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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Another Sheep - a Ewe

Every ram has a good ewe, and now mine does too!
She's smalerl than the ram, but still about as big as I'd go sculpting from a solid piece and then hollowing her out.
I tried yet another tool for the fur.  This time I used a #1 bamboo knitting needle and scratched tiny spirals and squiggles.  The scratching pulled up quite a lot of clay bits.  Some of them fell off and some of them stuck.  The ones that stuck, I gently pushed into the clay trying to make sure they stayed on because they make the fur look rougher.  I don't know how many will stay on through the bisque firing.  But if they do, the edges should be softened by the layers of glaze.  I'm eager to see how it turns out.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Finished Ram

Here's the finished ram, drying on top of the kiln with his future kiln buddies.  I'm just going to keep sculpting until I have a pretty full kiln load, then it will be back to painting or drawing for a while.

To texture the fur, I used an angled mini cut-out tool and made short squiggly lines.  I think it worked out pretty well, but my search for the perfect sheep coat is still on.

I tried to make my own tool, but was unsuccessful.  The problems I had relate to it needing to be so small.  So far, I haven't found a good material to make the "loop" from and haven't been able to get the shape right with the materials I've tried.  But I'll keep searching for the answer.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Now for a Ram

 I decided to make a ram.  This will be one of my "larger" sculptures, so I'm going to construct the body from slabs.

Still, I start with modeling the head from a solid lump of clay because, although this will be one of my larger sculptures it's still not large at all.  If I were really making a large one I'd made the head from slabs as well.

Anyway, in this first picture, I've molded the head.  It's really hard to resist putting the ears and horns on but I know that if I add them at such an early stage they'll likely get bumped over and over again as I work with the neck, body, and legs.  So, restraint is required!  (I would ordinarily attach the ears now, but since they're so close with the horns and the horns would definitely get messed up, I'm waiting on both.)  When I'm done with the modeling, I hollow it out from the neck end.
At this stage I've added two slabs.  The first was over the back portion of the neck.  The front part of the neck came from the lump I molded the head from, but there was no clay for the back of the neck, so I patched that.

The second slab was for the body.  It's just a large slab rolled into a tube that's the right diameter for the body.  I lapped the body tube over the neck, but still added a "snake" at the seam (which you can see in the photo) to give me plenty of clay to smooth the transition.

I'm leaving the tube a little longer than I need on the back end.  I'll cut away some of the bottom part of the excess then fold the top down to shape the rump.  After I've formed the body I'll sculpt and attach legs as solid pieces then close up the rump with extra clay if I need to.  I must remember to poke a hole in the belly to allow the air to escape when firing.

I should have taken more "in process" photos, but I got really into it at this point and forgot!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

...and a Lamb

The peaceful and loving imagery of the lion and the lamb is irresistible.  A lamb has joined the lion, so here's my version.
Before I started the lamb I noticed that the lion needed a bit more mane behind his ears, so I added it, the on to the lamb.
The lamb is small, a bit over 2" tall.  Working this small, I sculpted the head and body from a single piece of clay then added the ears, legs, and tail.  When she was complete, I cut her in half at the waist, hollowed her out, then put her back together and poked a hole in her belly so the air can escape when firing. 
The final step was the texture.  In my earlier sheep I created texture by pressing tightly coiled spirals of copper wire into the clay.  But this time, I cut out irregular squiggly lines with my ribbon cut out tool.  I like both techniques but I think this is more realistic.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mick's a Winner!

I saw that Dick Blick (a large art supply store with a web site was having a contest called "Fur and Feathers" and invited people to enter the animal-themed art.  On the "nothing ventured nothing gained" theory I decided to enter.  The hard part was to pick which piece to enter as they allowed only one entry per artist.
I decided on this pastel portrait of my beloved cat Mick.  I did it a few years ago, and I'm not convinced that it was among my best, but I always liked it, I think because of the composition and the theme.
Anyway, I was delighted to hear this morning that I'm one of six winners!  Yeah!  Go, Mick!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Lion

I rarely paint or sculpt animals that aren't native to North America, or sometimes Great Britain.  It seems that I should stick with the animals that I'm more familiar with.  But I just had to sculpt a lion, and here he is.

As always I began with the head (but not the mane yet).  Once I had the head sculpted from a solid lump of clay I hollowed it out from the neck end.  From there I added a slab for the neck, then a rolled slab for the body.  The legs and tail are solid.  When I had the whole lion together I added the mane.

For the mane I considered adding individual strands, but ended up attaching eight or so irregular shaped flat pieces that I textured.  I think it works fine.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Returning to Small

After so many disappointments and frustrations working on my large ceramic house, I'm returning to smaller work.  This house is about 9" across, and it's drying waiting for the first firing.  It was a pleasure to make.  Despite having to "tweak" the pattern I made for the front and back roof pieces, it was a pleasure to make.  And it's destined for my Etsy shop - a good thing because I've been away from it for a while.

I'm making more pieces, and will fire when I have six or so dry ones.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

If we Learn From our Mistakes I have a Great Learning Opportunity!

The dragon shepherdess' cottage, just out of the kiln, doesn't actually look that bad.  But it's not what it seems.  There are several cracks and breaks.

The worst one is on the roof.  Despite my hopes and dreams, the house dried just a bit to big to fit into my kiln.  So a local ceramics place bisque fired it for me.  (I was hopeful that when it was bisque fired and not so fragile I'd be able to get it into my kiln for the final firing.)  But a corner of the roof (on the round part) popped off with the minor bump it got when I put it into the back of my car.  I fixed it with patch attach and it made it through the bisque firing.

So I glazed the house and went to put it in my kiln only to find that it was a bit too big.  BUT -- turns out - good news and bad news - that the roof was loose from the bottom and each piece would fit separately.  So I fired the roof first.  The patch attach joint failed and the supposedly repaired broken piece separated badly.  Also, a crack appeared at the bottom of the back left edge - but not along a seam!  It was tempting to give up at that point, but I wanted to see what the glazes on the bottom part would look like, so I fired it.

As soon as I opened the kiln, I could see that one end of the threshold piece had separated.  But the rest looked OK.  After the kiln cooled to a bit over 200 degrees, I took the piece out.
Then the freaky stuff started.  A joint in one of the inside corned pieces separated with a loud snap.  Later the other joint snapped and that corner piece separated entirely.  The noise was kind of scary.  It sounded like heavy glass breaking.
Then, when I turned the piece a little to take a photo, a long crack sliced its way through the solid piece of the back wall.  Soon another crack, but shorted, opened up by the front door opening.

Clearly I have a lot to learn about constructing and firing larger pieces.  And I'm thinking maybe stoneware, at the higher temperatures, is more susceptible to these kinds of problems than earthenware, but I don't know.
At least the owl's cute!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Fairy Flock

The flock, dog, and shepherdess are now glazed and decorated with their collars and antennae.  The shepherdess has a walking sick made from a piece of oak root.  I prefer the roots to the branches because of the beautiful way they curve.  As it turned out, the diameter of the smaller end was exactly the right size to add a vintage glass cabochon.  I then covered the glue joint with a length of cup chain of the same type that I used for the dog's collar.
While I was applying the glaze to the bisque fired dragon, a lesson presented itself to me.  Whether or not I learned it remains to be seen.  My intention was to make the dragon's wings the same color as the sheep's wings.  But I was yacking on the phone with a friend and apparently used the wrong glaze color - the same as I used for the dragon's body.   Drat!  It's so easy to do because the unfired glaze colors, in this case, are quite similar grays.  The task required more attention than I gave it!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Glaze Test Palettes

I'm ready to glaze my fairy sheep and dragon shepherdess, but this time I'm going to try to be smart!  I been disappointed so many times in the past relying on color swatches on websites.  So this time I decided to create color sample tiles specifically for this project.
First I identified possibilities from color swatches on websites.  Then I made 5" (so they'd fit in my small kiln) tiles from the clays that I actually used for the sculpture.  The base color of the clay really does affect the look of the glaze.  So I have three tiles - one (white) for the sheep, one (desert buff) for the dragon, and one (desert buff) for the cottage.  I stamped the color names,of the glazes and the clay into the tiles with my alphabet stamps then bisque fired, glazed, and final fired the tiles.  From these actual samples - fired on my clay with my glazes in my kiln - should give me a much better idea of what I'll get.