Fresh cyanotype prints of UGRR "stops" in Will County. I'm really happy how these turned out- I wish the photos did them justice. These should be available in the store soon.
Another benefit of having a studio in the same place as two second-hand stores. Found all of these amateur paintings/prints stacked outside my studio door this morning. The stores often give me "art" things if they can't resell them. I'm pretty sure I can find something to do with some of these...
This is a follow up to yesterdays post on making a plaster mold of a bee. Today the plaster has hardened and it's time to make the first bee.
Step one is to remove the plaster from the plastic cup. In my case the mold popped open easily. If you have trouble use a screwdriver to slowly work the seam open. work around the piece, not just from one side.
In this photo you can see the keys for the mold, which helps get the registration correct when you put it together.
Slowly and carefully remove the bee from the mold. This is critical. The mold is still wet, so it will easily bruise or chip if you force it. Here I am using a little hooked tool to work the legs free (this part grosses my TA out a little).
Done. Once I have removed the bee I look for undercuts, places where the clay might get stuck into the mold. I have a few in this one, so I gently rubbed the edges to open them up a little. I know I am not going to get a perfect replica of the bee, but I expand as little as possible.
Even though the mold is wet I go ahead and make a first impression. This one is going to be tossed anyways, since it will have a little plaster powder/ oil soap on it. Now I'll set the mold aside for another 24 hours to dry completely before making a series. That's it. I really like how this one came out, the wings are up, and they make a really interesting form. Much more abstract than the first one.
Lately I've been making a lot of ceramic bees using a press mold I made from a dead bee that I found last fall. Thanks to my friend and colleague Leah Samuelson, I have a second bee to work from. (If any of you want to send me any dead bees you happen to find, please send me an email).
Anyway, having a new specimen gave me the opportunity to document the process. I'm not sure if this will be a particularly enticing DIY project, but just in case here's how to go about making your very own plaster mold from a bee (or anything else small enough to fit in a plastic cup). There are other, more sophisticated (and more expensive) ways of making a mold from a small object, but I like the fact that this way is quick, easy, and a little messy.
You need two plastic cups, some plaster (you can get 25 lb bags from big box hardware stores), some oil soap (grocery store), a paint brush, some tweezers, and a bee.
Step 1 is to "paint" your bee with oil soap- this helps keep it from sticking to the plaster (it will stick anyways, due to the small legs and wings, but this will still make it easier to remove it when your done). I also cut one of the plastic cups down to make it easier to work with, but that's not necessary.
Next, make up enough plaster to fill half the cup mold. I make enough to make the mold about 1.5" deep. I also mix the plaster to a thick, pudding-like consistency. The thicker, the faster it sets, so you may want to test that out. As soon as I pour the plaster I use tweezers to carefully place the bee "belly-down" into the plaster, gently pushing it about 1/2 way into the plaster.
Professional tip: when the plaster gets to a "jello" consistency, use you finger to make two half-circle indentions in the plaster. These will serve as "keys" which will allow the mold to always line up accurately. These are not critical for a mold this size, and the grooves from the cup can help align the mold if it is not keyed.
Once the bottom half of the mold is completely dry, use the brush to paint the surface of the mold and the bee (again) with oil soap. This will keep the top half of the mold from sticking to the bottom half. Don't forget! (been there, done that). Mix up fresh plaster and pour cover the top of the bee by at least 1/2" (I shoot for 1").
That's it. Let the plaster set overnight, then cut open the cup and pry apart (it might be a little stuck- I usually use a screwdriver to wedge it open. To use as a press mold, put a gumball-sized piece of clay in the mold and squeeze shut. removing it is tricky, but you'll get the hang of it. I'll post more pictures tomorrow (once the mold is dry). Enjoy!
It's a rainy Tuesday. I'm here in my chair, catching up on many loose ends, and realizing that I have been so busy lately I haven't posted an update in a while. This is a good time of year for me. The school year is coming to a close, most of the "heavy lifting" (aka the aforementioned "busy-ness") has just come to an end, and I can anticipate a solid month of (mostly) uninterrupted studio time! I am also just at the beginning of the gardening season. The rain lightly spattering on the windows is a most welcome and refreshing sound as I anticipate turning over the soil, and the wonderful smell of fresh dirt on my hands.
In the meantime the artwork is moving along. All of the ceramic pieces have made it out of the firing sans cracks, and I have begun to experiment with the glazing. the initial experiment was not entirely successful, but I have some ideas which might prove quite lovely. That's the beauty of a failed experiment: when you got nothin', you got nothin' to lose!
In the meantime I am making bees from a little mold made from a dead bee I found. I don't know exactly what I am going to do with them yet, but they seem important.
I've been spending a good deal of studio time over the past weeks repairing cracks. For a number of years I spent a lot of energy trying to avoid getting cracks in the first place, but now I think the cracks are just a part of the process. Well, at least in my work. As I often tell my students, I don't know anyone who has a more "stupid" approach to clay than I do. The construction method I use puts more stress on the clay as it shrinks than it can handle, so cracks have to happen. But it also leads to results you can't get any other way. And so I spend hours grinding up clay into a fine powder and applying it with vinegar into the cracks, building up layer after tiny layer of "patch." Hours. I would guess it's taken about 10 hours to repair the cracks in this one piece.
Still, I find that I find a certain joy and satisfaction in the work, a lesson I am trying to learn to apply to all the other work (which keeps me from being in the studio) that I have had to do lately. Things crack. They take a lot if time and energy to repair. There can be a lot of joy and satisfaction in giving yourself over to the task, to being really attentive to it. It's so surprisingly hard for me to live in the present.
the studio chair
A place for me to ramble on when I need to take a break.