Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sculpture Art- combining Aesthetics and Function

I just finished this new baby elephant Sculpture Art Pendant called Baby Steps and I am so pleased with the results. I've always had a special affinity for elephants, one look into their eyes and I feel I've connected with an old soul. All babies are adorable, but a new elephant calf is especially so, with all their lumbering enthusiasm and clumsiness, and I wanted to capture that feeling in this piece. 

One of my concerns during the conception phase was how to not only make this have an appealing look but also how to make sure it was a solid sturdy piece suitable for wearing. My other Sculpture Art pendants all have a strong cross bar worked into the design. I make the bar a branch or leaf and it works with the design, but elephants aren't especially know for their branch clinging abilities :) 

I could have had the trunk wrapped around a branch, but I try to keep my pendants around a two inch diameter size, so that they are wearable without being too bulky or ostentatious, and that idea was just not going to work here. I obviously needed a solid footing for this piece. This also excluded me from using a circular wire frame as it would not give a wide enough base. 

I had a lot of ideas, but discarded them one by one, either for aesthetic or functional reasons. Sometimes the most simple and logical ideas elude me, I guess it's because an artist tends towards flights of fancy too easily. When I block on something like this I try using free form word connection to see if leads me anywhere. I just tried to think of any words that have to do with an elephant. When I got to tusks I almost kept going, it seems to be an overdone idea, plus I hate the idea that elephants are endangered due to tusk harvesting.

But then I realized that tusks are a physical part of the elephant, one of their means of survival. There's probably hundreds of ways to use tusks in a composition, but only when I started to think about the tight knit bond between clan members, did this design come to mind; a protective circle signifying group unity and protectiveness. Yes, I simple that it should have been a no brainer, but what can I say?

So, once the idea is formed then I begin to think of functionality. It does no good to create a lovely sculpture and then have it fall out of its setting. The more points that connect to the setting, the better the solidity, but you still have to keep it aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I knew I could reinforce the meeting place where the tusks joined together with a good solid sterling silver wire wrap...this also gave it a loop for hanging. 

I sculpted the elephant to fit the piece, but did not affix it until the end. That way I get good 3 dimensional details from every angle, not something doable in a tight space. I constantly fit it to the frame though, so that I know I'll have some good solid connection points. I did the whole body with the upper leg bone (but not the lower leg) and then baked it. This allows me to work with attaching it since I can now put a good grip on the body without squishing it. 

The issue is that I cannot put too much pressure on the joins with the lower legs still being malleable, and although it may seem to bond, one good knock can dislodge it later on. No problem, the wonderful thing about polymer is that it can be baked repeatedly, and when joined correctly, forms a bond between the polymer particles that creates one solid piece. 

So I baked it in place and then once it cooled gave it the knock test. And just as I suspected, it dislodged. So I drilled a very small hole in the bottom of the connecting feet and in two spots on the tusk frame. I then put a drop of liquid sculpey in there, which when mixed with the clay acts the same as a slip does in pottery. I put a small glob of clay in between the two pieces and then pushed the sculpture firmly in place. I held it there while I packed the clay in and cleaned up the oozing around it. 

Once I felt I had an aesthetically pleasing finish, with a solid bonding, I then propped the piece on a wadded up piece of cotton material (at 275© it's perfectly safe) so that it would retain the position I put it in. When the clay bakes there is a moment when the piece softens before it hardens and this is when a piece can get warps in it, so the cloth pillow ensures it won't flatten or sag. 

This time (when I tested it after a good long cool down period) it didn't budge with the knock test and my eye could see a clean solid connection between the two. I always put a clear acrylic finish on my Sculpture Art Pendants, this also acts as a bonding agent and reinforces the overall piece. 

So now that I have all the work of aesthetics and function worked out I can finally sit back and enjoy the actual subject...what a cute little guy!


Friday, November 21, 2008

More clay fabric - extruder style

I usually am not very productive on Thursdays, as it seems I stay up too late to catch Top Chef :D So usually I use the time to work on things that don't take a lot of brain strain. I'm getting a little low on my last batch of clay fabric and I had recently come across this photo of a poisonous cone snail and fell in love with the pattern. I knew I could never reproduce it exactly since things stretch in the pasta machine, but I knew it would be a good extruder project and that I'd get an interesting pattern.
So first I extruded several long strips of pearl white and then covered them in a black sheet done at my thinnest setting. I carefully ran my finger down the gap between the triangle points and then used the brush of my handle to run over it once more. This is much easier than wrapping each little strip.
Then I mixed some gold and pearl white to make some gold extrusions, and some hot red and gold to make the other color.
Then I hand made varying sizes of the white and individually wrapped them in thin black. I had two short strips left over from the other colors, so wrapped them too. Then I popped everything in the freezer to harden up.
This is what everything looked like after I thinly sliced can see I have a lot that I didn't even cut, so I'll be able to make a similar but different pattern later too.
I then rolled out a sheet of pearl white. I did it quite thinly, probably at about setting 5. Then I formed the pattern, piece by piece. I then took a rolling pin and did a couple light passes over it so that there wouldn't be too much smearing over the edges. This is how it looked before going through the pasta machine. 
And this is how it looked after running it through just the first and second thickness and then no more passes.

You can see it didn't smear or stretch too much. The reason is I didn't start with too thick a piece, if the base is thick and then you add another thick later you are going to get tons of smearing. If I could have only run it through once instead of twice it wouldn't have had any smearing at all, but there were too many spaces in the design and that won't wrap as well as if there's only a couple. 

Overall size is about 7 x 5 inches so I'll get a couple things off of this. Even though it wasn't a lot of brain strain and was fun to do, it still took about 4 hours to do this. But I just really love being able to get inspired by a design in nature and then create these one of a kind fabrics for myself.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Starry Night

This is a rather clean and simple design but I'm quite pleased with it because I got the exact effect I wanted for it. It started the night before last when I shut off the lights to head to bed and saw the partial moon sitting in the sky over town. It was one of those nights when the lights in town twinkle and sparkle like little stars and the moon had a lovely burnt sienna cast to it's outside edges. I thought "oh! The moon!" because it's like getting a beautiful little present every time I catch a glimpse from inside a cooped up house. 

So I went to bed thinking how I wanted to capture that. I intended to make a new bangle for my line the next day, so thought to incorporate that. I really wanted the star effect and I remember how the Milky Way used to almost overwhelm the dark of the night in New Mexico. I have some super fine glitter and thought that would work. I chose blue and gold and a little white to give it a hint of that milky effect. It does not show on a photo, but every time it moves, it twinkles...just enough glitter for the effect, too much and it would have been overwhelming, not enough and it would have looked like some just spilled on it. So that was easy. 

But if you've ever tried to create a moon that wasn't just plain white, you'll know that it's hard to catch that slight coloration and glow. So I started with some pearl white clay and then did a Skinner's blend with it and a smaller mixture of fire hot red, yellow and white pearl. 

A Skinner's blend is done by cutting the two colors into triangles and then laying them next to each other to make a square. Then you run that through a pasta machine about 20-25 times, refolding in the exact same direction each time. You end up with a perfectly gradated blend from the darker color to the lightest color. 

This is very thin when it's finished, so you accordion stack it and then cut slices from that to work with. The photo doesn't catch this part very well's not the camera or my skills that are lacking, it's just a very subtle shift. It's a little better seen in the second photo. I'm never completely sure something is going to work until it's done...a lot of ideas just don't pan out, but I got lucky here.

The light hits the little pearl particles in the clay and gives it a glow effect. I wear all my bangles for at least one day to make sure that they are sturdy and will hold up to normal wear. What was so cool about this one is that when it would catch my eye (I was wearing long sleeves, so it would only show if I stretched my arm out) then I would actually think... "Oh! The moon!"

So even though it's a fairly simple and common shape for a moon representation, there's a lot more here than meets the eye. I had to call it A Starry Night, because it just really made me think of how Vincent must have wanted to capture that same feeling when he created his painting.  


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Latest wearable vessel

Well, you all know I've worked on my bottle design for awhile and I've finally got every portion rock solid, with nice finishes inside and out. I've dropped the larger embellishments to make the vessel smaller, because I didn't want to make it shorter or narrower or it will defeat the purpose of being able to use it to actually hold something. All in all I think it's a sleeker, cleaner design guaranteed to hold up to every day use if wanted.

I'm close to being out of this 'fabric' I made, it makes the pieces similar but each one ends up with a lot of variation in the pattern.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Artsite of the Week - 1000

If you read my blog yesterday you'll know that I recently opened up my own online store. This blog entry isn't to promote my own store, but the actual exciting new artisan venue that 1000 Markets has to offer. I think that a look at some of the exciting work there will not only make your wish list grow but offer up a lot of inspiration for your own work. So that is why I've decided to make this the Art Site of the Week. 

I found out about 1000 Markets through another artist blog. I really respect this artist (and am inspired by her silversmith work) so when she blogged about it I was naturally curious and set out to research. 

Information for artists:

All the information is on their site, I think it's an excellent and fair venue for artist/craftspeople and they solely use Amazon for their shopping cart, so purchases have great backing behind them. I think any artist would be happy with the terms, there are no fees until you sell your work. And I've found the support to be absolutely wonderful. It is a juried acceptance, so put your best work forward if you decide to join...this keeps the quality and appearance of the whole Market top drawer quality. 

Information for viewers:

Oh...go have a blast! The markets have unique offerings from fine art to culinary wonders with all sorts of creative stuff in between. I've spent hours looking through the shops when I should be working (it's like going to an upscale mall and none of the merchandise is mass produced!). I'm really impressed with the workmanship and have found some things that I've never seen the likes of before.  

Have fun window shopping for fun and inspiration!


Monday, November 17, 2008

New Nine Dragons Sculpture Art Store!

I spent all day re-shooting photographs and building collections so I could get my new online store open, so please visit me at Nine Dragons Sculpture Art and let me know what you think :)

My shop is part of a new artisan venue called   1000 Markets  that uses for it's shopping cart, so it comes with all of the Amazon guarantees. It's a juried acceptance and I was so pleased that once I was ready to go live I was accepted within the hour!

I also slipped in the time to make a new better designed looks the same as the old design but the ends of the wires are turned so that they're securely held.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

strange happenings in the night

Due to a very long and strange night I have no brain cells left to come up with a topic for today's post. At two in the morning the garage door suddenly's right under our bedroom, so sounded like a train had just exploded into the room. My dog, Boots, went crazy barking, my husband didn't even move (ears plugged by pillow) and I'm racing to the window to look out. We finally got downstairs to investigate (not as good at emergencies when eyes still glued shut) and a car drove by, went to the end of the street and picked up a passenger and then beat it out of there. Unsure if it was related or not, but this has never happened before, and so far, not since.
I didn't call the police until this morning...if it was  burglars they were long gone. No reports of similar incidents though. Could be a system malfunction, but if so it would not be traceable if it's intermittent. They said to call if it did happen again and they would check the neighborhood for suspicious activity. In this town, response is fairly quick, so it might actually do some good.

Anyways, very unsettling way to wake up and we didn't get back to sleep until 5am, and then up in four hours. I thought about skipping a post, but have promised myself that this would be a daily blog, so you're stuck with a dud today lol!

Artwise I'm re-doing some of my bangle bracelets, due to issues with the wire. The new design solves the problem. I'm also in the process of opening a regular online shop, still lots of set up and details to be worked out, so I'll update that information when it's up and running.

Hope you're having a more restful weekend!