As the deadline for submission for the March show at River Arts Gallery neared, I began to peruse my inventory of work to select a piece that would fit the "Figures, Photos, and Forms" exhibition theme. I decided on a plaster carving of two figures that I had done some time ago, but had never shown. When I took it out of its storage box I discovered that the gesso that the piece had been sealed with had discolored over time. After a brief debate with myself - repaint it with gesso or strip it and seal it with self-priming white satin spray paint, I opted to strip and spray. I didn't want to chance that the discoloration would leech through a new layer of paint or that the second coat of gesso would also discolor over time.
The discovery of the most efficient way to remove the gesso coating on the sculpture was a process of trial and error. I began by using testing out various grits of sandpaper on the broadest expanses of surface area. I didn't want to put scars into the surface of the plaster that might show when it was painted. I eventually settled on 100 grit which allowed me to break the surface of the old gesso without unduly effecting the plaster beneath it. I was able to use a variety of utility blades and small
plaster chisels to remove the roughed and thinned layer of gesso. Once the piece was entirely stripped I used 200 grit and then 400 grit sandpaper to regain the original smooth surface, and then sealed the sculpture with several coats of the satin spray paint. The final step was to make a wooden disk to attach to the bottom of the piece to protect the edges of the plaster base. I made the disk an inch smaller in diameter than the base of the sculpture and it had 4 wooden pegs that would insert into corresponding holes in the base. After staining and then sealing it with polyurethane, I epoxied the disk to the bottom the sculpture. The finished piece measures about 10" in diameter and stands about 8" high. It was done and I was pleased with the result! Off to the gallery on Friday...
.... 3 views
I began my work on the 6 1/4" x 10 5/8" slab by making four impressions of an edge of the disc in the clay, and then pressing a tin can into the centers of each of these partial circular impressions to create a smaller circle. I used a plastic container cap that had two raised arcs on its top to make a sequence of shapes in the space outside the centers, and then used several of the smaller found objects to make varying impressions within those shapes. The designs within the discs were fairly symmetrical at this point, and I knew that I wanted to add a subtle variation to slightly disturb that symmetry. I used a plastic jar lid that had a textured edge to make another circle within the central area that I had created with the tin can. Each new inmpression was placed just a bit off center. I also added a different impressed design in the center of each of them. The final step in the relief design process was to use a piece of window screening to create a lightly textured surface in the spaces surrounding the large discs. I was then ready to cast.
Rang in the New Year by finishing up two pieces for entry into the upcoming Black & White themed show at the River Arts Gallery in Damariscotta. The first piece that I tackled was a vertical design plaster relief. I was taking a brief break from the plaster fish relief designs I had been working on and wanted to play with something abstract. After experimenting on a slab of clay with a variety of objects from my collection of "impressionables" I zeroed in on a very large nut (the nut & bolt variety, not the edible kind!). It measured about 1 3/8" square. It had slightly rounded corners and one face was slightly rounded while the other was flat. Pressing the nut into the clay produced a domed effect in the center of the impression. When I pressed the end of a wooden dowel into the dome it became an "O". This led me to the idea of creating some sort of relief "tic tac doe design", so I used the end of a small thin piece of wood to impress an "X" in one of the domes. I liked the effect. I rolled out a 1/2" thick 6" x 10" slab of clay and got to work executing my design.
The size of the slab allowed me to make 21 impressions of the nut in 4 vertical rows of 7 (or 7 horizontal rows of 4, if you prefer). The design was to be based on the idea of tic tac toe, but it was not going to be an actual game set up with 9 boxes. I impressed X's and O's in patterns that I though might simulate game play without using 3 marks in a row, and I also left some domes plain to indicate that the game was either in progress or unfinished. After casting the design in plaster, I cleaned up any surface and edge irregularities, dried it and then painted it with graphite gray acrylic paint. Before framing the piece I rubbed the surface with a soft cloth to bring out the metallic quality of the paint. After matting and framing the finished piece, I was ready to start work on my next entry for the show.
I had to cut off the center portion of the bottom wooden screw so that I could glue the handle end in one side of the clamp and the tip end of the screw in the other side so that it would appear that the screw still went all the way from one side to the other. The top screw was easily glued into position without any adjustments. The final step was to add a hanging wire on the back and "Tic Tac Tic Tac" was complete. Both pieces have been delivered to the gallery and await the jury's verdict!
Before I began the painting process, I used my Dremel to create small "nibble marks" on one corner of the cheese block and on two places on the group of five slices. I primed the block, the group of five slices and the single remaining slice to insure that the wood grain pattern wouldn't show through the the light "cheese color" that I was going use to finish them. I then mixed up a batch of acrylic paint that suggested the color of cheddar (?) cheese and painted each of the cheese elements with four coats of that color and sealed them with matt medium. Before assembling the piece I lightly sanded the cutting board and sealed it with wipe-on polyurethane. I used wood glue to attach the cheese elements and the knife to the board. I used wood glue to attach the two wooden pegs for the mice to the board and the cheese block, and then I used epoxy to attach the two mice to their respective pegs. My second "fromage" is now completed...and I suspect the future holds a third!
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My concept for the base involved creating a wooden "cradle" that would support the piece under the roundest section of the bronze slab, but I also wanted to have a some space between the slab and the "cradle" so that the piece would not appear to be a part of the base structure. I wanted the supports to be spaced narrower than the width of the slab to further visually separate the piece and the base. I began by tracing the curve of the slab and then transferring that curve onto 2 matching pieces of yellowheart. After cutting the traced curve on the yellowheart boards, I cut a rectangular board to act as a baseboard. I attached each of the 2 curve topped pieces with 3 screws up through the baseboard. I then added 2 narrow yellow heart crosspieces at either end of the curved upright "cradle" boards. The next step was to add the elements that would allow me to attach the bronze slab to the "cradle".
My plan to attach the slab was to drill 2 holes in the back side of the thick end of the slab and epoxy them onto 2 pegs that would be inserted into the top crosspiece. I made 2 pegs out of yellowheart, but decided that the weight of the bronze might require pegs made of a more substantial material, so I switched the wooden pegs for ones cut from a 3/8" metal rod. I also decided to add a third smaller peg on the lower crosspiece to add greater stability. After sealing the base with satin polyurethane, I was ready to attach the sculpture...but wait! It occurred to me that I would get a more secure attachment if I used threaded rods rather that plain rods, so I made one last peg change before finally epoxying the sculpture to the base. C'est fini! The finished sculpture is now on display until October 19th at the River Arts Gallery in Damariscotta.
... views of completed "One" with base
go all the way through the slab. Slow going, but mission accomplished! After epoxying the Paduak piece to the bottom of the granite slab, I completed drilling the two through-holes through the wood and then added recesses in the wood to accommodate the washers and nuts that would be used for the attachment of the driftwood piece and the larger snail. The piece was ready for assembly.
I attached the pod bird by epoxying the short rods that extended from the bottom of each of the bird's feet into two of the 1/2" holes that I had drilled into the granite slab. The bronze driftwood had a threaded hole into which I had epoxied a piece of threaded rod. I inserted the rod through the through hole that I had drilled in the small end of the granite base and then secured it with a washer and nut. The last step was to attach the two snails. One had a threaded rod that went through to the wood and was attached in the same manner as the driftwood. The shorter rod on the smaller snail was simply epoxied into the final 1/2" hole. The completed piece is currently being shown until September 14th at the River Arts Gallery in Damariscotta. Stop by, if you are in the neighborhood!
in the clay just outside the pod edge to create a seal that would keep the casting material in the mold. Using Smooth-On Re-Bound 25 silicone rubber, I stippled on the first layer to insure good detaiI, and then I brushed on layers of silicone (allowing each to cure before applying the next) until I reached a thickness of about 1/4". The final step for the first side was to apply layers of plaster and fiberglass cloth shreds to create a 3/8" thick "mothermold" that would serve to support and help the silicone keep its shape during the casting process. Once the rough edges of the mothermold were trimmed (easier to trim plaster before it hardens), I removed the plasticine shim and the marbles, inverted the piece, and started the second side.
Before applying the Re-bound-25 to side two, I added a short length of plastic straw to the end of the pod stem. The straw would eventually act as the pour gate for the casting medium. After spraying the exposed silicone for side one with mold release so that the new layers of silicone would not adhere to it, I completed the application of silicone for side two. Once that side had cured, I applied the plaster and fiber glass. After trimming the second side of the mothermold, I extracted the lotus pod and the length of plastic straw. When the plaster was throughly hardened, I was ready to make a plaster test casting. I secured the two mold haves together using rubber bands and 3 metal pinch clamps. I used a large syringe to inject plaster into the mold through the gate created with the plastic straw at the end of the stem. It took 4 injections of plaster and I rotated the mold after each to insure even and thorough coverage.
The casting was very successful. It had very nice detail and little evidence of air bubbles. The only issue was that part of the thin stem broke off during the removal process, but I was able to reattach it by drilling a small hole in both the stem portion and the pod, inserting a piece of a round toothpick, and then patching the break with plaster. I will most likely use resin for future castings. I am not sure yet how I will utilize castings made from this lotus pod mold...but I'll keep you posted!!
he had each of us made an alginate waste mold of our hand. Our homework assignment for the second day was to create a relief sculpture out of plasticine clay that we would be casting in a one piece block mold the next day. As I sat at my work table at home trying to decide what I would do with the slab of clay that I had rolled out, my eyes settled on a small plastic container of nuts and bolts that were waiting to be sorted and put away - and voila! I had my idea. At first I was just going to press the various nuts, bolts, and washers into the clay, and then I decided that I would also actually embed them in the clay so that I would have both impressed and relief elements in the design.
The next day in class we hot glued together a cardboard framework to contain the silicone mold material that would be poured over the relief. We determined the volume of silicone that would be needed by filling the cardboard frame with rice and then pouring the rice into a measuring container. We used a 2-part silicone from the Smooth-On Company called Mold Star Silicone Mold Rubber (16 Fast). Equal parts were mixed and poured into the mold frame on top of the relief (6 minutes work time). After 30 minutes, the cardboard frame was removed and the original relief was extracted from the cured silicone mold. The final step was to make castings from the completed mold using Smooth-Cast 305 Resin. This is also a 2-part material that is mixed in a 1:1 ratio and has a work time of 6 minutes. I made several castings and they all had consistently great detail, including the areas that had undercuts. I chose to use white for these castings to emphasize texture, light, and shadow, but I may experiment with different colors of resin or model paint on future castings. The design is effective from all angles, so I may also experiment with some groupings - a diptych, a triptych... maybe even a quadtych!
I spent the last two days of the class working on a couple of 2-part brush-on molds that I brought home to finish...stay tuned!
Cynthia Smith, Maine artist, originally from Connecticut. Taught art at secondary level for 35 years, retired in 2004. Sculpts in bronze, wood, stone, clay & plaster. Her work can be seen at several mid-coast Maine galleries and shows.