kilnIt has been a long night. Too excited to sleep, I have worked and reworked this new project in my mind. These are the sculptures I most enjoy creating. The one’s just for me, just because I want to. Not someone else’s preconceived idea, or a gallery which wants more of what you have already done. Those are the lucrative, and always flattering requests, but the one you do for yourself is frequently the one you can’t bear to part with, at least until you realize you absolutely have no more space for it! It becomes your baby.
The light is just breaking through the curtained window, and I quietly leave my bed and sleeping husband, and go to the studio. I always forget how cold the room and the floor are when I go to it early each day. I have washed the floor down the night before, cleaning out the used clay scraps, which when dry, become like dust, to be tracked everywhere. My tools are clean and placed neatly on the work bench. I prepared 25# of clay the night before, but I may need more. Oh, how I love the smell of wet clay, plaster, damp wood. All the myriad odors that linger in a working clay studio.
I think the ideas which come in the night creep out of some mythical box in my head, like small pieces of paper, each with a suggestion of something new. Beginnings are magical, the possibilities are endless. An old hand at this, I realize that I may start several times before I perfect what is in my mind. I have a good feeling about this one, however, so Iwill begin slapping wads of quite wet clay around the armament to sketch out the figure. This will go fast. The entire piece, if all goes well, will take several weeks of sculpting. After it is blocked in, I can use drier clay, and begin the actual details. A few days of drying, and it can be hollowed out. Cut off the head and hollow, cut off appendages and hollow, glue it all back together. Then will come the wonder part of it. The lovingly crafted features, skin, hair, clothing. It looks pretty good, so I can set it aside for a month or two depending on its size and the weather. When it is dry, I will sand it and make sure it is fit to put in the kiln. If it is cracked, it may be repairable, or the crack may be too big. I might have to begin all over again. Better be very careful the first time. Drying time is up, it is looking good, but I know not to pat myself on the back yet. Kiln time! He is inside and the temperature will gradually rise to 2800 degrees over a 24 hour period. A day or two to cool off, and then it is time to open the cooled kiln. I want to do this alone, if it isn’t too heavy to move by myself. It is really a time of birth, private and subject to great disappointment if somehow there was a kiln accident. Blowups and cracks are caused by careless wedging of the clay, or insufficient drying time, or just because it may have been placed in a bad spot in the large kiln. With clay, the finishing materials can be many, including some I have used to patina bronze sculptures. But I am so loyal to the earth that is clay. My ancestors in England and in Canada worked in clay, and I feel a part of them is continuing through me. It is time to begin.
Art lives through the imagination of the people who are seeing it. Without that contact, there is no art.
“Heartbeat of the Earth” original sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen