Like many others in the model horse community, I have been spending a lot of time the last few days thinking about Sarah Minkiewicz’s “Vixen” and “Imp“. Thankfully I haven’t been hitting the refresh button, hoping to snag one of the first few resin copies. Rather my thoughts have been all about how I can translate the originals into earthenware and still have them sporting four legs and two ears. (I wonder if taking my chances with my s-l-o-w server might not have been easier.)
I am pretty sure I can make the mare, Vixen, work. She has a pose that is reasonably mold friendly, and her tail with the three qualities every ceramic artist hopes for: large area of attachment to the body, few undercuts and a shape like a handle. Of the family members – Taboo, Vixen and Imp – she is the one I suspect will be the easiest to make. Which is good because she’s also my personal favorite!
My real misgivings are with her baby because he’s so darned small. Maybe this picture with him in my (very small) hand will give some idea of what a wee tiny thing he is.
None of us earthenware artists have ever cast something quite this delicate. There are two different sets of mold lines drawn on him, so if one doesn’t work I have a back-up plan. But even so there really isn’t any way of telling if either will work until a handful have been poured and cleaned.
And working on my recent batch of Al-Hadiyes, I have been reminded that getting them out of the mold in once piece isn’t the real trick. What I have found in casting small models is that their fine legs are often stressed enough during the demolding that even though they come out whole, the legs are too compromised to survive cleaning. Al-Hadiye is a high-loss mold for that reason, and I suspect Imp, if he works at all, will be another like that. But he is too cute not to try!
This has also reminded me of a neat mold-making trick that I learned from Joan during Mayhem a few months ago. I knew Sarah would have the Vixen and Imp originals while we were there, and I was looking forward to picking Joan’s brain on how best to design the molds. This usually involves drawing lines on the original, indicating where the mold pieces part. (You can see some of these lines in the picture of Imp above.) In the past Joan has simply drawn the lines for me, but as I’ve gotten a better grasp I’ve gotten better at drawing them for myself. What always trips me up is the area I, daughter of a seamstress that I am, think of as the ‘gusset’. These inner pieces are what really varies from mold to mold, and getting them right is a lot more complicated. I have always struggled with visualizing my potential solutions. Secretly, I just hoped I could talk Joan into drawing the lines for those inner pieces.
I should have known that Joan is much too good a mentor to just do it for me. Instead she showed me a trick. Lines can look right drawn on the horse, but the mold pieces created by those lines might not be possible to make, or might not work as imagined. I needed to be able to test the resulting mold pieces in order to know if the lines really would work. Joan’s trick was to make a plastalina mock-up of the mold pieces created by the lines I was considering.
Here I’ve just roughed in one of the front ‘gusset’ pieces. I still have to clean up the edges where the clay meets the original and then plane everything so it looks just like the inner piece would when made of plaster. When that’s done, the whole thing will go in the freezer overnight. Once frozen, the plastalina piece will behave a lot more like a plaster mold piece and I will be able to get a better idea of how it pulls from the legs.
The other neat thing about this is that it’s possible to seal the surface of the frozen clay, and then make the adjacent mold piece from clay of a contrasting color. Once both are frozen I can see how the two inner pieces work (or don’t work!) together. This allows me to try any number of solutions to the problem using quick, inexpensive materials.
Not that I don’t wish I could have just stuffed Joan into my carry-on luggage and skipped learning all this! But the thought of an unlimited number of these to glaze is strong motivation to work on my own mold design skills.