Friday, September 2, 2011

Thinking Inside The Box

Earlier this year I started a new project I'd been contemplating for some time, and just finished the first batch. My Dancing HorseTM tiles are immensely popular, and I'm expanding on the designs to offer more variety. I'm slowly developing my Christmas ornament series, too, along with various other projects to offer more diversity on my Etsy shelves. But I've been wanting to offer goodies that are more technically realistic, more in line with what my regular customers collect. 

However, any such pieces had to be collectible, affordable, versatile and, above all, easily produced to keep up a steady inventory. That last bit is the sticky part. Realistic work is labor and time intensive, so it took some cogitation to come up with an idea that fit all those parameters. So ta da - introducing CubequinesTM!

Each piece represents a different breed, and they're all based on a 2.5" square -- the "cube." These are the first ten, and every year I'll come out with five new breeds. Their breed is inscribed on the side, but I haven't shown that because the letters need a lot of clean up in the waste castings.

They'll be produced in colored resin, maybe with opalescent finishes, and have magnets attached to their backs, making them functional art (something I have a particular weakness for). But I'm still debating on whether to sell them individually or as sets, and a lot of that depends on my cart options in Etsy. I'm also mulling over the run date of each design, but I think ultimately I'll feel my way with this series and keep my mind open. 

But being versatile designs, I plan to gussy some up in different ways and sell those as specialty items. Cold-painters are welcomed to paint them realistic colors, too, opening up new options. So overall, this series serves as a continuous outlet for my bas-relief collectors while also providing fun introductory offerings to new customers within the Etsy venue.

Now the reason for the 2.5" cube was because that's the size of my smallest clay slab cutter. The original idea was to contain the design neatly in those dimensions, allowing me to create pressed clay versions, too. But as my creative urges tend to do, I "colored outside the lines"! 

As for mud, it's conceivable I could make slipcast molds of each piece for slipcasting. The designs would have to be retooled to remove the deep undercuts and other features that aren't compatible with a rigid plaster mold (easily done with the waste castings), but that will have to wait a little bit. That kind of production is time and labor intensive, comparatively speaking, defeating their initial purpose a bit, but I definitely want to explore this option to create specialty items. Me thinks porcelain in particular is quite tempting! One ceramic option I definitely want to try is seating a couple of these pieces onto a 4x4" tile, tweaking the design a bit, and making a mold of that to open up options for installations and tile paraphernalia.

Another kind of clay these designs beg for is metal clay. I have big plans for a jewelry line in my Etsy store, and a PMC kiln is on my "must have" list for 2012. The cool thing about metal clay is that I can use its shrink rates to shrink down these 2.5" designs into more jewelry-friendly versions with relative ease. Once I have those smaller versions, I can make press molds and be off and running with collectible jewelry bobbles. I plan to sell them as separates to jewelry makers and beaders, sorta like collectible beads. I also plan to apply the same strategy to all my stamped clay tile designs!

Anyway, interestingly enough, the Quarter Horse, Andalusian, Clydesdale and Ardennes started out as generic versions, such as "stock horse," "iberian," and "drafter." But I thought to myself that if each cube was to be a different breed, why not leave the door open to sculpt them all? I'm glad I caught myself with this thought because now I won't have to worry about running out of subject matter. Though it will prove interesting when I get to color-based breeds, such as the Paint horse and Appaloosa! 

This series is a good opportunity to showcase rare or endangered breeds, too, such as Marsh Tackies, Abaco Barbs and Cleveland Bays. I also plan to expand the series into all equine species and hybrids, and I'm really looking forward to creating them. Kulans, Tahki and Hinnies, oh my! 

On top of that, I graduated from UCSC with a degree in Environmental Studies and I've long been wanting to combine that training with my art to help along those efforts, since I'm shamefully not using my degree now! Unfortunately just about all wild equids are on the Endangered Species Red List today, such as Mountain Zebras, Takh, Grevy's Zebras, Somali Wild Asses, etc. If it's not a caballine, it's probably endangered -- not cool in my book! Fortunately, I can use this series to aid their plight with some partnered projects and I'm really looking forward to that.

Another fun thing about this project was the "overview stage" in which I weighed each against the other when they were all roughed out. Altogether, they have to be a collection, be coherent as a group, and not just a pile of different ideas with a 2.5" constant. So I ended up retweaking a few of the pieces, such as the Andalusian, Morgan, Clydesdale, and Quarter Horse, to give them just a bit more oomphf to synch better with their brethren. 

They'll be cast by Bear Cast LLC, and I hope to deliver these first ten to Barry next week. I'll clean up the resultant waste castings and then he'll make the production molds and off we'll go! It's going to be so fun picking out the colors for the resin and I know that teal, purple, green and gold are definitely on the list! 

I'm so excited about this project, and I can't wait to get started on the five for 2012! But first, I have Christmas to contend with and sculptures to finish. In particular, that sproinging Arabian mare is definitely staring at me. I've slated her to be my first piece in bronze, so the faster I finish her, the faster I can start that leg of my journey. So much to do! So many ideas! That's a very good feeling.
"It is in rhythm that design and life meet." ~ Philip Rawson

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