Sunday, December 28, 2014

Egg #11 Medusa sculpted goose egg from the "50 years all cooped up, what's an egg to do?" series

     For this egg, I had originally thought to attempt a Greek Bas-relief type of sculptural egg, like the one below:
     This type of sculpture is much harder than it looks- getting the illusion of depth you need with very little material. I will tell you that the egg that I made was more of a sculptural egg, and less of a bas-relief, as the subject matter took on a life of its own. You will see what I mean as we go forward.
     I decided to cover a goose egg with a base of polymer clay that bakes to a hardness in your oven. I used a mixture of Premo gray, translucent and stone (with flecks). First, you must warm and condition the clay by kneading. I happen to have a designated pasta roller (sorry, all you epicureans out there- this one's just for clay), which speeds the kneading and mixing process.
     I set my pasta roller on a thin setting, and roll out a sheet of clay to wrap around the goose egg.
     Since polymer clay will only stick to itself ( and raw, at that), I use the help of a liquid polymer medium, and brush the egg with it, and use it as a glue to help stick the thin sheet of polymer clay to the egg shell.
     There are plenty of folds and creases as I work the clay around the surface of the egg. I use a lucite clay roller to help smooth out the wrinkles, and work the air bubbles out to the bottom of the egg where the blow hole is. This will be important later.
     It takes a while to work the clay out smooth- this is where patience will pay off...
     I end up at the bottom with most of the clay smoothed out, bubbles gone from underneath the clay covering, and I have left the bottom of the blow hole open. I will now bake the polymer clay covered egg in a 275* oven for 15 minutes, just enough to harden it. It is important for air and moisture to be able to escape during the baking process, otherwise you might have a build up of gases, and the egg might explode. I have a designated cookie sheet for polymer clay, and have lined it with cotton batting so the egg rests on something soft, and not a flat surface. Baking on a flat surface would cause the egg to have a flat, shiny side- and that is not something I want.
     Once it has baked and cooled, I give the egg a wet-sanding with a flexible sanding block to smooth down any irregularities, and make the egg somewhat uniform.
     I start with the head of Medusa, building up in layers of circles, half-circles and shapes, smoothing as I go. Some of my tools are as simple as hollow coffee stirrers to give the eyes rims. Others are needle tools and clay punches and rubber-tipped shapers (or wipe-out tools and blenders). I open up the mouth with an xacto knife, and insert a forked tongue.
     I release the sculpted face from the smooth tile with a long razor blade made for polymer clay. I am applying an unbaked clay to a baked clay, so I will need to brush on the liquid polymer clay for adhesion (much like you would use scoring and slip to apply something with regular clay). I bake this again, at the same temperature for the same amount of time. I will do this several times over the course of this egg so that previous additions to not crush or become misshapen while I am working on the different sides.
     One of the tools in my polymer clay arsenal is a clay extruder (think play-dough). It's a great little tool with multiple interchangeable discs, as long as the clay is extremely warm and pliable enough to be pushed through. Even then, you must have a fair amount of hand strength to be able to use this tool. It does cut down on having to roll the little "snakes" individually that will eventually become the hair.
     It's at this point that I realize that my sculpted face is a lot deeper than perhaps I intended it to be for a bas-relief. I am going to have to also build up her snake layers of hair to match the depth of the face, or start all over again. Nope. We'll roll with what we got, by the seat of our pants...and like before, I am brushing on a thin coat of the liquid polymer clay wherever I am adhering unbaked clay to previously baked clay. I will bake the egg again, after putting on all the thinly extruded "snakes" that I have made as the under laying snakes that go on above.
     After the egg comes out of the oven, I start adding larger coils of snakes over the smaller ones. I once again will adhere them with liquid polymer, and work on the front, and bake again. You'll notice that on top of my rolling tile, I have placed a plastic textured sheet. I roll my snake on that, and they are left with a texture of scales. I will also use a stylist with two different sized ball-ends to help "push" the clay onto the surface, and give it further texture. I create the snake's mouth by separating the end of the snake with a vertical slice of an xacto knife, make a slit for the mouth, and a needle tool to punch an eye above the mouth.
     I keep adding snakes, and make sure that each side is somewhat balanced, and not lop-sided. I then start adding snakes to the back, rolling, gluing and backing.

     There are multiple trips back and forth from the oven to the work bench, but after a long day, the egg is finally as full as I would like it, and balanced pretty well.
     I give a little more definition to the hoods of the eyes, and some very small snakes to frame her face. Overall, I am pretty happy with how she's turned out so far.
     Here she is, frontal view, and pretty well balanced. She has been baked one last final time, same temperature, but for 20 minutes, and the oven is shut off, and she is allowed to cool down before handling.
     Here she is, a quarter turned. I am loving the forked tongue, and the hooded eyes.
     Now there's a profile!
     Now to paint and give her a nice stone patina. I use Golden Acrylic's Asphaltum glaze, making sure I get into all of the crevices. This will take a while...
     There is a point where this looks almost like a work by Geiger. Creepy.
     I crush some soft gray pastel, and apply to the surface, like a dry brush coat.
     I work in quarters, and lightly spray with a Krylon UV varnish matte finish. I let that dry, and I am onto the next side.
     I keep adding a few layers of crushed pastel in different shades of gray, and spray again in between each dusting of pastel. I think that it is starting to look like dusty, pulverized stone. What do you think?
     Finally! I am finished dusting with pastel, and spraying with matte coats. Although it didn't quite turn out as flat as a bas-relief, I do like the multi-dimensional look that I've achieved with the layering of the snakes.
     Here is her profile again. And the last photo, a quarter turn...

     I think my Medusa is beautiful in her own way. Of all the Greek myths and legends, why Medusa, you ask? Well, members of my family have often told me that all I have to do is give the "look" that would freeze anyone dead in their, I honor you, Medusa. I hope you have enjoyed this creative journey with me!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Egg #10- Inuit (Cree) inspired goose egg

     I, and many in my family, are hunting down an ancestral thread that will hopefully lead me to one of the Cree Inuit tribes. Both of my mother's ancestors emigrated from France, both about the same time, late 1600's to early 1700's. There is said to have been a marriage to a French fur trader traveling down the St. Lawrence River. While I am hunting down this elusive ancestor, and verifying for my family, I hope you will enjoy the "spiritual" journey that this egg has taken to complete.
     First, a very brief description of the Cree tribes. They are said to be nomads of the Northern Forests. One of the symbols for the Cree is the Porcupine. They were excellent hunters, used snowshoes, have a vast knowledge of plants, and excelled at clothing and bead work. This is where my inspiration starts.
     I've decided to divide the goose egg with two horizontal beaded bands, and a large horizontal middle band. The middle band will have etched carvings of spirit animals, and four of them will reside in the middle of my "Earth" plain together.
     I draw the two smaller beaded bands on with a .005 mechanical pencil and a 2h lead. I draw a grid on the middle part of the band, not to transfer a design, but to help me center each animal in a predetermined space. As you can see, I have chosen one of the Cree symbols, the Porcupine. He is very stylized, and I drew him as if I had carved a piece of soft stone or ivory with a hand-made tool. I imagine myself carving, perhaps much like my ancestor, and believe that the carving would be rough -hewn, so I don't put too much detail into the drawing. I keep the symbol simple, and recognizable. Looks like a porcupine, doesn't it?
     The next drawing is that of a crow. Intuitively, I would have thought raven, but on further research, one of the animals symbols is, in fact, a crow. According to an Algonquin (another Native tribe of Quebec) legend of the Beginning, the animals were searching for land from the sea in which to live; eagle, beaver, otter, seal, whale, muskrat, hare, crow, fox, wolf, tortoise, bear and deer. The fox and the crow were the first scouts when land was sighted. I keep the drawing of the crow very stylized and "chunky" without too much detail, just enough information to convey that this in fact, is a crow...

     The next spirit animal is the hare. Again, simplicity in design, much like the early cave paintings conveys all that you need to know...
     The fourth animal you can see on the egg, and on my sketch book is the fox. Again, simple outline and design.
     And lastly, on the top of the egg, a tortoise, and his wonderful, stylized aboriginal looking shell. The other reason I have chosen these five, out of all of the animals listed (with the exception of the Porcupine) is that I see these animals in the wilds of Vermont, and in my own backyard. I feel a special kindred spirituality with them.
     The plan is to wax the outline of the animals and bands, and then acid etch them, so they looked "carved". Above is the turtle being waxed over. I make sure the lines are not too thin, especially since I will be using acid. Small, thin lines sometimes just float right off the egg...
     I wax the fox. The interior of the fox is sectioned off into compartments. I will fill these compartments with simple lines and geometric shapes. The compartments remind me of the many entrances and exits to animal burrows.
     I have waxed the crow, and other animals as well, and the platform or "land" that the animals sit on. These are simple stylized meandering lines and shapes as well, almost hypnotic. I have also waxed the diamond shapes and triangles in the lower and upper bands. When etched, these lines will be raised, and will help guide me when I apply the wax "beading".

     After everything is waxed to my satisfaction, I acid etch in a Muriatic acid for about 25 seconds, gently rub away the excess shell with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I to this one more time for a deep etch.
     I neutralize the acid by gently brushing the surface of the egg with a soft toothbrush and a water and baking soda slurry. This also polishes the egg. Rinse with cold water. Dry. Let rest for at least 30 minutes, and let the pores of the egg close back up.
     Hard to see, but if you could run your hand over the egg, you will feel a raised embossing of the figures against the background. Now to unwax the egg. I line a paper carton with paper towels, rub the surface of the egg with a little olive oil,  put the egg and carton on an old cookie sheet, and place in a cold oven. I heat the oven to 175 degrees F. I then let the oven do the work for me. I come back in about 15 minutes, and gently blot and wipe the egg until no longer feels sticky. I have to do this two more times before I have all of the wax off.
     As you can see, once the wax is removed, the background has been bitten with acid, and the part of the egg that wax waxed was saved- giving it a raised, embossed feel. Now comes the fun part...
     I want the egg to have the feel of carved ivory. I will give the surface a "faux" finish to mimic that look. I mix Golden Acrylic Titan Buff with Burnt Umber Light and a glazing medium. I brush on liberally. The glazing liquid make the paint go on slick, and extends the drying time, so I have some time to get the finish I want.
     I wipe away the excess paint mixture with a soft paper towel and let dry. It looks a little too light to me right now, so once dry, I will do this once more, and the paint will collect in all the nooks and crannies and I will achieve that "old bone" look.
     Here is is, a little darker, and more textural. I like it so far. I let it dry thoroughly before going onto the next step.
     I have decided to use colored wax as my "faux" beading. I have chosen opaque white, yellow, red, blue and black. Simple colors for simple beading designs.
     I have purchased a drop-pull adapter for my electric kitska to apply the colored wax on the beaded bands. I will also use my electric kitska with a medium tip to push through some of the colored wax in smaller bead form.
     I practice dipping the drop-pull tip into the wax and "dotting" it on the egg. I don't pull down, I just dot. I don't want a tear drop shape for this project, I just want what looks like a round "seed bead", remembering that the Cree people were experts in bead ware. It takes a while to "practice", and there is a rhythm to it. This assures that the beads will be uniform, more or less. Luckily, "less" in this case is okay. If you have ever seen bead work, and real seed beads, you know that they are not uniform at all. That is the beauty and charm of the pieces. They don't look machine made, but made by hand. That is what we are looking for.
     More practicing. While I am practicing, I spray the egg with 2 coats
of Krylon Uv matte acrylic varnish to protect the painted coating. This will hopefully help me in case I make a mistake and have to scrape some of the colored wax back off- it provides a clear protective shield so the colored wax will not stain the finish of the egg.
     And here we go...I use my electric kitska with the medium tip and dunk into the red wax, and wipe excess from the outside of the tool. The medium tip helps me get into the very small triangles at the top and bottom of the band.
     Next, I dot with blue, then with white, and I use the drop-pull adapter. It deposits a larger "bead" of wax. I like the round shape it leaves behind.
     The next color is yellow. I just continue to add my little colored dots to the surface of the egg.
     The last beaded color is black. It is in the center of the diamond, and it lines the edge of the bands.
I then brush on a liquid coat of Golden Acrylic Matte varnish with UVLS, and let dry.

 I am finished!

     Here is the fox...
the crow...
the porcupine...
the hare...
and the tortoise.

And for those of you who are in tune with nature, your surroundings and spirituality, a special note for you. Before I posted this blog this morning, I was on my usual early morning walk.
 Nearing the end, a Hare jumped out of the brush and crossed in front of me, less than three feet a away. Coincidence? Maybe. Finding a fine thread of connection that binds us all together? Perhaps. I will let you decide..
 I hope you have enjoyed this "spiritual" journey with me as much as I have! Thank you!