Sunday, July 28, 2013

Is it school of fish or School for "Fishy"?

I thought I had posted this a while back but upon checking this blog, realize that I was remiss.  When I did the composition for the Uniquely Manitoba Boxed-in Gallery Display at the Red River Exhibition, this was the group (I called it a school ;-) of fish that was displayed.  Unfortunately, the display was less than what I had expected.  I am not going to go through all the sorry details ... I've already done that in "background" a few posts ago.
The fish themselves and the buna cord survived, thankfully, and for a while, the school hung over the fireplace on the brick wall. 

This view shows the other sides of the fish and they're flanked by a standing fish which  I had purchased, and on the right, by a beautiful hand-dyed, batiked pike, made by my very talented batik artist friend, Karen Johannsson.

I had another photograph taken against a plain wall to provide more contrast and also did some close-ups of the fish individually.  I have actually sold three of the individual mobiles since, which was what I originally intended, since I was pretty certain that the entire composition would not have sold the way the display came out.  Who says the whole (fish) has to be better than the sum of its parts?

I will be making a couple more of the individual 'mobiles' to take to the Sioux Narrows Arts Festival this coming weekend.  I will be working late into the nights to be sure, but I love making these fish.  The region where the Festival is located is very resort-like, and this type of creation is quite weather proof making it ideal for a porch, patio, verandah, hanging from a tree or wherever a Fish Gallery exists. 

Since camp ended this week I am back from outer space, and back on terra firma, or at least in the backyard plastic pool.  The camp was very good...all but one of the participants were boys.  Needless to say we did not make polymer clay jewellery, but I did make them all a 'commemorative pendant' sort of like the Live Long and Prosper insignia. 

 On Monday, the kids made celestial light switch covers, to get an introduction to the nuances of the clay and they learned a cool technique with metal leaf which imparted a star-like quality to their creations.  They loved using the pasta machines. 

Then, on Tuesday, I demonstrated how to make a cane like a nebula and that was so successful I am going to use it in some of my own creations.  They used the slices of the cane to decorate pens.  They also crafted 'needle tools' out of wire coat hangers which I had cut at home and sharpened on the non-buffing part of my bench grinder.  Of course, they would use those the next day. 

On Wednesday, they used their needle tools to fashion wire loops upon which to sculpt the heads of their little aliens.  I had pre-baked the eyeballs. (They had a good laugh on that one because our class was at 12:30 so I said they were having Eyeballs for Lunch.  Anyone who has taught middle school should recognize that title, lol.)  Then they inserted the eyeballs into the sockets and then carried on with the rest of the head sculpting.  I took the heads home to bake...and to answer one of their questions, no they did not shrink.  But they were wired!

Thursday's class saw us finish sculpting the bodies of the alien figures, and we continued painting the covers of recycled books with acrylic paint.  I devised a technique whereby they could paint a nebula on the front and back cover and thanks to some glitter glue, the stars appeared as if by magic.  Another technique I think I will incorporate into some of my work. 

Thursday evening, I started coming down with a cold, and had a headache to boot.  So I went to bed early, knowing I would have to get up before dawn to finish my 'homework'.  I had to drill the holes in the book covers, bake the aliens, photograph the aliens, cut the pages for the journals since each book was a different size, and wax the cording for binding the book. And find enough needles for seven books to be bound simultaneously.  Of course, that meant getting up at two in the morning...need I say more.

But then on Friday morning, I still had to go grocery shopping as I had promised the kids a healthy earthly snack because we had to start early.  I had already asked them to come a half hour earlier than their schedule because the 'stuff' we had to do was kind of demanding and it required more time than the 1 1/2 hours that my session ran.  So at 7 a.m. I was out the door and off to the market to fetch fruit, veggies, dips, drinks, crackers, popcorn and a lot of other goodies pre-teeners like to eat. 

I had predicted Friday would be a knotty day. I was right.  Even though their binding threads were well waxed, the kids weren't accustomed to working with long lengths of the stuff, and I spent considerable time undoing knots.  They all managed to thread their needles and got the holes punched in the signatures.  They used their needle tools again, this time as an awl.  (I secretly called it "AWL FOR KNOT" because I knew the binding would be too challenging for them...).  I demo'd as slowly and carefully as I could, but even the initial stages of coptic binding can be humbling, even for adults.  So, I ended up binding six books while they waited patiently...Thank Goodness for Tyler, the champion crafter, who followed all the steps and was able to do his own.  Otherwise I might still be there binding!!!  It was good though, because they did 'start' and 'finish' the binding, and then they threaded the beads they had made to attach to the threads on the exposed spine.  They also glued the pictures of their aliens inside and hopefully at home gave their journals a suitable title so they can make log entries about their week at camp, or how they 'alienated' summer with polymer clay.

Yesterday and today, I have been trying to get caught up with some of my clay orders and also am preparing for the upcoming Festival.  I think I have sufficient inventory.  But I will supplement with a few more light switch covers and buttons.  Today, I made a couple of water-color effect plaques. 

The one on the left was inspired by the town of Portofino, Italy. I have not been there personally, but I saw a PBS production starring Andrea Bocelli, and although I am not a great fan of his, I loved the setting of the town. I did a day scene, but the enchanted night one would have been lovlier, but much more difficult to capture in polymer clay.  I envisioned that one of the little dories (is that a term for a small boat?) could have been used to go fish, but my little fishy here is smiling.  He is just playing in the bottom, cuz the boats are moored, right?  As for the fish, I did it in a two step process.  I first did the watercolor effect in clay on some leftover mdf board (wonder where that came from, lol).  After baking, I used a V-gouge to carve the fish, then backfilled it in soft gold polymer and sent him back in to bake.   The stones and weeds are dimensional, while the rest of the plaques are untextured, except for a bit of intensional impressions I made in the cobbled stonework of the Portofino Plaque.   

To sum up, I have learned a LOT this week, about things to do, about being resourceful, about being patient, and about new techniques that are always abounding in the fascinating world (and beyond) of polymer clay.

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