Cliffhangers, clues, and claying around

Home>metal clay, saving elmo>Cliffhangers, clues, and claying around

gingkos

Today is E-day, IOW, my monthly trek down to the orthopedics hospital, where they do all kinds of x-rays and studies to discover if Elmo and I will stay together.

The docs will be looking for signs of healing and bone growth. If they don’t find any, we wait for another month and go back for a recheck. If they do find growth, we cheer and screech with joy…and wait for another month. If they find (boo, hiss) that the bone fragments have moved, we wait for a surgical date and Elmo is a goner.

In other words, I’m waiting to see what I’m waiting for.

Prep for these visits resembles that of a vestal virgin visiting the oracle (and a particularly interesting parallel). I choose my outfit with care–long black jersey skirt topped with a sweatshirt. It allows to easily remove leg-based garments for exams, xrays, and whatnot, while preserving the fiction of dignity, and it’s a tad more professional than a comforting-but-weird flannel granny gown.

Then I shower.

A shower is a 2-hour circus with Mom as ringmaster. It involves placing shower implements on a reachable ledge in the shower, two wheelchairs, a walker, and lots of towels. First, we wash The Leg outside the shower–too much banging around the shower could whack that healing bone. We shave it where it can be shaved (there are a LOT of incisions in the way). He gets a fresh stockinette bandage after, then I re-secure Hector-the-Protector firmly (Hector sometimes goes on wild flights of fancy, launching into the stratosphere from my foot, which ain’t very protective of him).

Then I stand and gracefully pirouette The Leg out, allowing Mom to wrap the entire leg to keep Hector dry (a wet Hector is a miserable Cynthia). I remove clothes, sit back down, leaving shoe on the good leg, and take off Marilyn-the-wheelchair’s leg rests so I can snuggle up to the shower. I move in, set the brakes HARD, stand up, and grasp the walker, which I use to pivot around and into the second wheelchair, now locked inside the shower. Remove shoe, wheel over to faucet, and do the actual shower thing, sitting down.

(This is harder than you’d think. It’s taken me about a month to figure out a good get-clean-while-sitting-in-the-shower routine.)

Once finished, Mom carefully dries the shower entrance. I carefully dry me and the wet wheelchair. Then I wheel up to the raised opening, lock the brakes, put my shoe back on, check that all surfaces are dry, gather courage. I step OVER the ledge and onto the floor, rising at the same time, and grab the walker for balance. Then pivot-and-sit (hello, Marilyn! I’m CLEAN!), while Mom tackles the onerous chore of drying out wheelchair #2.

This is why I mostly sponge-bathe, and reserve showers for once- or twice-weekly special occasions.

Shower done, I don my outfit, confirm the ambulance ETA, dry my hair and gather my things. Wallet and insurance cards, check. Fully-charged phone, check. Wheelchair gloves (for pulling myself up and down ramps), check.

Now I’ve got time to do other things which, since I took the day off work, means I have time to check Everett, the baby kiln, and his load of silver clay.

pmc-samplesIt’s obviously impractical to bring Dennis-the-Denver kiln, glass, and equipment up here to Mom’s just so that I can play with glass, even if I wanted to hire the moving van to do it. Precious metal clay jewelry, though, my rapidly-becoming second love, is a lot more portable and I’m still such a newbie that I need the practice. So kind friends trekked the lot of it up here, and I’ve been playing on weekends.


Rachel's silver hairpin with a cubic zirconia that was supposed to be tanzanite. Turns out tanzanite becomes a gorgeous red-violet when you fire it too hot. Ooops.

Rachel’s silver hairpin with a cubic zirconia that was supposed to be tanzanite. Turns out tanzanite becomes a gorgeous red-violet when you fire it too hot. Ooops.

pmc-rachelpin

Niece Rachel joins in the fun, making a silver hairpin that is absolutely gorgeous.

I love sculpting earthen clay, but any notions I had about PMC behaving the same way went right out the window on my first attempt.

Metal clay more closely resembles (rapidly dehydrating) Silly Putty than clay; it’s the exact opposite of my belovedly workable Hanjiki porcelain. Any attempt to wet metal clay and prevent it from cracking usually turns it into ultra-expensive slime, especially if you touch it with your hands. Therefore, you touch it as little as possible.

How do you sculpt metal clay, then? You don’t.  You mold it. You make your sculpture in something else, create a mastermold of it, and then press the clay into the mold.

You can do a little shaping, cutting, and assembling while the clay is wet, and one of its big advantages is that two pieces of wet metal clay will stick together without all the scoring and slip application required of earthen clay.

Mostly, though, you just trim your stamped shapes and assemble, and let them dry. Once leather-hard, the clay can be carved and sanded, or wet down and have other clay added, although it’s terribly fragile until fired.

This does allow you to work in layers: Make one component, dry it or even fire it, then add a second component, fire it…and on and on.

There are about as many techniques for working with this stuff as there are for glass (and my eventual goal is to integrate casting glass with metal clay), so there’s a lot to learn.

I’ve started with the simple roll-the-clay-into-a-press mold stuff, graduated to adding bails and making small sculptures, and I’m trying all the different kinds/brands of clay. (There are LOTS!)

copperartclay-before

Copper clay pendants, before

Copper clay, for example, isn’t going so well. Spent an entire weekend shaping three pendants, only to discovered they’d crumbled to bits on firing. Sigh.

pmc-copperafter

Copper clay pendants, after

I asked on metal clay forums and received a wealth of helpful (and conflicting) suggestions. Gotta get some more of the stuff and press on. (pun intended)

You can paint dilute clay directly onto leaves to take an impression of veins and structure, then dump into the kiln; the leaf burns out, leaving the clay.

I’ve had mixed success with this one; if you heat the clay to dry it, as I’m doing here, the slip seems to bubble a bit. I typically top it with a thin layer of sheet clay. In fact, that’s what’s in the kiln as I go down to visit the docs.

pmc-gingkocoatingWish me luck in both endeavors (leg and clay)…


The Saving Elmo series covers my adventures after crashing to the ground on Elmo, my replacement knee, sustaining an “open, comminuted fracture of the left femoral shaft.” It’s a tad more dire than it sounds; if my bone doesn’t grow completely back and return me to normal function, there’s a new, more painful, less effective femoral replacement in my future…with eventual amputation.

If you want to follow along on the journey, try these posts:

The ravell’d sleeve of care…

July 26th, 2017|5 Comments

Test: Can you spot the cripple?

July 22nd, 2017|14 Comments

Zeroing in and leveling out

July 20th, 2017|34 Comments

Femurs, accessibility, and Utah: Saving Elmo II

July 16th, 2017|14 Comments

Tripping the light surgical: Saving Elmo II

July 14th, 2017|12 Comments

Wheelchair traveler…

July 12th, 2017|7 Comments

Filling up on sweetness, with fragility

July 6th, 2017|8 Comments

Saving Elmo: Sometimes the bear eats you

June 26th, 2017|17 Comments

No place like it…

June 12th, 2017|6 Comments

Driving Miz Cynthia, Part Two

June 5th, 2017|9 Comments

Drivin’ Miz Cynthia

June 1st, 2017|5 Comments

Home-ward bound

May 29th, 2017|10 Comments

Room 15: Paying it forward

April 3rd, 2017|12 Comments

Whippersnapper

April 1st, 2017|5 Comments

The Fortress

March 25th, 2017|9 Comments

On the bone again…

March 10th, 2017|14 Comments

Moonlight at sunrise, with jitters

March 8th, 2017|8 Comments

The wheeled view

March 2nd, 2017|10 Comments

Elmo, Beorn, and the Ferengi’s ears

January 30th, 2017|12 Comments

Cliffhangers, clues, and claying around

November 28th, 2016|7 Comments

8 weeks: Patience for the unvirtuous

November 16th, 2016|12 Comments

Death by chicken

October 20th, 2016|5 Comments

Mr. Desmond

October 13th, 2016|7 Comments

Saving Elmo 4: The Meltdown

October 9th, 2016|13 Comments

Bedpans and reachsticks

October 2nd, 2016|4 Comments

Saving Elmo 2: The Plan

September 29th, 2016|11 Comments

Saving Elmo 1: I fight concrete…and lose

September 27th, 2016|26 Comments

 

2017-07-03T14:25:18+00:00

7 Comments

  1. Island Fused Glass November 29, 2016 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    Good news Cynthia, I use a Chinese ointment called Po Sum On, medicated oil, it is sort of like tiger balm only better and a liquid, it brings heat to the area which relieves some achy pain but also brings circulation to the area which may improve healing. I remember the name by saying Po some on, Po some on, Po some more on. Take care girl.

  2. cynthia November 29, 2016 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    You’re right, Janet, so here’s an update: The Leg stuck with the middle ground, which is more good news than bad. There’s no visible bone growth yet (the doc said there might be a little but that could also be his wishful thinking). There is also no movement of bone, which means the fragments are staying put.

    So…I’m waiting for next month’s visit, and in the meantime doing red meat, green veggies, lots of vitamins and exercise, a TENS machine, and careful, careful non-weightbearing to see if we can’t jumpstart things a bit.

    One real plus: The strengthening exercises are really paying off: I probably COULD lift a Buick, and Doc says that will come in handy. 😉

  3. Janet McFadyen November 29, 2016 at 9:31 am - Reply

    Please don’t make us wait to long to find out what the results were yesterday. My heart is with you on this journey.

  4. KaCe Whitacre November 28, 2016 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    Your writing is energetic and engaging.Your showering is very challenging. Well, done. You seem to think outside the box in solving your challenges. Keep up the good work. I pray that “Elmo has decades of longevity with Cynthia.”

  5. Rinee November 28, 2016 at 9:15 pm - Reply

    Well not the way you had wanted to become an expert on metal clay but you know what they say about making plans. Sending the best of thoughts your way for you and Elmo.

  6. sandi uhlman November 28, 2016 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    Sending more healing energy to you.so impressive you are doing art while this is going on.. I have so many excuses. Keep us posted. Patience and hope

  7. Moira Robinson November 28, 2016 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    Nice work! Wishing you and Elmo a long and happy life together…

Comments welcome! (thanks)