Wednesday, July 24, 2019

if it could go wrong...

It's been more of the same. Hot, humid, dry. Though a 'cool' front came in heralded by the 5/8” of rain we finally got Monday night. What that means is the high temp will only be 89˚ - 91˚ for the next week and last night (it did) and the next two nights will get down in the 60˚s! Unheard of this time of year. It was 71˚ when I ventured out at 8:30 this morning, cool and dry as in not humid. Very pleasant out.

There was a time when I sat down to fill a mold I would do it in one sitting, usually about 5 or 6 hours. It was really necessary when I was doing all those small bowls since I was working on a slope. These days it takes me days to fill a mold, work a couple of hours and that's enough for today, day after day. It's easy to walk away from filling an open face mold (of which the heron head inlay is an example) because there's nowhere for the glass to fall down to. This one took me four days. 

The main image I'm working from.

First find the most round correct size chunk of black glass for the pupil of the eye;

mix a little med amber and light amber for the eye and pack that in, a little midnight blue beneath and between the eye and the beak, a little spot of lt amber, a little bit of translucent white above the eye, a bit of pale yellow on the cheek, cover the eye and cheek with translucent white, add the black for the crown;

marigold yellow and medium amber in the beak, build up more of the trans white;

paint a little black powder in stripes on the outside edge of the neck and cover with white powder, sift in lt. sky blue powder, some lt. bronze powder in spots on top of that, lt. silver gray powder over all on top of that, then because I wasn't sure if I had enough silver gray powder I sprinkled in a layer of silver frit (and in this picture it came out so dark that now I'm afraid I put in too much and it will be too dark), build up more amber in the beak, black in the crown, trans white on the cheek;

build up more amber in the beak, black in the crown, and cover everything else with trans white;

mound up translucent white over the whole mess, worry about the silver gray being too dark, uncover a portion of neck and try to do a depth assessment of the colors underneath, decide that maybe it's OK and cover it back up;

and now it's in the kiln.

Then I moved on to the disaster part of the day yesterday...the mold for the box.

My first mistake was thinking I could make (I did) and use a cardboard box for pouring the mold even though I used thick cardboard. We have used these successfully for small castings. This was not small, this would need over 6 pounds of glass. The second mistake was not rigging up a support system for the sides of the cardboard box so when Marc poured the plaster/silica mix in the cardboard got soggy fast and bulged out on all sides so that the amount mixed did not adequately cover the entire wax box model. Well, fuck.

 Bad but not unfixable so he topped it off with a small second pour which resulted in a bulgy convoluted weak at the bottom mold but he got it steamed out and if I had left well enough alone, all would have been fine. But me, who can't leave well enough alone, I decided I would try and carve off some of the excess plaster on the sides of the mold and to do that it had to be very wet so the third mistake was I rehydrated the mold, carved away, got it to a more uniform shape and somewhat thickness, took it outside, rinsed it off, turned it over to pour the water out, aaaand the core fell out. Well, fuck fuck. 

OK, I can deal with this, just set it back in and it's weight will hold it in place. Next was to do the volume measure which as I have explained previously entails filling the mold with water and doing some math. I did this without the core in place because reasons figuring I could do a separate but similar process to determine the volume of the core, do a little math and voila, I would have my volume measure only when I went to pick up the mold and pour out the water, the second small pour of plaster/silica separated from the rest of the mold and over half a gallon of water was released all over me, the table, and the floor and now my mold was in three pieces and I still did not have my volume measure. Well, fuck fuck fuck.

Marc suggested reassembling the mold in a basin with the core in place, pouring the water in which would immediately begin to leak out, remove the pieces of mold from the basin and then weigh the water in the basin. OK, that will work and it did only now not only is my mold in three pieces but all the water and messing around has made the inside of the mold start to deteriorate. Well, fuck fuck fuck fuck. 

So now I'm ready to weigh the water and my digital scale that got doused from the previous minor flood is muerta (dead for those who don't know any Spanish) godammitall  so off I went to the Evil Empire to get a new scale and finally weigh the damn water and get my damn volume measure. I'm not touching it again until it is completely dry and I'm ready to reassemble it,  fill it, and fire it.

I think I can redeem the whole thing with a lot a lot! of grinding and cold work but if I manage to pull this rabbit out of the hat it will be a fucking miracle.


  1. You will succeed. I have faith. When my molds go south on me I tend to scream a lot, grit my teeth, throw things, and tell myself that this a LEARNING EXPERIENCE that I will cherish later. Sometimes that's even actually true.

    OTOH, sometimes it's faster and easier to stop trying to repair it and simply start over. The biggest glass sculpture I've ever done was like that--made it in clay so it was a one-time mold deal. Handbuilt the mold--about 30 inches tall. Pulled out the clay, brought a big chunk out of the tip of the nose, would have made the whole piece look like a sculpture of bozo the clown. Packed in filler, added plaster to correct. Yay, me...celebrated with a fist bump that knocked the rest of the wet plaster down deep into the mold.

    Dammit. Carefully scooped and washed out the plaster, carved away the residue with tiny little clay tools strapped to sticks taped to the end of my fuckyou finger, and a dental mirror. Whew. Pulled back the tool and knocked a chip of plaster down a deep crevice that was supposed to end up a graceful tendril, and it got stuck. Picked up the whole mold, which was, I dunno, about 20 pounds and awkward as hell to hold, and jumped up and down like a slinky, shaking the mold and trying to dislodge it. Finally rattled it out and discovered I'd put a tiny crack on the outside of the face part of the mold. Mended it, added fibreglas and R&R910 to strengthen it...and it was finally done. Whew.

    Carried it over to the kiln, tripped over a power cord and dropped it on the concrete floor. 'Bout a zillion very small pieces, and at that point I'd been trying to fix that damn mold for nearly a week.

    Resculpted the whole piece from clay (and actually liked the second time around better than the first), rebuilt the mold, and got it in the kiln. Took half the time I'd spent fixing the original mold. Sigh.

    1. I wish it would be easier to recreate the box and I may have to end up doing that but I hate constructing these boxes out of wax slabs, trying to get them to stick together with no seams showing and then there's trying to reproduce the cut out for the inlay piece and carving the wave lines and I'm not even sure I kept the drawings for those!

  2. Art sounds very aggravating. I hope this will turn out the way you wanted it, you have a lot invested in this.

  3. As I have said- this is art AND it is science. Engineering, I would assume. Lord, Ellen, I would lose my mind, my temper, my ability to see straight. I would hurl things. I would say "fuck" a thousand times. Mostly in the form of "GODDAM MOTHERFUCK!"
    When you finally get it all together it is going to be beautiful. I know it is.

    1. I was so stressed out that by the time I was enroute to Walmart the afib kicked up a little even on the medication. a stiff drink and a little toke calmed it down. I sure hope I don't have to remake that fucking box out of wax. at this point any number of hours grinding off excess glass sounds better.

  4. I would be letting a steady stream of longshoremen language come forth if it was me going through all that crap. Oh and I would be throwing shit too.

  5. Despite your misadventure (or as you term it: disaster) this is such a great read, all about the process and these steps is amazing to me and I am looking forward to the finished artwork - pretending that I now know how this was done.

  6. My god, you're amazing. Your tenacity with your art and so many other things that you do always inspires me. Keep on, girl. And good luck!

  7. Oh, man! That sounds like a nightmare! I'm glad the heron head is firing successfully -- at least maybe that offsets the drama that came later.

  8. You will prevail, I know you will. I look forward to the finished piece.


I opened my big mouth, now it's your turn.