Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Egg #18- Celtic Zoomorphic Mosaic goose egg, etched and dyed

     I have always been intrigued with Celtic knot work. I love the undulating over and under patterns, some simple, while others unbelievably complex. Here is an example of an earlier egg that I have created with Celtic knot work:
      Throw in the line work with the laying down of stone mosaics, and you have a fantastic marriage of the two! Here are some interesting and intricate examples of mosaics that include knot work. I can't even imagine the patience and the level of craftsmanship it took to make these:
      While everyone claims to have a little "Irish" in them (I am no different), I am privileged enough to know a wonderful lady, best friend, and confidant who is. She has been to Ireland many times with her family (something on my bucket list). The last time she was there, knowing that these Celtic intrigues can be used as inspirations for some of my eggs and paintings, she brought me back several wonderful mementos of her trip (how lucky am I?).
     Above, a lovely brooch that I was gifted with shows a bird combined with knot work. Other types of this design will also include animals, reptiles, and fish which are called Zoomorphics. Usually the heads and tails are added to a body of interwoven knot work. Bands can sometimes be joined by creating creatures that bite the one in front of itself.
     The other inspiration for this egg was from the Book of Kells. Kathleen had also brought back a primer that inspired the colors for this egg. I settled on this one below:
     This ties in with my love of Illuminations. These paintings usually accompanied Sacred Scriptures. They often were primitive, but lovely, had decorated borders and would used brightly colored inks and leafing and sometimes as covers, included semi-precious and precious stones. Add the Celtic knot work to all of this, and you have a feast for the eyes! Now...to settle on a design that would wrap around the egg. The important part of any project for me is definitely the research. And getting inspired.
     Oh! How did that photo get in here? Well, it is an Irish pub I like to frequent, and there was a nice, foamy, creamy glass of Guinness...and we are going to be drawing fish...fish and chips...ah...the inner workings of a mind of an artist...anyways....here we go...

     I start off using my lathe and mark out 16 vertical sections, and mark the middle equator line. I divide the 16th wedges in half and get 32 slices...wait, because the math will come later...
I mark up a 1/4' for each horizontal band, and there are 6 on top of the middle line, and 6 below, so there is 12x32 rectangular grid that wraps around the egg...this is where my zoomorphic shape will live. At the top and bottom of the egg, I use the cross bulls eye where all my lines intersect, and draw a square, and divide that square into a 8x8 grid. This is where my Celtic knot will be placed.
     So, with a little help from  "The Celtic Knotwork Handbood" by Sheila Sturrock, I settle on the Fish. Trust me when I say that this was the simplest zoomorphic that I could start with. You'll notice that the illustration gives the number of squares that this fish will take up, 6x4. That means I can center 1 fish in each of the 1/4 egg sections...each section of the egg that I use is a 8x12 grid (remember that we started with 12x 32 square grid). Here is my work up on a sheet of graph paper (This is no time to "wing" it by the seat of your pants, people):

 There are three different sections to this egg. Here they are all drawn out. (Here comes the math)
The drawing on the upper left of the fish takes up 6 square up and 8 squares across. But wait, you say! You said 12x32! I see where the 32 divided horizontally give you 4 sections for each fish, but what about the extra on the vertical top and bottom....hold on- we'll get to that! The sketch below shows the fish border, and above and below that are undulating waves. If you count the squares vertically that the waves take up, it is two, and I have left a space of one square between the two wave borders and the fish border...so, vertically we have 2+1+6+1+2=12! Ah- there is the 12x32 grid! All is right with the world, mathematically speaking! (are some of you breaking out into a cold sweat?) You will notice that the upper right sketch shows the top and bottom cap of the egg where my Knot will reside. I have made an 8x8 grid to help me center and keep the design symmetrical. The trick to knot work is to turn the drawing...whatever you do on one side, you must repeat on the other until you meet up again.
Now to start transferring the design onto the grid of the egg. You'll notice that the initial drawing of the fish did not take up the whole 8x8 grid, leaving a space between the tip of the nose and the two back fins...this is where a little creativity and artistic license is called for. I decide to extend a diagonal line from the first fish's nose to the back of the second fish's fin and weave it over. I do this four more times. I also decide to do just a little more knot work on the interior of the fish to give a little more detail than the original drawing in the book. Remember, this is still a very simple pattern. That and I happen to love fish designs, but that's a story for another day...
     The fish chain is starting to take shape. There is some design changes at this point of the drawing. I decide that the wave pattern above and below the fish is too small and complicated for what will come later in the way of waxing. The mosaic tile grout and stones would be much too small even for an extra fine kitska to get into some of the interior loops. I extend the design in such a way that instead of the waves taking up 2 horizontal spaces each, I use four (again with that artistic license, I tell you).
     I continue to draw the lines and double them up, and draw them over and under. This takes a bit of concentration. Instead of drawing one whole fish out, each time I draw a line under or over on one, I turn the egg and do the same for the rest of the 3 fish. This helps me keep track of where I am in the design and helps me keep everything consistent. It is chopping up the design in "bite-sized" chunks instead of trying to replicate multiples all in one sitting over and over again. Make sense?
     Here is the top view of the Knot that resides in the 8x8 square. The bottom will be the same.
I want the line work on the egg to be a warm golden ochre color. I dip the whole egg in PUSA Mushroom and pat dry. Line work is still visible. Now onto waxing.
I use my extra fine kitska, and slowly start to wax the outline of the bottom and top Knot.
It's slow going, making sure I am waxing over and under correctly. You can see that the waves also have an over, under design. Sometimes I have to make a few corrections. I do this by gently scraping off the wax with an exacto knife and re-waxing. I will be acid-etching after this color, so I am not worried about any wax residue that remains from the correction.
 Once I am satisfied with the initial waxing, I acid etch the egg back to white. From experience, some of you will discover that when you etch back, your colors are different, lighter, more pastel, sometimes more vibrant. I am counting on this (and it's a gamble at this point) because I am about to dip it in the same color again, PUSA mushroom, but I believe that there will be a subtle difference. I want it to look worn from years of aging instead of bright, hard edged, shiny and new.
     After letting the etched egg rest and dry out for at least 30 minutes, I dip the egg into the PUSA mushroom. Some of you will be able to tell that there is a slight, lighter, clearer tone to the egg than the initial dyeing. It is nice to be right, sometimes...
     Here comes one of the tedious, but well-worth-it parts. I am using a small watercolor brush and shading with PUSA Nubian brown everywhere there is and over/under section. Again, the shading is subtle, but I think it will work with the vision and overall design I have in mind (which, as you know, is sometimes subject to change at a moment's notice). After I hit all the spots I want shaded, I wax over the band work with a medium kitska. Now for some more tedious work (or what I call fun).
     Mon Dieu! What has she done? A nice long dip into PUSA Charcoal. Why? Grout work for the tiles begins now.
     Now. Here comes the added bonus of really observing. I looked at several examples of early mosaic tile work and noticed that typically, the first course of stone would outline the design, and as the middle spaces were filled up, the stones become cut somewhat irregular to fill in those spaces. This is the random look that I am searching for. I wax the same way that one would lie the stones down, border edging first, then the interiors. Again, I wax bit-sized chunks and don't get too far ahead of myself...what I start in one compartment in a particular directions, I give the egg a turn and do the same thing for the next adjoining compartment. This keeps things somewhat similar in pattern instead of willy-nilly all over the place (cohesive). This, believe it or not, is quite a challenge. It is hard to create things that look random on purpose. Just try creating crackle lines some time...
     I start waxing the middle band with the fish and the interiors. I actually find this quite meditative.
     Here is the egg with all of the grout lines of the mosaic stones waxed. Now watch!
     And I acid-etch again. Deeply, this time, about 3 minutes, and in between each minute interval, I wipe away the outer layer of etched shell with a soft piece of Mr. Clean Magic Eraser so the acid can bite through even more. I rinse the egg, and wash gently with Ivory dish washing soap to neutralize the acid, and rinse again. I let the egg dry out and rest for at least 30 minutes.
     One more time into PUSA mushroom? Why? I will now layer colors over each other from light to dark. I want a warm, earthy base color for the rest of the colors to sit on top of and be somewhat subdued. This is where my glazing with watercolors background comes in. Knowing what colors to use as an undertone, and dropping a colored glaze on top, which changes the color. If I had left the white of the shell, the color that I would have dropped in would be much brighter, and that is not the effect I am looking for.
      With a watercolor brush, I drop in UGS Royal Blue for the eyes. Who doesn't love a fish with blue eyes? I wax over the blue.
          Next, I lay in PUSA Navajo clay, and when dry, I wax over those sections.
     In the small square section of the tail, I drop in PUSA Cinnamon. In the large section of the tail and interior of the body, UGS Brick. In the fish head, PUSA Christmas Green. I wax all of that over when dry.
     The interior of the waves are UGS Brick, and waxed over and the egg is dipped into PUSA Nubian Brown and washed with PUSA Chocolate Kiss and then a little cold water rinse to remove some of the color, which leaves a little mottling.
        After drying, I wax over the entire egg with my large ribbon-tipped kitska.
     I transfer the goose egg to a paper carry out coffee carton lined with paper towels. I coat the egg with a little olive oil to help the wax slide off easier. I place in a cold oven on an old cookie sheet and fire up to 175 degrees F. I walk away and let the oven melt most of the wax off (about 15 minutes). I wipe the egg with soft toilet tissue (less abrasive than paper towels) until the egg no longer feels sticky.
    Some of the shading on the egg is a little subtle for the camera to pick up, so I decide to varnish the egg and photograph after to bring out some of the rich color.
     The egg is suspended on a floral wire, and dunked into Golden Acrylic MSA Hard Solvent-based varnish, and allowed to drip some of the excess varnish off and then plunked upright into some floral foam covered with wax paper and paper towels to catch more excess coming off the egg. I am really pleased with the antiquity I have achieved with this egg. Here is a photo of the finished, varnished egg:

and a view of the top:
     I hope you've enjoyed the creation of this Celtic Zoomorphic Mosaic egg. I know that I enjoyed the process very much. I'd like to leave you with one of my father's favorite Irish Blessings:

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Egg #17- Dia De Los Muertos..sugar skulls- polymer clay covered goose egg

     My sister and I were unbelievably lucky growing up. My mother was an excellent cook and baker, and passed down some wonderful culinary knowledge as we grew older. One of the very special things that she would make were the wonderful panoramic sugar eggs we would receive at Easter. She would also purchase large coconut filled chocolate eggs and decorate them with royal icing. Each egg had a multiple bouquet of different kinds and colors of flowers, and oodles of lacy lines. Not only were the treats delicious, but a visual feast for the eyes. The memory of these wonderful creations have stayed with me. I have also seen the wonderful Day of the Dead sugar skulls, decorated in bright colors with wonderful shapes, designs, crosses, flowers, and many other designs. All of these wonderful things will serve as my inspiration for this particular egg...so, here we go!
I start with a goose egg, black sculpey with gold flecks and assemble a variety of shapes of little cutting tools, rollers, picks, and plunge cutters. I warm the sculpey up by kneading it in my hands for several minutes.
To further condition and soften clay, I use a pasta machine deemed only for clay use, and roll the clay through it.

  I start with the thickest setting and work my way down to the thinnest setting each time it goes through. I fold it back in on itself, and once more through the machine for a thick enough to cover the egg, but not too thin.

To help the clay stick to the egg, I brush the egg with liquid polymer clay. It acts like a glue to adhere the skin to the shell.
I cover half of the egg with the liquid.
I drape the sheet of clay over the egg and press it against the shell. I poke a hole through the clay to reveal the drain hole. This is important! You don't want to bake the shell without a way for the air to escape during the baking process, or it might explode.
I keep working the clay around the egg, pressing and closing the seams.
I add more sheets of clay until I reach the top of the egg. I pinch and close off the clay.
The excess is then trimmed off. The top is rounded and smoothed over and I start to work the seams, wrinkles and bubbles out for a smooth surface.
After smoothing out the clay, I am ready to bake at 275 degrees in the oven for 15 minutes. I put the egg on polyfill on a cookie sheet so it doesn't bake with a flat, shiny side. After it cools, I wet sand the egg with a flexible sanding block and rinse the egg.

 I use an index card to draw a skull pattern on and place it on a sculpey mix of pearl and phosphorescent clay. I trace around the drawing with an xacto knife.
I cut away the excess and cut the holes for the eyes and nose.

I use a flat shaping tool to give definition to the skull under cheek bones and temples.
I carefully slice the finished skull from the surface with a flat razor type blade. 

I brush the back side of the skull with liquid clay and apply to the egg surface and work to press and smooth out the clay.
 I use a plunge cutter with a leaf shape and cut out the shapes and start applying around the vertical part of the egg with liquid clay brushed on the back of each piece I apply.

I do the same for the opposite side of the band, and start making flowers with the cutters and small bits of clay wrapped around a swirled bit of core.
I apply some decoration to the skull. In this case, I am making a maple leaf and other leaves along with tiny little forget-me-not flowers. There are four cones that will act as a base for grapes on top.

After finishing the decorations on the skull, I roll several tiny circles and start applying them to the cone bases for the grapes. I brush the liquid clay on the cones to help the grapes stick to the cones.
Roses are applied to the side of the egg and overlap the leaf border. I also use the plunge cutters to help me with petals and stamens of the daffodils on the side bottom of the border.
Ready to paint with bright neon glitter acrylic colors, and use super fine white glitter on the skull.

First the green and blue, then the pink...
then yellow and orange. I mix the pink with the blue and get purple for the grapes. I love the shimmer.
I brush the skull with a polymer medium and while wet, dust it with the superfine iridescent white glitter, and shake off the excess and let dry. Once dry, I gently brush over two coats of the polymer medium to seal in the glitter.
I do the same for the other side. Then I brush a coat of polymer gloss over all of the rest of the parts to seal. I gives a nice glossy look to the black and gold flecked clay. I let dry. And now the fun...

Remember the type of clay that I mentioned using for the skull, leaves and flowers in the beginning? Yes, phosphorescent!  And it glows!
And now for the really fun surprise! Because I used Neon colors, I decided to get out a black light...

 I hope you've enjoyed watching this sugary confection come together. Thank you for taking the time to watch the process from start to finish!