Two years ago I picked up a couple of bags of snails at a craft store to use for some relief projects (see my blog post for 7-12-17) and recently decided to come up with some ways to utilize the plethora of unused snails that were left over. In a moment of "clarity" I decided to made a batch of them into fridge magnets. I had a couple of dozen snails that I had previously filled with Apoxie clay. Each had a hole drilled into the Apoxie which was eventually supposed hold a wooden peg that could be used to attach the snail to a base. Those holes allowed me to effectively mount the snails on a pegged board for painting. I layered several different colors of spray paint on the snails - Satin Nickel, Satin Dark Green and Matte Hammered (a brownish "dappled" copper color).
The next step was to create a recess in the bottom of each snail into which I could insert a small disc magnet. I used a variety of Dremel attachments to create a recess that was about 1/2" in diameter and 3/16" deep in the flat Apoxie underside of each snail. I used 5 minute epoxy to attach the magnets. The snails were done...now how was I going to display them? That the fun part!
I knew that I didn't want the snails just sitting on a flat horizontal or vertical surface. I wanted to create some sort of "natural" environment. As usual, I prowled through my stash of leftover materials looking for inspiration, and - voila! - I found an old weathered board with amazing textures. It was about 15" long and 4" wide and the surface grain cracks and knots almost made it look like swirling water. I went out to the barn and found a couple of old weathered cedar fence posts and cut the top 13" off one and 10" off the other. My plan was to stand the two posts up on the board like two pilings coming out of the water and have magnets imbedded in them as attachment points for the snails. I used bolts to attach a 6" piece of yellowheart wood and two old wooden thread spools to the baseboard to slightly elevate it. (The board was slightly "wavy" so it need something under it in order to sit flat.)
Next I made recesses for the magnets in the posts with the Dremel. I made 8 in the taller post and 7 in the shorter one, and then epoxied a magnet in each recess. The final step to assembling the display piece was to attach the posts to the board with screws up through the bottom of the board and into the bases of the posts. It was finally ready for the snails! They clicked on as planned - a perfect fit!
bolt head in with some epoxy and then epoxied a piece of tagboard over the bottom of the "G" to seal the split. Next I tackled the challenge of assembly.
I epoxied one letter on top of another, making each one at a slightly different angle from the one below it. In order to make the junctures more secure and stable, I used Apoxie Clay to "chink" the undercuts between each letter. I coated the entire piece with gesso and then gave it a coat of off-white latex paint. The next step involved using rubber lettering stamps and a sepia colored stamp pad to print dog related words, names, and sounds on each letter form...doggie, pooch, mutt, Spike, Spot, woof, grrrr, etc. Finally, I sealed the form with a coat of clear matt acrylic, and was ready to attach the piece to its base.
For the scuIptures base I decided use a "book-shaped" cutting board that I had put aside a number of years ago. I drilled a hole in the center with a recessed larger opening on the back side so that the bolt could be attached with a nut. I used my letter stamps and some of the off-white paint to print a title ("Dog Tales") on the "binding" edge of the board and then sealed the whole thing with satin polyurethane. I attached the letter form to the base with both epoxy and the bolt. The final step to completing the piece was to add 8 small plastic dogs that I had purchased at a local toy store. I made thin Apoxie clay bases for each dog, painted them a deep green, and attached the dogs to them with epoxy. Four of the dogs were epoxied around bottom letter on the wooden base and each of the other four were epoxied to various levels on the letters. Woof woof! Ready for the show!
DOG DAYS OF SUMMER at SWAG opens with a reception on Aug. 18th (3-5PM) and runs though Labor Day!
I began slowly bringing out and shaping the nose area using chisels and my Dremel tool with a sanding drum attachment. I continually had to make assessments as to how much definition I wanted in the features and how the emerging light wood was integrating with the remaining bark areas. Eventually I committed to creating more definition to the end of the nose and separating it from the mouth area by removing more bark from the area between the end of the nose and the top lip. I also decided to refine the mouth by gradually removing more bark from the area surrounding it.
As I started revealing more of the light wood along the sides off the nose, I made the choice to use my Dremel tool sanding drum to shape heavy lidded eyes in the bark. Sanding the bark revealed some interesting layered color patterns. I continued using the Dremel to shape the areas around the eyes and the cheek bones, and to refine the shape of the nose. My final decision on the face was to remove a curved section of bark at the top of the forehead. This served to reduce the amount of visual weight at the top of the piece, create downward flow into the facial features, and mirror the shape of the mouth.
The next step was to refine the surface on the back side with chisels and sandpaper and then seal the entire piece with satin finish polyurethane. Finally I mounted it with a metal rod onto a 7" x 6 3/4" x 3" block of Sapele wood that I had also sealed with satin poly. The finished piece stands 22" high. I will be entering it in the "Wild Things" show which will run from August 16th through September 12th at the River Arts Gallery in Damariscotta.
"Call of the Wild" ... sealed & mounted
*Photos by Jay York Portland, Maine
It's that time of year...selecting artwork to go to different galleries with different requirements and in different towns. Sometimes the submission deadlines and show durations coincide, sometimes they overlap, sometimes they are totally different. This can make selection, delivery, and pick-up of artwork both a challenge and hectic at times. I try to co-ordinate the "delivery dance" as far ahead of time as possible. I also have to figure in trips to accompanying the artist receptions. Once in a while, when the "stars are aligned," I am able to get to 2 places in one trip...like a drop-off at one and a reception at the other, or a reception at both. The galleries that I show at are about a 1 1/2 hour drive (sometimes much longer with summer traffic), so it makes a bit easier for me if I can do a "two-fer". My next trip the coast will be for a reception at the Boothbay Region Art Foundation and a drop-off and pick -up at River Arts Gallery in Damariscotta on July 5th.
The upcoming show at River Arts has a theme of "Night and Day". I am interpreting the theme as "black & white" and will be entering one of the two plaster reliefs that I wrote about in my 4/17/19 blog post. I will be entering "Calm Before the Storm", along with a piece made on Contrasto paper titled "Intergalactic Energy Field". (Contrasto paper is actually a material that consists of a top layer of white plastic adhered to a bottom layer of black plastic. You use an x-acto knife to cut and peel away areas of the top layer to reveal the black layer below.) I will be saving the second plaster relief, "Tidal Travelers", for a show later in the season. On July 17th I will head back down to Boothbay Harbor to drop off 2 pieces at BRAF, the bronze and alabaster sculpture titled "One" that I wrote about in my 9/22/18 blog post and the plaster relief "Oh" that I wrote about in my 1/14/18 post. So I am set for entries for the next month or so. In the meantime I will be exploring the topic of "dogs". Stay tuned!
directly below it on the floor. I liked the floating effect that I was able to achieve, but this method of suspending the sculpture also had limitations. Chain lengths had to be adjusted to accommodate varying ceiling heights and the piece could get overwhelmed by the amount space around it created by an excessively high ceiling. I had often thought about mounting the piece on a rod to create a more versatile and user friendly method of presentation, and the upcoming show presented the perfect opportunity to follow though on that thought.
After purchasing a 3/8" diameter metal rod at Home Depot, I went to the Rockler Woodworking Store in South Portland and picked up an 8"x8"x3" Padauk bowl turning blank to use as a base. I trimmed the Padauk down to 7"x7" so that I could add an 8"x8"x1" piece of Brazilian cherry underneath it to add just a bit more height to the base, and then drilled a 3/8" hole in the center of the Paduak. After sanding the two pieces of wood, I glued them together, adding 4 screws from the bottom to make sure the connection was secure. On top of the Padauk I also added a 2" diameter wooden disk (with a 3/8" center hole) that I made from one of the thin slabs that had been trimmed from the original blank. I finished off the assembled base with two coats of satin polyeurethane. The next step was to drill a hole in the sculpture for the rod. I drilled in the same place that the bottom chain had originally been attached and at the same angle. I was able to incorporate the place where the top chain had been attached into the contour of the sculpture with a bit of "creative carving". The final step was to apoxie the rod into the sculpture and then into the base. The newly mounted sculpture was well received at the show and will be on display until July 5th.
"Visceral Torso" ... 26" h
to the Gallery. The Seagull Shop & Restaurant has a shoreside view of the ocean and is right next to the iconic Pemaquid Lighthouse. What a way to start the day! (I must admit that I usually get to New Harbor early on the days that I sit the gallery, just so I can go to the Sea- gull before opening up the gallery.) After an informative member meeting, we got to the annual pre-opening tasks of cleaning windows, vacuuming and dusting, arranging furniture and trimming shrubbery. By the time we were finished, the gallery was ready for opening day on May 24th. All that is left is for the artists to come back and hang and arrange their work.
I went back to the gallery on Monday with my car packed with boxes of sculpture, reliefs and a few pieces of flatwork. I try to pre-plan the set-up for my area in the gallery on paper, but there are always a few elements that need to be rearranged a bit once you start setting them into place. This means bringing a few extra options that can be switched in if needed. This year I only needed to make a couple of changes to my planned arrangement, so things went into place fairly easily. After putting labels on all of my pieces and filling out my inventory sheets, I headed home. I'll be back on June 2nd for my first gallery sitting day of the season... after a relaxing breakfast at the Seagull.
My display space ... set up and ready for opening day on May 24th.
*Saltwater Artists Gallery will be open weekends starting May 24th, then 7 days a week starting June 15th.
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 attached 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!
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.