Post 8: Wrapping Up

Bit of a long post today, to talk about where all my projects are at.

So the summer’s almost over, and I’ve been trying to get my pieces to a point where I can move them out of the studio.  This means getting the deer ready to be fired, and the Ibex fully assembled.  The deer has been a huge challenge, but ended up working out pretty well. I cut the legs and head off, and cut two big slices out of the back.  these gave me access points to the inside of the sculpture, where I had to cut out all the clay.  If you fire a solid block of clay that big, there’s bound to be trapped air and water, which expands as its heated, and can cause explosions.  So, I had to hollow it out to a shell, under an inch thick all the way around.  for the legs and head, this meant slicing them into pieces, hollowing those pieces, and putting them back together.  for the body, this meant pulling all the clay out through the holes I had made earlier.  I knew this step would take a while, but I underestimated just how long it would take, and this has been eating up all of my time.  A week and a half ago though, I finished hollowing it all out.

The next step was to tent it.  Tenting a piece means to cover it all with a loose tent of plastic.  This creates almost a greenhouse for the piece, with a somewhat controlled humidity.  What this does is makes all the pieces dry at roughly the same rate.  Without doing this, half of the body might be sitting in the sun and dry faster; and as clay dries, it shrinks.  If something doesn’t dry evenly, it doesn’t shrink evenly, and that causes cracking.  So the tent is there to stop that, with some openings to let moisture out slowly.  As of right now, the deer is pretty dry, and looks like it hasn’t cracked, so everything is looking good on that front.  Cracks could still show up during firing, but at this point, that’s just going to be luck.

The other piece that needed some work was the ibex.  aside from some basic patching of cracks on that and the deer head (which I did with Durham’s Water Putty), I needed to attach the horns to it.  I used some boat making epoxy, and wooden supports to hold the horns in place, and managed to get them in a position that I liked.  I’ve never used the epoxy before, so I wasn’t sure how strong it was, so I decided to fill the horns with different epoxy as well.  I built a cradle for the head, that would support it and the horns upside-down, and put it on top of the head.  Then, with the help of a couple friends, I flipped the head over, so that it was upside down, and the cradle was holding everything up (the pictures make this whole process a bit more clear).  Now that I could see the underside of the head, I used more boat making epoxy to put a couple metal rods into the horns, to give them some extra support.  I then poured a bottle of Gorilla Glue into them, since it expands, it should fill up the horns and “mushroom” out, into the inside of the head.  I’m hoping that all of this together will hold the horns on, since they are pretty massive.

So that’s what I’ve been up to, in terms of what I have left to do for these pieces, there’s still a bit of work to be done.  the deer needs to be fired, reassembled, painted, and I need to cast a spear for it.  The smaller deer head I made just needs some paint, and a coating of crushed glass that I’ve been making.  the Ibex, assuming it all holds together, needs some Water putty around the seams for the horns (the putty is gypsum based, and looks like clay, unlike the epoxy, which is really smooth).  It then needs some paint on the head, and some copper leaf on the horns, as well as a stand to hold it up.  That might seem like a lot, but I honestly don’t think it’ll take too much time to get everything done.  I’m excited to see how they all turn out.

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  1. Martha Gizaw says:

    Wow! Your deer is not like any deer that I have seen on campus. In fact, I do not think I can sculpt anything this large. I read your initial abstract, and I feel like life sized sculptures can give us a more in-depth understanding of how scale, form, and material shape every aspect of the world. To me, it is all physics. Cutting up and putting the parts back together, and doing it all over again, is normal in ceramics as well as other forms of art. Hard to believe that making mistakes is normal in science and technology on my part. Good luck on your thesis!

  2. etbroennimann says:

    Thank you! The hollowing is normal for solid ceramic pieces, but cutting it into different pieces isn’t unless they’re really big. Basically, if you can fit a piece in a kiln without cutting it into pieces you do, because cutting it up makes it much more likely that something will go wrong, and it means you can’t glaze it. The deer was just too big to fit into any of the electric kilns we have on campus, so I had to chop it up, but I’m not planning on using glaze for this piece, so it shouldn’t be a huge issue.

  3. Your project looks so fantastic! I’m so glad that you posted some pictures with it so we can all see how it’s come along so far. I really appreciate your descriptions of all of the things you have to do – I know nothing about ceramics but I still feel like I got a good idea of what you’ve been doing through this post. It was interesting and surprising to me that after sculpting these things you then sort of had to cut them apart in order to keep working with them. Is that normal in ceramics or really just for projects of this scale? Hope the rest of your project goes well!