Sorry for the delay in posting. Just been staying busy with the kiddo and clay and daily life. Hubby is back in town and that is pretty exciting! We've just been hanging out, spending time together since his return on Friday evening.
The other morning, a Twitter follower sent me a question that was perfect timing. He wanted to know if I took pictures of each stage that the sculptures went through during creation. It was a timely question because I had just taken some photos of a piece as I was working on. I don't always take photos (sometimes I forget!) but I had just snapped a couple of the current piece.
There are many ways to work in clay, and the way I tend to work on an armature and build the piece solid. I work quickly in the building stage, just trying to get a rough form and get the clay on the armature so that it can began to dry. When I first start a sculpture, the clay is so wet and not strong at all, but as it dries, it becomes stronger.
My armatures mostly consist of 1/2" or 3/8" metal pipe from the plumbing section of Lowe's and I attach that to a plywood board. I wrap the pipe in stretch wrap so the clay won't stick and then I start. I take large hunks of clay and smash it onto the armature, making sure to really compress the clay as I squeeze onto the armature. I keep going as far as I can until the clay begins to sag or bend or do weird things. Then I let it rest, maybe overnight, maybe two days, depending on how humid it is in the studio. After that, I begin to refine the shape, but not adding too many details at this point.
Then comes the crazy point. You've got the sculpture mostly built, it's looking pretty good, you are liking the form, and now you have to cut it off the armature! So I take my fettling knife and start slicing. The idea is to cut through until you hit the pipe in the middle and then remove a portion of the sculpture. This is what I have done in this first photo. I cut down the back of the this sculpture, because there was less detail that I'd have to repair after hollowing it out. It really depends on the piece where I decide to cut. A little tip about clay: it's pretty hard to fire something solid, and I generally want a hollow piece with walls about 3/8" thick. Some people go really thin, others go thick, but the idea here is to get all the air pockets out of the clay walls.. The sculpture can explode in the kiln if there are air pockets or moisture.... and boy, is that fun, let me tell you!! And that's what all those small holes are for - to help with drying, and to expose any air pockets.
The next photo shows the piece back on the armature, and it's been all hollowed out. I leave in those "braces" in the interior of the piece, as I will be mounting the sculpture on a metal rod after firing. Those braces serve as guidelines for the rod and help to prevent the piece from loosely banging around on the rod after firing.
After hollowing it out, I re-attach the remaining piece(s) and reform the sculpture. Now I can begin to add in details and bring the piece to completion. I love sharing these crazy stages with you guys. I once did this in front of a friend who was visiting, and she gasped when she saw me scalp the head on my sculpture. :)
So thank you, Twitter follower, for your timely question and for getting me back on my blog!
Hope you guys enjoyed seeing a bit of the process!