The sculpture that wouldn't die

Part III

>>>>The sculpture that wouldn’t die. Part III. Period.

OK, so where are we? Oh yeah. At the end of the first firing of Triangle, this was the tally:

  • One destroyed clay sculpture (getting it out of the mold kills it)
  • No silicone master as a backup
  • One spent plaster/silica mold
  • About 8 pounds of unfused frit mixed with talc and hence garbage
  • One giant glass donut that should have been a sculpture

Drat. This stuff should really come with an undo button. Fortunately, I come with a REdo button, so after a buncha work this is what I pulled out of the kiln:


The above image was shot just out of the kiln, still cleaning off the investment and trimming sharp edges. It needs a heckuva lot of coldwork, and Dewey-the-metal-god is gonna give me jaundiced looks when I present my ideas for mounting this thing…but at least I can push it out of my head and go on to other things.

Whew. To quickly get through my own personal redo button:

triangleclayI pinned a photo of the model on the wall (mostly to remind myself not to make stupid, avoidable mistakes), and analyzed the sculpture. It had four main components: Three faces which DID have silicone master molds, and so could be recreated, plus an oversized hand that couldn’t. Hands are probably my favorite thing to sculpt after noses and torsos, so that wasn’t a big deal.

I poured new wax faces, set them on the worktable, and immediately ran into problems: I’m not a great wax sculptor–I work in clay–and trying to get the stiff wax to behave drove me nuts. I remembered a sculpting technique I’d learned from a guy who does big public bronzes with lots of repeatable features: He creates hard plaster molds of each, then presses clay into the mold for each copy.

It’s not as easy as it sounds–if you simply drop a mass of clay into a large, highly figured mold you’ll get a mess. Instead, you press a bit of soft clay into the deepest part of the mold, smooth it out, press another bit of clay on top of that, slightly offset, and keep on doing that until you’ve filled the mold.

That works for hard plaster molds with oil-based clay (plastilina); I make extremely soft silicone molds so I can peel them off without damaging undercut areas–Could I use them and porcelain clay to achieve the same thing?

Sorta–it’s a lot harder than it looks. Getting soft clay out of a soft silicone mold is tough. But I got my impressions. I replaced the girl and guy, left the old dude at the top in wax, and started sculpting.

triangle2I didn’t try to duplicate the older piece, I just let the faces flow together, added hand and hair. Did the mold, packed it the way I did the first time. There’s BE Carnelian, Medium Amber and a little bit of Sienna powder for the “antiquing” on the hair surrounding the piece. The men’s faces and the hand have quite a bit of Medium Amber powder, with some Light Bronze shading in the eyes and beards.

Other than that, this is mostly a neutral fill, of Light Peach Cream, Crystal Clear and Medium Amber, going to pure transparent in the back. I invested it as usual (with feet on the mold this time), added talc to keep the sides up when it finished its drying cycle, and then nuked the heck out of it.

Even with talc, I have a few gaps where the frit pack slipped–nothing that can’t be coldworked, but I’m beginning to wonder if hollow just isn’t going to work for these panels. The downside of firing solid glass is that it’ll be six inches thick in some places–weeks and weeks in the kiln–and you’ll need a bolt and tackle to hang it on the wall. And that much glass will change the moldmaking and packing processes significantly.

So…we’ll see. In the final analysis, did I get there? Mostly. Triangle has this Botticelli thing going on with the colors that’s either gorgeous or insipid, haven’t made up my mind yet. As always, I’m astonished at how the expressions evolve with the process–in the original sculpture the lower guy bordered on evil, or at least some kind of con artist; in the final form he appears startled and protective.

I’m beginning to realize, as I just read in the NYT times today, that art is about relationships, so maybe that’s what’s been missing in the Vignettes. I like what I’ve done here, I know how I’d like to see Triangle (and its offspring) evolve and in the end I’ve got something nice to hang on the wall.

Life is good.



  1. cynthia January 20, 2010 at 10:35 pm - Reply

    Thank you very much, Fumino. The 18 inches tall piece, at the moment called Totem II is what I’m currently working on. Right now I’m building the mothershell for the master mold of it, in fact. There are two more of them, one in my head, one in early stages on my worktable.

    Interesting that you should relate it to both Bacon and Goya. Goya was one of my favorite artists when I was a teenager, and I always thought Bacon was what Goya would have been in this century. Both of them disturbed and delighted me.

  2. Fumino Hora January 20, 2010 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    Hi Cynthia,
    I have visited your website and looked around your website. You are such an amazing multi-talented artist! I was especially impressed by the image of the 18 inches tall sculpture. It reminds me of Francis Bacon and Francisco Goya. Are you going to make more of those?
    Thank you so much for your kind advice on my current work. I try my best to make it into a good shape!

  3. cynthia December 24, 2009 at 10:15 am - Reply

    Thanks, Les. Actually, I’ve gone back to an old Emotives idea and the next one will be kinda creepy. Or at least it is so far…

  4. Leslie Rowe-Israelson December 24, 2009 at 9:22 am - Reply

    WOW! incredible as always. I am simply overwhelmed by your amazing sculpting techniques Cynthia. I just want to always know the story as the ones I make up in my head are quite funny. This piece could have a million stories to it. Wonderful. Cannot waite for the next story in glass. Leslie

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