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

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