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Sunday, May 31, 2015

More Collage Bits

This rusted crown is a "bit" for my mixed media dove collage.  I did the drawing back at the end of April.  Obviously, I didn't make much progress, but I have been thinking and planning.
I made this crown from paper clay that I worked over a cardboard cutout.  When the clay dried, I carefully removed the cardboard from the back, bit by bit, so that it would be less thick.  After all, this is going to be part of a collage which won't have much depth.
But the crown looks like it's made out of rusted metal, doesn't it?  That's thanks to a wonderful product called "Sophisticated Finished Rust Antiquing Kit."  The kit consists of two liquids.  The first is very find iron particles in suspension.  So coating the crown with that was like coating it with iron.  Then the second liquid is a rusting agent.  I applied it to the iron-painted crown and voila! 
Well, not quite "voila!"  I had to apply three coats of the rusting solution to get it to this stage.  I think if I were able to dip the piece in the solution, the rusting would have happened faster, but I couldn't dip or the back of the paper clay would have started dissolving.  But after three coats, I'm very happy with it.  And I think it will look terrific in the collage.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Cottage Has a Roof

I got the roof on the cottage, and it was quite a complicated project because of the distinctive roof shape.  I began by rolling out slabs of clay and cutting the four main roof pieces.  Then I cut out the extra decorative top part for each roof section and attached them with slip.  I let the roof pieces harden somewhat so they would be easier to handle.
At first I tried to assemble the roof in place, adding one piece and then another, but it just was too cumbersome.  So I ended up assembling the four roof pieces separately.  I let the joints harden a bit then added the roof to the cottage as one piece.  I let it rest overnight in a plastic bag.
Then this morning I added the curved piece along the front, scoring and slipping it in place.  I had to add a "snake" of clay along the joint to ease the transition.  Once the clay had hardened a bit, I scored the thatch lines.
The other thing I had to do was make and attach the chimney.  I referred to my reference photos for the shape, and as I was working on it, remembered the chimneys I saw on the old building in England.  What a nice memory!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Roofless Cottage

The cottage is now constructed except for the roof.  When I was assembling the first two walls I had to lean them against cardboard boxes for support.  But once all four were up, it was stable.  Something new I did with this one was to add clay corner pieces to the tops and bottoms of the insides of the four corners. (You can see them along the top edge.)   That's to help keep the building square which will be very important when I attach the roof.

I constructed my house on my kiln shelf.   That way I will know that it will fit!  It will be heavy to lift into the kiln, but with some help it should go fine.

The separate pieces behind the windows worked out well.  They stabilize the edges of the window cut-outs, but also add nice detail.

The round  bay was tricky.  On any square corners, I used mitred edges on both pieces and that eliminates the need for figuring for the thickness of the clay - as opposed to the thickness of the cardboard pattern, which is thin.  But after a bit of tinkering and fudging it worked out OK. 

The most fun was the owl on the roof of the round bay - naturally!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Beginning of the Shepherdess' Cottage

Now it's time to begin the shepherdess's cottage - a truly big job!  I began by constructing the cottage from cardboard, then took it apart to use each piece as a pattern.  That's when I ran into the first problem.  I had ordered the clay a few months ago but hadn't unwrapped it from its shipping box.  When I did, I found that the plastic bag around the clay wasn't sealed - so the clay was hard!  Workable, but very stiff.  And that made it difficult to roll out these large pieces with just a rolling pin (my low tech slab roller).  The back of the building is about 14" x 11", so you can guess at the effort of rolling that out.
(As an aside, I'm thinking of keeping the pattern for a possible gingerbread house.)
Since this house is bigger that the other ones I've made, I have an opportunity to do more with it, and an example would be the window.  The cut-outs will go in behind the windows once the four walls are up.


Here's the end wall with the bay window.  And here, also, you can see that the roof will be thatched.  I looked on-line for photos of 16th century English cottages and they are breathtakingly beautiful, especially the detail work on the thatched roofs.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Dragon Shepherdess


The dragon shepherdess is part of my ultimate fairy garden stoneware suite.  There is also a small flock of sheep fairies and a shepherdess's cottage (currently under construction).  After I took this photo I realized that I had forgotten the lamb's wings and the holes in her forehead for the antennae, so I added them.  Now I'm waiting for these two pieces to dry so that I can bisque fire them.

You can see in the second photo that the lamb doesn't have any back legs.  That's just because it didn't seem possible to add them and still have her sitting on the dragon's arm.  Hopefully this omission will not be particularly noticeable in the finished piece.

Actually, I sculpted the dragon before.  But as I was moving the greenware on a small board I clumsily hit the edge of the board on the edge of the table and the dragon shattered - a lesson to treat my greenware with more respect.  It is SO fragile!

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Few New Pieces for a Goal

It's been so long since I've done any artwork.  I went to England for a wonderful vacation the last half of March and was home one day before I got sick - first with a bad cold that lasted nearly 10 days, then with a debilitating weakness that turned out to be anemia.  The pieces I've been posting lately are ones I worked on before my trip but didn't get around to writing about.

This drawing of a dove is one of the very few things I've worked on since the beginning of April.  Many weeks went by without doing anything!  Horrible.

Our art club is having a juried show in August and last year I set myself a goal of working hard on pieces for it with the hopeful outcome of winning an award.  I've won Awards of Merit in that show in the past, but never Awards of Excellence or Best in Show.  I wanted to break through that barrier.  My plan was to do four pieces - two 2D and two 3D.  At this point, I'll be lucky to have one of each.  I'm not working or designing with the particular juror and judge in mind - just doing my best. 

My 2D piece will be a collage that centers arund this dove - a similar technique to what I used in the piece of a cat, "The Initiate."  Whether or not I win an award, I am excited about working with this new techniuqe I am developing.  I just wish I had the energy to really work on it!  The entry deadline is June 12, and all I can say is that I'll do my best!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Little Lost Lamb

I was working on a few little stoneware fairy garden houses and had a small lump of clay left, so I made this little lamb.  What was so amazing is that it took exactly the amount of clay that I had left - no more, no less.  She's a bit bowl-legged, but I think it makes her especially endearing.
The clay is speckled brown from and is a clay that I particularly like.  It is a warm medium brown and has little specks in it that turn black when fired.  The color of the clay doesn't leave a lot of color choices for glazing, but I really like these two on it - Black Walnut and Birch, both Mayco stoneware glazes.  The Black Walnut breaks a very dark rust brown over ridges.  The Birch settles in the grooves for a lighter color.
For the texture in the lamb's coat, I used a small spiral of wire and stamped with it.
This little lamb is small, about 2" tall.  She's one of mhy favorite pieces.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mouse in a Yellow Rose

Here's another of my recent ceramic pieces - a little mouse exploring a yellow rose.  It was surprisingly simple to create the rose.  I began with the central petals then just added one petal at a time till I had the entire flower formed.  Then I added the leaves and a flat base.  During the bisque firing, one of the petals dislodged, but I was able to glaze it separately and glue it in at the end.  The mouse is also glued in.
I sculpted the mouse after the rose because I had to make her so that she would fit between the petals.  She's actually missing on of her back legs, but it doesn't show.  Her little front feet are resting on the edge of one of the petals, though you can't see it from this angle.  The flower is about 6" across.
When I did the glazing, I added some peach towards the center of the petals, and some white here and there on the edges, although the white doesn't show much.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Three Bears

I sculpted this bear family right around the time I made the fox.  I guess you could say I was in my "glass flowers and leaves" period as I've used them on the bears as I did on the fox.  The process was the same, and I find the results charming.
The mother bear is 6" long and the standing cub is 3" long - rather small, but a size typical of my work.
All three of these pieces are hollow.  The way I do that is to sculpt the head, neck, and body from a solid piece of clay then attach the legs which are also solid.  I then slice the bear in half, hollow it out, and stick it back together again by scoring the cut edges and painting generously with clay slip.  I let it sit for a while and then smooth the seam.  If I have to, I add a tiny "snake" of clay over the seam to smooth it better.  This method works well for me.

Monday, May 11, 2015

May Day Fox

Here's one of my recent ceramic pieces - a fox decked out for May Day with her fascinator of flowers.  She's long and lean, as creatures often are in the springtime.

I sculpted her by hand from Laguna EM342 clay.  Before I bisque fired her, I poked a small hole in her head - ouch! - so I could add the wired flowers later.  As always, I struggle with the glazes and often find it difficult to find the colors that's "just right."  She's a little bright, but I think probably my best choice from what I have.

In any case, I think she's a sweetheart!