Friday, 16 November 2012

Character Building

Earlier this week I made my first ever large head sculpture, following along with a how to sculpt faces book. For a first attempt it was okay, but I wasn't happy, partly because it looked just like a smaller head I'd made in porcelain the day before and I was starting to worry that maybe this was the only face in the world I could sculpt.

So yesterday, over the course of 5 hours, I tried again. The material is just the standard buff clay that we have in the workshop, nothing fancy. Here is a basic step by step of how to make a character bust. The most fun in this project clearly comes from seeing how many styles of headdress you can make from a j-cloth, as you will see.

Start by modelling the shape of the bust and neck, paying attention to details like collar bones and trapezius muscles.

Gouge out indents with your thumbs for eye sockets, then add blobs of clay for mouth and nose.
Add small coils of clay for brows and cheek bones. Blend the cheek bones in well. This photo shows the left cheekbone before blending.

Sculpt in the detail on the nose and then the mouth.

Add blobs of clay for eyes, blend in.

Open up the eyes with a tool, dragging the clay up to form an upper lid...

...then add small blobs of clay and blend to reform the curve of the eye.

Okay, so the face is looking pretty good right now:

But because I don't want to make a plaster copy or mould of this piece, I just want to fire it, I need to hollow her out so she dries more evenly and doesn't blow to smithereens in the kiln. It's possible to hollow out the bottom of the bust by carefully tilting the piece up, but you can't get inside the head this way. So it's lobotomy time!

Go to town with a loop tool, reciting the phrase "Chilled monkey brains" as you do.

Reattach, and it's like it never happened. Let's get working on the hair. Coils can be attached around the scalp to form the hair line, and then flat pieces of clay added for any hair that lies flat on the scalp. At this point I noticed her head was drooping a bit and compressing the neck, so I tried to support it with a blob of clay under the chin. Plaits and hair tendrils can be made from coils, but they will be extremely delicate.

She's looking a little plain, so let's add some details to tell us a little more about her character, like a circlet and the edge of her dress.

Give your character a name- this gal is Cassandra- and she's done:

Monday, 5 November 2012

Autumn food = best food?

        As anyone who's hung out with me for more than 5 minutes will realise, I love food. Autumn is a great time for food because suddenly the weather gives us all carte blanche to eat warm, comforting things like mashed potato and sausages, or spicy bonfire soup. For me, it means a new season of baking- the heavy season of cinnamon and ginger and other yummy things that last a long time and so don't have to be eaten with the urgency of scones with cream and fresh cut strawberries.

I made my first ever pumpkin pie! Well, actually, it was half butternut squash, because I didn't get that much pumpkin from my little Jack-O-Lantern.

(Just like last year, I cobbled together a Halloween costume from existing clothes. This year I was a unicorn farmer)

I decorated the top with flaked almonds before I put it into the oven because I thought the plain pie didn't look that appealing. No pie dish? Improvise like me and use the lid of a casserole dish.

The inner pumpkin doesn't brown, so you still get the lovely orange tone. It's all very rustic looking but I still like how it looks and definitely how it tasted! The recipe I used is here, but a) that website is horribly designed, and b) when I next make this I want to make it without the evaporated milk because it makes me a bit ill (lactose intolerance), so I may post my own recipe/how to in the future.

I thought I had a picture of the set-up I used to tote it to uni, but it turns out I don't, which is a shame because it was adorable and practical. What you do is cover the top of the pie in foil, then wrap a clean tea-towel over the top of that, tucking the corners under. Then place that in the middle of another tea-towel, fold 2 diagonally opposite corners across and tie them over the pie, then take the remaining 2 corners and tie them into a handle. I'll take a pic when I make my next one, I promise!

The other thing I have been making is gingerbread:

IKEA do this adorable cutter set with many forest animals of various sizes including a moose, a fox, a squirrel, and... um... a snail. I also made hearts and teapots.

This poor teapot fused with a fox and ended up with a wonky top, so I made that lemon into lemonade with some icing work. I made the dough at my parents' house (I'm really broke at the mo and didn't have cash for all the ingredients) using Saint Delia's recipe from her book of cakes, which I definitely recommend. The dough is easy to work, comes out of the oven at the perfect hardness, and tastes really good.

Lastly, I made my flatmate a little house with a template I made myself. Gingerbread architecture is so fun!

There wasn't much dough left over (because I kept eating it raw) which is why he ended up with such a tiny house. But it meant I could make it look like a snowglobe with the addition of a pyrex bowl over the top and a sprinkling of icing sugar snow.

There will be more baking soon, but right now I am more worried about opening my other "oven" tomorrow- kiln 10. Especially as it went on with a really wonky bottom kiln prop.

It's hard to see from that pic, but the whole thing is literally being held up by a tiny bead of glaze. And that's all my work on the bottom shelf...