Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My One-Handed Sculpting Projects

Before I knew I was going to need rotator cuff surgery in September, I agreed to be the "featured artist" in a gallery in Kettering, Ohio.  I like to do demos and meet the public, so when it was time for the show, I came up with a "one-handed sculpting" project I could do to entertain the public, keep me from going bonkers from inactivity, and make some nice Christmas presents all at the same time.

I started with 3" medallions of wood I got at Michael's. If you decide to use these, make sure they're not warped! I had to search through several packages before I found one where all the medallions were flat. These wooden medallions (my term - I don't remember what they're called on the packaging) don't have a loop at the top - they're just plain wood disks. I wanted to keep my medallions the same size and keep my Super Sculpey thin but have the actual piece thick enough to make good resin castings. The wood medallions did the trick.

I conditioned my Super Sculpey at home with my polymer clay only pasta machine (I have one for plastilene too - none for actual pasta, LOL), then took the strips of clay in a sealed plastic bag to the gallery along with my tools. I looked like Red Riding Hood with my basket over my arm with my clay, tools and reference photos, LOL!

I sat at a table in the entrance to the gallery to work. My left hand, which couldn't do any real work due to recovering from shoulder surgery, just lay on the table to hold the medallion still, while I sculpted only with my right hand. I used a cone-shaped "clay shaper" tool with a black rubber tip to do most of the work on the raised relief of the black horse. You use this tool on its side to roll the pieces of clay together and leave no "seams" between pieces - that's the best way to work polymer clays. I contoured the horse with this same technique. Using ribbon tools doesn't work as well with Super Sculpey as it does with plastilene - cutting the clay away doesn't leave as smooth a surface, so if you can roll the clay with one of these rubber-tipped tools, you'll get a much cleaner, smoother surface. 

The logo medallion (for my daughter's farm Dancing Horse Farm) was created by both adding and subtracting clay with a very narrow ribbon tool. I didn't do this original design and it is totally different from my style, so I found it more difficult to do than the black horse.

I baked the medallions (that's what you do with Sculpey products - polymer clays are baked in a kitchen oven to make them hard), then made a silicon rubber mold for both of them (one mold for two medallions). Unfortunately, it's been REALLY COLD here in Ohio, and all three of the molds I made wound up with bubbles because I couldn't get my studio above the 70 degrees required by both the mold rubber and the resin casting material. My wall heaters don't have thermostats like home furnaces do. The resin castings also had bubbles on their backs for the same reason.

I cleaned up the castings on the belt sander to remove rough edges, used small metal tools to clean up the convex bubbles on the face of the castings, washed the castings with Dawn dishwashing detergent to degrease them, then sprayed them with white acrylic paint made for plastic to be a "primer" coat (so other paints would stick well). I painted the black horse with black (Licorice) Folk Art paint and the gold on both pieces is Antique Gold Rub 'n' Buff. The Rub 'n' Buff is thick enough that the bubbles in the back of the castings aren't nearly as obvious as they were in the raw resins. I put ribbons on in the farm colors for the DHF medallion, red for the black horse medallion, and they were done!

I gave the black horse medallion (which is a portrait of Nanning 374, who I will be doing as a life-size bronze) to my client who hired me to do that job, to thank him for asking me to sculpt his horse again. I painted Nanning's name on the back of that medallion. The DHF medallions were gifts to the barn staff at Dancing Horse Farm, to thank them for taking good care of my horses while I'm recovering from this surgery and can't take care of them myself.

Anyway - I'm happy with my projects. Here they are (Nanning's is hung from a red ribbon with a bow on it in a similar style to the DHF one).

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Best-laid Plans . . .

Well, I THOUGHT "Tolt" was ready to go, but my customer wants me to work on her face a bit more.  But before I could do that, my rotator cuff tore completely off the bone - yes, it was painful!  I had surgery on September 15 and am just now beginning to be able to do a little bit of work again between naps - seriously.  My left arm won't be back to normal until maybe March, maybe later, so I'm told, but I'm also told I'm doing really well with my therapy.  I just can't type long, can't carry much in my left hand, can't do any serious work with it, can't ride on my own (although I've started back riding, taking lunge-line lessons at a walk while my daughter, who's my trainer, works on my foot and leg position to avoid stressing my shoulder, bless her.  She has a four step mounting block made to help riders get on 18 hand horses, so getting on my 15.2 guy is EASY from that block!)

Anyway - Tolt is on hold while my customer gets new pictures to me as well as a list of what she wants touched up, but I'm working on other things in the meantime.  I was the featured artist at the Town & Country Fine Art Gallery in Kettering, Ohio, for the month of November.  I did a demo there every Saturday and on "Black Friday" of what I call "one handed sculpting" - making small medallions that will be Christmas ornaments or trophy medals.  Sorry, I can't show them to you - some of them will be Christmas presents from me to certain people!  After Christmas, I'll be happy to share them and then they'll be for sale, too. 

Today I made a mold for the medallions and tomorrow I hope to start casting them in resin.  I'm excited!  Making the mold was a lot harder on my shoulder than I thought it would be, but DUH!  I can't scrape leftovers out of a pot into a storage container without hurting my shoulder.  Making a mold is very much a similar motion!  I didn't HURT myself, but I'm sore.  Luckily, resin is easier to mix and pour than mold material!

My BIG news is that I have a LIFE-SIZE COMMISSION of a Friesian stallion at play!  I'll be making the maquette (the small version, like my normal sculptures) and the foundry will have it digitally enlarged since it may be a year before I'm strong enough to do that kind of work.  They will have clay applied all over it and will get it close to what I'd sculpted, and then my customer and I will visit there (in Oregon) and he'll make sure I have the details right in the life-size (he will have already done this for the Maquette) and I'll do the finishing touches on the life-size, then the molds will be made, the piece cut up and it will be hauled to the foundry, where it will be cast.  It will take 3-4 months for me to sculpt the original, then a mold will be made on the original Maquette and a wax sent to the place where it will be enlarged.  While the enlargement is being done, the Maquette will be cast as a bronze edition, which will take 3-4 months.  The life-size will be finished 3-4 months after the Maquette is finished.  I'll post progress photos as I work on it.

Did I mention that my second novel, "Star Sons Book 2: The Gathering Alliance" is now on Amazon and other outlets?  Just do a search on my name and you'll find it.  You can also order it from your local bookstore by giving them the ISBN number.  I hope y'all will enjoy it!  It was great fun to write!

As I said, I've had shoulder surgery recently and can't sculpt normally with both hands.  Because of that, my dear non-artist hubby has volunteered to build the armature and lay on the clay for me.  I should be able to sculpt the horse one-handed for the most part once those things are done.  My customer is a kind and patient man who understands I'm recovering from serious surgery, so the timetable isn't as strict as it might be - a lot depends on how long I can work each day.  Right now, I can work a couple of hours and then I need to nap a couple of hours - seriously.  But I'm getting stronger every day!  And I'm REALLY excited at this opportunity!  I hope you'll enjoy watching this sculpture being created!