Tag Archives | mistakes

Touching the weasel

I’ve always thought it was interesting that so many of us who make ceramic horses have a lot of interests and behaviors in common, all unrelated to our work. We all listen to a fair bit of Celtic music (or, as my husband terms it, “that danged Irish banshee wailing”). We gravitate towards Art Nouveau and Pre-Raphaelite art. We are almost all tea drinkers. But perhaps more than anything else, we tend to be avid storytellers. Over the years those stories have produced a lot of colorful sayings.

One of my favorites comes from Joan. She was relating a story about how some plague swept across Europe, carried by some rodent. She could not remember the specific species, so she simply referred to it as “the weasel”. She pointed out that societies with a prohibition against getting too close to these animals were relatively unharmed by the disease. Knowing not to touch the weasel insured a longer, healthier life. After that story, we took to referring to getting involved with something likely to have a bad outcome as “touching the weasel”.

I’m mentioning this now because that is exactly what I have been doing these last few weeks. Although I suspect that Joan would add that I’ve probably gone beyond touching this particular weasel. I petted it. I took the darned thing home and named it!

This is my “weasel”. See, I promised myself that I had spent long enough messing around with the Vixen mold. What I had wasn’t perfect by any means. In fact, the mold was more than a little tempermental. But it worked; I had four perfectly usable bisque Vixens when I left for Idaho. I was going to walk away and call it a day. I had already gotten so far behind on all my other work getting to where I was. It was time to declare it all “good enough”.

But then I came home with one of the Taboo molds. I knew I should just put it down and get right to glazing. But I talked myself into casting “just one or two” to insure that I really understood the innovations involved with the mold. (Nothing really illustrates how a mold works like demolding it.) I also thought it would be a good idea to see how assembling a pieced mold in that scale might be, so I could better assess that as a potential path for future pieces. I didn’t intend to make a multi-part assembly version of Vixen. (Little did I know that I was already staring at a weasel and thinking he looked kind of cute.)

But that Taboo cast so easily. And the assembly part wasn’t that bad; certainly not as bad as babying things to come out in one piece. And if I was going to make a new version of Vixen, surely I should do this while the process behind the Taboo mold was still fresh in my mind. (At this point, I was picking up the weasel.) It would only take a few extra days, and besides, I didn’t have all my special glaze mixes back from Idaho yet. I wouldn’t be losing that much work!

And here I am, several weeks later, with no blog posts and no newly glazed horses. I do have a new set of molds which hopefully will work better. I have told myself if they don’t, I’m turning this particular weasel back into the wild before he does more damage to my productivity!

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Indoor camping

That’s what the Kathman family has been doing since yesterday, after we traded our electricity for five inches of snow. As you can see from the picture, my oldest son Brandon totally approves!

I can almost forgive him his enthusiasm; after all these years in Scouting, he’s at least really handy with a camp stove.

I’m not sure this guy would agree. It’s probably not visible in the picture, but the poor little fellow had icicles hanging from his tail feathers! And I can attest that the only thing more useless than an electric kiln during a power outage is an airbrush. My plan to return to glazing today was thwarted.

But I did promise to post how this was fixed.

Here are three of my legless Vixens. I have quite a collection of them now. Sarah suggested that I turn them into ornaments and hang them from my Christmas tree. I might have to add a small tree to the studio next holiday, just to do it. If course it’s a lot easier to laugh at the idea of a tree festooned with mangled Vixens now that I have one with four legs!

My final solution was to open the mold, cement the hind gussett in place (thank goodness for good mold keys), and then pour the lifted leg first. Once the leg was filled and had set up enough that it would not spill out again, I closed the mold and poured the rest of the horse in the normal way.

This worked just fine, though if I had it to do again I’d cut a sprue level with the leg pour. That’s because once the mold refills, air gets trapped where the first and second pour meet. A sprue would allow that to vent. It was deep in the hindquarter, though, so it was really just cosmetic. The bubbles did give me a chance to test out my new 16 gauge hypodermics, though, and they worked beautifully. I’m still skeptical about being able to insert rubber through the mold walls, but I suspect I’ll get opportunities in the future to test it.

I also think there is a better tool for pouring into the open leg. I used a disposable plastic spoon, but that method lacks pressure. Pressure is part of what drives the viscuous rubber down the thin legs, and I think that had I not been using really fresh rubber I would have still encountered problems. Next time I’m going to try this angled syringe that my friend Elaine Lindelef suggested. That will let me pour the rubber with a little more force, and better avoid getting excess rubber on the rest of the mold.

So with a four-legged Vixen, I went ahead and cut my inside pieces apart so I could pour a plaster test mold. I’m not real confident that Vixen will cast as one piece, but there was one design that might work so I have to give it a try. If it does work, it will save me hours of assembly work.

If it doesn’t, I’m afraid I’ll have no choice but to lop her head off!

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