It's easy to get stuck in a box when it comes to technique, we have a vision in our head and we've learned almost formula ways to express it with our mediums. But sometimes artists are so used to looking into their own mind and at the canvas/clay that their eyes are closed to everything else.
As Obi Kanobi (or was it the sensei master in Karate Kid ?) once said..."Be one with the universe". I may mix up who said what lol, but the point is to not get lost in your own world but to become an interacting part of what you are creating...that is what will open your eyes to possibilities that the universe gives you, as a little added bonus.
For example, this morning I headed into a stage of binding together different elements of the same sculpture. I've designed it so that things are leaning or brushing up against a central theme piece. But as I was working, even though everything was holding together, I realized that having such small appendages that weren't fully anchored to the piece increased the likelihood that something could break in someone's hand when they were touching and looking at it. And I haven't even sculpted and attached the Jammins' character. Every other piece has been more self contained and this was never a worry.
So I figured I needed a base for this one, so there will be one more point of contact and less possibility of a delicate piece being stressed by too much pressure from someone's hand. At first I thought of a wood base and then I thought that's stupid...I have a material I can make into a base. No lathe I could use but I could cut angles close and then sand into obedience after it's fired.
Then I thought that I really didn't like the idea of a faux wood finish, so thought I'd go for a granite/stone effect. I had some gray clay so took part of it and some white to make a lighter gray that I could mix with the dark for a little striation. I was just going to make a solid light gray. Then I was going to partially mix the two and use a rolling pin and guides to make a thick base.
So, the quickest way to mix clay is to dot smaller pieces on a square of the base color, fold it into itself and then roll into a snake. I then folded and re-rolled into a snake again about 5 times. Then you put it through a pasta machine, and then you keep folding and re-insert until it's all blended. During this process you can see lots of striations, but they are quite bold in gray and white. A lot of jewelry artists use this technique to get patterns, but that wasn't my intent.
I wasn't paying much attention to what came out of the rollers, just quickly picking it up, refolding and putting it through again, not worried if the piece came out square or distorted, but suddenly the clay and I became one. 'LOOK AT ME!' it screamed...'you didn't plan it but I've come to be exactly what you need!' And, oh boy! was it ever!
Now...it doesn't just take seeing something, it also requires having a flash of inspiration in how to use it. Now, one of the restrictions to my sculpture was that pieces couldn't stand apart from each other, they needed to be interlocked for support. I really had wished I could place the character a little further away but there really wasn't a way to do it that worked and I didn't want two seperate pieces.
So, not only did I see how a pattern and shape could work as a base, I saw how I could use the strange shape to position my pieces just how I had originally wanted!
Here's my happy accident, which reminded me of a cross section cut of quartz stone...
As you can see it's a lovely base material with an interesting shape. It's fairly thin, about a 1/4 inch thick...enough to be solid, but won't really add weight. It's in neutral tones and the pattern isn't so busy that it will detract from my sculpture. Once this is varnished it will look just like polished stone. It's also something that I can loosely re-create for future bases (a hint of rose in there would have been lovely).
So there you have it..sometimes a mis-shaped blob can be all you could have wanted if you just have the inner eye to see it with. I think all artists have the ability, it's part of what makes us artists, but just as in the rest of life, we're sometimes rushing through and don't even see what it is that we're rushing by.
I'll show you how the sculpture comes together once it's done. :)