untitled as yet
plaster, bronze powder, glass, aluminum, burnished quartz, bamboo, pigment
16”x 6½”x 2½”
Pictured above is the completed newest demo piece for my 3D Design class for their modeling-in-clay plaster-casting metaphorical-self-portrait using only one body part.
Except for the fabrication of the frame and the final fitting of the casting into the frame everything — beginning with modeling of the raw clay — was done in front of the students in three successive class sessions.
The demo process is often quite a challenge to me as my natural inclinations are to work the piece in the clay-modeling, in the re-working of the plaster positive after casting in the negative mold, and then in the applied finishing stages much more meticulously that I have time for in the class session. After I spend about thirty-five or forty minutes of a two-hour and forty-five minute class on the demo for the students — most of whom have never modeled in clay or worked with plaster before — I need to allow them time to do their own design, modeling, moldmaking, and casting work.
The speed demanded of the demo-process invariably means no second guessing in any particular step, and sometimes the ‘tweaks’ or refinements I would do if the time permitted leave (to my eyes) numerous mistakes in the work. Especially as a demo though, this forces me to demonstrate not so much my skills in the crafting as it is in showing the students how to modify the inevitable flaws into workable parts of the finished design.
In this particular piece for instance, the most easily perceived of my mistakes are three: 1) the lips are slightly crooked to the vertical axis, 2) the ‘head’ of the long mound-form is tilted to the left, and so the fitted piece of green glass protruding from the center of the mound is not centered in the design symmetrically. 3) The scratch-marks on the right-side of the mound are not quite symmetrical with those more evenly-spaced on the left (one top right-hand short-stroke of the tool is particularly prominent in its brevity).
To correct these three ‘symmetry’ design flaws would have involved longer, more careful modeling during the clay stages, plus more careful and deliberate ‘scratching’ and re-adding undercuts to the lips in the carving of the plaster casting — obviously not conducive to a ‘short’ demo session. But instead I left them as they were in each stage, and considered the imperfections as something to deal with in the final design stages.
After the patina had developed in the bronze powder finish and the plaster was bone-dry (about 10-days), it was sealed with multiple coats of a clear matte spray to protect the delicate patina finish. I then added the anodized aluminum wire and the green glass nub, followed by a pale warm gray wash. Then I spent time over several days working on the frame (old bamboo flooring material) and when I had finished the initial layout fitting to the frame it was only then that I added the steel-wire-brush burnished quartz rectangle (from my tray of assorted diamond-sawn and polished stone bits and pieces) with the chipped corners and the diagonal ‘crack’ and mounted it ‘floating’ off the surface and positioned in such a way that the above-mentioned irregularities (flaws) in my modeling and carving work are not only not so noticeable in their asymmetry, but also seem to make ‘sense’ with the positioning so their placement appears intentional from the beginning.
I told the students, "No, I didn’t plan it that way from the beginning. It just worked-out because I trusted my intuition to figure something out in those later stages of work." The quartz had been lying in the stone ‘bits-and-pieces tray’ for years, and was only the last of perhaps a dozen other objects from that stone tray as well as objects from both ceramic and glass ‘bits-and-pieces trays’ and metal 'bits-and-pieces trays'.
Trying to get the students to see that the ‘perfect’ design concept in their head is not the end but only the beginning, and the give-and-take of the process is something to not only to be expected but to be cherished.
“Process saves us from the poverty of our concepts.”
Wish I could tell you who wrote that, but that anonymous writer sums it up so beautifully …
comment added 03-27-14:
One of my students, Hanna, called this piece 'Divine Woman' and though I appreciated the thought, I had to say ‘What is divine? It is crooked, cracked, and chipped. Woman on a pedestal perhaps, but not divine … ’ <with a grin to her>
But later that memory brought up something I have been thinking about as I get older. I have been seriously thinking about what is to become of all my artwork when I shuffle-off this ‘mortal coil’. Don’t want my relatives to throw it all in the dump. <grin>
Though I have made provisions in to donate most of my worth to one of the schools where I have taught, the school is changing into something it did not used to be, and I am not sure I trust them anymore. Donate to a memory?
I have been wondering about other options — should I give it away to those folks who over the years have purchased (or traded) pieces with me? At least they did show a concrete appreciation for the work. Maybe even to those students in my 30 years of classes who took their studies in art seriously (unfortunately, most do not). But I do thank providence that in almost every class there has been at least one student who did/does. In this current 3D class there are several, including Hanna. Those few are the ones I teach-to, because the rest are simply killing time while they figure out who they are.