Friday, 10 October 2014

I clay'm to have done this...

Clay. This was my chance to finally get my fingers dirty after mucking about (yeah, I know, but I had to go there) on the computer, so I was really excited about starting this class.
The tutor was Liz O'Kane, a very experienced and talented sculptor. You can see her work on, I advise you to go over and check out it out. If you've been to the Iveagh gardens, you've probably seen some of her sculpture! The classes were held in her centrally located studio, which was handy. It's also a lovely place to go and she encourages visitors to come and check out her work, so do contact her if you want to drop by and have a look. Her classes are worthwhile, and I can almost promise you'll come out of it wanting to do more yourself. Very motivating!

The first day was a strange one. We were told to look at the model from the profile only and try to match that view. Naturally, this was against everything I had ever learned when modelling on the 'puter, so I have to admit, I railed against it and found it very hard not to keep turning the model around and fixing the other views. After several slaps on the wrist, I eventually succumbed. However, I never got a photo of the result at the end result of that first session, which is probably just as well.

Anyway, onto the clay - it was great getting my hands dirty! There's nothing quite like it. You feel like a kid again with all the moist clay between your fingers. Great fun!

Charlotte - a French national, is our lovely model, who, as chance would have it, has the patience of a saint (as we poke and accidentally prod her with calipers and the like and leave her face with streaks of clay). We're modelling her lifesize, which helps enormously when making measurements.

Update - final bronze images 

Final bronze portrait

Original post starts here:

Say hell to Charlotte, the model for this. Click the images to make them bigger. Go on, I dares ya.

These classes are also 3 hours each, so after the first 2 or 3 classes, this is where I was.
(Whose idea was it to have a model look straight ahead with no facial expression whatsoever? And can I hit them now please...?)

Masculine, right? Yeah, I thought so too. Turns out a likeness doesn't happen in just a few short hours. Also - what the hell!? No eyes!

By the end of the next class, I was starting to get some more form into her face, but still struggling with the masculinity (which will be an ongoing theme!).

By the time we got onto the 3rd or 4th class (I believe - I have the memory of a senile earthworm), she was starting to get eyes.

Another class later, and the mouth was redone, some detail added to the hair, and tweaks to the eyes. The likeness is still far away, and while I appreciate it will be hard to see even when I get it closer due to the nature of it being clay and not textured or coloured in any way, it's still a surprise to me to see just how difficult it is to get a likeness. I have newfound respect for those that do.

Click me, I become clearer when you do

Luckily, I still have another 5 or 6 classes left to cruise on into Tweaksville and see if I can get her any closer. I'll keep updating this page as I do.

Update after class 5, I've started cleaning up the hair a bit and adding some more volume to the face.

Another update:

Well, the class finished and I decided to go ahead and get this cast into bronze. <gulp!>
It's a pricey process, but a risk worth taking I think.
Liz had recommended the guys out at in the Liberties here in town, so I went with them. Leo was the guy I met and I have to say he was great, very accommodating and eager to show me everything that was going on. The overall cost for this will be around €1,200 for the silicon mold, the bronze casting itself and the mount. This is still an estimate as I haven't yet seen or decided on a mount. The silicon mold cost €200, the bronze casting €720, and I'm expecting the mount to be around €200. Just for those interested in the numbers! I know I found them interesting. For one, if I learn to cast my own molds, I could save a lot of money and just pay for the bronze part! Also, if I can carve my own bases out of stone, I'll be in a happier place too.

Anyway, I got to the foundry and this is what they showed me.

At first I was thrilled, Then after a few seconds I realised they were a bit rough, right? You ain't seen anything yet though! The close-ups show the true state of the wax.

As you can see there are all sorts of scratches, holes, and flaws all throughout the model. None of which were present in the clay. Quite a disappointment. Apparently this is the norm though, and a certain amount of cleanup is to be expected at this stage.

White spirits and soft cloth is your friend here apparently, so off I set. Leo had very kindly given me some black wax as well to help with any repairs which might be needed, and it came in very handy, also for doing additional sculpting such as changing her eyebrows, which I was never satisfied with in clay but never bothered to change. Now I had an opportunity to do so, so I did. They may look a little strange being in black as they are here, but that won't be the case for the final piece, so I'm not too worried about it.

So after a lot of cleaning (and I mean a LOT), this was the final result and this will probably be what I go back to the foundry with to get cast.

I'll update this again when I get the bronze part done.

Update 25/01/2015

So the bronze has been cast at the foundry. As you can imagine, there was much excitement for me seeing my first ever professionally cast bronze piece. This is it straight out of the ceramic shell and with a first pass wire brush scrub done to it (or so I'm told). There are lots of flaws and pits and scratches and all sorts of nasty things going on with it, but I'm assured these will all be fixed. I was encouraged to mark them with a purple marker to show what I wanted fixed and they said they'd look after that. I think I did manage to put the marker down before it ran out of ink... but yeah, someone in there is gonna seriously hate me.

Could I have made this any blurrier? Well yeah, if I'd been bouncing on a trampoline while taking the photo maybe. I just didn't have it with me...

I took some photos of the kinds of flaws that were in it when I saw it, will be interesting to see how many of them are fixed up and the difference once it's had the final pass.

 Upper lip hell

 The Temple of Scratches

Those cheeks are the pits...

Needless to say this entered Scratch-ville, did some donuts in the car park, burned some rubber and knocked over a few important local landmarks before crashing it's way through the barrier to Pits-ville and on to What-the-hell-happened-there-ville.
So, in a punitive measure, I've also asked for a highly smooth finish (a sandpaper grade of 220).

Following your Baser instincts
I will of course need a base for this, and I was pointed to a company called Artefaction who normally do marble fireplaces, and was told they might cut stone to suit a base too, and at a considerably cheaper cost than traditional stonemasons. So I donned my bargain hunting hat (we all have one!) and went out to them, and although their stone would be much more limited in dimensions (they get the marble at a precut thickness), I was able to get 2 pieces of polished black Kilkenny limestone for 35 euro each. A bargain! (throws precious bargain hat into the air, shoots two holes into it, and then immediately regrets doing that)

I have another piece I'm getting made at another foundry (I'm such a foundry slut), which I will blog about in another post (he said, in an attempt to introduce mystery and intrigue into an otherwise boring blog post), and for that I needed a more interesting base. I went with a stone called Light Imperador, which I loved and think will really suit the piece I'm getting done. That one came in at just 20 euro. Of course I'm now presented with the problem of mounting the bronze onto these bases, but I'll cross that bridge* when I come to it. <gulp!>

Marble ain't cheap, and you can't just take it for granite...

I have to say the black limestone seems a little milky to me, but I'm not exactly sure how it normally looks, so I'm guessing this is okay and I just don't know what I'm looking at. Might go for something else next time though. There was an option to go for a painted wooden base for about 20 euro, but for the sake of 15 euro more, I couldn't bring myself to look at the wood for too long without regretting it. The bronze deserves the marble!

Once it's been smoothed down by some poor soul, it'll be ready to receive a patina. I've already chosen the one I want for this, so the next images posted will hopefully be the head complete with final patination. For those interested, the patinas are put on using chemicals and a flamethrower.
Best. Job. Ever.

* Yeah, as stone puns go, that was pretty weak. Admittedly.

Final update
The patination process had to be done on the final piece. This is where the colour is added - via a frickin' flamethrower! I'd chosen a colour and texture from a small sample piece of bronze and asked for that on her face and hair. That was partially applied, and when I had seen a work in progress version of it with some cloudy grey spots at the back of her head and had tried to explain (unfortunately to someone NOT doing the patination) what I wanted, it got miscommunicated to the person doing the patina and I ended up with cake frosting for hair. Instead of dark hair with light semi-transparent cloudy grey areas, I got full on white. Luckily when I went out to review it again, the wax hadn't been added yet, so it was reversible. I went with a two tone brown instead, which I'm MUCH happier with, and Cast are great for letting you know they won't finish working on it until you're happy with it. Anna, who did the patination, was kind enough to let me watch her do it and make sure I was happy with the final colour.

Attacked by the whippy ice cream man

Salvage operation taking place

January 30th 2015
So I went out to collect the final piece today at They had done a wonderful job on the finish of it, the patina was beautiful and the sanding job on her face was very smooth and it had been mounted onto the stone base, complete with felt underside. I'm really happy with the quality of finish on it. Not so happy with the sculpture itself, the more I look at it, the more I'd like to change, but you live and learn! Anyway, hope you learned something from this blog post I certainly got lots out of the whole experience.

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