Summer session in the studio is intense. Its three days a week from 9 am – 2 pm but at the same time its so short, only six weeks instead of the months we have in spring and fall. Because of all of this, the Quan Yin statue is a lot farther along in just two days of work than I had expected. I suspect that by the end of Monday she will be ready to start the slow drying process. If all goes well with that, she’ll go into a bisque kiln in the Fall.
On Monday the dragon finally got his limbs back (I had to take the draft versions off to get all his scales done) and horns! now he’s still cute, but a teeny bit more mature looking (he thinks).
Tuesday I had planned to do QY’s hands, but in order to do that, I had to finish cleaning her up. That and the addition of the texture on the base (“Swirling vortex clouds” anyone?) took up most of the day.
All of which means, next Monday, she gets hands. This actually gives me the weekend to experiment with some ideas I have for how to make them look the way I want them too. With fimo you can use wire armature to build sculpture over because that is only heated a hundred or so degrees. With clay, the first firing is 1800 degrees and the second can be as high as 2700. Armature melts very quickly that way. I know of at least one sculptor who uses metal under clay but he has a rig in the kiln to catch the metal run off. I don’t have that option in a school setting, so I’m pondering other ideas. We shall see how they work out!
Quan Yin gets a dragon: Left side=rough in Right side=with scales and more details:
My brain is a busy busy place. Even when I’m at my lowest energy wise, dealing with chronic pain and / or chronic illness, invariably my brain is still going as fast as possible generating tons of ideas, plots and plans. I can always tell when I’m on an upswing health wise because my brain shifts from scattered and kind of sluggish thought forms to clear and concise idea just waiting to get written down. Once the hands stop hurting and the fingers can type more than a line or two, I’m off and running on whatever story I have at the head of the line.
On the days when my brain is a little slower and my body is struggling with a few more aches, I have found that I can channel some of the whirl of ideas into clay. Using my hands in different way than typing helps stretch them out and alleviate some of the pain while thinking in pictures lets my intellect rest for a while. Ceramic art is very mediative for me. The clay is cool and damn and easy on my hyper-sensitive skin and theres a magic in watching the shapes take form. Seeing words form on a screen is fun, but the three dimensionality of clay is a whole other type of cool. Both fill my soul and help me stay positive about life and the slow path I’ve found myself on for the past eight years.
In February I celebrated the publication of my first short story: “A Rose by Any Other Name” in Torquere Press’ Valentines Day anthology: “Conversation Hearts”. With that story off and spreading its wings, I’ve started working on a new story about werewolves and fireboxes and circuses. This one’s gonna be long and take a while, but its’ so much fun and is going to be well worth the work! You can find my story here: “A Rose by Any Other Name” and the Anthology here: Conversation Hearts
Last summer I worked on two ceramic projects. One was a statue of the Greek Goddess Demeter and one was of the Norse Goddess Hella. They are both about 20″ tall and started out with about 50 lbs of clay each. After firing and glazing and a second firing they weigh a little less and were ready to come home.
Demeter was built with a high fire clay called Rod’s Bod that is very pale after the first / bisque fire and goes a dark wheat toast color after the final firing. I choose this clay specifically for that dark earthy quality since Demeter is the Goddess of the Grain. Another cool thing with Rods Bod is that it has lot of grit in it to give it solidity. the particles that make up the grit are easy to see once its fired and often interact with the glazes creating unpredictable speckling and colorations. The color work ended up being three layers. The first was colored slip (very watered down clay that has pigment added) in free for her himation and yellow for her chiton. After the bisque fire I added a layer of yellow under glaze over both garments, her crown and the bundle of wheat in her arms. Because I was looking for a blend between detailed and ephemeral I added a final brushed on layer of high fire glaze in Yellow Salt. The final result was very close to what I had imagined and the places that were different were wonderful for those differences.
Coming off of Demeter, I was still plugged into the anthropomorphic mode and started Hella by trying to recreate the details of her half bone/dead side and half flesh/alive side. It became clear very quickly that this was not working. I pulled all the details off and started over, just listening to the clay and feeling my way through to something that feels very primal and raw but also very much Hella.
I used two different color clays for this piece. The dark side is a clay called Black Mountain that fires out to a light milk chocolate after bisque and a dark chocolate after the final firing. To boost the darkness of this side, I added a layer of black under glaze before the final fire. The light side is a clay called EBS (literally East Bay Sculpture) that starts out gray and fires out first to a light tan and then to a slightly darker and grittier tan. Since her colors are usually white and black, I added a layer of white underglaze to the light side. This turned into a teaching moment for me 🙂 I had never seen the EBS fired out, so I was going off of other peoples memories, and we thought it would fire out much closer to a white than it finally did. If I had realized how dark the clay went I would have done several layers of white slip before bisque and then several layers (more than I actually did) of white underglaze. It still might not have gone all the way white, but it would have been closer.
Because the elements of life and death collide along the center line of the sculpture, I painted a line of red slip that was mixed with crumbled bits of a reddish clay called Cinnamon. The end result was a textured line uniting the two parts of her essence.
Now that these two ladies are comfortably settled in their new homes, I have two new projects in the works 🙂 One is a commission piece depicting the African Diasporic Power called Ogun. He’s finally dry enough to fire, so he should be going into the kiln next week. The other is probably going to be for sale and is a sculpt of Quan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion. She’s still very much in process. Next week, the dragon who wanted to “help” gets his head cut off and a new one (much smaller and less “LOOK AT ME!”) made to go in its place. She probably won’t be ready for her first fire until the middle of summer term, and then I have to figure out what glaze color(s) she’s going to get.
As part of breathing through my pain and being in the moment, I’ve started doing a list of what I am grateful for each week. I find that it helps me see the world in a more positive light and helps me hold on to all the good in my life. And I’ve just gotten to like doing it and miss it when I dont have the spoons to type.
1. I am grateful for sun and rain and roses
2. I am grateful for the doctors and medications that help make things better
3. I am grateful for warm socks and soft arm warmers
4. I am grateful for purring kittens
5. I am grateful for silly husbands
6. I am grateful for little sisters who turn 16 and have Harry Potter parties
7. I am grateful for parents who love and support me
8. I am grateful for my tenacity and stubborn streak
9. I am grateful for chocolate
10. I am grateful for really freaking good gluten free bread that makes amazing grilled cheese sandwiches
The last few weeks have been exhausting and spoon eating.
Broken spoon, broken spork
The sinus infection I’ve been negotiating with got ahead of me and started to build camp in my lungs. This is generally the point at which I tell it to bugger off through the use of antibiotics. (Since I have a near constant sinus infection and living on antibiotics sounds like the least fun thing ever, I wait until things get worse because otherwise I really will be living on ABs.) Monday the antibiotics started which is great, but draining in its own way.
About two weeks before all of that, my insurance company micro-managed me into a corner that I had been heading towards but wanted to settle into on my own terms and in my own time. *sigh* Namely, one of the medications I’ve been taking for about five years was cut off because I cant take the generic (Seriously nasty side effects for me) and the Insurance co wont pay for the label. The neurologist and I had already decided that medication was going to come out of the “cocktail”, but cold turkey is never fun. At least my dosage was fairly low to begin with. Of course, at the same time this happened, the neurologist upped the dosage of one of my pain meds. Either one of these on their own is enough to make a person a little off kilter. Together? *boom* brain explodes, body hates me and where are my blankey and my cave thank you very much.
While I have managed to get a little bit of work done on the new novel, mostly I’ve been wishing for a vat of really good (non-allergenic to me) chocolate ice cream.
What does all of this have to do with glitter? Well, I’ll tell you – (yes, the snark is in rare form this week) – I have always known glitter was my friend, that is part of why this blog is titled Call Me Glitter. This week I discovered that it serves as an excellent power boost – Power Up for you gamers. I’ve taken to sprinkling a little on before I leave the house to help get me through whatever I need to do. Not only is it fun and pretty, but it really does help. Even if its just a mnemonic of sorts, it helps me to focus on the good and have faith that I can get through my day, one way or another.
I first met glitter when I was three (or five depending on who you believe and what calendar we are using) when I was inserted in to a whole on the stage of a “transvestite review” called “The Angels of Light” being done at Theater for the New City in NY in the early ’70s. I remember very clearly that there was this bucket of glitter on the floor beside the stage and I wanted to play with it so badly! But no one would let me!
It was pretty much down (up?) hill from there. Growing up in the theater and arts world in Greenwich Village in the 70s and 80s meant there was always glitter somewhere and there was always an event going on and I always wanted to be a part of the shiny things! At one point my mother created the “Super Brat Club” complete with brown t-shirts with those words emblazoned in orange glitter on the front. (the 70s where many things, including painful on the eyes). So, I come by my love of glitter and all things shiny honestly.
There was glitter hair spray, glitter make up, glitter on the desk, glitter on the floor and even so much glitter on the walk way a while back that my husband suggested we get a concrete sealant so we could have the “glitter brick road” leading to our door. (that is still a pending project).
And this morning I finally painted and glittered a shirt that has needed its own kind of power up for a while now: my “Treble maker” t-shirt (hmm, actually its name is “Trying to Sing” and was created by Tobe Fonseca)
Photo Collage – treble maker shirt gets a glitter/glow in the dark power up
Glitter doesn’t change the fact that I have a chronic illness or that today is a bitterly low spoon day, or that I have to go get something done outside the house anyway. Glitter reminds me that there is beauty and joy and silliness in the world, and THAT makes every day a little better.
And when all else fails… take a trip and fall into the glitter ….