Friday, September 20, 2013

Post-Firing Fit Test

A week ago I was working on some pitcher plant forms that would slide onto the front fork of a bike. I have since fired them and have been able to test the fit. I haven't fired the base, so I can't check that yet.

last week's pitcher plants being formed and drying

Unfortunately, my wet-clay measurements did not translate into an easy fired-clay fit. One of the forms fit perfectly. The other two forms did not, though they were very close to fitting. I suspect one or both of them may have squished a little during drying, since the width of the opening is fine but the depth is just a touch narrow. One fits halfway down the metal rod and then gets stuck on a small section of ceramic which would have been easy to remove or alter when it was wet.

one of the pitcher plants starts to slide onto the metal fork

Luckily, the extra space I have on the width of each piece means that I could fix this problem relatively easily; I needed to bend the metal so that it is not round. (I could also grind the metal or the clay down, but this would be more difficult.) To alter the shape of the metal tube, I started with a couple clamps and tried to squish the tube out of round. This approach mostly resulted in pinched fingers and banged knuckles when my grip slipped.

trying to use a C-clamp to distort the metal (the metal is being supported inside a plastic bin with several bags of clay)

There is an insert inside the metal tube which helped to make the clamp less effective. When my husband came home, he helped remove it and then got out the heavy tools to help me beat the pipe into submission. When I say help, of course, I mean he beat on the pipe until I said it was the right shape. 

heavy tools to be used for delicate metal alterations

After he beat the metal on the sidewalk for a little while all three pitcher plants fit on the pipe just fine. And, because my husband doesn't like to do a job halfway, he also polished the surface of the metal after beating it. It is now shiny and smooth instead of rough and covered in clay. (Yes, I am well aware of the advantage of my husband's skills and tools.)

stacking option one, very little space left on top of the metal pipe

I can now put the pitcher plants on the bike fork a couple of different orders. The largest needs to be at the base, because it has the only round opening, but the other two can be stacked either way, so long as their oblong openings match up with the direction in which the pipe has been squished.

stacking option two, enough space on top to add a pod shape to the end of the metal rod

Before firing I was unable to see the three pieces stacked on the bike fork. I knew there would be gaps between the clay pieces where the metal would be visible. After I finished building these pieces, I thought of several ways in which I can make the pieces fit more regularly, obscuring the metal from view. I may try this approach for future iterations of the project, but I believe I will leave the metal visible for this piece, especially now that it has been polished.

view inside the pitcher plant where the bike part will attach

The only pieces I haven't yet formed for this sculpture are the attachments that go inside the pitcher plants. A small bike part attaches inside each large opening, but I plan to add a clay embellishment to that. Before the piece is complete, I need to fire and glaze and attach the bike parts to the ceramic parts, but my second bike-part sabbatical piece is essentially built.

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