Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Boots, breeches and stirrups

Today I made stirrups for my rider.  That's a lot  harder than you'd think.  It took me a while to find the right size wire to be the top of the stirrup (to look the right size while covered with clay) and to make the tread of the stirrup strong and straight.  I used scraps from the perforated aluminum sheet I'm using as the armature for Feather's wings to make the tread strong and straight and aluminum armature wire for the top.  The bottom loop where the stirrup leather goes through was added by just putting a roll of clay there and carving it down.  You may be able to see that on the pic of the rider with the stirrup in place.

That pic is a bit crooked, sorry.  The leather goes up inside the rider's leg and is adhered to her leg and the horse, in the appropriate places.  I'll cut the stirrup off the piece just above where the leather goes through the stirrup when I get ready to send it to the foundry.  It would just drop off if the piece was dropped or shaken as it will be in shipping.  They can weld it in place in bronze.

The boots and breeches are done, and I think you can see the bottom of her shirt.  She was wearing a blouse that wasn't tucked in, and for now, I'm sculpting what she was wearing.  I'm going to send her pics soon so she can decide if she wants her shirt tucked in, sleeves on the shirt (her shirt was sleeveless), etc.

This shot's a bit closer, but also crooked - hard to get great shots with a phone.  I'll straighten these pics and re-upload them when I have more time.  I'm kinda rushing to get this online right now. 

BTW, this hind foot will soon be cut free of the wire holding it to the ground.  This foot in reality wouldn't have any dirt splashing up to support it, so I have to make it free.  I talked to my foundry about it to make sure having only two legs on one side would be strong enough to support a piece this big without it bending.  Bronze is soft, after all - it's mostly made out of copper.  Anyway, they said it should be fine, and they'll put bronze rods inside the legs touching the ground to strengthen them if they think that support will be needed.

When I cut this foot free, I will cut the wire up inside the hoof (thus ruining that nice hoof, so I'll have to sculpt it again) and then I'll put a wall, sole and frog in the bottom of the foot.

This is how the whole piece looks right now.  I haven't done any work above the waist - it's all just "placeholders" for now, measured pretty well, but not sculpted anywhere near what those parts will be like when it's finished.  I need to raise the shoulders a bit - they're too low.

Anyway, that's progress to date!  Comments and questions are welcome.

Thursday, June 03, 2010


It finally looks like I'm getting somewhere on this piece!  A lot of the previous work has been painstaking and tedious, trying to get the horse built properly, making sure there are no dips or bumps where there shouldn't be, and making the horse a functional being with all the joints in the proper places, etc.  Now I've added a saddle and the rider.  The rider will be removed for shipping - she's only attached by a couple of wires sticking out below her seat bones into the horse.  She'll be welded or soldered in place by the foundry when this piece is cast in bronze.

The saddle is supposed to be an Icelandic saddle.  In addition to looking at the photos I took of my client's two saddles, I researched them online and found quite a wide variation in how they look.  I'm going with the English show saddle look rather than the quilted seat I found on several Icelandic saddles simply because it's less distracting visually to have a smooth seat rather than a quilted one.  I will probably cut the flaps a little shorter - they look too long in comparison with the rider's leg.

I've had to redo the cantle of the saddle about five times now, trying to get it placed right and to make it fit the horse and rider both as well as possible.  I think I'm about there with the cantle.  Now I'm working on the length of the rider's legs and the shape of her boots.  I realized I had cut the wire too short on one leg and had to add some wire to have a good support for her foot.  That's why I'm posting these pics today, to show you how I did that repair.

I've cut off the clay at the bottom of her leg, exposing the wire.  I then attached a lighter wire, wrapping it securely around the existing wire of the leg, using pliers to help me get it as tight as possible.  After wrapping it several times around the larger wire to make it as secure as possible, I started twisting the wire to both strengthen the wire and to give the clay something to bite into so it won't slide around.  (Aluminum wire is slippery to clay if it isn't either twisted itself or isn't wrapped around another wire.)  I doubled the twisted wire (shown above) back on itself and twisted it some more to make it stronger (not shown), then added clay over that to make the new foot.

Here's a closeup of the wire before I folded it back on itself and twisted it again.

Here's the other side of the piece.  This leg is actually a bit too short too, but there's plenty of wire there.  I'll pull the clay off the foot, straighten the wire for a short distance to lengthen the leg, then bend the end up to support the foot and add clay to make the boot again.

I'm having to fight my dressage training in positioning the rider.  She doesn't ride dressage nor do other Icelandic riders (with a few exceptions I know of), so putting her in a dressage position would be wrong.  I haven't had this much trouble positioning a rider in a long time - I guess that shows my dressage training is becoming ingrained!  But I need to be careful about that with my art.  Not all riders ride dressage.

That gorgeous picture behind the sculpture is the International Andalusian & Luisitano Horse Association (IALHA) poster from a couple of years ago featuring the gorgeous stallion, Santiago.  His mane really does reach down past his knees and he seems to have a lovely disposition.  I was fortunate enough to see him at the Midwest Fiesta in 2008 and was given one of these posters then (I had my art booth there marketing my art while I was working on the original of "Feather," which is an Andy stallion now available in bronze).  I had no idea at the time that within a few months of that show, I'd have my very own half-Andalusian (El Paso Aricos, my dressage horse).  Surprise surprise!
This is a picture of my handsome Ricos with my daughter, trainer Jennifer Truett of Dancing Horse Farm, Lebanon OH ( riding him.  Since I mentioned him in reference to that IALHA poster, I thought I'd include his picture here.  I like this picture so much, I use it as my desktop.

Back to the sculpture:  Don't worry about the rider's face - right now her facial features are more "markers" than anything else.  She doesn't look like herself at all yet!  Her face is even a bit mashed because I grabbed her head and changed the angle of her neck and head from the side (they were too far back).  Her arms and hands haven't been worked on at all yet.  I'll get to them, don't worry!

A lot of sculpting (the way I do it, anyway!) seems to be "take two steps forward, three steps back" at times.  As I work around the piece, I may find that something that looked and measured right before is now too long or too short in relation to some other part and the reference material.  Just  by bending one leg of the rider down so it laid properly along the horse's side changed the way it looked lengthwise, so I had to make some adjustments.  That kind of thing happens frequently.  Just one of the many challenges of 3-D work!

The little lump of clay on the horse's neck is a sign of my eagerness to get to the mane and tail.  They're some of the last things I do on a sculpture, but they're also FUN so I'm eager to get to them.  But it's too soon, so I was just messing around and left it there.

I'm pleased with the progress so far.  Yay!