery shopping, wondering if my diabolical plan would work. I come home to find the plaster set, I pop off all the stuff, pop the two parts apart (phew! I did soap enough!) and out popped the cones, as easy as pie! I swear I heard the trumpeting of angels...seriously:
The cones are in such pristine condition, that I can simply use them again for my re-do! I'd hoped it would work, but I never dreamed it would work this good!No more dang pour hole carving! Whaaaaa-hooooooo!

Now I wonder if various rubber cones could be poured as permanent "templates" (there's always extra rubber in a pour!), or if simply remaking ones in clay may be a better option. Hmmm. I also wonder how I can factor this into a rubber master mold. Oy.

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!), but 'That's funny.'" ~Isaac Asimov


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Good Day

It's been a good day today. Though a week late, I finally was able to get to mold-making for ceramic slip-casting, starting with my new Christmas ornament. That's the first piece poured and curing in the photo, above. My trusty handyman made those wonderful clear plexiglass mold boards for me, according to Joan Berkwitz's specifications.

Since I have to wait until each piece cures before I can soap and pour the next, I'm working on Boat articles for the Winter 09 issue in the interim. In particular, I finished the technical section of a photography article, and LO! -- I finally understand all that "stuff"! Histograms, apertures, shutter speeds -- Oh my! I also now understand lots more settings on my camera -- "Wow! I didn't know I could do that?!" Long overdue learning, that's for sure.

One of the best aspects of writing for The Boat is that this forces me to sit my hinder down and spend the time it takes to learn something enough in order to write about it. And much to my glee, that photo (above) was taken with the knowledge gleaned from four days worth of research using only my newly-learned aperture and shutter speed settings on my camera -- no complicated lights or contraptions! Now I'm working on Part II of my hoof series, and I was able to organize my thoughts and information, which in many regards, is the hardest part of writing anything. Lots of tremendous learning there, as well.

Learning creates its own high, it's own addiction. Once you get caught up in that whirlwind of positive feedback, it's impossible to stop. It's like crack for a curious mind. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why I love realistic sculpture so much -- there's so much you have to know to create a convincing piece, but there's also so much you have to keep learning to create a responsible piece. So many bits of information are interdisciplinary, as well, allowing your mind to bounce between fields like Tigger on speed. I think that keeps me humble as an artist, and lover of horses. The world truly is a big place full of big, wonderful ideas!

Speaking of education, Hubby is meeting with some classmates today to prepare for The Big Final (Scary) Presentation this week. When he gets home, he'll grill up some beast for himself, and some shrimp for me. We'll watch a movie together, with the Charmkins running amok on The Rat Couch, and then I'll go to bed and sleep soundly -- eager to wake up tomorrow for more mold-making and learning in my own in-house classroom.

Christmas seems months from now, though that little voice nags at me, "It's right around the corner, you dang fool!," but I'll ignore it for now and keep moseying along with these pleasing brain waves. Hopefully this mold will be a good one and I can start casting ornaments next week!

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes." ~Marcel Proust


Monday, November 10, 2008

Fire and Ice

Ah yes -- back in the ceramics studio now that the weather is chillin' out, but more importantly, because I cleaned it! Well, at least got it to some semblance of ordered disarray rather than the utter pandemonium it was a week ago. I mean, even me -- duly noted for perhaps not the tidiest of studio habits -- has a degree of pride.

Winter is definitely on its way and we have intermittent snow on the mountains (teasing us for -- hopefully -- the dumping to come). Little Maury has been firing away, with Big Al soon to be close behind. I'm making molds this week of a new Christmas ornament (non-horse) which I plan to slip-cast in porcelain! I'm very excited about this and I hope it all turns out OK. Porcelain is another kettle of fish entirely and the potential for me to hose it up in spectacular ways is well...practically a sure bet. I'm up for the challenge though! I'm also re-pouring the mold on Sonya Johnson's Bjorn relief sculpture after the complete flub-up I made during her visit in June. I've started work in earnest on tile designs for Sir Squish as well, and using up Chavant Hard like mad. All this between new sculptures, paint jobs and the Winter 09 issue of The Boat. Who has time for the holidays? Gads.

Anyhoo, the piece pictured above is a (long overdue) gift to someone who saved my hiney with The Boat, so off that'll go this week.

These two pieces (above) are the awards for my Clinky Classic Challenge Class.

These two pieces, my new Jumper plaque (top) and WB plaque (bottom), are glazed bisque destined to be china painted by Cheryl Farrens of FireHorse Designs as donations to her Appaloosa rescue efforts. I'm working to get some bisques of these two pieces finished for sale here soon, plus a couple of realistically glazed ones I'm working on to get these skills under my belt better (and before I tackle a bisque Pixie, Dafydd or Stormwatch!). These two pieces also are going to be cast in resin soon by Laf'nBear Studio's Barry Moore, so stay tuned.

Revealing the dolt that I am, I actually completely forgot about these two plaques until I cleaned up the ceramic studio! Argh! I need to chow down on the ginkgo biloba like kid on Halloween night! Slowly but surely, I'm turning into the weirdo absent-minded artist the family will begin to speak of only discreetly, or as Hubby would say, "Slowly?" OK -- copy that! I own it!

"To forget is the great secret of strong creative natures; to forget is the way nature herself who knows no past and who at every hour begins the mysteries of her untiring labors afresh." ~Honore de Balzac


Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Wooot! Voting has its perks! To avoid the long lines at our precinct today, we voted early then toodled off to get our treats. A breakfast of champions: Caffeine, carbs, sugar and fat -- I should be a mad woman today in the studio! I was impressed, too -- when my name was announced that I voted when I cast my ballot, the gentleman actually said my last name correctly! It's a historic first!

However, Bixy was nonplussed. His ratty Super Funtime was delayed
this morning for voting, which in his not-so-humble-opinion is an outrage. But now he's rampaging about on the rat couch, just a hair grumpy, but getting over it in the glory of shredding ratty blankets and tissue boxes with unusual zeal.

I dislike politics and try very hard to tune it all out. However, I enjoy watching our systems at work and it makes me verklempt to see the record turn-outs. So however you vote -- just get out there and vote!

As for myself on this blustery, grey day in Boise, I'll be workin' in the studio and trying to keep today's political madness to a minimum. I need to finish up some projects and get new ones started in earnest (Christmas is right around the corner -- BLORG), and by golly -- my ceramic studio needs a good clean. But today the winning vote for Top Priority goes to finishing up my challenge awards for Clinky Classic in December. They should go into a glaze fire tonight and I'll pop pix up here for a peek. Thank you, Kristina, for this opportunity! VIVA LA CLINKY!

"Don't ask for what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ~ Howard Thurman

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