If there is one thing I look forward to each year, it’s Mayhem. That’s when I spend a week in Boise with fellow ceramic artists Sarah Minkiewicz, Joan Berkwitz and Lynn Fraley. It’s a week set aside for sharing ideas, learning new techniques and just generally being inspired. (Well, that and consume an insane amount of food.)
It has become our tradition to undertake a big project for the week. This year we had something particularly ambitious in mind. It began with an innocent enough question at last year’s gathering. Sarah wanted to know if Joan could mold her traditional sculpture Stormwatch in ceramic. His complex, swirling mane and tail would have been daunting enough, but he was also a scale not usually done in earthenware. (Plaster molds absorb the water from the casting slip, and large horses require molds that are too heavy to tip and drain once they are wet.) But the idea of seeing him in ceramic was too tempting, and Joan agreed to try.
And even now, after spending a week working on one, it’s hard to believe she did it. The nineteen-piece mold is an amazing bit of engineering. I have often wondered if anyone else is making complex plaster molds like these – for any application.
Anyway, at this point I’ll just share some photos I took during the week.
Here is Sarah de-molding a Stormwatch. Once he comes out of the mold, he takes over six hours to clean and assemble. I should also point out that this a really rare in-focus photo of Sarah. These are typical photos of Sarah.
She is never still! I used to think I was a high-energy, bouncy sort of person. But I am just not in the same league. My camera could not cope.
No, we didn’t render Joan down to make slip! Most of us who make earthenware horses use Joan’s slip recipe, which is itself close to the original Hagen-Renaker slip recipe. I suspect that after staying up until all hours for days, Joan might say it was the only thing still fresh!
And here is Joan, doing what we both did all week – scritching little roan hairs in with an xacto blade. All I can say is there are a lot of square inches on a traditional scale horse!
And here is Lynn, bringing us a box. We got so excited when she arrived, because we thought she had said she brought us brownies. (We had just spent the previous night at her home, enjoying her cooking, so we had good reason to be happy about this.)
What she had said was that she brought Brownie, not brownies. We were all terribly disappointed – all out of proportion to how hungry we could have possibly been at that point. Mayhem has a way of making food seem really important. (Maybe to balance out how unimportant sleep becomes!)
Here is Sarah’s enormous kiln (“Big Al”) loaded up for a bisque fire. You can see the two Stormys and Sarah’s two plaques, as well as an assortment of greenware. I believe this was the last bisque firing for these pieces before the glazing fire.
You can see the finished Storms here. And you can see Sarah’s plaques here. I have more things to post – it was a busy week – but I fear this is already a long post to slog through so I’ll save them for another time.