I usually try to post same day while things are still fresh in my mind but yesterday I was one tired puppy. Got started early and thought I would have a day to paint (got a few show deadlines pending). I opened the studio and unwrapped the sculpture to check the set-up process and “lo and behold” the clay said it was ready to be worked! That’s the issue during the winter months with furnaces sucking moisture and low humidity with the weather coming out of the north. Drying is accelerated and if you are not vigilant it can create problems. So, the best laid plans went awry and six hours later the piece had been removed from the armature, hollowed out and put back together. Aches and pains in the back from being hunching over but you don’t care about that! I’ve got lot’s of pics and technique to discuss so let’s get started.
The first order of business was to mark the centerline on all sides. The picture here shows the centerline from the front. I marked similar lines on the other three sides. These reference marks will make placement of the main support channel easier. Once you get the head off the armature it can become difficult to find the centerline as you build the channel to hold the threaded post that will enable you to bolt the piece securely to a base. And, I just realized that. as things began to happen quickly, I failed to take a picture of the channel. No problem, I’ll just manually show where the channel was eventually placed.
I had mapped out cut lines in the previous post and you can see the results of that cut with the wire tool in the foreground. Note the red arrow pointing out the lower section of the armature. Looks like I estimated the position of the armature pretty well.
The next picture shows the scoring I did to indicate the wall thickness of the piece.
Next, you can see that the hollowing out, with various size ribbon tools, has progressed to the point where the upper sections of the armature support system can be seen. We’ll need to expose all the armature to free the head from its support. To make an obvious point, the head needs to be dry enough so that the walls are self-supporting yet pliant enough to be worked. At this point, we’re looking good. I use a needle tool ( you can see it sticking up in the picture of the sliced head pieces) to continually gauge the thickness of the walls. Not real complicated, you stick the needle point through the wall until you feel it on the other side and note the thickness. The needle holes actually serve another purpose as they provide escape ports for trapped steam if your piece is not totally dry when it’s fired. Those trapped pockets can cause the piece to explode in the kiln. I will actually do a lot of stippling with the needle tool before I re-assemble the head. It’s not fool-proof, however. I cut too deep in an area where there was a deeply recessed cut of hair on the heead.Not to worry, a simple repair takes care of the issue.
Once the armature is exposed, a gentle wiggle here and there and the main head piece can be positioned on a bed of foam to be worked until the thickness is fairly uniform. Note that I have indicated where the channel for the threaded support was positioned. As noted above, this channel will accept a threaded rod that will be anchored in the channel with plaster so that the piece can be bolted to the base.
Once everything has been hollowed out and the anchoring channel has been built, it’s time to reassemble the head.
First, the edges where the pieces will be joined are scored/cross-hatched to ensure a good bond and are then coated with a slip or mixture of water and liquified clay.
Then, the pieces are rejoined and the seams are worked to make the cuts invisible. One reason the cuts were made to the rear of the head is that it’s much easier to make the repairs in an area of hair texture. After re-assembly, I move the piece to a rotating platform very similar to a lazy-susan. After cleaning up seams and any other areas distorted from working with the piece (I had to work the nose a little) it’s time to bag the head and give it a day to re-stabilize the moisture levels. After that, I will open it up for longer and longer periods of drying. Within a few days it will be left uncovered until it is bone dry and ready for firing.
So, that’s about it until we get ready to fire. I’ll get back to a few painting projects and be reporting after some progress has been made!