Archive | April, 2009

Taboo?

Several people have asked me about the missing family member, Taboo. I did conveniently gloss overy his absence, didn’t I?

I knew from the start that all the molds from this group were going to present challenges, but Taboo was going to be the hardest of the three. I’ve borrowed this promotional photo from Sarah because the angle illustrates the reason. His head is so closely tucked that the shoulder of the raised leg partially obscures his facial profile. Overlapping pieces like this are a real issue in moldmaking because the mold pieces are rigid. They need a clear path for removal or they break the casting during the demolding process.

I learned a lot working with Vixen, but it didn’t take long for me to decide that Taboo was probably above my pay grade! So when Joan offered to do the master molds for him, I was more than happy to ship him off to the real expert.

If all goes well, we may have some Taboos to glaze in Idaho. But more importantly, Joan has been looking at some of the issues involved in casting really small, intricate horses. Molding Vixen resulting in some new techniques that are already making creating ceramic horses easier. Having a second (more experienced) set of eyes looking at those problems will probably push the technology even farther, which is really exciting – especially since I don’t think Sarah is going to be making her future sculptures any simpler than these guys!

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Getting ready for Mayhem


Noah, the miniature mule colt we met at Mayhem last year. He was from one of the few field trips we made that didn’t involve food!

Late spring is one of my favorite times of the year, in part because that’s when I get to spend a week with some of my fellow ceramic artists. Each year we gather in Idaho for an annual artist retreat what we’ve come to call “Mayhem“. Slipcast earthenware is almost a lost art, so it is a rare chance to share ideas and techniques with others working in the same medium.

(It’s also a chance to spend time with some of my favorite women, all bright and funny and really tolerant of my long stories!)

But this year is a little different. One of the reasons our retreat has such a wonderful synergistic quality is that we all have very different areas of knowledge. Because my own area has always centered around horse color and glazing, and not the sculpting and moldmaking, most of my preparation has involved lining up color references. I was focused on the colors going on the bodies, not the actual bisque bodies. This time around, though, I’m bringing some of the bodies. Tradition has had it that we break in some new, untried horses for Mayhem. Last year it was Stormwatch, and the previous year it was Pixie and Dafydd.

This year, it will be the Taboo family. So I have been busy getting bisque Vixens and Imps ready for everyone to glaze. Since I was boxing them for the upcoming trip, I thought I would share how ceramic horses are packed for shipping.

I used to double-box everything I shipped, but in the last few years I have been using the Indestructo Mailers from Uline. They are double-walled and assemble using tabs rather than tape. For mini-scale models, I use a box that is 4″ deep. That allows me to use four layers of 1″ thick foam for the interior.

I put two layers in the box and then trace the outline of the horse on the third layer. Normally I would never group two horses together in such a small box, and I would leave a lot more space, but these boxes are going to be carried on the plane so space is at a premium. They won’t see the same jostling that they would during shipping, so it will be okay.

Here I’ve cut through that third layer of foam with a #11 Xacto blade. It’s important that the silhouette hold the horse in place without binding any of the limbs, ears or tail. I’ve used resin copies of the two molds as my patterns, which tend to work well since the bisques are just a bit smaller than the original.

Because Imp is so narrow, he has too much up-and-down room in his little pocket. If I shipped him this way he could rattle around enough to put his tiny tail at risk. To hold him a little more secure, I’ve taken the insert that was cut out and split it in half and set it on top of him so that his pocket is only 1/2″ deep. The fourth layer of foam goes on top of this.

Here are three mare and foal sets ready for Mayhem. I’ve also made a set of the plaster molds for Sarah, in case she feels the urge to do any Vixen or Imp claybodies while we are there.

This is the earliest I’ve been ready for the trip since we started taking them. Of course, there’s something to be said for the motivating power of knowing that no one will have anything to work on if you don’t finish. (Or worse yet, knowing that all we will have left to do is eat more often!) I had only intended to make a set for each of the participants, and figured I would glaze my first set either before the trip or soon after, but now I’m wondering if I can fit one more box in my carry-on luggage. It might be fun to see four sets done by different artists, all together as a group.

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