Sunday, January 31, 2010


The process of digging up past projects that have languished unfinished for years is continuing here, now that I have my painting sensibilities in gear. For example, that customized Taboo I've been mentioning, that's been gathering dust and staring at me, has been dragged back out (above). As you can see, he has a new tail (thanks to my clumsiness) and also a broken leg (due to the same), though it's been pinned and is now sturdy as ever. He'll be getting some tweaks to his paint job, some minor and some rather significant, based on how I've evolved, and I'm anxious to see if I can pull off this difficult pattern and on this size. Scale will be everything for this piece, and so I've shrunk down my reference photos to his size, which really helps to keep me on track. When he's done, he'll go up on Auction Barn, though I have no idea when that'll be.

And here's another sneak peek at Ms. Haffie (above) after some major surgery! Suffice to say, I won't be making my deadline of having all her tweaks done by -- oh -- today, but I think after all this work, just a little bit more will be well worth it. The thing is, I redid her schnoze. I just got fed up with how her head wasn't exactly what I wanted and I knew, deep down, I couldn't force it to be when it was inherently a hair too short. On each piece I have certain non-negotiable goals that will be met even even if it kills me, and her head was one of them. So off everything came up to the end of her teardrop bones to be completely redone. Her head is now a hair longer and I'm immensely happy that it's now exactly what I wanted. Yay!

However...change something in a sculpture and you'll inevitably have to change something somewhere else.

And so because her head was now longer, the proportions of her legs also had to change -- they had to be made a hair longer. All of them. And not just in one area, but two for each leg -- each forearm, each gaskin and all four cannons. And so out came the dremel and off came the legs in eight neat little pieces. They all got re-pinned and what you see in the image above is a block of epoxy to fix it into place. Once that's cured, I'll dremel it down a bit and resculpt those areas to blend into the rest of the leg. It's not easy, and it's rather tedious, but when you want something done right, you have to make that extra effort. Otherwise, I'd always look back on her as a failure...of falling short (especially after all this work) when just another week could have made all the difference in the world to the piece, and to me.

"Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it's done right." ~ Walt Disney


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Clean Slate

This piece is an old commission that's been languishing here for...well...a very long time. I had continual problems deciding on a color, but nothing felt right. While I didn't want to do something humdrum or a rehash, I also didn't want to tip over to the other side of the scale because that didn't feel right, either. So it changed from silver dapple, to sooty palomino, to fox dun, to dunalino pinto to I forget what it's supposed to be now. To make matters worse, my issues with painting began to surface when I got this piece, which only amplified each time I restarted on it. I was fine with small scales, but 1:12 scale and above began to throw me out of whack. I knew it was a privilege to paint this rare sculpture and so I wanted my work to be up to snuff...but I was disappointed each time I put brush to body. Then my nose would start to twitch, I'd get discouraged and frustrated and put it aside. This makes for bad juju, and so this piece sat...and sat...and sat. You can see remnants of my old painting approach in there -- it's a retro in limbo. Why was this particular piece such a gauntlet? Somehow between waffling on color and my growing dissatisfaction with my painting ability on larger scales, this piece became Ground Zero.

But I've worked through my painting problems, which in a roundabout way allowed me to settle on a color that was just right -- a slightly sooty buttermilk buckskin pinto. The light buckskin color would let the sculpture shine through and the slight sootiness would let me play with effect and tone while the pinto pattern would let me play up the hairs in the mane and tail. Speaking of which, as you can see, the sculpting of the mane and tail are
my older style, and I'd debated on whether to redo them. After mulling it over, I decided against it because I thought it would be more fun to marry the old with the new and see what happened.

So rather than shoehorn the past into the now, I decided on a clean slate and airbrushed on an entirely new base coat:

Now to let this piece dry for a couple of days and then I can really get to work! I'm rather excited to see what I can do now, even with the memory of so many false starts still fresh in my mind. As I hit milestones with this paint job, I'll post the in-progress pix here so you can get an idea of my process (or lack thereof).

I'm also working on the Haffie mare and trying my darndest to have her final sculpted tweaks done by the end of this month, then have her cleaned-up and ready to cast
sometime in February. She's another example of a redo-redo-redo peppered with frustrations. And also like this painting commission, this mare was only going to be finished in her own time. Some things cannot be shoved around.

In more ways that one, 2010 is a clean slate for me, both in the studio and personally. And in the truest sense, this commission piece embodies a new Mink Studios: My previous struggles still lie under the surface but the old and new bits will mesh together once given a clean slate for a fresh start.

"Perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth." ~ Julie Andrews


Time for Cupcakes!

It's now time for Cupcake's 5-day auction on Auction Barn. Click on the link here, or on "Auction Barn" on the side panel. While I imagined Cookie as the mischievous one, Cupcake struck me as being not so impish. Instead, he's everyone's buddy!

"Cheerfulness is the best promoter of health and is as friendly to the mind as to the body." ~ Joseph Addison


Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Day of Days!

It's National Squirrel Appreciation Day! It's officially time to acknowledge those fluffy blobs of goo who entertain us with their antics and remind us that it's all about the food! Though I must admit -- I celebrate this day all throughout the year!

Well well WELL.

"Did I leave the gas on? No! No, I'm a (bleeping) squirrel!" ~ Eddie Izzard


Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Here's my little altar greeting me every morning in my office, right in front of my computer.

I've been shoveling out my office and cold-painting/sculpting studio since Sunday, and I'm almost finished. I just have to go through two boxes of stuff for the office, put it away and then I can officially call "done!"

What. A. Production. I am exhausted.

It was sorely needed though. For an entire year both of these rooms went unattended, and in a busy artist's life, well...things pile up, as you can see...

This is what would have greeted you walking into the studio. A year's worth of mayhem and the remnants of Christmas debris. It was more like picking your way through an obstacle course than walking into a studio!

A view of both my sculpting station (left) and my cold-painting station (right) before the cleaning attack. Let's just say that getting any work done was challenging.

Here's the view from the window. It was ugly. 'Nuff said.

After two days of hardcore shoveling. Phew. There's the carpet!

YES. I cleaned not only the desk tops, but I went through all my tools and cleaned them (including the encrusted airbrush, nasty palettes and grody airbrush bottles) and threw out the epoxy-smoothing brushes that were toast. Everything is ready for me to get back to serious work in there.

There's such a sense of inner "ahhhhhhh" when walking into a newly cleaned and organized studio, isn't there? It smells of promise -- potential. Of new work and new ideas.

Now I've heard it a million times that if I cleaned up a little bit each day, things wouldn't get so bad. And this is absolutely true! But it's also true than when you're buzzing on the creative energy of the moment, the thought of tidying up is loathsome. Like electricity, creativity simply jumps to the next conducting substance -- something interesting -- with no regard for consequences. Now I know I should probably have more discipline, but well...I don't think that's ever going to happen. But it's also a fitting way to greet each new year -- cleaning the slate for a new disaster area to propagate. So tonight I'll go through those boxes so I can wake up to a fresh start.

"Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spent the rest of the day putting the pieces together." ~ Ray Bradbury


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cookie Time!

I flipped a coin and Cookie is now up for a 5-day auction on Auction Barn. You can access his link here, or through the "Auction Barn" link on the side panel on the right. Cupcake will go up next week on the same site for his 5-day auction.

You can't stay mad at someone who makes you laugh." ~ Jay Leno


Monday, January 18, 2010

Trying to Stay Shiny with Shinies

Suffice to say, today has been a bit dreary...still smartin' from losing Scruff. I keep expecting to see his happy little eyes peering at me in the anticipation of being scooped up and cuddled. But I've been distracting myself by cleaning the office and studio, both of which bore a disturbing resemblance to EPA Superfund sites. Walking into clean work rooms always cheers me up and gets me eager to ruin them again.

But on a happy note, I was delighted to pull those two Brownies from Maury this morning to find they weren't "FAILS." Joanie and Lesli have taught me well if I can hit close to my mark -- all by myself -- right outta the gate. Thanks gals!

And I won't beat around the bush -- this media intimidates me. I'm so used to cold-painting in which you can correct every mistake and change your mind a thousand times. You also get to see exactly what you're doing. Yet ceramics has a mind all its own. While you can amass a kind of mental library on what to expect with enough experience, the fact is that the media is unpredictable. An infinite number of inconceivable variables play in every fire, which makes this media both magical and maddening at the same time. In the truest sense, you work according to the media's mercurial
rules -- it doesn't bend to yours.

But what is art without danger? As an artist, I'm a firm believer that I need to push myself to the brink of disaster with every piece, t
o dive screaming into the void of uncertainty. Otherwise I'm simply rehashing. And boy, if there ever is a media that can shove me off that precipice -- boot kick me off -- it's ceramics! So here are my latest pieces from that primal artistic shriek...

You can see more photos of Cupcake here.

You can see more photos of Cookie here.

As you may know, this little donkey foal was designed to be a companion for my lightbreed foal, Pixie. So in that context, "Brownie" is in keeping with the sprite concept since a brownie is a sturdy kind of fairy. However, I decided to take a spin on the meaning of that word with these ceramic pieces (because they are "baked" in a kiln) and so I chose names within the treat concept of "brownie," thus Cookie and Cupcake were born (cuz Cupcake has frosting!). I have one more bisque Brownie here that Joanie put together for me, and I may start work on him this week, too...I'm on a roll! But Joanie was kind enough to make a mold of him for me, though I don't know when I'll get to whipping up more since there are so many other projects screaming for completion.

Anyway, both will go up onto Auction Barn soon, but I'm not sure which will go first. Stay tuned! Now...back to shoveling out the studio...

"I live with the certainty of the uncertainty happening in my Art." ~ Derek A. Fitz Simons


Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Morning of Mourning

(aka Scruffleupagus Rex, or informally as "Da Scruff")

I woke up this morning to find that my days must now go on without Scruffles.
He passed away peacefully in his sleep last night. Totally unexpected. He was perky and happy last night as I oozed his goo, scritched his itchy spots and he groomed my hands. A picture of contentment. Little did I know it would be our last time together. He was an old man, by rattie years, though. When I rescued him, he must've been nearly two and then he lived with me since September 2008. But I'm still in a bit of a shock.

He was so affectionate, sweet and good-spirited despite the lackluster start he had in life as a half-starved "disposable" breeding buck for a pet store.
I'll never forget how he fervently chewed his way out of the pet store cardboard carry-box in the car on the way to his new home here because he just wanted to be held. He loved life here, thrived on the attention and fattened nicely and settled in quickly. He was an expert shoulder-sitter, who liked to hug his little body close to my neck and cuddle in the crook of my arm. All he really wanted was affection and to express affection. Everyone loved him, not just me. He was just one of those little spirits that captured your attention immediately. Life without Scruff seems, well, incomplete, oddly uncomfortable.

You will be sorely missed, Scruff. I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to have you in my life!

"Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight." ~ Rossiter Worthington Raymond


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bakin' Brownies -- at 1900˚

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

This year could not have started out any more different than the start of 2009. Completely opposite. While this time last year began with a whimper, this year has crashed through with a roar! Like Godzilla stompin' through Tokyo! It's been wonderful. So many projects simmering nicely in a giant creative stew that I've been feasting on heartily.

For starters, I have a whole pile of tiles drying and scheduled to be fired on the 20th. Then once they're glazed, up they'll go on Etsy to debut the opening of the new store. I've also finished three more horse designs (to create a set of four with that first one) along with two kitteh designs and two doggie designs. But just sose yer warned, these cat and dog tiles are quite different from the horse ones. While I plan to create "pretty" designs for these four-legged friends (like the horse designs), I have to get some nuttiness out of my system first. So, in short, the cat and dog designs are funky, goofy and a little bit silly, but a lot of fun. I plan to create two more of each, rounding out each cat and dog concept to four tiles each to create coherent sets, or mix n' match dealies.

I've been workin' on the Haffie mare here and there, too. But most of my attention has been focused on these two Brownies, a solid grey and a spotted one:

The reference photo I'm using for the grey solid Brownie caught my eye because the shoulder stripe, mane and ear tipping were a burnt sienna color whereas the rest of him was grey. Striking! So I hope I'm able to capture that in glaze. I also tried to play with hair texture a bit, scritching in hairs along the lower leg and in the mane, tail and ears a bit to bring that out, so we'll see how it looks when done. As for scritching, the spotted one took me a day to scritch (broken up between two days to give my hands a rest). I wanted to see if I could amplify his "hairness" by playing up hair worls and whatnot, and I like how he's coming out so far. I hope to have them both done next week, then up on Auction Barn they'll go, one after the other.

I really like working on Brownie because he's not so delicate and has lots of sturdy hand holds, making him a good "lesson horse" for a newb glazer like me. But I've been playing with a tortillion on both of them, smudging things to try and create certain effects and I'm really interested to see if that method turns out the way I'm envisioning it. Ceramics are so unpredictable. The best you can do is guesstimate and learn through trial and error, and even then, the media can throw you curve balls. So while cold-painting is WYSIWYG, the opposite is true of glazing. Quite literally, you have no real clue what you'll end up with until that clear glaze is fired! A bit like Christmas morning and a bit like a "good news/bad news" scenario. It sure makes for interesting kiln openings!

Anyway...back to the creative gorging...

"We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails." ~ Dolly Parton


Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Designs and New Lessons

I've been madly at work bangin' out the new designs for more tiles -- three more horses, plus a kitteh and a crazy dawg. The horses will be along the lines of the first tile, to create a kind of set, or a mix-n-match thing. The cat and the dog are similar, but doing something fun. Hey -- I just had to get those kitteh splayed toes and the doggie flappin' ears in there somehow. Probably all my cat and dog tiles will be like that -- doing something quintessentially "them" rather than some static breed silhouette. Besides, there already are a bajillion other products that offer that kinda thing and I'm far more interested in kitty and doggie shenanigans than bodies.

Anyway, it's been an excellent challenge creating these new designs because unlike the first one (which was a whim), I'm now having to discipline myself within a fixed 3 x 3 inch space while having to think up
new movement. In a real sense, the first tile is the easy design -- it's all those that come after that are the tricky ones! But this kind of exercise is good for me because working in 3D doesn't really have those kinds of constraints, which can allow my mind to become well...undisciplined. Every now and again, doing something that forces me to rope it in helps me to create stronger work later. So I'm hoping to debut these new pieces next month, if all goes well.

Now, in terms of "new lessons" -- ay-carumba! Backstory: Yesterday I got in a groove and rolled and cut-out slat-fulls of tiles, being so efficient and all. But I had to stop because it was gettin' late, so I carefully cut up garbage bags and draped them over the un-stamped tile blanks, tucking them in for the night. I thought I could simply come back tomorrow and stamp them, easy peasy. I was chuffed. So this morning I start the stamping and oi -- what's the deal?! These puppies are much harder, but they were covered in plastic...what?!


Said in a cute squeaky little voice, being tiny clay particles, "Sarah, you dufus, remember we are still drying when on the dry wall boards!" My brain had forgotten the key detail -- I had tucked my tiles in for the night still on those boards! And, boy, that drywall is so efficient as a drying agent, it began the process even under the plastic. So here I was, with slats full of what were probably unusable tiles for stamping and thinking I'd wasted an entire day of work and three pugs of clay.

So not happy. For about a minute.

I get to thinking...what the heck? I have nothing to lose, so why not try to stamp them and see what happens. So -- I go to stamp these harder blanks. Hey!...that's not so bad. Hey! fact, they don't stick so bad to the stamp or the backing-tile, and gosh, the impression is cleaner! And golly -- it's much easier to inscribe my signature on the back, too. Wow. OK then -- note to self -- these tiles stamp better when harder. So now rather than stamping them when they're pretty much freshly cut, I'm letting them rest for about one to two hours on the boards uncovered before squishin' 'em. Now there is a point where they're too hard for stamping with a rubber stamp and some tiles were to that point. I actually had to throw about a slat and a half of tiles into the dump bucket, which was a bummer. But still, a small price for a valuable lesson.

(But I also got to thinking, I bet I could rig up something with tupperware and some plastic shelves -- to replace the drywall boards -- in order to store gobs of cut un-stamped tiles for later pressing. Otherwise, it appears once I start cutting, I'm committed to stamping for the day. Just something to tuck back in my mind for later.)

What also surprised me was that these harder tiles taught me there's a definite sequence that needs to be followed for the best stamp impression. Now one would think that being a flat tile with a flat stamp, that you just go for it. Interestingly, no. I learned that I had to first squish the tile in one orientation a little bit, then move it to another orientation and give it one last good squish. Bingo. All other approaches face planted. Very strange. Clay has its mysteries that you just gotta accept I guess.

These harder tiles also forced me to create a tool I'd been meaning to make for the past two weeks...but immediate necessity often is the mother of invention in my studio. As you know, I've been using that brass tube to cut holes into each corner. However, once those clay plugs dry in the full length of the tube, it's almost impossible to get them out. So I knew I had to cut the tube into four inch sections so I could have easier access to poke them out. And with these harder tiles, the plugs get stuck a lot faster, and once that happens your cutting power is gone since there's no where for that plug to go up inside the shaft of the tube and you end up making a big mess. I also noticed that the blunt edge of the tube's rim was making for some rather dicey situations with the harder clay during the cutting process. So off I go to cut the tubing into those sections, and I decide to dremel in a cutting edge along the rim at one end of each section by beveling the outside and inside edges into a knife-edge. Voila! It worked great -- clean cut edges even in harder clay and I could easily poke out the compressed plugs with a long threaded bolt -- THHOOOOMP.

So while these freshly cut tiles are resting, I think I'll get back to work on those new designs so I can send them off this week. Gotta finish up those Brownies, too! Woot!

"There is no difference between science and art when it comes to creativeness, productiveness, to come to conclusions and to formulations." ~ Josef Albers


Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Directions

funny pictures of cats with captions

Welp, now that I have a feasible means to create affordable collectibles and giftware and, more importantly, with a process that allows me to maintain a ready inventory, I took the leap today and set up my Etsy shop. You'll also be able to find it on the sidebar under "shop" (right). Now I don't have anything for sale yet, and I'm still tweaking things, but I hope to start selling my first items next week, mostly the extra pieces from the tile sale on Monday, and the production lines for future stamped and pressed tiles, and anything else in that kind of genre. I'm very excited about all this, "going public" and all. It's time, though -- I feel ready.

Now back to glazing Brownies! The bisque ones that is.

"I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been." ~ Wayne Gretzky


Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

And happy new tiles! I just spent the first day of 2010 tying pretty ribbons on seventy-three beautiful tiles Big Al baked and taking photographs of each one. To see all their photos, go here. They'll all go up for sale on Monday, so if you're a member of my giftware list, you should have gotten an informational on how that's gonna run. If you aren't on my giftware list, please email me and I can add you. Being on my giftware list will have definite perks with these (and future) tiles!

As you know, I thinned down the glazes for this first big batch, and boy -- are the results totally different than the first tests! I think that by thinning the glaze, the particles were able to separate out of suspension and so they distributed unevenly around the tile. Now, personally, I love this kind of variation, so you can imagine my delight when I opened my kiln! However, I'm not sure the buying public will appreciate such unpredictability when they're making online choices based off a photo. I think these kinds of glaze results need to be sold in person, so people can pick through them and chose their favorite (which is what I do myself). So I'm going to be aiming for more homogeneous results so that people will (hopefully) have more of a WYSIWYG buying experience. So I'm not sure that any of these glaze finishes will make it into the final production line, but who knows. If certain colors go over well...maybe.

Anyway, I hope you like the results as much as I do! I couldn't be happier! What a great way to start off the New Year! HIKEEBA! Now maybe the good juju created by these tiles will rub off on the two bisque Brownies I'm glazing...

"I work in whatever medium likes me at the moment." ~ Marc Chagall

Related Posts with Thumbnails