Studio Diary: The Marking Time Sculpture at Bronllys Hospital, Powys, part 8.

The cut sections had a slow dry for a month and the last 6 weeks in a tent with the dehumidifier. Water is still collecting!! Soon I’m going to have to start the firing. But if the sections are still damp they will explode into a trillion smithereens….

 

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

 

The letter tiles look great.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Studio Diary: The Marking Time Sculpture at Bronllys Hospital, Powys.part 6.

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Things are progressing really well. The intense texture, which will look great in the woodland light, is developing  strong patterns and as the curves get tightened up there is lots of flowing movement.

 

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The birds head is done and the dragon’s is getting there. The main thing, a powerful embrace,  is there and when the blue mosaic is in place in the centre it will look enchanting.

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Our foster-kittens are being very helpful with lots of feed-back. It will soon be time to cut the sections and begin the long slow dry.

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These fabulous images are from the wonderful Black Eagle Project.

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Studio Diary: The Marking Time Sculpture at Bronllys Hospital, Powys.part 5.

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

The full structure is built and the 1st layer of the textured surface is on. It has been every bit as challenging as I hoped!

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

The next stage is developing  the surface to enhance the flow of the curves. The clay with extra grog added will go on in layers using ever-smaller tools. It takes a great deal of time but it will leave fascinating, subtle surfaces and edges that are also very strong.

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

In these early stages it can look distractingly chaotic. Any part that just doesn’t work well can be removed and redone.

Mick Farrell and Janet Epplestone visiting Osprey Studios to help with their very useful feed-back.

Mick Farrell and Janet Epplestone visiting Osprey Studios to help with their very useful feed-back.

It was lovely to have Mick and Janet call in to give me their objective feed-back. And some gorgeous flowers for my birthday! I will get in as many people as I can to double-check how the piece is being read. The Red Kite is becoming very clear. Bringing together the Dragon will be the trickiest bit.

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

Marking Time Sculpture for Bronllys Hospital, Powys, UK.

Studio Diary: The Marking Time Sculpture at Bronllys Hospital, Powys.part 4.

Working on a large scale means returning to the same form everyday for months. So you need to be sure about the design.

I’m really pleased with the scale of the Marking Time Sculpture. It is within the human scale range so that the embrace and  eye level of the dragon and the kite/guardian’s wings will feel very personal.

Marking Time scale model.

Marking Time scale model.

Osprey Studios has a flexible layout and a solid floor so that anything up to 6m x 3m can be built there which keeps costs down.

Osprey Studios has a flexible layout and a solid floor so that anything up to 6m x 3m can be built there which keeps costs down.

The base foot print was painted on the floor in red and the outline of widest/deepest edges painted in blue to check that there will be space to work around the forms. The largest section is set on blocks to give the height of the eye-line. The other 2 sections are on wheels for easier access. The base footprint is painted on the boards in blue.

I always miss my wonderful Volunteers from past projects at this point. But it is a lot easier to be building in my own studio. Advancing decrepitude means some of my systems for moving heavy loads around lack dignity. And I can loose myself in the curves.

Areas are kept wrapped in plastic to keep the drying even. When you add new clay you need to allow time for the water to re-balance itself down the form. A large piece will be holding gallons of water.

Areas are kept wrapped in plastic to keep the drying even. When you add new clay you need to allow time for the water to re-balance itself down the form. A large piece will be holding gallons of water.

I am building the armature of the piece. The final surface will be added to it so I need to keep the clay at the best stage of hardness. Scarva ES50 Crank holds its water really well while still being very strong at the leather-hard stage.

I will be adding a lot of deep texture and modelling so these armature walls are very thin. In places the lines and curves of the final form are showing.

There is an internal support structure made of clay that will stay in place during the firing. It will help to support the sections when the sculpture is cut up so you need to plan them well in advance. Other materials like foam and wood are used inside just long enough for the clay to stiffen. External supports can be anything. They will need constant adjusting to accommodate shrinkage. I have a treasured collection of heavy-duty props and oddly shaped bits of wood.

There is an internal support structure made of clay that will stay in place during the firing. It will help to support the sections when the sculpture is cut up so you need to plan them well in advance. Other materials like foam and wood are used inside just long enough for the clay to stiffen. External supports can be anything. They will need constant adjusting to accommodate shrinkage. I have a treasured collection of heavy-duty props and oddly shaped bits of wood and memory foam.

The lines of the supports can be distracting.

The lines of the supports can be distracting.

2/3 of the way up. But the forms are not complete, especially width-wise. You see the movement starting in the curves of the central space. I'm using the sound-track from The Legend of Korra to keep the theme consistent across the weeks of work.

2/3 of the way up. But the forms are not complete, especially width-wise. You see the movement starting in the curves of the central space. I’m using the sound-track from The Legend of Korra to keep the theme consistent across the weeks of work.

Studio Diary: The Marking Time Sculpture at Bronllys Hospital, Powys.part 3.

This project is a joy. The Theme and the build are very challenging, which is great. And I am working  for a wonderful team  of dedicated, committed people who have been involved in it, in various ways for years. They have all put in countless hours of voluntary time. The writer and poet Mark Christmas and designer Mick Farrell, both military Veterans, have been the driving force. They made a sheltered garden at Bronllys. They have contributed significantly to the design of the Marking Time walk and sculpture and they have donated beautiful poems written especially for the woodland site at Bronllys Hospital.

This one will be set at the entrance to the woodland.

Catching a Moment

Within these woods

there is a breath to be found

to ease new life into sight and sound

transforming our world and how we see

each branch, each twig, each living tree

so when the hurt inside we feel

creates distraction with no appeal

take a walk on this path to find this rhyme

you will no longer be ‘Marking Time.’

Dedicated to those who understand.

Mark Christmas, 2015

Mark Christmas has two ongoing projects that have formed some of the back-ground to Marking Time: The Abandoned Solider  ( or on Facebook) and the TAS Project.

This one will be part of the sculptures base.

We are the child of nevermind

Who, finding dreams lost, unfind

Who, wandering, walking paths unknown

to find a woodland overgrown

And seeing in that woodland Glen

The happy minds of nevermen

Who elfin laughter laughly speak

Of how we humans keenly seek

Some new haven overhewn

And child stars of the moon

Mick Farrell, 2016.

Both of these lovely people are right there anytime I need more information or

inspiration. They have been hugely supportive and encouraging.

Mark Christmas had formed a link with Ross Bennet, the out-standing Art teacher at Llandrindod Wells High School and we planned a Workshop there.

It is not easy for a school to accommodate a Project Workshop into their packed schedules. Ross and Head-Teacher Jane Asplin went well out of their way. IMG_6150

We started with the excellent, really skilful A-Level pupils. I brought along the model and described the project and what work needed doing.

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These guys are working on the panels for 2 of the corners. We talked about the use of repeating patterns in art-work. Marking Time has 3s running all through it. The pupils chose an elegant celtic emblem of 3 from the internet that will also echo the curves of the sculpture. The third panel will be the same shape, show a  version of the emblem and have the Dragon story set on it with stamps by Mount Street Junior School in Brecon.

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I particularly liked the choice the pupils made to have the panels linked but not the same.

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I lost track of what year groups came along during the day because they were all equally quick on the up-take, skilful, very creative and completely charming. It was an excellent day: the pupils were thoughtful about the project, open and forthcoming with their ideas, encouraging to each other, relaxed and friendly towards me.

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They have a fantastic relationship with the two Art Teachers: this is clearly an Art Department that goes above and beyond every day. Other pupils dropped in from 8.30am until 4.30 to get support, information and encouragement from the teachers they trusted. The Teachers never took a break and had their lunch on the fly. They knew every pupil and cared about every piece of work. It was inspiring!

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I wish I had had more time to look through the pupil’s portfolios. The couple I saw were wonderful and so was all the work on the walls. Pupils are being guided to their own style at this school. And they get the opportunity to use a wide range of materials including digital. It was great to see so many boys in the A-Level group.

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The central mosaic will be made up of coloured glass pebbles and beautifully decorated tiles, full of vitality, made by this wonderful group.

Llandrindod High School has taken the art-work on the sculpture’s base to a new level. So I’m re-designing the layout: the lovely mosaic tiles will easily hold their own and I don’t want to crowd them. Mick’s poem will now be in bigger letters and go on the face of the railway sleepers that will be the most visible. Mount Street Juniors will make a great job of those tiles.

Studio Diary: The Marking Time Sculpture at Bronllys Hospital, Powys.part 2.

Marking Time Scale Model 1

Marking Time Scale Model 1

It has been a really good Consultation period. Everyone has been very open and generous with their time and thoughts, even when it was very difficult for them to do so.

The models, figures, benches and bases shown are all to scale. The full sized versions would have more texture/detail and the benches would be a metre further away.

We identified our primary audience as the people using, visiting or working at Bronllys Hospital. The overall impression/feel of the sculpture should be up-lifting and hopeful to support those who are ‘marking time’ in  stressful circumstances.

“The sculpture should have an aura of peace that will not interfere with the person’s unique moment”

“…so people can sit down and stay calm and feel safe.”

” In the discipline of Marking Time and manoeuvres like that, vulnerable people can find structure for their chaotic lives.”

” Marking Time is marching on the spot, keeping the beat, keeping in step with the group, in readiness to move onto the next task.”

And this triangle is the spot where the Marking Time Sculpture will go. There will be comfortable benches set in place so visitors, patients and staff have a tranquil place to sit and get a break from the often over-whelming activity in the Hospital.

And this triangle is the spot where the Marking Time Sculpture will go. There will be comfortable benches set in place so visitors, patients and staff have a tranquil place to sit and get a break from the often over-whelming activity in the Hospital.

The children at Mount Street Junior School felt it was important to help the Servicemen and women to forget and to ease them back into civilian life with games, walks, sports and domestic routines. The Ex- Servicemen and women agreed that humour and a sense of playfulness were key in allowing them not to forget but to learn to feel again. Military training is, by necessity, dehumanising:

“Dehumanised Soldiers find it hard to play nicely…”

“Snowball fighting can be more fun than real fighting because nobody gets hurt.”

The children agreed that ” The Soldiers need a bridge for when they come back to their families from the War.”

Many Servicemen are adolescents when they join-up and  their training replaces the natural pace of growing up. They cannot contextualise the shocks they are exposed to.

Marking Time Scale Model 1

Marking Time Scale Model 1. Bird forms in many sizes creating movement around the central space. 160cm H.(incls base).

Marking Time Scale Model 2

Marking Time Scale Model 2. Bird forms with a patterned texture suggested. 1metre high from the ground.

So: a sculpture with a narrative that releases the imagination, shows protectiveness and how the burden of being fierce and brave is shared and eased by those, of all sizes, being protected.

Marking Time Scale Model 3

Marking Time Scale Model 3. Three bird-forms.180cm H (incls base).

“A flowing circle, the movement of life, love, hope and promise will draw you in and guide you to change.”

Marking Time Scale Model 3

Marking Time Scale Model 3

Marking Time Scale Model 3

Marking Time Scale Model 3

“Regrets, we all have them. You need Hope to manage them.”

“Ephemeral, shadow-like.” ” A dragon in the mist.” “Inter-weaving the real and the etherial, making them equal.” ” Dragon of protection, Bird of hope.” “Intertwined spirals” “Water represents calm and peace. Flowers represent beauty. Dragon represents protection.” “…and a mystical Dragon and a moat with 3 piranhas.”

Marking Time Scale Model 4

Marking Time Scale Model 4

                                                  “The Bronllys Dragon by Ben,aged 8.

             Once upon a time there was a Dragon called Yddraig Goch. He would guard the Castle day to night until one day the Gorgan Maduser came. She looked the dragon in his eye but Yddraig Goch was quick as lightening to fly away. Yddraig Goch flew to the Military and perched on the roof. The army heard a thump on the roof and found Yddraig Goch, the Welsh Dragon.

                                               “Shoot him” said Ian. “I am ready, Sir”

                                                         “Wait!”said the Captain.

                                                         “What?!” said the army.

                                               “It’s Yddraig Goch, Lets make friends.”

              “What, with a Dragon?”  “Yes! Maybe he can help us against the other armies.”

Marking Time Scale Model 4

Marking Time Scale Model 4

 

The triangle base and the use of 3s has multiple significances in the Military, where groups are divided into 3 parts throughout it’s structure starting with Army/Airforce/Navy. Celtic and Christian symbolism is over-flowing with 3s.

Linked to the triangle is the heart shape, despite its over-use, still a “powerful symbol of the strongest emotion, the one that triumphs over all others.”

 

Marking Time Scale Model 4

Marking Time Scale Model 4

In Wales the Dragon is an especially potent icon representing the Land and bravery. The Red Kite is the Welsh National Bird and the symbol of Powys. Red Kites live separately but hunt and feed collectively when ever they can. They have an ordered community and share food and protect each other. After nearly going extinct in the UK due to cruelty and stupidity, their recovery has been brought about by the protection from a better society. Breeding from the surviving Welsh Kites, their numbers are growing: like the phoenix rising from the ashes.

For each version of the Sculpture: The Mosaic Base.

            The base of the sculpture will raise slightly in the centre of the triangle. A mosaic of good sized tiles of many shapes, with images and words about what makes up a strong Community, made with Mount Street Juniors and the A-Level students in Llandrindod Wells and beautiful, and vivid glass pebbles will be set in swirling lines with the most colour in the centre representing souls, ideals, that which is vulnerable and precious. 

The colours are blues/greens/yellows.

In the corners of the triangle will be set large tiles with ‘Accept the Past’, ‘Trust the Present’ and Faith in the Future’ and celtic knot-work carved on them.

 Assessment:

I don’t recommend Models 1-3. They are lovely in themselves but don’t quite hit the mark. They have been useful transitionary pieces.

Model 4:

The dragon’s expression will be extremely gentle and caring. The birds, of all sizes and types but mostly red kites will soar out from the centre. They will have a softness to their lines. They will support, encourage and assist the benevolent dragon, their wings working with his.

The max height (including base) is 180cm. Width: 150cm. Depth: 180cm.

The form has lightness and movement but is actually very strong and safe in all the ways discussed.

There will be many view-points of the mosaic.

The full sized version will have expressive textures and many more birds than could be put on a small model. It will be a very complex build and I am happy to add voluntary hours to the budget and time-line in order to complete this challenging piece because I believe it will be very beautiful.

Model 4 uses the consultation resources and our intended outcomes to the best effect. I feel everyone who contributed will be very pleased and will be able to see that their work is included.

 

Model 5: This is a condensed version of Model 4. It has the best of Model 4 and it adds the iconic local sky-line of Pen y fan mountain in the near-by Brecon Beacons. The Kite is now powerful enough to bring a sense of guardian angel to the mix. The Dragon and the Kite interact to create an embrace around the centre of a richly coloured mosaic of glass pebbles and hand-made and decorated tiles in shades of blue and green that swirl outwards from the centre. It has 3 points connecting it to the ground. There are 2 holes through the form.

Marking Time, Bronllys Hospital, Scale Model 5.

Marking Time, Bronllys Hospital, Scale Model 5.

Marking Time, Bronllys Hospital, Scale Model 5.

Marking Time, Bronllys Hospital, Scale Model 5.

Marking Time, Bronllys Hospital, Scale Model 5.

Marking Time, Bronllys Hospital, Scale Model 5.

 

The max height (including base) is 180cm. Width: 150cm. Depth: 180cm.

The form will not get cluttered with leaves in the way that Model 4 will in this woodland site. Model 5 will age gracefully with out looking neglected. It is sturdy and safe while retaining the flowing movement.

Update, 5/3/16

To keep within the Budget we need to reduce the size of the foundation.

Model 6 is based very much on Model 5 but it is divided into 3 sections which has lead to some interesting and lovely developments in the forms. The sense of the protective, sheltering embrace is still clear but there is more movement and echoes of bird-forms. The dragon’s head is moved into the centre adding to the protective feel and this enhances the over-all silhouette.

The dimensions are the same. I have added to the base-line so that the 3 forms are self-supporting to ease strain on the small foundations.  When the sculpture was a single form it supported itself from tipping over. But the weight was all standing on 3 small points that would have put a lot of strain on a small foundation. The 3 sections allow some ‘give’ as the sculpture settles on the site.

This model is not as neatly finished as Model 5: don’t let that distract you. I will use both models during the build.

Marking Time Model 6.

Marking Time Model 6.

 

Marking Time Model 6.

Marking Time Model 6.

Marking Time Model 6.

Marking Time Model 6.

Marking Time Model 6.

Marking Time Model 6.

Marking Time Model 6.

Marking Time Model 6.

The foundation will have 3 parts linked by a reinforcement-bar grid. Hard-core will form a small rise towards the centre. The mosaic will be set into hand-made cement paving slabs made at Osprey Studios. This will give more time to the layout of the mosaic and the results will be better than setting them onsite. It will save the surprisingly large cost of Out-door Tile Adhesive.

This is a good set of solutions with a lot gained and nothing lost except the costs of a large, poured foundation. It does create a lot more work for the sculpture-build but I am willing to take that on: it will be satisfyingly challenging.

How to Coil-build with clay from small to monumental.

There are lots of variations on the Coil-Building method. This one avoids all the pit-falls that cause your pots to go out of shape or break in the kiln.

I started out as a Coil-builder 34 years ago and I still turn to it regularly. All my monumental brick sculptures are coil-built. It’s all about understanding the clay and how joins are actually formed. The skills you gain from coil-building are extremely transferable making it a great place to start for beginners. There is a lovely rhythm to the work.

Here is the Coil-building Workshop that I run at Osprey Studios. Many thanks to my lovely students for being in these pictures.

How to do excellent Coil-Building.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Choose a clay with a medium to high percentage of multi-grade grog ( grit in different sizes from dust to medium sized bits). Scarva ES 50 Crank is ideal. Clays of this type will give you the best results.

Start with the biggest pinch-pot you can comfortably make. (Unless your piece is really too big.

1.Start with the biggest pinch-pot you can comfortably make. (Unless your piece is really too big; leave out as much of the centre of the base as possible.)

Make it round.

2.Make it round.

 

The most important thing is an even thickness of up to 2cm at any point.

3.The most important thing is an even thickness of up to 2cm at any point.

Gently ease it into the shape of the first section of your pot.

4.Gently ease it into the shape of the first section of your pot.

Set it aside to stiffen up.

5.Set it aside to stiffen up.

 

 

Have several on the go at the same time so you are not tempted to rush each one.

6.Have several on the go at the same time so you are not tempted to rush each one.

Prepare the top edge to make a join.

7.Prepare the top edge to make a join. NEVER use a pointy tool. Use a serrated tool so that the score marks are not too deep. Fill these ‘ditches’ with water and give it time to soak in. Dab on a little more. Then put on slip; slip is perfect for holding a lot of water in place.

Very important bit.

Genuine joins are formed when the chains of platelet-shaped particles from each section inter-lock. Imagine a magnified image of tangled hair.

Score marks do not give the surface ‘tooth’; they allow water into the clay-body. On vertical surfaces score marks and slip hold the water in place to give it time to sink in.

Slip is not ‘glue’. It is clay particles spread out in water and has little strength, especially when it has dried. It is ideal for holding a lot of water in place to give it time to be absorbed to soften the area of leather-hard clay.

Never use a needle tool. Your score marks will be too narrow and deep. They will get covered over, resulting in a ring of tiny but malevolent air-bubbles that will expand in the firing and a crack will zing along the joins. I have fired pots for poor, misinformed makers that have come apart at every coil! You could see the deep score marks and powdery slip.

Start making your coil from a generous block of clay. Squeeze it gently and repeatedly into a thick sausage shape.

8.Start making your coil from a generous block of clay. Squeeze it gently and repeatedly into a thick sausage shape.

Using 2 hands gently squeeze your coil until it is 2 or 3 cm thick. Do NOT roll your coil.

9.Using 2 hands gently, and rotating, squeeze your coil until it is 2 or 3 cm thick. Do NOT roll your coil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every join is an opportunity for a crack, every coil a point where you might loose control of your shape. So it makes sense to use coils that are large enough to handle well and will give you 4cms of height.

Rolling your coil on the table can cause 2 problems;

  1. The grog that would have helped create an excellent join is packed towards the centre of the coil and the finer particles of clay are packed together to form a ‘skin’ of tight platelet shaped particles that are reluctant to reach out and bond with the platelets of the pot.
  2. enthusiastic rolling often causes a tunnel to form at each end of the coil that would be a substantial, damaging air-bubble. This is why you often see coil-builders break off both tips of their coils with out even looking at them; they know that hazard is probably there.
Rub the softened score-marks and excess slip off the pot until the edge is sticky not slippery. Your platelets are raised and receptive.

10.Rub the softened score-marks and excess slip off the pot until the edge is sticky not slippery. Your platelets are raised and receptive.

Attach 1 end of your coil. Hold the other end high. Gradually lower the coil, expelling air and any surplus slip.

11.Attach 1 end of your coil. Hold the other end high. Gradually lower the coil, expelling air and any surplus slip.

Guide the coil downwards and forwards with a pinch. This action creates a friction between the 2 surfaces that causes the platelets to hook onto each other from the pot to the coil.

12.Guide the coil downwards and forwards with a pinch. This action creates a friction between the 2 surfaces that causes the platelets to hook onto each other from the pot to the coil.

Do not be tempted to push clay down the pot with this step. Go to the end of your coil and stop. Do NOT go up another layer!

pinch upwards gently only at the seam off the join. (your finger and thumb will touch pot and coil each time) I call this lining-up.

13.pinch upwards gently only at the seam off the join. (your finger and thumb will touch pot and coil each time) I call this lining-up. Do inside first; this may push the wall out. next do outside; this will correct a bulge.

The over-hang of the coil can trap air if hastily pressed down. Rushed building is why coil-pots have a very unfair reputation for being hideous.

Go around and move clay down with your thumb; 1st the inside, then the outside as above.

14.Go around and move clay down with your thumb; 1st the inside, then the outside as above.

With thumbs inside and fingers on outside ( for best control) gently pinch the clay in the desired direction for your shape. Use many light pinches not a few strong ones for best results. The most important thing is the thickness. Not the height.

15.With thumbs inside and fingers on outside ( for best control) gently pinch the clay in the desired direction for your shape. Use many light pinches not a few strong ones for best results. The most important thing is the thickness. Not the height.

Support with 1 hand on outside. Gently move clay in many directions to get that coil right where you want it. Inside first, of course.

16.Support with 1 hand on outside. Gently move clay in many directions to get that coil right where you want it. Inside first, of course.

Now the outside.

17.Now the outside.

Support hand on outside, use serrated kidney to improve inner surface. Go in many directions, gently combing the clay into place. Then do the outside.

18.Support hand on outside, use serrated kidney to improve inner surface. Go in many directions, gently combing the clay into place. Then do the outside.

Repeat this action with a firm rubber kidney creating a strong, smooth surface.

19.Repeat this action with a firm rubber kidney creating a strong, smooth surface.

Sit back and look at the outline of your form. Use a paddle (flat stick) to tap in bumps or bulges. Rotate around the whole form in stages so that the stress of this action is spread evenly through the clay. Paddling compacts the clay particles making your form very strong. But over-doing it on one area can lead to cracks because it alters the drying rate.

20.Sit back and look at the outline of your form. Use a paddle (flat stick) to tap in bumps or bulges. Rotate around the whole form in stages so that the stress of this action is spread evenly through the clay. Paddling compacts the clay particles making your form very strong. But over-doing it on one area can lead to cracks because it alters the drying rate.

Paddling can clarify your shape: it's really satisfying.

21.Paddling can clarify your shape: it’s really satisfying.

Use curved tools to paddle the inside.

22.Use curved tools to paddle the inside.

Soften any indented areas that you don't like and add clay to fill them. Add textures in the same way. Paddle them gently.

23.Soften any indented areas that you don’t like and add clay to fill them. Add textures in the same way. Paddle them gently.

Scrape /smooth with those kidneys again.

24.Scrape /smooth with those kidneys again.

Now even up the top edge by subtracting or adding clay. Let it stiffen. Go over it again with a surform blade.( these take off nice controllable layers.)

25.Now even up the top edge by subtracting or adding clay. Let it stiffen. Go over it again with a surform blade.( these take off nice controllable layers.)

Spend a lot of time on the edge. use firm tools to compact the clay and get every millimetre of that edge exactly how you want it: attention to this detail will transform your pot.

26.Spend a lot of time on the edge. use firm tools to compact the clay and get every millimetre of that edge exactly how you want it: attention to this detail will transform your pot. Also tidy up the bottom edge where your form meets the table.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

27.My coil-building tools. The spray is water.

Coils are perfect for all sorts of applications.

 This bio-morphic head is being built on a clay armature with the techniques described in How to Make a Head. I use coils attached in exactly the same way as I would on a pot to get excellent joins. The coil is then pinched in the direction I want it to go.

28.This bio-morphic head is being built on a clay armature with the techniques described in How to Make a Head. I use coils attached in exactly the same way as I would on a pot to get excellent joins. The coil is then pinched in the direction I want it to go.

Using Supports.

When you are making complicated shapes use temporary supports made of clay that will shrink with the form. Build in support walls and buttresses. Use rigid supports with care: plan to accommodate the shrinkage.

Here I am putting down the first layers of 2 big sculptures. I am using Coleford brick clay in a very soft state. My 'coils' are half bag blocks but they are applied and treated in the same way as any good coil. The walls are thicker at the base to support the considerable weight of the next layers. The internal support-walls are thinner. On very big sculptures these support walls will be discarded when the sculpture is cut into sections. On medium sized sculptures, that will be cut into parts not panels, the internal support walls will be left in to maintain the shapes during firing.

29.Here I am putting down the first layers of 2 big sculptures.
I am using Coleford brick clay in a very soft state. My ‘coils’ are half bag blocks but they are applied and treated in the same way as any good coil.
The walls are thicker at the base to support the considerable weight of the next layers.
The internal support-walls are thinner.
On very big sculptures these support walls will be discarded when the sculpture is cut into sections.
On medium sized sculptures, that will be cut into parts not panels, the internal support walls will be left in to maintain the shapes of the sections during firing.

30.Note the finger marks left by the process: these are just like the marks of a serrated-kidney on a smaller pot. Like corrugation, they add strength to the wet clay wall and will be left on until the clay is firm enough to hold it’s shape.

 

The same layer of the fired panel-sections of the same sculpture during installation.

The same layer of the fired panel-sections of Bruce during installation.

Bruce in progress. There is a clay support wall under his head and the stack of blokes.

31.Bruce in progress, 3m wide x 2 m high. There is a clay support wall under his head and the stack of blocks was added later and removed as soon as the head was firm enough to cut apart.

Here’s some good examples of rigid supports in action:

Mynydd Mawr Courtyard Sculpture, Tumble, Carmarthen, Wales, 2m H x 190cm W.

32.  Mynydd Mawr Courtyard Sculpture, Tumble, Carmarthen, Wales, 2m H x 190cm W. The big blocks are firm memory foam which will accommodate the shrinkage. I often use it inside a piece to support ceilings. It gets removed when the piece is cut up.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

33.Because this rigid support leans outwards it will not constrict the shrinkage. It was adjusted repeatedly during the build.

Mynydd Mawr, Tumble, nearly complete. Larger sculptures are always built from a scale model. The internal support walls are worked out in advance and the cutting of sections planned so that those walls will support the section's shape during firing.

34.Mynydd Mawr, Tumble, nearly complete. Larger sculptures are always built from a scale model. The internal support walls are worked out in advance and the cutting of sections planned so that those walls will support the section’s shape during firing.

front view. That broom was a good buy.

front view. That broom was a good buy.

Balarat Pit Marker,in progress, 6m L x 2m H.

35.Balarat Pit Marker,in progress, 6m L x 2m H. ( Ocean Colliery Pit Marker in background.) Memory foam on top of clay support walls inside the sculpture supports that long roof and accommodates the shrinkage.

The Sirhowy Wyvern in progress, 3m L x 2 m H. A tunnel runs under the horse with carved images on it's walls so we needed access to it. A thin support wall blocks the tunnel half way. It supports the structure but allows us to crawl in do the art-work ( a lot was done by some fab children) The support was discarded when we cut the sections. We didn't get to see the tunnel right through until it was installed on site.

36.The Sirhowy Wyvern in progress, 3m L x 2 m H. A tunnel runs under the horse with carved images on it’s walls so we needed access to it. A thin support wall blocks the tunnel half way. It supports the structure but allows us to crawl in do the art-work ( a lot was done by some fab children) The support was discarded when we cut the sections. We didn’t get to see the tunnel right through until it was installed on site.

Bucket and stool supporting the tunnel roof while we built it. The board to the left of the picture is there to protect some intricate carving about the Sirhowy Iron Works during the build.

37.Bucket and stool supporting the tunnel roof while we built it. The board to the left of the picture is there to protect some intricate carving about the Sirhowy Iron Works during the build.

Adding clay on to the surface.

38.All the big coiled sculptures have artwork added onto the surface once it is firm. Exactly like the smaller pot, the area is softened using scored ‘ditches’ and slip to hold the water in place, allowing it to soak in to the firm clay and raise up those platelet shaped clay particles ready to join with soft clay.

Once a good join is achieved the added clay is modelled and carved in stages as the clay firms up. The drying ( and shrinking) is kept slow using plastic covers to allow that vulnerable join to set as the water moves from the soft added clay into the firm wall.

Remember that water will always want to be level and will travel down the form over time as well as evaporating from the surface. This passage of water past those platelets completes the join. If there is too much water it will collect and run down  the join, destroying the bond.

With that in mind add as much clay as your artwork needs. If it becomes more that 2 cm thick hollow it from the inside even if this means cutting the section out of the form, hollowing it and reassembling it. The important thing is to find a way to get the look you want. For advice on this process click here: Working solid and hollowing sections out.

Drying coil-built forms.

39.Use plastic to shield firm parts from drying while you work on new parts. e.g. a strip of plastic sheet to keep the top edge soft while you put art-work on a lower area before it gets to hard. And visa-versa.

Slow the drying as much as possible to allow all those joins to set using plastic sheets.

Cover the piece in a shield of newspaper ( 5 sheets thick) or a cardboard box or fabric sheets (not wet) to create a  damp micro-climate that will slowly release the water from the clay and protect from drafts that would cause un-even drying (and maybe, consequently, cracking)

 

Related info on this site.

For a full description of how the really big sculptures are done click here: Building Brick Sculptures on a monumental scale.

The whole story of the fab Gwalia Mynydd Mawr Care and Nursing Home Courtyard Sculpture designed with local primary school children and staff and residents of the Home, run by Arts Care Gofal Celf in Carmarthen, Wales: Studio Diary, The Tumble Commission, parts 1-8. 

Using clay armatures and coils: How to Make a Head: Clay Armatures and Building Hollow.

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