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

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!
:)
















23 comments:

Wind said...

Wow...it was quite an experiment!
I really like when I saw you here, working!
My compliments!
I wish you a great week!

Randy said...

You ROCK Becky! That is truly amazing and I applaud your efforts. I hope it makes it to school ok. Have a great week. My class is stressing me out big time but next weekend is a three day weekend so I hope to get caught up a bit. Have a good week.

Annie said...

Becky, I think you did an amazing job given your space and the fact that you have not made anything this big before. I talked to my sculpture friend and told him about your idea and his first piece of advice was making things with clay for at least 8 years before attempting anything like what you want to do! One baby step at a time, and I think you did a wonderful job! Did you receive my email? Happy Sunday! xoxo

joco said...

Hope you left a hole for the coins :-)
Admirable the way you get on with things.

Gail said...

I have always wanted to work in clay...

clairz said...

Brave, determined Becky! Can't wait to see the next step. Photos of getting the bear out of the apartment would be good, for a start.

marianne said...

wow- thanks for sharing! it's hard to remember it's all about learning sometimes when so much time & effort goes into a piece that may or may not work out, so good for you! i think she's lovely and can't wait to see the next steps-

Helmka Family said...

Hi Becky,

I think he turned out amazing! You did a wonderful job with the features. Don't doubt your self so much, you are very talented!

This is my first time commenting, I have followed your blog for a couple of months now. I am New Mexico bound, hopefully, in the near future.

Keep up the great work!
Karen

Kerri said...

WOW - I think you did a really great job! Keep up the wonderful work!!!

Barb said...

Oh, my - it was like having labor pains and then giving birth right there in your apartment! I'm wondering how much time that took? It seems like such a fragile process with many do-overs. I have no idea how you'll get that bear to your car and then to school and finally inside. That bear will have a story to tell!

Pat said...

It was so interesting to see your step-by-step process. Do you leave that foam inside on you close up the statue? That IS quite an undertaking in your small space!

sandy said...

The bear is looking good. I can't wait to see it finished.

John Brisson said...

Adding another "WOW" !!

John

Tammie Lee said...

I am always impressed with your clay skills! You attempt and succeed with amazing pieces. And not a space that supports your dream. A bit like me, I have been dreaming of turning my living room into my art studio.... ha. don't have that many guests any way... conversation piece if I do.... anyway, your bear is wonderful!

раиска said...

what a cute bear! I LIKE YOUR BLOG VERY MUCH. I can find here a lot of interesting things. Thank you

tattina said...

I agree with everybody. The bear is wonderful!

Alan said...

That's fantastic! Well done! I hope the firing in the kiln goes well.

Kate said...

You are tenacious! And you left a beautiful visual diary for us to follow!!

Rick said...

I followed your every word and photo throughout the story. Amazing watching it take shape, and in such confined quarters !

Best of luck getting it fired - hopefully it's a strong bear. Look forward to the next instalment of the story.

jelly beans said...

very impressive indeed! greetings from barcelona.

www.kamjey.com

Dee said...

Goodness...I will be holding my breath as you transport it...will it be hard to fire? I look forward to seeing it completed.

Barb said...

Did that bear make it to school?

Isabel said...

Wow! I liked to see the whole creation of this bear. I also lake clay (I started receiving classes only for months ago), and jewelry, and patchwork, and cross point ...................and most of all photography! Glad to have found your blog......I'll be following your work!