• Washington Irving school Sullivanesque Pier Capital

    Hope to finally finish this Sullivanesque pier capital to-morrow, the clay is getting pretty firm despite being covered with plastic and spritzed with water, so it needs to be finished now.
    It’s amazing how much time this design takes, probably twice what other models I’ve done have taken, there’s a lot of detail packed in on the surface!
    I still have 5 of the 8 “squares” along the sides- the 4 on the right and the bottom left one to finish refining and cleaning up and then it’s done.

     

    Now that the model is done it is drying out.

    There is an 11 minute long timelapse video showing the whole modelling process on this start to finish over 3 months;

     

  • Hand-pressed red terracotta architectural leaf block

    Now I have the first hand-pressed red terracotta architectural leaf blocks done and ready to start drying, this will shrink somewhat and I have not priced these yet, but pretty soon I will know the exact size it will wind up, and a price determined.

    These would be very nice for accents or even in a row as a frieze band, they will be kiln fired, so they can be embedded into a brick or stone wall, or otherwise used outdoors.

     

     

     

    A timelapse video showing how these are made;

  • Leaf block mold for hand-pressed red terracotta

    I decided to make a mold of one of these ca 1880 leaf blocks that came from a frieze band on a mansion in Newark NJ that was demolished. It’s a nice little design and it will be quick and easy to make these in red terracotta like the original.

    Now it will have to dry out for a couple of weeks before I can use it.
    This is exactly what they used in ca 1880 to make the originals, though it was about 5-10% larger.

     

    The design could be a styled boxelder tree leaf, there’s not a lot of trees that have leaves like the terracotta block has, but there are a few, of which the boxelder appears to be most similar;

     

  • Washington Irving Louis Sullivan Sullivanesque pier capital model progress

    Working now on final cleaning up, detailing and refining, I haven’t had time to work on it the last couple of weeks as other projects and things needed my attention.

    I expect it will take quite a few more hours to finally get this done, the clay is getting firmer despite misting it with water and keeping it covered with plastic, so it needs to be finished as soon as I can get it done!

  • James W Scoville building terracotta

    This James W Scoville building Elmslie “Sullivanesque” sculpture is now out of the kiln, it is still about 200 degrees and had to be handled with gloves, it turned out perfect!


    One can see the color change in photos from the previous dry/unfired state and now that it’s been fired to a little over 2,079 degrees, actually cone 2 tipped because I added a 15 minute “hold” at the set temperature, but because of the “heat work” it went a little higher, but the result is better and the color is nice and even top to bottom, whereas in the past the very bottom of large pieces like this would turn out slightly lighter due to slightly lower temperatures near the floor of the kiln.

    https://www.urbansculptures.com/cart/product/sullivanesque-panel-after-james-w-scoville-chicago-nr-ls-2/

     

    A Virginia museum  has an original, that one still has the old grey paint slathered all over it but the red clay underneath can be seen.

    Someone has one they have been trying to sell for quite a while for $5,000 !!

    https://www.vmfa.museum/piction/6027262-7945338/

    Exterior Ornament from the James W. Scoville Building, Chicago (Primary Title)
    Dankmar Adler, 1844-1900 (Artist)
    Louis Sullivan, American, 1856 – 1924 (Artist)
    Northwestern Terra Cotta Co. (Artist)
    probably modeled by, Kristian Schneider (Modeler)
    Date:
    1884-1885

  • The Jamws W Scoville Elmslie Sullivanesque panel kiln firing

    After 4 weeks of drying I placed the pressed clay Chicago James Scoville building “Sullivanesque” panel in the kiln and turned ‘er on.


    I changed the program on the controller slightly for this piece by bumping the temperature up and adding 10 minutes soak time to when the kiln reaches that temperature.
    About 37 hours from now the kiln will shut off and take half a day to cool down before I see what I get.

    Meanwhile, here it is sitting in the kiln when I turned it on. The light yellow colored deals touching the back of the panel are shelf posts and I placed them on both front and back so that should the panel want to tip- it can’t.
    The two red pyramid haped deals resting on top of the posts are called “cones” and they will partially melt and bend over at specified temperatures each uniquely is formulated to do that at, so they tell me if the kiln got hot enough- what it was set to, or too hot- hotter than I set it for.
    In this case there’s a cone 1 which bends over at 2,079 degrees F and a cone 2 which bends over at 2,088 degrees F, and yes they are THAT accurate that 9 degrees in a furnace that is over 2,000 degrees can be measured accurately.

    The temperature and soak time much like baking a cake or making toast in a toaster- also affects the final color and “doneness” of the terracotta. This clay I use is a brick red that as the temperature goes above that cone 1 starts to turn brown- it can take cone 5 (2,167 degrees) at which point it turns a dark chococate brown! I’ve never gone higher than cone 1 but it would be interesting to experiment with a smaller piece.

    So far I’ve shown the modelling process, the hand-pressing process and now the kiln firing process will wrap it all up in a sort of educational “How the architectural terracotta was made” in Sullivan’s day and before.

     

     

  • Added two red terracotta artifacts to my collection

    I bought 2 of these red terracotta blocks that came from a building in Newark NJ, these would date back to the 1880s. No identification marking, numbers or anything on them as is typical of these pieces in that decade.
    The design has no undercuts at all, is very smooth, and sharp crisp edges and corners which indicates to me that the original pattern was probably carved wood and the mold taken directly from it. The same leaf design sans the specific angled border around the perimeter of these 7-1/2″ square designs may have been incorporated in cast iron elements too as a foundry pattern since wood carvings were typically made for sand casting.


    The coal soot blackening pattern on both blocks proves these were embedded in the brick wall in the position they are in the photo- alternated left and right. These would have likely been part of a row of them as a frieze band across the facade.

    The backs were slightly scooped out by hand leaving a vertical center intact for structural strength since there would be brick wall above these.

  • James W Scoville, George Elmsley/Sullivanesque design first pressed clay

    The first hand-pressed clay sculpture is finished and drying now before it can be kiln fired.

    Once this is fired in the kiln I will have an exact size and weight and a firm price for these signed, numbered and dated works reproducing this historic George Grant Elmslie/Louis Sullivan 1884 Chicago design featuring a  styled webbed lotus.

    The design is an early work by these men and  it dates to the  foundation of what has become known as the “Sullivanesque” style of architectural ornament.

     

    The James W Scoville building was demolished in the 1970s, many of the original artifacts were salvaged, most are in private collections while a few are in museums such as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts where it appears in photos on their web site still sporting it’s old battleship grey paint that was slathered on the original facade over the rich red brick and terracotta.

    Now instead of hoping one of these might come up at an auction, and only finding ONE when you might really need a pair for a project, and instead of paying upwards of $5,000 for one of those, these authentic hand-pressed kiln fired  sculptures can be had new, in any quantity, made exactly the same way the originals were made in the 1880s- one can purchase these from me at $349 delivered (48 states only)

    As can be seen in the bottom photo, these really ARE made exactly like the originals- including the typical webbed compartments in the back- the portion that was embedded into the wall.

    The webbing gives considerable structural strength and stability, and when kiln fired to almost 2,100 degrees F it becomes vitrified and has less porosity than even modern hard brick. As a result these can be built into a brick or stone wall or displayed in the garden too.

    These will probably be around 50 pounds in weight as this one took 60 pounds of clay.

     

     

  • First pressing of the James Scoville “Sullivanesque” terracotta panel

    I pressed the first  LS2 panel today,  it took 60 pounds of clay,  the sculpture will need to firm up a little and dry a little before I can finish cleaning up and refining the surface details.

    It takes about 2- 3 weeks of slow, careful drying of pressed clay sculptures of this size before they can be kiln fired.

    The firing process in an electric kiln takes approximately 36 hours and the high quality clay I use is fired to what is known as “Cone 1”- about 2,100 degrees F which vitrifies it nicely to become harder and less porous than standard hard bricks are.

    Once the sculpture was removed from the plaster mold as shown, I have to spend considerable time going over every milimeter of the surface to model-in any missing details, sharpen edges, eliminate any surface defects, mold seams etc.

    Each is a signed, numbered and dated work of art.

     

    First pressed panel

    A timelapse video of the whole process is here;

  • George Elmslie/Scoville building design mold ready

    George Elmslie/Scoville building design

    The new mold for pressing terracotta from is finally dry, it took 2 weeks in front on a box fan on high. The main base piece weighs 90#, the other 6 sections probably adds another 50# to that.

    George Elmslie and Dankmar Adler’s  1884 Chicagoan  James Scoville building  “Sullivanesque” design is sure to be stunning in kiln fired red terracotta. There are a few originals out there, at least one is sitting in a Virginia museum, and others as well as other designs from the same building have been spotted on already sold live-auction sites after having sold for an insane $5,000- $15,000, but when people have NO lower cost options and want a particular design then they have to pay through the nose, they also have to accept whatever condition and quantity is available.

    It would really suck if someone had a great design in mind for their project, but it takes 4 identical pieces and they can only find 2 at a salvage yard! That’s a common delemma whe dealing with antiques- you need 2 someone only has 1 for sale, or you find 2 but one is so damaged it’s almost unusable.

    That’s where I have an advantage, because if a client needs 4 of these or 44 of them, they could have them, and at a far more reasonable cost! At this time the interior-cast stone version of this panel is priced at $229, shipped to any of the lower 48 states;

    SIZE: Nominal 21-1/4″ high by 13″ wide, 3″ deep.

    WEIGHT: Nominal #35

    When these are pressed from terracotta, due to clay shrinkage, the fired terracotta version will be slightly smaller- approx 10-15%, so those will wind up around 19″ high and 11-1/2″ wide which will be a nice residential scaled sculpture that can be displayed indoors or outdoors, it can be embedded into a brick, concrete or stone wall.

    I expect the terracotta version will probably be priced around $329

     

  • Washington Irving school, Hammond Ind W1 pier capital model started

    Washington Irving school pier capital
    Starting the model of the W1 pier capital

    To-day I started the process on the Washington Irving school, once at 4727 Pine St., Hammond Ind W1 pier capital model.

    I happened to find photos of this interesting 1936 George Elmslie/Louis Sullivan “Sullivanesque” style design at the City Museum in St Louis and decided to create a model of it. I was able to scale the size of the original terracotta artifacts to about 20″ square.  Though the originals were actually about 20″ deep embedded into the wall as well as projecting out from the wall about 5″,  I needed to modify that original configuration to a more practical one for how my clients would likely use it- hanging ON the wall, or embedded 3-4″ into a brick or stone wall, so with that end goal in mind this model is designed to do both as it will be a nominal 4″ deep.

    The original pier capitals projected out from the face of the brick facade by about 5″, as a result the design on the fronts of the capitals wrapped around on the two sides, since doing that configuration would mean making my model 5″ deeper yet (9″ total) it would make it a less than useful design for how it would be used in a non pier capital display, so I will not wrap the design around the sides beyond possibly the smallest amount on the corners.

    George Grant Elmslie & William Hutton- architects, and the Midland terracotta  Co with modeller Albert Fritz are said to have executed the original terracotta artifacts for the school in 1936, the school was demolished in 2003.

    As the description on a placard at the City Museum says- this is an outstanding example of the Louis Sullivan style of architectural ornament. The Art Deco inspired chevron or “V” is surrounded by thistle leaves and is sprouting leaves of a plant or bud of a flower. The flower which made up of seeds emerges from the plant stalk.

    In looking at the design itself, I noticed this curiosity which I circled in red;

    The modeller, said to be Fritz Albert, obviously left that little square of material in the center of both larger squares, in actual modelling practice the easiest way to scribe or cut those vertical and horizontal cross lines would be to make one motion top to bottom and left to right with a tool, but Fritz didn’t do that, instead, he made four cuts to leave that little center intact, the question is why?

    It’s almost as if it’s a deliberate miniature version of one of the four larger squares, but since the Elmslie/Sullivanesque designs were all based on styled organic plant forms and geometric shapes, it may be the four squares and center square are an Art Deco inspired styled four petal flower and bud.

    Since none of those involved are alive to ask, we can only guess, but it makes sense.