Saturday, December 9, 2017


expression based on one of the book cats

A few weeks ago I got a studio request from my nephew and my sister-in-law. They've been reading Kevin Henkes' Waiting and my nephew really likes the cat shaped nesting dolls in the book. 

a cat and its larger sized pal

They asked me to make them some nesting cats, which I have been calling stacking cats, though that's not accurate. The main request was that these cats be cute instead of creepy, like some of the sets they were able to find online.

my young assistant put this tail on the front. oops

I figured the cats would be fairly easy to make, which was true. I pinched the cats into shape and estimated the sizes, then cut them in half, added a gallery, and had my young assistant add some of the tails and ears. At this point I was thinking that this could be a fun project for my hand-building class.

three cat tops and one cat bottom

Then I started working on the fit and realized that this was a completely inappropriate project for a beginning class. I also started to realize why some of the online cat options are creepy. 

several "stacking" cats in progress

After getting the request, we stopped by the public library to check out the book. The cats are fairly simple in the book, but they have a slight narrowness at the neck (above the seam for the lid). They also have ears that stick up from the top of their heads, like cat ears do. What this means is that instead of fitting some simple egg shapes inside one another, I had to fit pointy ears inside narrowed neck spaces. 

tolerances are close with ears and necks

It looks like many other nesting cat makers chose to avoid the ear problem and paint the ears on, which adds to the creepy-factor. I spent a few days on the cat shapes, kept them simple and close to the shape of the originals in the book. I had to make some adjustments to size and my daughter decided that the interior cat should feel better in her cousin's hands, so that cat was made, by her, with flexible Sculpey instead of hard clay.

Sculpey cat

The cats are drying now, and will get some underglaze treatment after they've been fired. I'm hoping all my measurements were accurate and that shrinkage during drying and firing doesn't bring the tolerance too close for the Sculpey cat. All of the cats have pretty tight tolerance for fitting inside their pals, but if I allow a lot of extra space, the largest cat ends up really big.

cats waiting to dry

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