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May 25, 2009

new ceramic sculptures

by sven at 7:00 am

Napoleon in his pea-green boat

A while back I shared photos of some unfinished sculptures I'd made at Sara Swink's studio… Well, they're finally done! Some are painted, some are glazed. We'll start with the painted ones.

mad scientist

The mad scientist was the first piece I made at Sara's, and the first I tried painting with acrylics. It's based off of a photo of a man at a steel foundry, who was wearing a heavy silver suit to protect him from molten metal.

A lesson I learned here: clay loves watery washes of paint. Using the paint at full-strength kills detail and just looks wrong.

star dancers

When I took Sara's class, this dancing duo seemed to be everyone's favorite. I mixed yellow with tar gel medium and glopped it on heavily to see if I could get some of the same textures as with the glazed pieces. …Nope.

Maybe encaustics could achieve the effect I was going for?

whale critter

The whale critter was the last piece I made at Sara's. I was playing with wall-mountable characters… Unfortunately, it's weighted badly and doesn't hang right at all.

Next up, pieces that were glazed:

moon babi

I really like the moon babi -- it feels like he has strong potential for being turned into a stopmo character.


The bat was the first piece I tried glazing, so I chose a simple black/brown. In general, I much prefer matte surface treatments to gloss. Too bad this turned out so shiny.

bat - head

A little shout out to bat-fan Shu-Ju Wang… I can't look at this sculpture without thinking of you!

demon babis

I'm really enamored with these three demon babis, which unexpectedly wound up being a set.

baby babi

The little one feels fantastic in the hand. It sort of reminds me of the Venus of Willendorf.


In my mind, the series shows the evolution of a single being. The baby passes through this next phase on the way to its final form.

molting - head

The glaze on the "molting" babi does this incredible crackle thang. I wish I knew how to simulate it using acrylics… I'm vaguely familiar with crackle paint -- but this stuff actually peels up into little platelets!

adult demon

Whereas the baby has skin that feels like orange peel, and the adolescent is peeling, the adult demon's skin is creamy smooth. In all three cases, I painted on iron oxide, wiped it off, then put an essentially white glaze on top (3 varieties of white).

adult demon - head

Exploring, it seems like a lot of sculptors fetishize wrinkles and skin textures… It's not hard to understand why. It's a lot of fun etching crevasses into clay!


Last night I created a wall mount for the adult demon… A perfectly rough and weathered scrap of wood with brass pins to hold the top-heavy beast in place.

* * *

I love the inherently gritty texture of clay, and the weight of it in my hand. It feels so real. Yet, even though clay is extremely cheap, the time spent waiting for it to get fired makes it more "expensive" than I initially figured. When I find the time, I'm planning on doing more experiments with home-bake polymer clay.

I really want to replicate the colors and textures of ceramic glazes, though. I've got some faux stone and "orange peel" spray cans to experiment with. I also need to explore a more neutral color palette. My natural tendency is toward vibrant colors… I think ceramics, as a species, gravitates toward earth tones.

posted by sven | May 25, 2009 7:00 AM | categories: sculpture