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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Something Useful

It seemed like an interesting challenge to make something that's both useful and beautiful - or at least cute! After some thought, I settled on these little dishes.  They could be trinket dishes, soap dishes, or dishes for dipping sauce.
I made my own plaster drape mold for the basic shape.  To make the mold I partially filled an old plastic pasta sauce container, whose shape I liked, with plaster of Paris.  It took about three days for the plaster to dry completely and I was getting more and more impatient to start on my project.
I knew I wanted something on the bottom and something on the rim.  And for the bottom, I wanted a pretty flat design.  So I settled on the lizards and leaves.  The leaves only stick up about 1/8" from the flat bottom of the dish.  That would allow soap to drain, but wouldn't interfere with contents if one chose to use them as trinket or sauce dishes.  As far as the sauce dish goes, though, I would recommend not using them to hold something you would have to get out with a spoon as the metal spoon might chip the edge of the leaves.
The lizards were fun to sculpt and I developed a quick and pretty good method for making them.  The head, body, and tail are a single piece.  Then I made two little balls of clay, one larger than the other, and cut them in half.  The smaller hemispheres made the shoulders and upper arms while the larger ones made the hips and upper legs.  Then I rested the lizard on the rim where I wanted it and marked where the feet should go on the dish.  I attached the feet/lower leg pieces directly to the dish, then pressed the rest of the lizard in place.  Smoothing the joints and adding the texture were the final touches.
I'm thinking turtles would be good subjects also, maybe with flat shells as the design for the bottoms of the dishes.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Smiling Howling Wolf

This wolf was in the kiln with the raccoon shaman, and I am so pleased with the way the glaze came out.  Considering the struggles I was having with glazing - not to say that there isn't still a tremendous amout to learn - I think I now have a procedure that works for me, and I'll share it is a blog post soon.

I think I used about five different glazes on this wolf and a few of them were Mayco Elements which give a stoneware look to low fire ceramics.  I find them very beautiful the way the colors develop and break in the firing.  So, thank you, Mayco!

I find myself using my little copper wire coils over and over again, impressing them to make designs in my sculptures.  At first I thought this repetition was a problem, but I now accept it as a type of visual signature - not a bad thing!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What is a Raccoon's Special Knowledge?

 I just finished glazing this little raccoon shaman.  He is 4" tall, so pretty small.  The placement of the glaze on his head was pretty exacting and I'm pleased with the way it turned out.  I think it may be the most detailed glaze pattern I've attempted so far.

For the cloak, I used two little stamps that I purchased a few years ago and finally found a euse for, and also my trusty wire coils.

I'd like to make some small patterned stamps of my own.  That would make my pieces more truly mine.  I guess I could do that.  Just have to do the camera-ready art work and find a place that makes stamps.  So....I'll put that on my list!

There's another little shaman waiting for me to glaze - two more, actually.  A goat and a fox.  The color I used for the top of the raccoon's head would probably work for the fox.  Too bad I can't remember what it was!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fun with Macrame and Beading

While browsing the internet I happened by and found a video tutorial for making this wrap bracelet.  So now I'm hooked.  You start with a length of 2mm leather cord and string a button on it to the middle.  Then you fold the two halves of the cord down and begin macramé-ing around them.  Adding beads and changing the macramé cord colors makes it especially interesting.
I've made several now and am putting them in my Etsy shop.  It's also been fun scouring Etsy for interesting buttons like this one which is from another Etsy shop,  It's pewter and is signed on the back.  I think it says "Danforth fish" but the writing is very tiny and somewhat worn.
Here's another bracelet.  This button is also pewter, with a nice design of a sheep or ram encircled with stars.  I added some beaded dangles to this bracelet.  These are very fun to make!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Inspiration from Gay

I am so fortunate that a lovely woman has purchased two necklaces from my Etsy shop.  She told me her favorite animals and asked if I would consider doing any of them.  One was a sloth, and here's my piece made to her inspiration.  She was kind enough to purchase it as soon as she saw the listing, and it certainly feels great to have one's art appreciated.

I sculpted the sloth and branch from polymer clay.  I poked holes vertically through the branch to accommodate beading, and pressed a hollow on each end of the branch so that I could glue in the braided leather cord to form the necklace.  The thing I'm proudest about with this necklace is that I thought of continuing the beading beyond just the branch and partway up the braided leather cord on each side.  I think that does a couple of good things.  First, it integrates the focal piece with the cord, and second it visually diminishes the difference in diameter between the cord and the branch.

So, all in all, I'm happy with this piece, and I hope Gay will be too.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Forest Warrior

Here's a ceramic piece that I did that is, by now, mixed media.  The concept evolved.  I knew I wanted to sculpt a squirrel and make him/her a character of some sort.  Inspired by my favorite TV show, "Vikings," I decided to make a Viking warrior, a defender of the forest.
After I was started on it, I decided that it would be my entry to the KVIE Art Auction.  KVIE is the Sacramento public TV station and every year that have a fund-raising art auction.  Artists donate their pieces, but it's juried.  The idea is that artists will get valuable publicity.  You know how that argument goes.  I wasn't that keen on it, but finally decided to go ahead.  The "in person" jurying is tomorrow.
So this afternoon I visited KVIE's website to get the application to fill out and saw that 3D pieces have to be at least 12" in one dimension.  My squirrel was 7" tall!  Yikes!  What to do?  I was going to forget about the whole thing, but my friend talked me into improvising some additional height.
So I attached him to this slab of oak branch that I had lying around from tree trimming a couple of years ago.  Adding the feathers to his hair boosted him to the required 12".
The base was no problem for me.  I had been considering putting him on a base to add stability.  In fact, I put holes in the bottoms of his feet for just that eventuality.  But the feathers are sort of an issue.  I thought he looked quite Viking-esq with his round shield, battle-axe, and, most especially, his braided Mohawk - just like Ragnar's in my beloved TV show!  But the feathers just don't seem very Viking.  Oh, well.  I guess I sacrificed "authenticity" (as if a Viking warrior squirrel had any authenticity to begin with) for "height."
By the way, the shield is paper clay formed over cardboard with a button in the middle and then painted.  The battle-axe is a polymer clay ax head (finished with antique silver mica powder) secured on a piece of tree root.  (I think tree roots are even better than branches!)  There's a hole in the ax head so I could slip it onto the root.  It's glued in place then wrapped with artificial sinew.  His hair is felted and braided wool fiber.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Scroll Work in Clay

I have been inspired to do these little wall plaques with Christian themes, and there will be more in the future.  This one is about that admonition, that I find so challenging,  to value the goats as I value the sheep.  Of course I'm talking about the metaphor because it's no problem to admire both real sheep and real goats!  It's the human "goats" (no offense, real goats!) that are the problem.
Anyway, I have inscribed a Latin phrase on this plaque - "Omnia cara in oculi Dei," or, "all are dear in the eyes of God."
Sculpting the little sheep and goat heads was fun and no problem.  But how to design the plaque?  I thought the effect was a bit architectural, so I decided to add sculpted scrolls.  They weren't difficult at all to sculpt.  The difficulty came in with the glazing.  Painting neatly around them was very tricky!  But I persevered, and like the result.
The lavender glaze in the background is a Mayco Elements glaze, and I really like the mottled effect they give.
By the way, there are little violets from my yard in the photo because I wanted to give an idea of the size of the plaque.  This is one of the photos of it that I used in my listing in my Etsy shop, TheFoxesGarden,

Monday, May 12, 2014

Agnes Dei

I don't think I wrote anything about this piece when I was sculpting it.  I sure had fun with the lamb, though.  The traditional images of Agnes Dei, the Lamb of  God, show his/her chest pierced and the blood flowing out into a chalice.  That part of the symbolism I found disturbing.  So, after confirming that my artistic license is up-to-date, I felt free to leave it out!
The cross on the flag is a Crusader cross.  You can't see it in the photo, but there are four small crosses around it, one incised in each of the spaces between the arms of the large cross.
It was fun creating the design behind the lamb's head with incised dots.  And, of course, I couldn't resist pressing in some of my spiral wires for my most favorite image.
I wasn't really sure what to do at the top of the piece on either side of the "Ecce," so I just added some ribbons/banners.  The writing says "Ecce agnes Dei qui tollis peccata mundi."  "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."  I believe that "tollis" is second person, so it's actually "you who take away the sins of the world."
I think this may be my favorite ceramic piece so far.
The little violets in the photo are from my garden and they're there to help show the scale of the piece as this is one of the photos I used when I listed it in my Etsy shop.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Matter of Glazing

I did a post about this little owl wall plaque after I sculpted it, but now it's glazed.
I'm getting practice with blending different glazes into each other as there are three different blues in the background, with the darkest at the top and the lightest at the bottom.  Not seeking a perfectly smooth transition helps!
I originally glazed both the star in the sky and the star on the owl's chest white.  But when I took it out of the kiln I saw that the star on his chest didn't show up at all.  So I painted it light blue acrylic then sealed it with a gloss varnish.  You can't really tell that the star is painted and not glazed.  It would have been nice to glue on one of my vintage glass star cabochons, but, unfortunately, I didn't think of it at the right time.  In the future, I'll have to experiment with adding metallic lustre glazes, but that would mean a third firing as they fire at lower temperatures than the regular glazes.
One important lesson that I learned with this piece is that I have to carefully choose what glaze I'm going to put over the stamped lettering to make sure it shows - which it doesn't in this piece.  And that will require some pre-planning.  In this case, I didn't have a dark blue glaze that would do the trick, so I should have placed the lettering at the bottom of the plaque.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Fairy is a Bear

This fairy is a bear!  And sculpting her was a several phase project.  I sculpted the bear without too much difficulty.  But, despite liking the pose, it made her look sad.  So I decided that I needed to have her looking at something.

I considered a book, but ended up settling on a flower with a bee on it.  (You can't see the bee in this photo.  And anyway it's just the body as I'll add wire legs and feelers and make the wings from something gauzy.)

Now there's another problem which is that the bear and flower are way out of scale with each other.  So, to solve that problem, I made the bear into a fairy by adding little wings.

Of course there's no way that wings this size could lift this bear.  But then, that's the magic of being a fairy!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Cat for Kindness

Here's another ceramics piece I sculpted.  It's drying and getting ready for its bisque firing.

I'm quite happy with it so far because I've found cats so difficult to draw or sculpt.  It took me a long time before I felt somewhat proficient at drawing and painting cats.  And aside from this one, there are only a few other cat sculptures that I've been happy with - my little cat shaman in clay from about two months ago, and a paper clay cat head from longer back that was intended for a doll.  I haven't finished that one yet, but I've been working on it "in the background."  The doll is fully assembled but I'm stuck on the clothing and accessories.

I've been enjoying making these clay plaques.  Sculpting in relief, though, brings its own problems.  Although the total depth of the piece is not much, you somehow have to suggest a fully 3D subject.  I guess it's not that different a problem from painting where there's no depth at all, only an illusion.

I'll look forward to glazing this one when the firing's done.  I'm thinking of a black cat in honor of my recently passed little Starbuck.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Finished Spring Fox Painting

Here's the finished Spring Fox painting.  I'm happy with the way it turned out despite all the difficulties I encountered along the way.

For this third and final painting session I concentrated on the foxes and the grasses around them.  My sister told me that she thinks the foxes are well done, especially the modeling on the faces.  I think I could have done better with this painting though.

Nearly every time I do a painting with animals in a landscape I think about how much I need to improve my landscape painting skills.  Perhaps I should take a class.  Or perhaps I should set myself the task of painting several small landscapes with no animals in them until I get more comfortable with it.

But the lesson that was clear to me - whether or not I will take it to heart remains to be seen - is that I really need to plan my paintings, like I used to do.  I'm now comfortable enough with painting that I can sort of get away with jumping right in with just a simple drawing.  But then I face lots of problems as I go, some of which are very difficult to solve.

Despite all that, this painting is the basis for my spring banner on my Etsy shop and it looks good in that context, so - mission accomplished!