Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mold Making

I'm planning to make a great number of these sorts of shapes for an installation I'm thinking of doing. To help speed up the process, and because some of my students were curious about the process, I thought I would make some molds for casting the shapes.

Wheel-thrown forms

I started by throwing an example of the shape I wanted. For the first mold I made, I fired the form in the bisque kiln. For later molds, I used a leather-hard form I made the day before.

wet clay form in half a plaster mold

I made the first side of the first mold at school so I could show my students, but didn't take pictures of the process. I later broke the bisque form I was using and had to replicate it in wet clay to make the second half of the mold.

leather-hard clay forms in wet clay bases

To make the first half of any of the molds, I inset the leather-hard or bisque form into a flat base of wet clay. I tried to place the form so that widest part was exactly lined up with the top edge of the wet clay. I did this so that the mold won't have any undercuts that make it difficult to remove the cast form.

ready to cast the first half of this mold (except for that puddle of oil soap in the key)

I then pressed the end of a round tool into the wet clay base to create indents that will eventually be keys for the two-part plaster mold. I rolled out a slab of clay and wrapped it around the wet clay base with the inset form to create a well into which I would later pour plaster.

making a mold for slip casting

I want to try slip casting with one of the molds, so I created a hump of clay to take the place of the opening through which I will eventually pour the slip. I haven't created a slip casting mold before, so I'm not sure if my "sprue" will be wide enough.

second half ready to cast

For the second half of the mold I created earlier, I wrapped a new wet clay slab around the already-set first half of the plaster mold. I then brushed both the plaster and wet clay surfaces of all three molds with Murphy's oil soap so that the new plaster will come apart from the old plaster and clay.


Earlier in the weekend, I had left my oil soap at school and decided to use baby oil as a replacement. That is apparently a terrible idea, as it didn't act as a release at all. The baby oil experiment led to an incredibly strong attachment between the fired clay and the set plaster. Even smashing the bisque form with a hammer didn't break it apart from the plaster mold. 

bisque form stuck in the mold

After the clay molds for the plaster were made and coated with an effective release agent, I mixed the plaster. I found that coating a bucket with a plastic bag is a nice idea and helps make cleanup easier only if one uses a bag without a hole in it. An unnoticed hole results in water dripping mysteriously onto the poured plaster and confusing the mold maker for a while until she noticed the puddle under the bag.
easy plaster clean-up

The plaster sets fairly quickly and then the clay can be peeled off easily. Ideally, the plaster and fired clay both come apart easily, too.

plaster setting in molds

The plaster needs to be thrown away after use and any clay with plaster stuck to it should also be thrown away since plaster looks like clay then bursts in the kiln, leaving a hole in the side of whatever was being fired.

the first half of the slip casting mold, set and almost ready for the second half of the mold

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Throwing Lots of Bulbs

This weekend I managed to get a bit of time in the clay studio. Partly I recycled some clay and cleaned up after the pre-show frenzy of January, but I also got to throw a little.

throwing bulbs

I made some bulbs on the wheel for my 3rd attempt at a spinning bicycle wheel piece.

recycling clay: by which I mean slaking clay on the first day,  drying it out in an arch on the second day, and wedging it on the third day

I also threw some bulbs to be used as a part of a new installation I'm thinking about doing for next year.

throwing bulbs off the hump on the potters wheel

The bike wheel bulbs each have a set of holes in them so that I can thread the fired bulbs onto the bike spokes. I played around with the placement of the holes in these bulbs so that I can control how and where they land on the bike spokes.

bulbs with spoke holes, drying
I think I'll throw some more pieces in some different sizes so I have more options when I start to build the next piece. Maybe I can even find a small bike wheel for smaller bulbs.

the "wrong" way to attach bulbs to a bike wheel (epoxy)
The wall installation bulbs each have a hole in the back so that they will hang on the wall in a particular orientation. I need to spend some more time planning the installation before I'm quite sure how it will all come together.

bulbs for installation, drying

The holes in the bulbs are each made to have a narrower section at the top so that the screw head can slide into place  with the bulb in the correct orientation. I have used this type of opening for hanging for most of my recent work with good success. I'm less sure how it will work for small pieces of this shape.

the back of a wall bulb (with texture from a new tool)

My "Mechanical Botanicals" show continues at CORE Gallery in Seattle through February 28, 2015.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bike Wheel, Spinning and Not Spinning

wheel piece completed in winter 2014
Last year I made a bike wheel piece that spins, but I made one big mistake. the colored bulbs on top are just set onto the spokes. When I had this piece at June Art Fest last summer, someone pointed out a bit of information I had missed: spokes can come out of the wheel rim.

new wheel bulbs with underglaze partially complete

So I had to make another piece, this time with holes in the bulbs for the spokes to go through. I also added textures to the bulbs because my mom told me to (and you should always listen to your mom).

two wet clay bases in progress

I also made some new bases, with chains like the first base, but I played around with textures and additions to these bases.

new wheel piece with bulbs being attached
I had the bases and the bulbs in place with time to spare before my show, but transporting the bike wheel piece to Seattle didn't go so well. On the first day of setup, I discovered that the wheel of the new piece wasn't staying on the base.

new wheel piece in CORE Gallery
I ended up at a hardware store that night minutes before they closed. I ran in with half the sculpture to get a bolt to attach the wheel to the base. Unfortunately, the bolt I got wasn't the best bolt. I epoxied the sculpture together that night, but in the morning it seemed to be listing dangerously to one side. 

check out the shadows under the wheel
The bulbs on the wheel are attached so that one side is a bit heavier than the other. As time ticked away and I was ready to leave the show and drive back to Yakima, I finally decided to err on the side of stability. I ended up adding epoxy so that the wheel no longer turns. 

new wheel piece and old wheel piece

Though I worried about it off and on during the days after I left Seattle until the night I returned for the Art Walk, the sculpture stayed upright. I left a sign on the pedestal instructing viewers not to touch, and the piece is visually ok and probably a bit better than last year's piece.

second base with chain being epoxied in place
But I intend to conquer this piece. I still have one more base at home that's ready to go. This weekend I threw some replacement bulbs. Since I think I need to fill the gallery again in a year, I am thinking I will need to streamline some of my forms, so no texture for these bulbs.

wet clay bulbs before the spoke holes were attached
My show continues at CORE Gallery in Seattle through February 28, 2015.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Wall Installation at Mechanical Botanicals


I spent the weekend in Seattle for my show at CORE Gallery. Mechanical Botanicals will be open through the end of the month. 

"Ericano Diversia"

The reception on Thursday evening for the Pioneer Square art walk was much more fun than I expected. It was raining mod of the evening, but there still was pretty steady traffic into the gallery. I didn't really stop having conversations with visitors until after 8pm. 

a view of most of my work in the gallery (and one Mark Callen painting)

Of all the people to come in, only one single guy was unpleasant. Everyone else was nice and complementary and interesting to talk to.


I didn't sell anything, though I might have if I had priced my gridded wall installation as 100 individual pieces. A few people told me my prices, were too low, but when it's followed up with no sales, I'm not sure I can believe that market wisdom.

wall installation detail view

I had to be in Seattle on Saturday to watch the gallery and I didn't feel comfortable driving back over the pass that night, so I cancelled Friday's class and visited a number of galleries and art museums in the area on Friday. 

The Jason Walker exhibition at Bellevue Arts Museum was quite good, as was the Anne Drew Potter lecture at Pottery Northwest on Friday evening. I also got to meet Tip Toland which was pretty cool.


It rained most of the weekend so I was lonely in the gallery on Saturday afternoon. I took lots of pictures of my work and sketched some plans for next year's show. Late Friday evening it occurred to me that I'll probably have to fill the space again next year.


This year's show had 11 sculptures and two wall installations that I made over a year and a half including my sabbatical time and two summers. Next year's show will have to consist of mostly new work and somehow I'll have to make it in one year with no sabbatical time. Time to start building.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

"Mechanical Botanicals" opens this week

The view in my side of the gallery

I set up my show in Seattle this weekend. "Mechanical Botanicals" opens (officially) on Wednesday, February 4, 2015. The First Thursday Pioneer Square Art Walk is Thursday night from 6-9pm. I will be there for the Thursday evening event and I will be in the gallery from 12-6pm on Saturday. The Gallery is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 12-6pm. 

the view in the door of CORE Gallery

This is my first show at CORE Gallery (117 Prefontaine Place South in Seattle for those of you entering it into your GPS). This was a nice space in which to install. The gallery has bright lights, a locking door and plenty of space. Often I've installed shows only when the gallery director or staff is present. It was nice to install without a time limit, and without someone watching or waiting for me to make a decision.

drilling holes for the first wall installation

I brought over a lot of work. Last week I brought some stuff in one vehicle. This weekend I filled a second car with my work and loaded extra borrowed pedestals into the truck bed. On Saturday my husband helped me drill holes and install hooks for my 100 piece wall installation. When they brought my second car load, my daughter and her grandparents helped hang most of the bulbs on the hooks.

the gridded wall installation

We unloaded all the work on Saturday, arranged pedestals, installed the grid of bulbs on the wall and put up the vinyl signs on the window and wall. I picked up the signs on Saturday morning from Sun Signs in Tukwila. They were great. The guy came in on Saturday just for me and was so fast that I was out of there just minutes after we'd arranged to meet.

preparing to put up my window sign

I thought putting up the signs was neat. They go on, as my daughter said, like a temporary tattoo. But mostly I just thought it was fun to have my name on the window (and wall) of the gallery. It makes the show feel very official.

second wall installation

On Sunday I planned to come in, double check the set up, perhaps install a second wall installation, and adjust the lights. I ended up rearranging the pedestals three times before I was satisfied. I did install the second wall piece, but I called in my husband to adjust the lights. Apparently he is capable of standing on a ladder with his hands above his head without breaking out in a cold sweat.

partial view in the gallery

I swept up the gallery, removed my boxes and packing materials, emptied the weekend's trash, and left Seattle during the first quarter of the super bowl. The pass was eerily deserted on our way home. I'll be heading back on Thursday, but I don't think I can hope for any highway clearing distractions to assist with that drive.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Latest Gear Stack Piece

Next week my show, Mechanical Botanicals, opens at CORE Gallery in Seattle. Since this week is the last chance I have to finish work before installing this weekend, I am trying to finish a few pieces.

 
the new gear stack piece after bisque firing, unstacked (left) and a gear stack piece from my sabbatical

This past summer I started a new gear piece similar to some I had done during my sabbatical. I wanted to create as similar form but with a more complex base. My sculptures are inspired by plants and flowers, so I wanted to reference a stem branching or splitting from the central form.

a gear stack piece from my sabbatical

Like the earlier gear pieces, I built this form in sections, planning for gears to nestle and attach between the different ceramic segments of the sculpture.

part of the new gear stack piece after glaze firing
During the summer I built and fired the work. I started applying underglaze in the summer but wasn't ready to put the forms together until this month. Last week I started epoxying together the gears and ceramic parts.

tape holding the top on the split bulb

I used tape and armatures to help support the forms while the epoxy was setting.

a towel and box acting as an armature to support the end bulb and gear while the epoxy sets

Unfortunately, it wasn't until the entire piece was put together that I realized the unfortunately angle, placement and proportion of the smaller branching form. I am also disappointed in how straight the top section is. I may have put together the top form or forms incorrectly, but it's hard to recall what the entire form looked like, since it was hard to take pictures while also holding up the wet pieces.

The new sculpture, mostly complete

One innovation in this piece was splitting one of my bulb forms near the base so that the gear could fit inside it. The plan was good but the smaller segment warped during drying or firing and now the curve is a little more narrow and taller than the area where it needs to attach.

two sections of the split bulb, with epoxy

I used epoxy putty to fill in the seam of the two bulb pieces and painted over it. The paint color is a close match, but there are some visible brush strokes because the paint was a little thick when I applied it.

epoxy putty roughed into place

This sculpture is close to "finished," needing only another coat of paint and some gloss varnish to complete the bulb patching. However, I haven't decided if I want to include the piece in next week's show, since it didn't work out quite how I planned.

the bulb with the patched seam