Let the Beauty of what you Love be what you Do...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sketches & Sundays in the Studio

Go ahead... laugh at my drawing skills! Seriously, I won't be offended... I giggle at them too! Here's the thing- as I had mentioned in my previous post, I'm experiencing some difficulty in the inspiration department as far as assignments go in my Ceramics Class. For our current assignment, we had do something that was (somewhat loosely) based on architecture. It could be based on an actual structure or something from our imagination. I spent the better part of the week with a huge mental block & I just couldn't started. Aaaargh! After much thinking, frustration and wondering if I should just drop the class... inspiration came!

I know this doesn't look much like inspiration... but sometimes it's a good idea to get your thoughts on paper, so I figured I better sketch out a rough draft. My idea was basically to create a sculpture that had some architectural elements, but I wanted to make a piece that expressed how I feel about the destruction of the natural environment and our never ending quest for oil. On one side, I'd have the big city sky scrapers~ representing urban sprawl & "progress," and on the other, melting ice caps & the requisite polar bear clinging to the edge. The hole in the middle was originally going to be oil dripping out of the side of the ice cap, but I changed my mind & decided to make two islands as it were, floating in a sea of oil. So! Today, I had the day off & into the studio I went.

Here's how it went. Rolled out a slab & added the first island.

Added the second "island" of some very non-realistic (let's call them whimsical... or surreal if you will)icebergs.

Addition of the first sky scrapers. Initially, building them was a little tedious, but once I was drawing in the windows, distorting them & adding them to my island, they were quite fun!

The addition of the Polar Bear... close up view. (I have to admit at this point I was thinking of those old Godzilla movies, as it looks like my Polar Bearzilla is climbing over the ice, larger than life w/ his eye on the city!)

Aerial shot above. On the right side, you see part of the second bear I was going to add, but at this point, I was getting hungry & the studio was getting busier (I do better when there are no distractions) and I just couldn't get it right, so I figured it was time to quit for the day.

I've got a lot more work to do. While I'm fairly happy with how it's coming so far... I don't know if I like the separation of the ice cap & the island city. Somehow I've got to tie the two together... or maybe it'll flow together more once it is glazed to look like they are floating in a sea of oil. Hmmmm... it's hard to tell... but it's missing something. We have a "working critique" coming up soon, so perhaps I'll get some helpful input.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Good News, (Im)patience & Another (not so) Big Bear

The good news is, my "cartoon bear" from the last post made it from my little apartment to school & onto the kiln shelf intact. Now comes the waiting... and trying to remain patient.   I often feel I use up all my good patience at work, and then when it comes to getting things done in my personal life... I want it all to happen now, and I have to admit, it's one thing that drives me crazy about ceramics in the classroom setting... the waiting for firing- which could take weeks (or longer!) Aiiiiiiiii!!! So, in the meantime, what's a girl to do but do more work. I swore I wasn't going to work in my apartment again due to the tight space & constant clean up, but sure enough, as soon as I dropped off the Big Bear, wouldn't you know I picked up another bag of clay & got right to work the very next day. Here's the finished bear (soon to be in line w/ his buddy on the kiln shelf!) He's quite a bit smaller- about 8 inches tall & 16 inches long, which is still rather large, considering what I was doing before I started this class.

Another angle below~

I rather like the way it turned out... a bit less cartoonish & more bear-like to me.
And while I won't bore you all to tears with a million photos on process like I did last time, I will share a few... lucky you!
I figured it would be easier if downshifted a bit, and went a little smaller this time... still working mostly w/ slab construction. I also figured I'd let the slabs dry a bit instead of working w/ wetter slabs that tend to collapse. Problem w/ that was, the thinner/drier slabs tended to crack during construction... so I was constantly re-wetting, smoothing & repairing as I went along. My 3 hour project turned in to an all day affair. I don't feel my construction was all that consistent, so I figure this one has a pretty good chance of blowing apart during the firing... so we'll see. Here's the work in progress below~

And as usual, there was the problem w/ the dreaded head! I can see in my mind exactly how I want it to look, but I can't seem to get the picture in my head to translate to the form!

Yes, again I redid his head at least 3 times before I could live with it.

Though the pic above would probably adequately describe how I was feeling as I was trying to get it right. And now, again comes the waiting game. In the meantime, I have been working on some assignments for class... but nothing I have really been able to sink my teeth into, or get really excited about, though I'll probably post some assignments here at some point or another. I have, however, been checking out various different types of sculptural clay online, & ordered a few clay books that I'm (im)patiently waiting for. There are certain types of clays that tend to be a bit more forgiving which would be a huge plus for larger sculptural works, and I'm anxious to give them a try. Until next time!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Blank Canvas... AKA Experiments in Clay

For a painter, it may be a blank canvas. For a printmaker, a copper plate or block of wood. For a clay loving girl with Big Ideas...  my blank canvas is a couple of bags of clay & a space to work. Given some of the dilemmas in class, I decided to start working at home & see what I could do. (Have I mentioned how small my place is??) My goal was essentially just to push my own boundaries of what I could do w/ clay & to experiment w/ going bigger... with limited knowledge on how to go about doing it.

For my first work space, I covered my little kitchen table with canvas and tried to keep things neat & orderly... ha ha! What was I thinking?! It soon looked like this~

I know, I know... what a mess! But once I started, I was committed to seeing it through... which made my little apartment less of living space & more of a studio. I started with legs... building a foundation first. Beginning with the coil method, I then added slabs to build up. After many hours, I had four misshapen "legs." These I brought over to workspace # 2... just a few feet from my kitchen to my living room. (I had gotten a piece of scrap board from Home Depot, some canvas & blankets & placed on the ottoman... and Whala! A stable workspace.)

I  have to admit, I was beginning to feel a bit frustrated at this point. Not just at my lack of skill, but at the lack of adequate space... and the fact that despite my best efforts, I seemed to be getting clay everywhere! But I had to keep going!

I rolled out some more slabs and began to build the belly,

and the sides of the body. Each slab must be slipped & scored, and you must try to keep a the moisture level at a consistent level, otherwise they won't adhere properly to each other, and can crack or explode in the kiln. Hence the bag over the neck- trying to keep it moist while letting the midsection dry/stiffen up just a bit.

Adding more slabs... piece by piece. Too big of a slab will just collapse.

The body in its rougher form. Rolled foam to support the weight outside...

and inside!

Hmmmm... this is where things got really frustrating: the addition of the head. I wasn't sure if I should build a loose formed head & attach, or keep going piece by piece. I chose the former... and that just didn't work~ so I cut the head off & continued with building from the neck out.

This was tricky work!

And I found it hard to maintain the shape of the head.

The last addition... closing the form.

Still not happy w/ the shape of the head... I tried paddling it into shape, which ended up making the head even smaller. I thought at this point it looked more like a giant thumb!

So, I had to do surgery... and split his head open to try & widen it a bit.

Still too small, but at this point, having redone the head three times, I was done!
I was going to leave it at that, but it was looking a little "bald" to me, so I decided to add some features.

I'm not so great at features, which is why I usually leave the face blank! 

The semi- finished bear, shown with others I've created to show scale. It's about a foot tall & roughly 2 feet in length.

While not at all realistic (I call it my "cartoon bear") and perhaps having a head that resembles Yoda... It seems to be drying well & with only some tiny superficial (I hope) cracking on the underbelly. We'll see what happens... It's still got quite a bit of drying... then there's the transport from apartment to school... and if it survives all that, into the kiln it will go! So, only time will tell. It's all a learning experience right?
But I'll tell you what... I don't think I'll be trying to build anything this large again in my little place anytime soon!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

" In the depths of Winter I finally realized that deep within me there lay an invincible Summer..."
~Albert Camus

Just sharing a few pics from this weekend's adventure in the mountains. My friend & I snowshoed up Raven's Ridge in the Santa Fe National Forest & were rewarded for our efforts with some amazing views & the gentle quiet of the forest in winter.

And for me, a little extra joy & laughter making snow angels.

Hoping you're all staying warm out there... especially in your hearts.

Friday, February 4, 2011

"Nothing Happens Unless it is First a Dream..."
~ Carl Sandburg

I have a crazy dream. Don't ask me why exactly... but I want to build a life size Polar Bear out of clay. Surely it has something to do with my love of these fierce, majestic creatures, but the idea has probably been percolating for quite some time. Maybe the seed was planted somewhere between making my first little clay creation here, doing this project for an entry level ceramics class at SOU, and finding Lawrence Argent's work online here. (Seriously- watch the video in that post... it's a lot of fun!) Anyhow so here I am, starting a new clay class with some pretty BIG IDEAS! So, needless to say, I was a bit deflated when I discussed my BIG IDEAS with my new instructor and was met with just a little opposition. The words that met my ears went something like this, "there's not enough space... you'd need too much one-on-one instruction... it would cost a lot of money for that much clay..." and something along the lines of "it would be a miracle... like flying to Mars." OK, OK... I get the point!! And seriously, although I was very disappointed... I could see his point. The studio space is small, and perhaps my dreams are a bit lofty considering my limited clay experience. But, dang it, that's what I'm here for... to pursue my creative dreams... no matter how lofty! And I can tell you... it brought up some of the same issues I've been struggling with for years. I thought... shoot, If I just had my own home with a little studio (or even a garage!) I could just start working on these dreams... in my own space, in my own time. But that just isn't a reality at this point. I even tried to think of how I could start in my teeny tiny apartment, but clearly in that small of a space, it wasn't going to work. Sooooooo, I said to myself: "Beck's, you've just got to put aside what you want to do at this time & just be open to all the things you can learn from this particular class." Then, lo & behold, my instructor had a change of heart. While I can't go as big as I had originally dreamed, he did conjure up some space so I can at least go a little larger... and then who knows~ maybe next semester I'll have the skills to go really big! So, my self assigned homework was to start working on techniques at home. Here's some of my results (unfired/unglazed) & process.

The thing is you can't go too big as a solid hunk of clay, otherwise it'll just blow up. So for the one above I hollowed out the center, but left the head & legs solid... that's a little risky, but I did poke holes through them to create air chambers... so we'll see. It's all a learning process at this point. On the second one below, I started from one hunk of clay, & hollowed out the whole bear.

I know, you're wondering, how do you go about doing that?!? So glad you asked... as you know how much I love to document process!

Well, you start with a wire, and cut the poor little guy in half.

I've never actually done this before, so I wasn't sure how it was going to work.

Anyhow, once you've got your two halves, you just start scooping out "the guts" until you have a relatively even shell.

Then, you slip & score the edges, apply a slurry mixture of clay & water, then kinda gently squish it back together, pressing & smoothing at the seams until it appears seamless.

 And, Whala! Many hours later- finito! I actually have no idea if this will turn out as I'm kinda winging it, but I am hopeful it will work. If not, I'll be learning from my mistakes in trying different techniques, and that is not a a bad place to be.