Monday, July 1, 2013

Make it / Take it

Make it / Take it
Make it / Take it, is an interactive installation in which participants are allowed to play certain skill games in an attempt to win a trophy. If the game is attempted but not completed successfully- the ceramic ball (game piece) breaks and a trophy cannot be won. However, if the game is completed successfully; the ceramic ball will be cushioned for its landing and therefore it will not break, which at this point the participant can claim a small trophy or they can gamble by attempting the other game in hopes of winning a bigger trophy. 

Make it / Take it, installation view
 The trophies that participants attempt to win by playing the above games.

How its Made, CERAMICS
Minus the peach basket and the basketball rim, I made all of the objects in the above pictures; the ceramic trophies, ceramic balls, basketball backboard, basketball landing ramp, skee ball ramp, and the rolling ball rack. 

I started to make all the ceramic objects first and that is where we will start with the studio tour. Due to the ambitious project that I was undertaking, I had to pick and choose which battles I was going to fight in my studio. One battle that I choose not fight was the battle of completely designing my own objects. A trip to the trophy store left me spinning dizzy as there are a many different trophy ideas there. From the beginning, I knew that I wanted 3 different trophy sizes so I can push the idea of gambling from one game to the next a little bit further and to give the potential gamblers a bigger incentive. The molds for the trophies were for the most part pretty standard, they are all 3 part molds (2 sides and one bottom). 

I was this close (fingers barely touching) to making a mold of a basketball. However only one of my games is basketball so I thought it would be very confusing to have participants use a basketball to play skee ball and therefore I decided to mold this ball instead. It has a raised texture which I was hoping would add an extra challenge to rolling it straight, and it did. The ball mold is the same as my ball molds always are. It is technically a 3 part mold; 2 sides and the 3rd part is the plug that allows me to cast a fully closed hollow form. I had a little bit of a plaster disaster on my first attempt, but by round 2 (ding ding) things were smoother. 

 One of the first trophy casts!
 The trophies were very hard to cast for several reasons. The main reason was that the stem near the bottom was so skinny that the slip wouldn't drain from the bottom; which resulted in a very thick bottom that didn't want to come out of the mold in a timely manner. The second problem that I encountered was that I included both the trophy cup and its handles in the same mold. And due to how skinny the handles were they would break off in the mold. To over come this problem I had to carve out in the mold to make the handles thicker where they attach to the cups. To over come the stem problem at the bottom I had to precisely watch the amount of time the slip was in the mold so I could cast a thick enough object to handle but thin enough to drain; for my slip in the humid south that amount of time was 10-12 minutes. The time depended on how many trophies were cast in a day, the first one can cast for 10 minutes and later in the day, after I have used the mold 3 or 4 times, I need to increase the casting time.
More problems. As you can see I had some extreme warping problems. This is mostly due to the form and having skinny base supporting a rather heavy top and then using porcelain for this simple yet complicated form (I am stubborn for its beauty but am open to recipe suggestions). In the future as I am designing my own trophies/ objects to be won, I will be able to avoid this problem altogether. 
As you can see below, in the end all of the frustration and problem solving paid off. 
I developed a new color pallet for the balls and have been working hard on ways to have people feel more comfortable with interacting with my ceramic objects. One tactic that I used prior in a piece (although I didn't realize the power behind the choose at that time) was to make the balls look and feel like another material, in this case that other material is plastic. 

I wanted to make the trophies look like ceramic and not like plastic. My first thought was to leave the entire trophy bare to show its porcelain beauty and to luster the rim as a reference to "fine china". This attempt was successful but left no connection between the trophies and ceramic balls and or the games. I decided to use the same glaze that was on the balls just on the trophy handles. The effect (especially in the room with the installation) was very successful. And now people can color match their trophy with the color of ball that they used (if they wish to do so). Below is a finished look of the trophies. 

How its Made, GAMES
As you can see fitting the wood into my car was a challenge.  I love my 1995 Honda Prelude but it is not the best car for picking up wood in.  I built the skee ball ramp similar to the skateboards that  I am so familiar with from my younger days. I just the bandsaw to cut out the sides and the spindle sander to get them to the  right curve. Then I attached the 2 ends and formed a rectangular box. Last I slowly screwed in the  and got the board to take the curve without cracking.

I cut the backboard to the exact size that I wanted and then also cut the corners to round them off. For the inner targeting shape I stenciled out the area using masking tape and painted the backboard orange behind and above the basket. 
Below is the backboard fully painted and assembled and installed in the gallery. 
And here is the ramp being painted. I decided to paint the side trim and paint a series of triangle that shape one large triangle as a way to know where the center is and how to aim. This is also a reference to the rolling ball game that most people are familiar with; bowling.

Here is the ramp installed in the gallery after its fresh paint job. In the background you can see the target is a peach basket that I also painted orange. The peach basket is actually a reference to basketball;  because the first basketball game was played using a soccer ball and peach baskets.

I built a rolling ball rack as a way to ease people into feeling more comfortable to throwing a ceramic ball. I cut the sides on the bandsaw and used the drill press to etch out holes to hold the dowels in place.  I attached another piece of wood at the bottom to act as feet which I attached wheels too. The end result is very moveable ball rack that is also a more inviting display for my ceramic objects. Below you can see I was very excited after it was built that I had to fill in blank spots with my non ceramic balls.
Here you can see the finished ball rack in the gallery filled with my ceramic game balls, players await. 

Make it / Take it

Thanks for visiting our blog, Gard Studios, we really appreciate you interest in our work. I hope you have enjoyed my newest body of work, Make it / Take it. Until next time…


  1. the texture and color of the balls is great!

  2. Very cool, Forrest! Smart idea setting up the video to record the night.

  3. I love the project! Thank you for sharing your process.