Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Plaster Disaster

My latest disaster for the week is with plaster. Luckily I have finally found a mentor to help me with casting my peppers! Finally! And I do feel grateful to have found him. We were supposed to have a weekend workshop this past weekend where I was going to learn all about mold making, various methods, secrets, etc. Well it just so happens that I am one of two people in this town who are actually interested in learning this... so they canceled the class. Of course nobody called me to tell me, so I got to drive for 60 minutes in the rain only to find out that the class was canceled. Anyhow, the teacher was kind enough to invite me into his sculpture class and teach me the techniques on Tuesday nights for the next several weeks. As difficult as it is for me to break away from my 1 year old daughter for the evening, it is something I have to do.

So last night was the first class. I have to say I got the royal treatment from my instructor, probably due to the workshop being canceled. We got started on casting my pepper and I was supposed to finish at home on my own. I have all the materials here, that I bought years ago when trying to learn mold making by myself. So here I am during nap time, mixing up plaster, laying down newsprint and getting the space ready, only to find that the plaster has gone bad. Oye! Well, I had a feeling this might happen. Moisture got into the plaster and created small chunks that will not dissolve in the water. It is also not allowing the plaster to harden. So I have to drive out to the clay store tomorrow and get another bag of pottery plaster. I wish I had known and I could have gone today. This is putting another 2 days onto the project and the pepper may shrink before I can finish casting it. Oh well, if it does I'll just sculpt another one for casting.

I guess it's just another obstacle in the road to the pepper project.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pepper Disaster

My latest firing was a complete and utter disaster. I fired the giant pepper, the one that is supposed to go to the mold maker later this month. It blew up and the kiln was a giant mess with fired blocks of clay spattered about and small pieces stuck to the glazed tiles that were also in the kiln. It was bad. Really bad. I actually had to take a couple of days to process all of it before being able to unload the mess. All that work, hours of sculpting, destroyed. Why can't I get this project off the ground? Is it really this hard to figure out? Maybe I made a mistake in firing. Here is a link to The Pepper Project if you would like to read further about it.

I wanted to leave the mess to sit a few days more but knew I'd have to deal with it at some point. Plus, I practice feng shui, and I knew it was really bad to leave sitting about for any period of time. It seemed silly to me, the need to mourn this piece. It's just a lump of clay for crying out loud! But I guess I love my work. Spending hours with these pieces, I get to know them. I create them. The pepper project was an idea born to me years ago. And obstacle after obstacle has been thrown in my way. When can I get one of these things made the way I want it?

I finally cleaned out the kiln to see what went on. Apparently the pepper blew out early in the firing (thanks to my cone packs I think I must have been told many years ago not to fire a solid block of clay. Probably in the ninth grade I learned this. And so I never did it. Then I guess I forgot, because I had never done it. So when sculpting the piece it didn't really occur to me that this was a bad idea. And the mold maker asked me to fire it in order to cast it. I guess there was an air pocket in the pepper, or probably several air pockets. What a mess...

Well the good news is that I was able to find someone to teach me to make molds. I recently wrote to one of the local art schools and asked the director if he had anyone. The school came up with a weekend workshop where the instructor shows a few different ways to cast molds. So that is coming up soon. I'll have to sculpt a new pepper for the class and see what he says about it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Choosing Tiles for a New Piece

This week I am starting a new mosaic. I decided on a design, which is an octopus in the ocean. I am sticking with my sea themes again. I guess I am drawn to the ocean and the creatures that live there. It seems peaceful to me. Also, the organic textures that I put onto the tiles seem to work for many different things in the ocean. The size of the board is around 30" x 24" and will have a mirror. The newest place that is showing my work,, has only small wall space and she had requested small pieces last time. I have a tendency to work big, so I have to reel myself in a lot of the time and remember that people don't always have a huge wall space to display my work. Plus with the wood board and the tiles and the grout, the mosaics are quite heavy.

I drew out the design and figured out where the Octopus will go and the mirror as well. I may end up cutting the board even smaller, but I hate to do that. The smaller the board, the smaller the pieces have to be, which takes longer for me to make, and it is actually harder for me to do because I have to do a lot of cutting and fitting in.

I chose the tiles and colors I'll be using for the piece. This is the scariest part of the mosaic for me. I'm afraid I'll choose the wrong color or texture and the design won't flow well. I could do it over if I had to, but that means starting from the beginning; making more tiles, waiting for the tiles to dry, firing, glazing, etc. When I make the tiles, I only make 2-3 sheets of each texture. I know it would make more sense to complete the design before making the tiles, but I just can't seem to work that way. I have tried to do that in the past, but for some reason I need all my materials ready before I can conceptualize a design. I need the board there to draw on, and the tiles there to study. Will this texture work for this scene? What color would work? Do I have the right color clay in the right texture to make the right color? All these things can feel overwhelming.

I don't think I like glazing either. I'm not a painter. I never was. I often wonder if it was that awful professor in college who berated me during every painting critique. I hope not. I can't let someone like that keep me from my art! I worked my ass off in that class. And cried every Wednesday morning at 10:30 when I got home from class. I was not the girl who cried during class... not me! Why was he so awful to me? I even had fellow students ask me why he hated me. I hope it was because he saw what an awesome artist I was. He was trying to beat the work out of me. Fucking Gaudnek. Then I had him again for BFA seminar and the guy was my best friend! He loved me! Maybe he saw that I was not a painter, so he wanted me to get the fuck out of his class. Anyway, enough time spent writing about him... So I have to paint my tiles this week and get them back into the kiln to fire so they are ready for my latest sea creature.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Test Glazes

I fired my kiln last weekend and got my new test glazes with the red clay. The firing went fine, no problems. Here is a photo of the cone pack after firing. You can see that the cones melted in comparison with the earlier photo.

The glazes on the red clay look different than they do on the white clay. That is what I wanted to know! I am glad the firing went well, I just wish I had made better tiles for testing glazes. I guess I wasn't really thinking ahead when I made the tiles. Oh well, they work for what I need them to. Here is a photo of the glazes on the red clay.

And compare to some of the same glazes on the white clay: