I managed to finish this third face this morning. I squeezed in just enough time in this morning’s studio session to pour the first layer of rubber, which will enable me to start making the mother molds tomorrow morning.
In other news, I’ve sent off the final draft of my book to my editor, so now I’m just waiting to hear back from her to see her edits. I’m also in the process of writing a query letter to send off to literary agents and publishers, so that’s been occupying my time as well. I’ll admit that I absolutely hate writing stuff like that. I wrote the entire book in a heightened frenzy that felt so fluid and easy, and here I am, not even able to put together one paragraph to sell the book. The marketing of work is so time consuming and tedious, there are times when I feel like I spend more time on the promotional aspects of my work than on creating the work itself!
I spent the first half hour of today’s morning session picking away at these three faces with my favorite sculpture tool. I don’t think the sculpture actually gets that much better with my picking, but it’s important for me as the “final sweep” of the sculpting process to feel that things are truly ready for casting. Once you start the casting process there’s no turning back, so I like to feel mentally sure.
Sometimes part of me feels “guilty” that the sculpting process doesn’t actually take me that long. Sculpting each face in clay takes about 3 hours. I began these three faces on Monday, and I’m ready to cast today. Part of me feels like the sculpting should take longer. Then I have to remind myself that the sculpting of the clay is just one small part of a very involved process. I also know that I work better when I can produce a prodigious volume of work, which is why I assigned myself 50 sculptures.
I got the first layer of rubber on this new round of three faces on this morning. I felt “guilty” because I just wanted to get the rubber process over with as quickly as possible so I could get back to work on my book! I’m glad that I’m so involved in my book, but it’s starting to dominate my brain a little too much. I’m okay with that right now because I’m starting the casting process which is somewhat mindless compared to when I’m actually sculpting the clay.
As the feedback for my book trickles in, it’s been endlessly fascinating for me to see how completely different and contrasted everyone’s feedback is. I absolutely love reading the comments and have been savoring every comment. One person’s feedback consisted entirely of questions. Another person’s feedback addressed the tone of voice I was setting in the book. A former student supplemented her comments with a number of personal stories from her experience. Then others have helped me tremendously with specific wording and phrases and simplifying the language. I can’t wait to read more!
The first layer of rubber cured last night, so I went ahead today and worked on making the mother molds out of plaster. I covered the faces in plastic wrap, and then went ahead building what will eventually become the rubber mold out of ceramic clay over the rubber.
After covering all of the faces with an even layer of ceramic clay, I added shims, the pour hole, with more ceramic clay.
The first layer of plaster, which is very thin, is added to create one side of the mold with a bristle brush.
The second layer of plaster, which is very thick like cake frosting is applied using a butter knife.
After allowing the plaster to set on one side, I remove the clay shims. I brush Murphy’s oil soap on the shim area and then build the other side of the mother mold in the same way as I did the first side. Tomorrow I’ll open up the molds and pour my second layer of rubber.
Yesterday I had my last day of class with my Monday section of Freshman Drawing at RISD. I always end the class with a slideshow of my work. It’s a unique slideshow in that is only for my students: it starts with work that I did as a sophomore in high school all the way to work that I finished just a few weeks ago. (and no, I won’t post my old work online, it’s just too embarassing) I’ve done this slideshow dozens of times, and yet I always get nervous beforehand, there’s something about showing your work to others that is the mental equivalent of walking a plank.
At the end of the slideshow, I always do a short Q&A so students can ask me any questions. One question I got yesterday was how I had time to do all of this; between family, teaching, my studio practice, etc. I’ve been thinking about it since yesterday, and I think it all boils down to having tremendous self-discipline and focus. I feel strongly that if you’re mentally determined enough, you can make it happen despite how little time you may feel you have. Physical and technical skills are important, but it’s your mindset that really matters. Let’s face it, there will always be some excuse you can come up with, or something that you can blame for why you aren’t doing what you want to do. You can blame lack of time, lack of resources, the ham sandwich you ate yesterday for lunch. The way I see it, at the end of the day I’m the one responsible for what I can accomplish. I find that very empowering.
With school starting up, I’ve been away from my sculptures a lot longer than I’d like to be. I’m adjusting to a completely new schedule this semester, and so I’ve been finding it really hard to concentrate on anything. I’m hoping that this will change over the next few weeks as I settle into a new routine. That’s one reason I’m really glad that I was working on casting these pieces this morning- I can be productive but do a task that doesn’t require a lot of thought or concentration. Today I finished up the last minute touches on the face on the far right and got the first layer of silicone on the faces.
I love days like this in the studio, when there are so many tasks to do that you don’t even stop to think. I opened the molds, cast, shot photographs, modeled in clay, and poured a layer of rubber. Any day that I get to open the molds is always a great because I get to see the finished product at the end of the day. Sculpture is an incredibly messy process, it’s very gratifying to come out with something polished and smooth when you’re done.
The first three casts I made I used Murphy’s oil soap as a release, but the soap left a residue on the surface of the casts that I didn’t like. So I cast more without the release which worked out fine. At the end of the day I noticed that the residue had dried out and disappeared, so it was nice to know that it wasn’t permanent. I finished up the modeling for the next three heads and poured the first layer of rubber.
I shot a ridiculous amount of photographs, and edited them down to these final three images below. It’s crazy the amount of bad photographs I have to shoot in order to get even one image that works for me. Thank goodness for the convenience of digital photography!
My silicone rubber arrived today, so I was able to finish up my final pour into the mother molds this afternoon. Tomorrow morning I’ll get to open up the molds and see how they turned out. In the above photo you can see how the modeling of the third portrait has progressed, it needs some finishing on the surface, but I think the majority of the forms are in there.
I had the entire afternoon today to begin work on the mother molds for both pieces. After covering the piece with clay to form what will eventually become the silicone mold, I was ready to place plaster on top to form the mother mold. The mother molds went pretty quickly, so I decided to pour the rubber. That’s when I forgot a key trick that I used to do all the time: (of course I remembered it after it was too late!) to prevent the rubber from leaking, I usually poured a small amount of silicone into the mother mold first, allowed it to cure, which “sealed” the mold. I didn’t do this today, and I ended up with a lot of silicone leaking out of the mother mold. I managed to get it under control, but then I ran out of silicone. I’ll have to order more tomorrow, which means it will likely be a few days before I can finish these molds.
Even though I’m not feeling great about where I’m going with this project, it’s still important to me that I keep busy and pushing forward while I figure things out. I knew that I needed to make silicone molds of these first two portraits, so I thought I would give myself a break from thinking so much and focus on the manual labor of making molds. Then comes the fun part: trying out different materials to cast in to determine what will work best.
This morning I added the first layer of silicone to plaster casts. This is a trick that I learned from my friend Ji Woong Cheh in graduate school. The danger with the silicone is that if you simply pour the silicone without this first layer, you’ll get air bubbles in the silicone, which makes for a flawed mold. The silicone is like molasses, and so when it moves and settles, it causes the first layer to be very thin, which results in no air bubbles at all. It’s pretty much a fool proof technique, every silicone mold I’ve made in the past has been completely air bubble free which is great.
Despite the fact that I’ve made many silicone molds in the past, I still get a little freaked out when I’m mixing the silicone that something will go wrong with the measurements, the silicone won’t cure, and the whole piece will go to waste. Not once has this ever happened to me in the past, as I am very thorough and anal retentive about mixing the silicone, but it’s still a thought that always crosses my mind every time. I’m always very anxious to come in the next morning to check on the mold.