Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Finally making real progress!

And it's about time!  There was a setback when I started working and realized the armature wasn't as tight inside the plumbing T as it needed to be, so I had to remove the clay that I'd put on already and add more toothpicks until it was nice and tight.  It felt tight when I finished making it, but in moving it around some to get it mounted on the pipes, I guess some toothpicks shifted and it loosened.  There's also the fact that  my arms and hands are just not strong like they were pre-surgery, so it was as strong as I thought I could make it before.  Now it's fine.  I stripped some clay away and shoved in more toothpicks and made sure it's secure, then covered the armature with clay and added a bunch more, so now it's starting to look like something!  It still has a serious case of the uglies, but it's making big strides forward now.  I can see the horse developing and the beauty of his form in all this mess.  It WILL turn out all right, I promise!!

Some pictures to help you see what's going on:

Above is the armature I'm using - heavy wire wrapped with thinner wire running through a 1/2" plumbing T.  Yes, one set of legs is done with copper wire, the other with aluminum - I ran out of aluminum wire the right size and copper's all I had to substitute with that was the same size.

This is how the armature looked yesterday before I realized it was too loose in the plumbing T.  I had to cust off a lot of clay from the pipe area - the mid-part of the horse was totally clay-free when I got done cleaning clay off (it peels right off, being a hard clay, once you cut into it enough to give you a hand-hold.)

If you've followed my work before, you'll notice the horse is floating in mid-air rather than having the wires attached to the working surface, which is my normal way of working.  This piece is the maquette for a life-size bronze of Nanning 374, a 17 hand Friesian stallion.  There will be no bronze "grass" under the life-size to save weight and expense, so the maquette has to be made the same way.  By floating it in mid-air on a pipe with a coupling in the middle, I can take the piece off the support pipe, attach a plumbing T to the bottom of the pipe, slide a chain suspended from the ceiling through that plumbing T and hang the piece upside down so I can do the detailing on the belly and so on without having to turn myself in to a pretzel to do so.  Yay!

This is today's work after I strengthened the armature.  This is Classic Clay Hard and I normally use Classic's soft clay.  Yes, it looks exactly like the clay I normally use - it's the same brand, but two hardnesses harder (how do I say that more sensibly??  And I call myself a writer!  Argh . . .).  Classic offers two colors, this tan and a milk chocolate color.  I have trouble seeing details and defects in the dark color, so I stick with this light color.

See the red crockpot at the left?  I have a glass bowl inside the crock and water in the crock itself so the bowl acts like a double-boiler.  I put the clay my hubby sliced for me (using a blow-torch-warmed machete and a lot of upper body strength, bless him!) into the bowl (the sliced clay is in the red-topped box behind the crockpot), then set the crockpot on "high" and keep the lid on tightly.  Within a short time, the slices of clay are either nicely malleable, or so soft they're mush, depending on how thick they are!  This is the only way I can work with clay this hard since I have carpal tunnel.  Once all the clay needed is on the armature, I'll use sharp tools to carve it, and if I need it to be soft, I can aim a light at it for a little while or use a hair dryer on it for a few seconds to warm and soften the clay, or I can heat my tools, whichever seems the best at the time.

Car manufacturers use hard clay in their originals of new cars so they can carve the clay with a sharp tool and get a mirror-like finish on the clay.  That's how hard "hard" clay can be! 

I have to press it on and smooth the edges and beat it with the flat side of a big wooden tool or a wooden paddle to make sure it's applied as densely as possible.  Once I've built the clay up to approximately the size of the horse's profile, I'll start bulking out the body more until it's as big as it needs to be.  Then the fun begins - I start carving away what isn't a horse! 

More later!  As always, I welcome questions.  If you're confused or just want more information about something, please let me know.

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