Thursday, March 22, 2012

How to... Videos!

For those of you who do not know what I have been up to this past semester. I have been busy working away on my thesis. I recently completed two how to videos and I thought I would share them. For my project I have created a ceramic website that includes instructional videos among other resources for educators using clay in the classroom.You can visit my website at

Click here to watch the Video on Reclaiming Clay.

Click here to watch the video on Applying Kiln Wash.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

a CERAMIC 4-Wheeler, getting really close!

My apologies for not posting sooner for this last week has been difficult and busy. LSU Ceramics lost one of our very talented young artists. Lets take a moment of silence for Nathan Drake. The picture on the right features Nathan wearing one of his creations. The following link goes to a tribute to Nathan, even if you did not know him it is well worth the read-he lived a short but full life and left quite an impact on so many people. Nathan we miss you.

On a more positive note-CLARE TWOMEY- big news happening right now at LSU Ceramics! Clare Twomey is here for a two-week artist residency. Clare flew here from the UK and is currently set up within our graduate studios, she is working in our gallery/critique space which is right next to my studio! This is an amazing opportunity and I am very thankful to be able to work with her as well as have discussions-her work is brilliant and she is a world renowned artist, we are so lucky to have her! Please visit Clare Twomey's website to see her work-

Now back to Gard Studios…the 4-wheeler is almost done!

For this post I will explaining a little information at a time with each photograph as they are shown. The Image to the right shows all the molds needed for my Ceramic 4-Wheeler(s), I just took them out of the dry box and am carting them to my studio to start slip-casting!

250 pounds of Casting Slip!
Here is my studio set up to cast the body of the 4-wheeler. The jig needs to rest on two tables so the slip can drain between. Also I clamped down some lumber to act as "tracks"so the mold doesn't buckle as I roll it over (flip it to drain the slip).

With the addition of a valve, hose, and using the wonderful power of gravity I can pour my slip through a hose and this reduces the amount of time I am lifting, this is much better for my body.
It pours a little slower than needed, so I pour some with the hose and some using a bucket-its a good thing I have 2 pour holes!

The jig works extremely well! The round sides made flipping the mold very easy, even though it is a great amount of weight. For my first cast I only had one bin to catch slip and it wasn't quite enough. Now I use two bins and the spillage is next to none.

Here is the first cast. I had some major cracking problems. At first I thought the problem was with my clay recipe. I use a cone 6 translucent porcelain and I thought maybe it wasn't going to work for a piece this large.

Here is the second attempt. I tried a different clay body but the cracks were the same. The piece ripped in half due to my impatience but regardless the cracks were the same. The top half , shown to the right, released well from the mold and that was a good sign.After a closer look and second thought I realized the cracks were due to slight undercuts in the bottom half of the mold. As the piece was drying and starting to release from the plaster the under cuts were catching some areas of clay and causing the cracks.

This is the third attempt, success! There were a few spots that didn't fill correctly but that had to do with how the slip was poured in (too slow with only the hose)- the more recent ones are filling in good.

Casting away! 4-wheeler parts and a few pots (flasks)
Handlebars almost ready to take out.
Wheels. Check out those treads!
Front axle.
I have found that the holes are easier to drill when the clay is closer to bone dry (just approaching bone dry). This way the clay doesn't move as I press in the drill bit. For these I am holding the drill bit and drilling by hand. In the past for holes I have used a power drill and for my BFA thesis Exhibition I used a drill press- I had to drill 800 holes-I had 100 cars. 4 holes in the body of the car (for the axle) plus 1 hole for each tire, 8 holes per car.

Everything survived the bisque! Now its time to glaze. My first glaze firing of these parts did not go well. The relay in the kiln was stuck on. (Its a part that tells the electric elements when to turn on and when to turn off) and therefore the kiln did not completely turn off and held at 1400 degrees overnight, before I came in the next morning and unplugged it. Also the glaze was sprayed on way too thick and crawled off in a few places.

After making, glazing, and firing all of the parts for a second time I had much more success. Behind all of my flasks and cups there are parts for the 4-wheeler. All of this work was fired in a gas kiln to cone 6 in an oxidation atmosphere. That is approximately 2250 Fahrenheit.

I still have some choices and decisions as far as surface treatment. I can feel a big round of glaze testing on the horizon. Here are all the parts, getting ready to assemble.

It is almost ready to ride! The front tires, axle, and handlebars assembled without too many problems. Above the rear tires the body warped less than half an inch- which was enough that the axle did not line up with the tires. The picture shown below is propped up and the back tire is not actually attached. The problems are getting resolved and I am getting very close to having a completed ceramic 4-wheeler!! Thanks for visiting!Please share this post with others who might be interested!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Verdant Earth and Teeming Seas

Currently at the Harn Museum of Art

Verdant Earth and Teeming Seas: The Natural World in Ancient American Art

February 11, 2012 - November 4, 2012

This exhibition highlights the Harn Museum of Art’s collection of ceramic figures and vessels, stone sculptures, jade ornaments, and textiles from diverse cultures of Ancient America including, Mesoamerica, Central America, and the Andes. This exhibition explores the many ways in which Maya, Inca, and Aztec cultures were inspired by the natural world. It introduces the natural materials they used and features various portrayals of flora and fauna from ancient American environments. The ways in which these cultures depicted animals and plants range from highly naturalistic and humorous to abstract and symbolic. While many works show a keen observation of the natural world, others show that Pre-Columbian people drew from the world around them for their mythology and for symbols of power. The exhibition draws from the Harn’s holdings, from private collections, and from the collections of the Florida Museum of Natural History. Co-curated by Susan Cooksey, Curator of African Art, and Maya Stanfield-Mazzi, Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Florida, the exhibition is made possible through the support of the Dr. Madelyn M. Lockhart Endowment for Focus Exhibitions at the Harn Museum of Art. This endowment was developed to foster collaboration between Harn Museum curators and University of Florida faculty to enhance teaching at the university.

Friday, March 16, 2012

3 months from today

3 months from today we are getting married! When we set the date last summer it seemed so far off. For some reason I expected time to pass slow this past year. Instead it has come and gone and my thesis semester is coming to a close in a few months. Lots more work to do before I can even begin to think about the wedding but I sure am excited!!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

art, art…

For all the artists out there, this is for you. If you do anything for yourself this week take time to watch this short video. It’s a music video for the song “Art” by Tanya Davis. It has been my favorite song for some time now and as I was listening this morning I thought that all of you might need it as much as I do!

For me this song, addresses all the issues that I ask myself everyday and it speaks to my deep love for art and making! Why do I make art? Is it making a difference? Is there good in my art? Will making art give me purpose and is it worth it?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ceramic 4 Wheeler and the ROAD it takes to get there, MOLDS FINISHED and JIG MADE

I have been busy in the studio since the last post. My plaster molds needed to make this 4 wheeler are all finished and in the dry box. Also I built the jig which I will use to help flip the mold to drain the slip out during the slip-casting process. Total there are 5- 2 part molds made to cast the following pieces; the body, handle bars, steering column, and 2 tire molds. This means I have to cast each tire mold twice to have 4 tires for the vehicle. The picture to the right was taken when I opened the mold of the Body. All the clay that I used to fill int he under cuts stuck to mold and took a little extra effort to clean up. All the molds are cleaned up and in the dry box. I cut down the corners on the big mold with a bow saw to help remove some of the weight. If I were to make the mold again I would have used a technique called "frosting". During this a thin "skim" layer of plater is poured on and then as the plaster sets up and can be moved on to the mold by hand- sort of like frosting a cake. The main benefit of this technique is if done correctly you can control where the plaster goes and this ables you to make your molds take the shape of the piece instead of a rectangular slab of plater (unless of course you are making a mold of a rectangular object).

Just about ready to pour plaster for the first part of the handle bar mold.
As I mentioned earlier I needed to build a jig(loosely using this word meaning a "flipping device" or something along those lines- you get the point). Special Thanks to friend Bob Biddlestone for the design- and an extended thanks to Tom Spleth for using a similar device. Here is a picture of the very impressive sketch that Bob sent me. I particularly love the different view points (top, front, exploded, and side profiles) This was easy to read for me and especially refreshing to see since I am in a 3D CAD class and we are using Rhin0 uses similar viewpoints. This is a really good way to sketch and plan designs.
Bob Biddlestone is one of my good friends and a VERY talented artist. (we grew up together and both earned BFAs from Ohio University). I knew Bob was using a device while he was casting Ceramic 2x4s for his BFA thesis exhibition. I knew Bob had experience with casting large molds plus Bob loves to figure out mechanical stuff/engineering/ and building. I sent Bob a picture of my mold and the very next day he emailed me the design above which I used. It is different than the design he used in the past but its much simpler and just as effective. Thanks to Facebook I was able to dig up some pictures of Bob's device and some of his work. This is Bobby casting some pieces for his exhibition.

Bob Biddlestone
The following images are of the finished work (installation views) from Bob's BFA Thesis Exhibition. All the objects in following images are COMPLETELY CERAMIC.

Back to Gard Studios and building my Jig.
I found some scrap wood behind our critique/gallery space that I was able to cut down and use for the sides! There was some blue paint on the wood but that just makes it more aesthetically pleasing-just kiddng I could care less this is about function. I screwed the two pieces together and roughly cut out the curves at the same time so they would be exactly matched. Then I fine tuned the curves on the disc sander. Also while the two pieces were screwed together I drilled the pilot holes to screw in the cross supports. (2x4s).

Finished! So simple but effective.
The mold rests on the 2 supports and butts up against the back support. Next the mold is strapped in and can be easily rotated using the curves of the built device. When I actually slip-cast in this mold I will use a few more straps (cross hatched) and the mold will be on two table surfaces (one table under each "wheel" with the opening in between to with a container to catch the slip as the mold drains).
The mold completely upside down and supported by the straps going around the mold and the support beams.
Now back to work. Of course I will post more pictures and information as the work comes so stay posted. And please help us share this blog with others. Thanks for following!

4 Wheeler and the ROAD it takes to get there; molds finished and Jig made