Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

This little guy decided to spend Christmas dinner with us. He found that if he pushed on one side of the ring of ice inside the birdfeeder, it would tip and he could reach under and get the sunflower seeds. Emma was thrilled that we had installed the Squirrel Channel for her to watch, since we didn't seem inclined to share any holiday ham. (I suspect she would have been more interested in the squirrels than the ham, even if we had offered!)

So with all the festivities coming to an end, I went ahead and drew for my Hobbit Birthday giveaway. The winner was Teresa Fedak, who chose either a dappled buckskin or dappled grey. It was interesting that the most popular requested color was red silver, which was one color I hadn't though of doing yet. Thank you everyone who posted to the comments or sent in emails. It brightened an already lovely birthday to hear from so many!

I will post this guy when he is finished! In the meantime, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas filled with family and friends, and a prosperous and happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A hobbit birthday

Today is my birthday, and true to the Hobbit custom of giving gifts to others on your birthday, I thought it would be fun to do a giveaway.

So here is the idea. I will be giving away the first realistically glazed "Inspire" trading card, and I'm going to let the winner pick the color. So if you'd like to enter, you need to either send an email (the address is on the website) or you can post here in the comments section. What I need is your name and the color you'd pick if you were selected. Your color choice will need to be pretty general, like "dark dapple grey" or "bay tobiano", but beyond that I'm open to most anything. Late Christmas day I'll randomly draw the winner.

Best luck to all who enter, and may everyone have a holiday season filled with friends and family!

[Edit: My email has a rather quirky spamblocker, so don't worry if you get the message that your entry has been blocked. I've been checking the filter and moving anything over, so it won't get lost!]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Production delays

Nothing messes up getting new molds into production like damp, rainy weather. I had almost forgotten this possibility, and was sure I'd get my Christmas gifts completed early enough that I wouldn't have to claim my "Episcopalian Exemption". (Episcopalians observe the twelve days of Christmas, so our holiday season runs until January 6.) After weeks of rain - and a little ice - it didn't quite work out that way!

But the molds are truly dry now and I'm really pleased with how they have been casting. I haven't gotten a chance to do a realistically glazed one yet, but I've been experimenting with the colored glazes. Each piece is different, so it takes a few tests to see which glazes are flattering. When I sculpted "Inspire", I envisioned the horse in realistic underglazes and the background in colored art glazes. That's not practical for my Christmas list (even with a 12-day extension!), so I needed to find a workable colored glaze. The horse is a bit problematic because he's not textured enough for the commercial art glazes, so they tend to pool irregularly along his neck and shoulder.

It's had me thinking about tiles and what glazes work best for me. I've long been enamoured of the bare stoneware and oxides that fellow tile artist Melanie Brooks of Earthenwood Pottery uses. I love that look, but I've come to the conclusion that my own sculpting style isn't bold and chunky enough for those treatments. It's tempting to come up with some designs that would work, but I am afraid those will have to remain things I muse upon while I finish up these pieces. Once they go out the door, it's back to casting, cleaning and glazing three-dimensional horses!

Getting back to Imps and Vixens is my next project. I've told my husband that his next project is to make some small wooden easels. Either that or I'm going to have to find somewhere that makes smaller acrylic ones!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A simple solution

One of the first slipcast copies still attached to the plaster mold.

After playing around with all the variables trying to get level tiles, I found what turned out to be a pretty simple solution for this particular piece. The slipcast tiles weren't really warping too badly, so all they needed was a bit of extra weigh to hold the thinner corners down.

It turned out the these small magnets were perfect for holding down the corners. They weren't heavy enough to damage the leatherhard clay, but they were enough to keep the tile from warping.

I moved the tiles to my workbench to make them more visible. Normally they dry on a sheet of drywall, but the gray color made them hard to see in photos. I was tempted to use a cookie sheet so the magnets really held, but it turned out that the weight alone was enough.

I knew when I had to buy a package of 50 magnets just to get the two my son needed for a project that I'd find some use for the rest. I just never imagined they might be useful in the studio!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Mattie, my youngest son, at age 4.

We are usually pretty partial to curls around here. They are rather appealing on small boys, at least. Sculptors from the turn of the last century must have thought so, too, because Brookgreen Garden is filled with sculptures of curly-haired toddlers.

Newly pressed tile (left) and partially dry, curling tile (right)

Curling is not so appealing on tiles, though. I'd almost forgotten that curling was the bane of many tilemaker's existence. I know the rules for avoiding curling, of course. Don't make overly thin tiles. Don't make rectangles. Don't have large differences in thicknesses.

I had skirted the edges of those rules often enough with no ill effect, that I guess it was only natural that I would forget them. Now I am paying the price with rows of "Inspire" tiles that look like potato chips.

So it's time for some quick problem solving. I think my problem is the big difference in depth at the horse's shoulder. (At least, since I broke all the rules rather blatantly, I think that's the one doing the most harm.) I have tried some of the normal approaches to the problem, like covering the newly made tiles so they dry slowly, but I'm not sure any of them are going to fix the issue completely.

I originally thought that I might do better press-molding the tiles since my early attempts at those were relatively flat, but as the above picture shows even those are warping a bit. I might still have to make this work, since most of my production molds haven't dried enough for slipcasting. Press-molding allows me to get more pieces from a given mold each day, and I can use the molds a little sooner. The downside is that the moist clay used for this doesn't capture the detail quite as well as the slip. Of course, these guys are getting an art glaze so I suspect the slight difference won't matter compared to the loss from the glaze.

But for the long term, I need to work out the curling problem for the slipcast pieces. I have reconfigured the pour holes for the molds. I think that being able to drain the thickest part - so the shoulder area is semi-hollow - might fix the uneven drying.

On the upside, I was able to fire one imperfect bisque to see if I calculated the shrinkage correctly. Sure enough, I have a 2.5 x 3.5 trading card.

I can also use my imperfect tiles to test glaze colors. It's just a few weeks away and I still haven't decided what color these guys will be!

The other positive is that with all the frustration with curling, tackling some of the more difficult passages in the horse color book has seemed downright inviting. Yesterday I was able to knock out the section on palomino "Arabians". I still have a long way to go, but I've begun to hope that I might make my BreyerFest 2010 publication deadline.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chachki show prize

I posted a sneak peek of this prize for the Blab Chachki Show before, so I thought I'd add one of it in finished form. It will be heading off to the winner of the China Workmanship division later today.

I am also going to try to do something for the upcoming Christmas holiday. Since it's also my birthday, and since I've always like the hobbit custom of giving gifts to others on your birthday, I thought it might be fun to do a giveaway. It's been a while since I did one on the blog. I still haven't decided just what, but I'm going to try to come up with something!