casting

i’ve never thought of myself as a sculptor.  i’ve never done much with clay, or ceramics.  altho i made a japanese wave kind of sculpture out of home-oven dried clay for xmas one year.  and one of my breast cancer paintings is very sculptural.  and there were the two turtles i sculpted.  and now the two dolphins.

it’s the plastic quality i like so much, the molding and shaping and manual persuasion of it.  actually, it’s the tactile arts i’m into.  anything i can get my hands into.

a friend was just visiting, and suggested that i keep my dryer lint because it makes really fine handmade paper, and strong, too, so you can embed things into it.  ah, don’t get me started on handmade paper – when it’s wet you can drape it on things and mold it.  ooooooooh.

i like fabric work because it involves working with my hands and soft fabric.  i like clay because i have to work the clay and smush it and form it.  i like wood and stone; i’ve done both carvings and really enjoyed the process.  doing things with my hands, manipulating materials, making something out of the whole cloth.

that’s why the idea of the sari is really grabbing me at the moment.  before needles were invented, there was just lengths of fabric.  people all over the world wrapped themselves in towels and sheets, and were very happy.  and millions of people still do.

i was thinking about the scottish kilt, with its thousand pleats.  that’s very like what they do with a sari, a million pleats tucked in at the waist.  saris are one yard by five, while the original tartans were 2 yards by 7 yards, both worn with the end thrown over one shoulder.

so, wrapping uncut cloth.  draping.

ah.  needles have been around for 30,000 years.  weaving has been around, at least we have samples dating from, around 10,000 years ago.  the theory is that they sewed skins before weaving was invented.  anyway, both are essential parts of textile history from way back.  but uncut cloth, how about that?  when did clothes begin to be cut out and sewn together?  12-14th C europe.

okay, enough out of that.  i’m supposed to be documenting today’s progress with the dolphins.  the first thing i did this morning was to go down for more epoxy (hey nelson), and then a run on home depot.  i got all the rest small little crown nuts, but they were singly wrapped and cost the earth.  i may wait until they restock the 6-packs.  or go to vinings…

so this morning i inserted  bolts thru the holes in the can and the tray,with nuts and washers, and daubed putty over the ends once they were tight.  and then i took the churchkey and lined the back with putty, put it in place, and smoothed putty all around it.  you can’t see it in this picture.  and the same for the razor knife.  i made a bridge under the knife, and made sure to put putty into the works in the back, and to putty up some hatch i discovered in the handle only after i’d stuck it on.  the same with the tape, only i had to deal with some sort of drainage method.  just like in the tray.  i had to use my awl to drill a hole thru the pier under the bottom leg and will be drilling holes thru the tray and can once the plaster has set.

i had to move the roll of blue tape several times, until i was happy with the hole.  the awl is holding the hole open until the putty sets.

and that was all i could glue on today.  the other things, the porous things, i had to treat first to make them stiff before i can put them on the dolphin.  so i got out a can of polyurethane and dipped the roller, the sanding pad, and the 3″ brush into it, making sure to mush it around and squish it with my fingers until i was sure there was polyurethane in all parts of these objects.  you see them drying on the table in the middle studio.  tomorrow i can think about glopping them up, and after that, gluing them onto the dolphin.

and so i turned my attention to something i haven’t done with these guys yet.  when i did travel turtle, i cast my camera and stuck a bondo version onto my turtle.  here i’m going to do the same with a drill.

but not a real drill.  a plaster drill.  because i’ll be damned if i’m going to waste a perfectly good drill.  a brand new drill, that i got jim for xmas.  he hasn’t even used it, and i’m going to trash it by gluing it to a statue?  i’m not heartless.  it would be unconscionable.  otoh, i could go to a pawn shop and get one for five bucks.

but i’m not going to hurt the drill.  see, i’ve wrapped it in plastic wrap so that the clay will never touch the surface.

here it is wrapped with clay.  i’m using plasteline, which is an oil based clay that never dries out.  i had to put it into a jar of warm water, however, it being winter.  i also wrapped the cord, but just to keep it from picking up any clay.  i’ve only wrapped the top half of the drill in clay.  and it’s rather thick clay, too.

and then i put it into the fridge to harden the clay, so that i could then peel it off without it losing its shape.  then i separated the drill from the mold, and gently removed the wrap from the inside of the plasteline.  the way it looks in this picture, it looks like a positive, but it’s really a negative, and the outlines of the drill are high, with the center touching the table.  i love the way areal photography does that.

then i wrapped the drill in plastic again, stuck a new 2-lb block of plasteline (thanks nelson) into hot water to warm, and did this half differently.  the first half came out with too many gaps and not a good enough impression of subtle details, like the logo.  so this time, i mushed the clay until it was very thin, spread it over the form, and pressed it down hard.  after that i got a lot more clay and put it on in big thick plates, so i’d have a good chunk of form when i got thru.

see how it only covers a little more than half of the object?  i’ll have to go back and trim so that the two sides are close to matching, before i pour the plaster.

here are both sides.  you can see a coffee pot with hot water and some softening balls of clay inside.  and also you can see a ball of unmixed putty sitting at the bottom of the picture, waiting for me to finish documenting and get on with mixing.

i’m having a tremendous time documenting my work.  i remember doing the turtles in 2005, and documenting that, but only with a few pictures and a lot of narration while i was doing the work.  the narration sticks with me, even tho i didn’t blog then and didn’t write it down.  now, i’m writing it down, and all the things i thought i’d like to pass on when i did the turtles are finding expression here when i run into the same problems i had last time.  just because i’m aware doesn’t mean i don’t have to repeat things…

for some reason, today my left elbow began hurting, and eventually the nerve became inflamed, and now my fingers are starting to swell.  i don’t have many lymph nodes in my right arm, and edema is a problem sometimes, but it’s been a long time since my fingers have swollen up.  otoh, all my joints are stiff tonight, so maybe it’s just the day that’s in it, and tomorrow will be different.

now i’m going to post this, shut down in the studio, and go for a midnight walk with the dog, so he doesn’t poop in the corner of my studio, which i really resent.  then i’ll go upstairs and have a bowl of homemade chocolate ice cream, read a chapter or two of the book i’m reading, and then go to sleep.  the baby’s here at the moment, so i will be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow, and back in the studio about 10 am.

and tomorrow, it’s plaster time, both in the can and tray, and both halves of the drill.  whooee.  i’ve never done plaster casting before, so it’s going to be fun.

i still have to cut the 2″ pipe for the mckenney’s dolphin, and finish building out the flanges.  but i’m going to wait until i’ve reached a stopping point with the home depot dolphin.  but if my arm hurts in the morning, i’m probably taking the day off.

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