Subway beaver panel update

Seeing how the first beaver panel fits in the kiln, cutting it close for height with only 5/16″ between it and the lid but it will work. A second one- red- will go in when it’s drier. I had to stack a couple of shelf supports behind this first one so that if it tends to want to lean backwards it will be stopped by them, the second panel will need the same behind it.
I think next Friday I’ll turn it on. I modified the firing program just a little by adding another hour of pre-heating @195º making it 9 hours so these are good and dry for sure. I also added 5 minutes at the end making it hold at 2,060º for 15 minutes. So overall it will take about 25 hours for the firing process and then “overnight” for cooling down.

What most people know is water boils to steam @ 212º and is gone, but what they don’t know is the chemically bound water in apparently bone dry clay stays in the clay up to at least 700º before it finally burns out.

I could use a larger kiln like the Olympic oval model which would be large enough to lay pieces like these flat, but besides the cost being dramatically higher than this one was, I’d have to upgrade my home power line from the weatherhead on in, the 100amp breaker box and incoming line isn’t enough capacity.

Nr 137 to be made in terra cotta soon too

I decided that since I thought I have JUST enough left over mold rubber, that about the only thing small enough I could use it for is that grotesque keystone, so I got the mold out and filled it with water to see how much it takes to fill it, just about one gallon. It looked like I might have just a hair less than one gallon of rubber left, so I mixed it up and got every drop out of the containers I could and poured it in, and it was about a pint too little, but an old trick of floating something weighted right like this plastic drink cup in the liquid rubber, would take enough displacement to raise the liquid up a little. It did that, didn’t get it to the top, but its filled enough the complete design is covered.
Next thing I need to so is make a form to pour the molding plaster into to re-create the 4″ deep backing this had originally.
So, pretty soon I can make this one in fired terra cotta too.

The rubber positive of this keystone is cured and out of the mold now, I had JUST enough rubber to make it as the 2nd photo shows how thin the corner is, but with the plaster backing I will be adding it will be good.
The original this was molded from I removed from a building around 1977 that was at 1 West 111th St in NYC on the corner of 5th Ave, the buildings that were there have been replaced by this new one.Now I need to set up to cast the 4″ deep plaster backing for this.

I like this pourable rubber, it’s also a lot less expensive @ $105 for 2 gallons than what I use for brushing-on molds, and for these use once items it doesn’t need to be premium rubber.
The big issue is being pourable it’s really only suitable for relatively small or thin plaques because it would take a lot to fill larger or deeper pieces.

Now I have the backing form made for this, I’ll have work to do to it yet.
Making the wood form to pour the plaster in was a bit more involved than other pieces as the bottom of the keystone is arched upwards as this was originally over the top of an arched window. I had to shape a piece of scrap wood to fit the curvature.

If I use some clay on the sides to get a texture, smooth and fill gaps etc the plaster form needs to be damp and making the plaster molds’ 4 side pieces has to be done while the clay is still kept moist so the clay doesn’t shrink.

Once the 4 sides are made it can sit until I get more plaster to finish it- sometime the end of June since I only have 50# of plaster left right now and it’s pretty sure it won’t be enough to also pour the largest section over the face.

First hand-pressed 22-D out of the mold

The first pressed clay is now out of the mold and she came out with a very minimal amount of surface defects that have to be fixed by hand. In the 1890s when these pieces were made the workers pounded the clay in using a small sand bag to ram the clay into the details and eliminate the little “creases” that I seem to get between pieces of clay laid in and pressed next to each other. Might help too if the clay was a little more moist and softer but I hesitate to add water since more water causes more shrinkage. To get a batch custom mixed to add a little more water I’d have to buy I believe a full ton and there’s an extra charge too.
Really want to see this in the red clay but I don’t have enough to do it and only had 50# of this white clay left.

And now 3 days later she is firmed up but not dry, so she can sit like this for about 2-3 weeks to dry before firing.

NYC Astor Place Subway Beaver panel

Now I have the very first hand-pressed clay from the new plaster mold out and drying, it took 50# of clay to press the design, and about 10# of that was removed during the final work on it.

Now it will set loosely under plastic to slowly, evenly dry out over the next week to 10 days, it will need to be 100% dry before it can be fired in the kiln. I plan to press a second one either in the same white clay, or the red clay.

The photos show the progression from start to finish, with the back of the sculpture being made exactly the same way the antique original 19th century architectural ornaments were made, not really required for my pieces, but mostly it’s done out of tradition and authenticity.


I also did one in the red clay today;


Dramatic little cornice lion continued

Seeing how the lion head fits, the 11″ long backing form looks just right to show that nice classic double curve an inch or so on either side of the lion while keeping the whole thing small and compact .
I have to see if the boxes of clay I have had sitting around are still useable, but once I start making the clay backing form in the template box it all has to be done quickly, including making the complete rubber mold before the clay starts to shrink, including making the plaster support shell since if the clay shrinks the rubber will move with it, so the shell has to be done as soon as the last aplication of rubber is no longer tacky.
Right now I don’t have the molding plaster to make the shell.
Maybe next weekend I can form the clay backer if that clay is ok, and it will firm up a little over a week without shrinking, and then I’ll order what I need in 2-3 weeks and press the lion into the still soft clay and then make the rubber mold.

Dramatic little lion cornice

The template for the lion is done except for attaching the one side piece once I decided how wide the sculpture was going to be, after coming home and measuring the lions head and found it was 9″ wide, I decided on 11″ wide for the backing block, so just like they did the old plaster ceiling moldings this box and template is used the same way but on clay.
I have the 1st section of the little mold made, after it hardens I can mold on the next section, it will take 3, maybe 4 pieces.

Mold started of my lion mask
The mold is done and I made a cast in it to see how it looks, it can be used with the clay  backer formed and shaped with the template I made earlier.
Now I can take this and incorporate him into the new clay backer and while the plaster cast is still wet make a mold of the whole thing since the rubber I use is unaffected by moisture in the model.
This would have to be done on the moist clay once formed since clay shrinks as it dries and plaster does not.

I went ahead and shaped the clay backing block for the lion with the template box and just set the lion in it’s approximate position for the photos and then sealed it up in a plastic bag to keep it from drying too much too quickly, once the clay sort of firms up I can remove the sides of the box and finish and tool texture the 4 sides and the face nicely, and then look at setting the lion in and filling the gaps around the sides of it.

NYC subway eagle plaque S2

Since I have most of the 2 gallon kit of mold rubber left over that needs to be used up, I decided to set up this clay model I did in 2008 after an original polychromed terracotta at the 14th st subway station in Manhattan. A volunteer back then took several photos and obtained measurements for me to work with. The model has been kicking around in the studio, the basement and elsewhere around the house while I decided on how I wanted to do the molds.

Originally I was going to do 2 molds, as a one-piece panel, and as thinner tiles in terracotta. For now I’m going to caulk-in the seams to have it as a one-piece panel with the seams looking like mortar joints.

Setting up the model for the mold involves cutting a sheet of drywall in one piece to surround the assembly so I can raise/lower the drywall to get the final depth of what I want for the resulting castings’ thickness.
I wanted to keep as thin as practical to lessen the weight, but the lower tail fin section was thinner than I felt it should be, so I lowered the drywall down 1/2″ from where I originally thought it might go, that leaves the thinnest portion 1-1/2″ thick.
I started caulking in the seams between pieces to fill, but not obliterate them- so the liquid mold rubber can’t drizzle down through the spaces before it sets up.

Only the rubber portion will be done for now, the plaster support shell for this and the plaster mold for the beaver will have to wait until I order some of my casting material, molding plaster, and a few boxes of clay if they clay I have on hand is not usable (been sitting around for a couple of years it still dries out even in the unopened plastic bags)
It might be a month before I order that stuff since I still have 3 bags of casting material on hand and it all has to be freight shipped, so it’s about a $600 outlay for what I’ll want to order.

One of the original polychromed terracotta eagles at the 14th St platform.

“Converting” a model to pressed clay terracotta

Started on the positive mold of my beaver sculpture by bringing the negative mold up from the basement and applying the release agent to it, after I have dinner I’ll be applying the rubber compound.

The mold in progress, and just after the 2nd application of rubber started to gel I poured the warm plaster in for the support shell. The heat from the setting plaster will help cure the rubber faster too. To-morrow I can take the negative mold apart and peel that rubber off the new and I’ll have a rubber positive with this plaster support inside it.

After filling the cavity with plaster for support

And here’s the rubber positive to use for making the plaster piece-mold to press terracotta in.


Not much new lately

I haven’t posted anything here since last July, since there’s been very little happening sculpture wise, plenty of other non-sculpture stuff I’ve been very busy with though.

I took a break from doing any further new models since I have a bunch of completed clay models sitting all over and not even one inquiry on any of those, so I have not  made rubber molds of them and have no plans to do so in the foreseeable future. There’s not a lot of point in continuing to create large, fragile clay models and having them sit stored around the house where they are in the way and easily damaged.

We’ll see what happens this year.

Gallery building

I decided to put my gallery building up for sale and bring the contents back home.

After being open for 3 years I’ve found absolutely no interest, participation or much of anything from the residents of the city for the arts, history and culture the gallery/museum brought in.

Even the city’s “betterment’ group which for years has been yammering on and on about desperately wanting to bring new businesses into the town were completely and utterly silent the whole 3 years the gallery has been here, not even one line about it on their web site, not one resident of the town ever called or emailed asking to visit or take a tour, I may as well have opened a frog pond, it would have probably generated interest or something!