Sunday, February 19, 2017

Student Sculpture

This winter quarter I am teaching my annual hand-building class. Usually when I teach this class I begin with a coil-building project, but this quarter I decided to switch things up. I had the students begin by creating a solid portrait sculpture on an armature. 

large turtle/tortoise just loaded into the kiln

This process is one of the more challenging processes I have the students do, because they have to build the work, then cut it apart and hollow out the interior. In most cases, they build the sculpture on an armature, though some forms can be built completely solid. They shape the form, with the support of an armature, address some of the surface texture, then once the exterior has dried to a leather-hard stiffness, they can cut the work apart and remove the armature.

frog with attitude waiting to be loaded into the kiln

In advance of this quarter, I ordered a batch of armatures for the YVC studio, so that every student could have one for their project. The armatures are designed for heads of people (busts), but many students chose to make portraits of animals, and some chose to make forms that required quite a bit of variation from the armature structure.  The cat and turtle armatures, for example, were bent over at quite an angle to provide support for the curve while building. The cat also had a stick supporting its raised leg.

quirky cat drying on a kiln shelf

The end results for this first project were pretty fun. We had a range of animals including two dogs, a cat, a fish, two elephants, a frog, and owl, and a turtle. We also had several people, including Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction, Dwight from The Office, Kanye West, Jigsaw from Saw, and Sloth from Goonies.

koi fish drying in the studio

Since I adjusted the order of project in the class, these large scale sculptures had more time to dry before firing, but the students were also the least familiar with clay techniques and limitations, so we did have some pieces crack or explode during firing, mostly because the pieces were too thick and had air pockets trapped inside the thick sections. My plan is to show the students how to work with epoxy before the end of the quarter so that some repairs can be made before the works are finished.

flower petal nesting bowls during critique

The second project this quarter was working with slabs. The project requirements were that students would make stacking and/or lidded forms. These pieces also ran the gamut from nesting bowls, candle holders, and boxes, to more castles, caves, and a container made from leaf shapes.

stacking "bento" boxes during critique

It is sometimes hard for me to compare the overall quality of the work made in a hand-building class from within the quarter because the work can vary so drastically both in terms of skill and in terms of creativity. This quarter's throwing class had a particularly strong showing in terms of tall cylinders, but with them I'm comparing cylinders to cylinders, whereas with the hand-building class I'm comparing cats to trees. 
dragon drying in the studio

I hope that the students energies will continue strong through the end of the quarter with glazing and repair so that I have some exciting work to show in the Student Exhibition in the Spring at Larson Gallery.

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