Monday, February 20, 2012

Proud Minkie

  "Whatcha doin'?"

The title of this particular blog entry, "Proud Minkie," has a dual meaning. The first, and perhaps not so obvious, is a reference to Tina Turner's rowdy rendition of "Proud Mary." Aside from the incomparable majesty that is Tina Turner, her famous quip, "I never ever seem to do nothing nice and easy" can pretty much describe my method here in the studio. Honestly, it could be my epitaph. 

Because if there's a quick and easy way of going about creating work, I appear to dodge it at every turn. Now, mind you, I try—I truly do. I set out to create something straightforward, with the most sincere and determined of intentions. Only I just can't do it.

You've seen it a million times before on this blog, haven't you? What starts out as something simple and uncomplicated ends up morphing into a piece that pushes the very limits of my skill and sanity. Like that famous "agony of defeat" skier on the World Wide of Sports, I go from "La–dee–da ladee–da" to "OH DEAR GAWD HELP ME!" Pretty much in a {poof} of billowing snow, too.

But like the partner to that agony, "Proud Minkie" refers to the "thrill of victory" in that WWS clip, too. Because after I've gotten up, shaken off the snow, and rattled my head back to coherent thought, I realize that I pulled something off I never thought I couldeither with my skills or the medium. I'm proud of what I've done only because I didn't think I could do it. Being dumbfound and delighted is a peculiar mix!

And so I give you this guy, who I refer to as "Mr. Continental" in reference to his continental braid

CBCM Reflective #7, a OOAK in midfire porcelain. Iberian stallion. Approx. 5x5".

He was supposed to be a simple claybody custom, with just a few tweaks to the head. It was the braids I wanted to focus on because I'd never sculpted anything like them before. But as sculptures tend to do, they take on a life of their own. They hijack the mind and take over the hands. And so one thing lead to another and I ended up with a piece that was far more involved than I ever intended. 

Here's the original Reflective, pulled right from the mold, still with flashing.

Here's the new CBCM version, still in progress (you can see me working on those braids). Straightforward and simple my curls!

Every bit of him was resculpted, including the set of his dock, ears and eye. Even his head was cut in half and reset to create that classic Iberian "ram head." 

Here he is, finished in greenware, drying and waiting to fire. Those braids took forever to sculpt not because of the technicality of sculpting them, but because I often "lost my way" in their pattern and got confused! That perspective can be so challenging to sculpt.

This guy represents some major leaps in my skills with this technique and medium, from the head chopping to how to a portion of those braids are freespanning, with no support between them and the neck. I honestly didn't think I could do thatthat either I didn't have the kahunas, or that the medium wouldn't allow me.

Boy, was I happy to find I was wrong on both counts! This slipcasting porcelain is sturdy stuff even as greenware, and generous enough to encourage the reckless pushing of envelopes. I didn't even need to support those braids during the fire, but pins n' needles were involved for twelve hours.

Muzzle detail. I love horse muzzlesthey're an endless source of expression and quirkiness. One of my favorite aspects is how their lower lip can hang, and here we see that effect ever so slightly. It says that he's relaxed, but also focused on you, in a friendly, curious way. Horses express with every inch of their body.

This piece also provided the missing piece to an ongoing puzzle—how to stop the bubbling during the mature fire. I've been having a bear of a time with this clay bubbling in places during the mature fire, especially in thin areas, or at contact points with the shelf or porcelain prop. I thought maybe it was because I was firing too hot, so I made adjustments with some test pieces. No. I thought maybe the clay wasn't dry enough, so I ran some tests. Still no. I wondered if I needed to do a "preheat," or "hold." But, again, no.

I knew I had to fire it long and hot enough for vitrification, but I wondered if perhaps they were firing too long, that simply being too hot for too long was causing the bubbling. So I reduced the fire from the "slow" to the "medium" speed setting. No, that didn't work either. I was loath to fire shorter than that because you want to take porcelain just to the brinkthat's what causes vitrification and gives it that lovely sheenbut no more so that you literally cause it to boil.

But this guy introduced a whole new problem—those freespanning braids. I knew if I went about business as usual, those things would simply melt and slump into a flagrant display of disaster. I'd considered supporting that portion with porcelain prop, but decided against it because of the heat sink bubbling issues I'd been encountering with the stuff. I even mulled over the idea of creating tiny stilts which could be broken awayfor about two seconds, then I came back to my senses. My only choice was to use the "fast" speed setting and hope for the best.

Here are those braids up close. You can see that freespan, where some of them are actually detached from the neck. It was surprising just how tough this clay is in greenware, holding up just fine to my tinkering to create that air pocket. That isn't to say I didn't hold my breath while I was carving away, though!

Well, the solution made itself apparent with those braidsit's the "fast" setting that proves to be the Goldilocks zone. He came out perfect. So now I've discovered more possibilities as well as the optimum condition for those possibilities, and all thanks to this swarthy fellow. I also discovered to trust the clay. All this time my assumptions were wrong, such as about the bubbling, and I simply needed to dispense with the preconceptions and just listen to the clay. Point taken!

Oh, 2012 is going to be so much fun!

"There is an art to wandering. If I have a destination, a planan objectiveI've lost the ability to find serendipity. I am on a quest, not a ramble. I search for the Holy Grail of particularity and miss the chalice freely offered, filled and overflowing." ~ Cathy Johnson 

[Speaking of chalices freely offered and overflowing, I have to admit that I giggle when I think, "Mr. Continental," because I'm reminded of Christopher Walken's titular character. {snort!}  Champagna?]

Update: If you like, saunter on over to his auction.

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