The finished pool model

Colored concrete bas relief panel for the new city pool building to be inset into the exterior concrete block wall by the entrance. The design has been discussed in previous posts last summer, the techniques on the original clay model which was  my own design based around the drawings of the actual pool  and walkway layout. The design incorporates raised letters which were executed on the clay model using some novel-to-me but time proven techniques for creating raised letters in sculptures found in a 1930s era sculpture book.

The book suggested that such raised letters were almost never hand formed individually in the clay as they simply cannot be easily modelled uniformly and exacting, or without a lot of time. The technique I used was based on the 1930s concepts but modified for my situation and methods, essentially I purchased the required commercially made wood  letters, made a quick rubber mold of them as a group, poured the letters in different formula mold rubber, and then cast a plaster mold of the group of rubber letters. The plaster mold was then used to hand-press clay into, once the clay letters firmed up a little and could be removed from the plaster mold they were afixed to the clay model in their appropriate spaced locations already lightly marked out.

The end result was perfect, every 1/4″ raised letter neatly and evenly shaped and spaced.

 

 

 

 

 

Art deco D5 “conversion” continued

PICT3022sm

Now with the new mold completed (above) I have begun the next step- making a positive/reverse mold of the inside of this negative mold.

With the positive/reverse mold rubber applied to the inside of the first mold, it is now filled with plaster for the supporting shell, both the plaster and the rubber now set aside for a ffew hours for the rubber to cure (below)

PICT3023sm

About 5 hours later with the rubber cured a little faster than otherwise due to the heat of the setting plaster, the first mold is removed leaving the positive/reverse mold with it’s plaster inside supporting shell (below)

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERANow I have to wait on getting some molding plaster for the next step- making the 5 piece plaster mold of this, 4 side sections and the flat face section which will be used to press the clay into once that is fully dry.

 

 

Art Deco D5

The rubber portion of the mold is almost completed, one additional application in about an hour will finish it, then it will cure overnight and I can build the plaster shell for it to-morrow.

Once I have the shell done it can be taken apart and removed from the plaster master and I can cast a new plaster master to store away, once I do that I should be able to start making the positive rubber master mold.

I can finish the rubber positive master mold but I don’t have any more molding plaster with which to make the plaster press-mold, either I’ll have to order a bag shipped UPS or wait until I order some regular cast stone and clay and have some bags added to the truck shipment. I think I’ll just bite the UPS cost on one bag so I can get it done sooner than later.

PICT3013

Art Deco D5

I have my master plaster cast taken from the original mold made from my hand-modelled 2007 clay master laid out on a board to prep for the new mold.

I needed to do a little bit of repairs to the sides on this first, unfortunately the original clay model was fired in the kiln a year ago and for some reason I had not taken a plaster master cast from the first rubber mold immediately when it was made as is typical.

That was probably because I had the original clay model, but later forgot I didn’t also have a plaster master and I fired the clay, as a result the original clay model is about 5% smaller from being fired and I don’t want to re-mold that since it is smaller than the other two panels in the set- one of which was fired the other was damaged beyond salvage to fire it but has a plaster master stored away.

The master cast being used now was taken from the first rubber mold made of the  compound I used to use that started to tear and shrink early on, as a result the sides were somewhat uneven.

Fixing that now and the mold will start to-morrow, once I have the new mold I can make the second mold I need to have to get started on a plaster mold for pressing terracotta from.

 

Terra cotta

I now have my kiln back in my home studio after removing it from the gallery basement which seemed like the ideal place for it at the time I bought it. So it’s set up now at home where it’s much more convienient to monitor.

I fired a couple of older raw clay original models with complete success, including the Astor Place subway beaver model which was just 1/4″ less tall than the inside of the kiln with the lid closed.

I’m considering “converting” the Art Deco D5 model into a terracotta line, here’s the original clay model that I fired in the kiln a year ago after making the rubber mold for casting it in interior cast-stone and concrete:

 

In order to “convert” it to enable making them in fired pressed clay, I would have to make a positive cast in rubber and then make a 5 piece plaster mold of that positive rubber cast. The idea of the rubber positive is the rubber is soft and “gives” so that pulling a hard plaster shell mold off it, undercuts slide right out easily.

Once I have the positive rubber I can make molds from that as needed, making one to start with. When the plaster mold is dry then the clay can be hand-pressed into it, allowed to stiffen slightly, removed, dried completely and then fired in the kiln.

One thing with the “converting” is that  in the processes there is about a 5% shrinkage of the clay from wet to dry and another 5% shrinkgage during firing for a total of about 10% or 1″ loss per 10″ which on this panel will result in it being about 2″ less wide and maybe 1-1/4″ less tall.

I think this fall/winter I’m going to do this.

Actually, I decided to go ahead and order the $200 worth of mold rubber I need to make the replacement mold for this since the original mold rubber by Quantum Silicones that I used in 2007 to make the first mold turned out to be total  garbage. Hopefully this weekend if the rubber arrives before Friday I will have the master cast all set up and ready to mold Saturday.

I should have enough left over from the two gallons added to the left-over rubber I have on hand to make the positive mold too- on Sunday if all goes well.

At least with this I can get the process started, I don’t have any molding plaster on-hand to make the press-mold with though, and the regular cast stone is not suitable for this as it hardens up extremely hard and is not absorbant as the molding plaster is.

I might just get a bag sent to me  UPS as I don’t want to order a pallet load of material right now.

 

 

 

Various

I have  the Nashville clients’ project finished, with the last two crates shipping in the morning, and the city pool projects’ concrete panel finished as well.

The concrete pool panel turned out to be a major pain unlike any other! and to think, this is a donated sculpture and it was to be a simple matter to cast the concrete into the mold I made. After casting the first one there were two things I didn’t like, one was it had a lot of fair sized air bubble holes on the surface, the other was the acid stain I’ve used so well on many concrete casts absolutely looked all wrong for this bas relief- way too dark.

Ok, so I decided to cast another one and use a different stain, same story there, lots of holes on the surface and the other stain didn’t look right either!

So I cast a third one, this time I decided to nix the stain and go with an integral concrete color, but this one too despite my best concerted efforts also had a lot of holes in the surface! Concrete will always have some no matter what you do, but this went beyond the definition of “some.”

So I re-examined the whole process to see what may have changed, then  I figured out there was only one thing I had changed from the usual and that was making use of my large powered concrete mixer to mix up the dry material. I thought about how that worked and realized it was almost certainly fluffing up the sand and Portland cement enough it was putting lots of air into it.

So the 4th try I mixed the concrete up the normal way I have for years- by hand in a rubber tub, and I decided since panel #3 was not quite as red as I was hoping for, and that I had not used the maximum amount of color yet, that I would go ahead and add two bottles of it to the 12 quarts of water for the 150# of concrete to get it a little darker.

The product can be used one bottle to 60# of concrete, I used one per 75# and kept it a little less than the maximum but more than the 1-1/2 bottles I used for #3.

Now that it cured for a couple of days I took the cast out today and it came out good, a small amount of tiny air bubbles as normal/usual and certainly nothing like what I had with #1, 2 and 3. It looks like it will turn out to be a pleasant red terracotta color when it’s fully cured and dry.

So now we know- stay away from any mechanical mixing of even the dry ingredients! I knew to stay away from mixing the wet concrete that way, but it never dawned on me mixing the dry ingredients would cause issues.

 

Hopefully in a few days I can get a photo of the panel, meanwhile my right middle finger is feeling better, after having been banged a month or so ago and the nail turning black and blue, it was half replaced by the new nail when you guessed it- it was smashed again the other day wrestling the over 100# plaster mold for the pool cast down the  stairs, I lost my footing a bit and tipped towards the stone wall and of course that finger was the one that was between the mold and the stone wall and was half scraped along the rough stone and half smashed

So here it was shortly after:

As if that wasn’t enough torture for the week, while casting the concrete I wear rubber gloves, but this time I didn’t notice the left middle glove finger tore open and as I was moving my hands around the rubber tub mixing, the fingernail caught right up against a small bit of hardened concrete and broke a small piece of nail off.

Just lovely, now both middle fingers are messed up for now!

Hopefully next weekend I can get back to the Butterfly child/Mulcaster building model, I’ve not worked on it for a while and need to finish it, but right now the thought of having these two fingers in gritty wet clay is not a good idea.

R.S. project: Nashville

A client who purchased an Art deco era theater and adjacent former store building recently contacted me for sculptures to install on the former store building. The one story brick facade of the store building was in very poor condition, enough that the facade had to be removed due to a bulge in the brickwork, and then be re-mortared back in place.

The building’ name panel was preserved but the terracotta shield above it was cracked and missing a corner of it. It was decided to replace the broken shield with an Athena keystone (the nearby street names have a Greek theme, and there is a replica parthenon in Nashville as well) Also to be added was the Webster Hall griffin panel shown below in acid stained concrete being prepared for crating to ship:

 

 

Athena is  pictured below:

 

 

Butterfly child 1152 progress

Still very busy this week too trying to get other things done between the almost constant every other days rains and now the end of summer, the least of which is re-doing the brakes on my car which required several trips to NAPA and yet more to order a couple more parts, the other is finishing up a large mold for a concrete cast for the city pool building- they already started demolition on the old place and will start construction soon so my concrete cast has to be ready for installation.

Last but not least is I switched over to a new computer system running Linux Mint and setting that all up.

I did a bit of work on this today adding more flowers, a little work on the head and some on the lower right wing, I need to bring the head out more and angle it more downward too yet but it’s progress.

Mulcaster building “Butterfly Child” panel

The Mulcaster building was once located at 1156-1162 (incorrectly designated as 1297 according to one source) Third Avenue, NYC (demolished ca 1965) on it’s facade was this spandrel panel, probably more than one:

Dates: ca. 1885
Dimensions: 25″ x 28″ x 7 1/2″

Located in the Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Frost.
Description: Pressed, fired red terracotta rectangular plaque with head of youth, a butterfly-boy or girl sipping nectar from blossoms through a straw.

I decided to make my version of this 19″ high, 22″ wide which is the same proportion but a little smaller and this begins with the box form for the shape:

Nr 169 Gargoyle first cast

I made the first cast this morning from the new mold, the mold was not terribly difficult to work with but it’s very large and since the plaster shell of it is fresh it still has about 5 to 6 gallons of free water in it that has to evaporate out, meanwhile the extra weight of the water adds about 50 pounds of excess dead-weight.
I still need to cast a master to store away for future use in replacing the mold, and one for a client’s order today as well.
It took 4 gallons of water in two 5 gallon buckets mixed with the cast-stone to make enough slurry to fill the mold.
Those full 5 gallon buckets are heavy as hell to lift with the wire handle they come with, it’s about 68# each when full and I filled 2 up for the cast of the other gargoyle Nr 170 that I did yesterday not remembering exactly how much it would take. I had mixed up 2 full buckets as my notes from the last time I cast one of those indicated it took 4 gallons of water and I couldn’t remember if that was to completely fill the mold up with some left over, exactly the amount needed, or if was short, so I used 4-1/2 gallons of water to be on the safe side and those buckets wound up taking 50# and then some of the cast-stone. I wound up with almost half a bucket full left over, fortunately I was able to use part of it elsewhere on the spur of the moment.

1

2

3

The first cast in the Old Limestone Grey finish.

3

Gargoyle Nr 169 model

The mold was removed from the clay model last night, it was difficult to pull the rubber off since it was pretty thick/stiff in places it needed to be and a lot of undercuts and keyhole areas, the original unfired clay model mostly surviced the mold making process, only the curled tail broke off but it was a fairly clean break and it can be repaired so that eventually- I hope- when I buy a larger kiln I can try firing it.
Nr 170 did not survive the mold making process but that’s ok, I have a plaster master from it and the mold.

The models were all made from Georgie’s “Three finger jack” clay which is a cone 8-10 high fire clay, this model if I ever get to firing it will have to be slowly pre-heated around 200 degrees F for quite a while, and then very slowly fired probably over a couple of days time and then slowly cooled down under a powered-on slow schedule rather than having the kiln shut completely off at final temperature.

Nr 169 Gargoyle shell

Now I will be working on building the supporting shell for the mold today.

I just finished all of the required sections and at the moment I’m waiting for the last/bottom section to harden fully before taking the mold apart.
I decided to do the plaster shell in the modelling studio instead of the basement because with the rubber and the board the model is around 120# and that’s a bit much to try and manhandle through three doorways and then down a narrow flight of stairs.
The first picture was taken around noon, the last one around 7 PM so it’s easy to see how making ashell like this takes about a day.