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!


  1. This is awesome, Forrest! I agree with you, the tread detail is particularly delightful. When you finish, I'd like to see some pictures of the final product with a reference to scale. I get an idea in most of the shots, but not in the ones that are glazed.
    I'm sorry to hear about your friend.

    1. Thanks Cari! I will show more pictures when I get the next one made and assembled. The glazed one is approximately 22 inches long and 14 inches in height-that includes the tires and the body assembled.

  2. I hope we can collaborate on something in the near future, Forrest. I have my new studio up here in Columbus, Ohio now. The world is begging for something new. Kudos buddy.

    1. Alex I would love to collaborate on something in the near future. I have followed a few posts (facebook) here and there about your new studio. Congratulations on that! My fiance actually accepted as an MFA Candidate in Ceramics at Ohio State University- in Columbus obviously. So after I graduate from LSU (2014 MFA candidate) I will move to Columbus for Jeni's last year of school. That would be a good opportunity, assuming you are planning on keeping your company and studio in Columbus. Thanks for the support it is greatly appreciated!

  3. Way to go. What a project this has been. We are so proud of you. We had a great time with Alison here in Grand Haven last night.

    1. Thank you very much! I am glad you had a good time with Alison. I hope the Hansens are doing well! I can't wait for June!

  4. Wow! Great to see your documentation and progress with the ATV, Forrest! Congrats and all the best with future production!!! I am in Mt Pleasant, MI, but did indeed have a gret time in Grand Haven (Thanks Dan and Jackie!) We'll have lots of fun in June!