I am still working on catching up on unfinished projects. I decided it was time to get started on the second piece of my "Fromage series" (see my blog post from 3/13/17). The first piece in the series featured two upright porcelain mice and a round wheel of "cheese" made of wood with a wedge removed. In this second piece I decided to use a rectangular block of "cheese" with several cut slices, accompanied by two crouching mice. I had originally put aside a section of an old maple bookshelf to re-purpose as a cheese board to serve as the base for the sculpture, but I replaced it with an actual old cutting board that I found at a flea market. After reshaping the handle and blade of an old kitchen knife to better resemble a cheese knife, I was ready to tackle the "cheese".
For the cheese block, I cut down a piece of 2x4 into a 6" long 1 1/2" x 2 1/8" rectangular block. After cutting a half dozen 1/8" thick slices off of the block, I rounded their corners, sanded them and then epoxied five of them together in the positions I wanted them to be arranged in on the cheese board. The next step was to add the wooden pegs that I would use to attach the block, slices and knife to the board, and then to drill holes in the board to receive the pegs. Now I was ready to "paint the cheese".
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!
So - as you head to Maine for your summer vacation to explore the rocky coast, dine on lobster, go on a whale watch or a puffin cruise, check out the Saltwater Artists Gallery - we're just a quarter of a mile from Pemaquid Lighthouse.
wide Padauk boards that I had chosen to use for the base of the sculpture. I thought the deep red-orange color of the wood would contrast well with the blue-green patina that I was going to be using. While the glue hardened, I applied the cold "Tiffany" patina to the castings. I decided to leave the egg in the nest a natural bronze color to make it a focal point in the sculptural composition. I also removed some of the patina color on the nest to enhance the surface textures. I finished the castings by sealing them with satin polyurethane.
The next step was to prepare the wooden base. I sanded it, and then rounded the corners and drilled the holes where the various castings would be inserted and attached. I also added a smaller 1/2" thick walnut board to the bottom side of the base to add a little elevation to the piece. The base was then sealed with satin poly. The final step, after the base dried, was to attach the castings. I glued each casting into its designated pre-drilled hole using 5 minute epoxy. And - lo and behold ....Spring had sprung! The piece was ready to deliver to the Spring Greens show at River Arts Gallery in Damariscotta.
3 views of "Spring Arrival"
The quick back story on the construction of the pod birds is that I made their bodies from Mahogany seed pods, added sticks clipped from my old lilac bush for legs, and then attached lotus seeds for their eyes. The birds required the addition of wax wings, tail feathers, and feet, and I carved their beaks out of the small ends of the pods. As I transitioned from bugs to birds, I also decided to cast a couple of small birds nests that I had squirreled away for some future project. I coated them in wax and added a wax eggs. In the interest of artistic experimentation, not to mention being a "waste-not, want-not" frugal ol' Yankee, I also decided to cast some dried poppies from my garden. ( I like to have a full mold when I cast!) So fast forward to 2018, and my plan now is to clean up my leftover birds, nest and poppies, patina them in green, arrange them in a composition, and attach them to a base... Spring Greens!
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.