• West Side Highway (Miller) Art Deco model

    I think I will go ahead and start this model I planned to do back in Dec 2015 but didn’t get past setting up the form for the shape.
    The model was to depict one of the large cast-iron Art Deco styled ornaments once gracing the elevated West Side (Miller) Highway that ran along Manhattan’s West coast along the Hudson (North) River. The elevated highway was built starting at the end of the 1920s and construction of additional extensions continued into the 30s.
    The city hired noted sculptor Rene Chambellain to model replicas of the 5 historic city charter seals as well as these ornamental pieces at the foor of each street to have the street name and shipping pier number. For this model I chose the Desbrosses St/ pier 29-31 because the Library of Congress has a set of high res tif photos of this detail taken around 1968 for the Historic American Building Survey program (HABS)
    Chambellain made plaster models of these for approval and casting in iron. The “wings” of the piece span about 16 feet, so these were massive pieces!
    Above the “wings” under the top railing is a separate ornament with “wings” and an hour glass motif, I owned 2 of those at one point and they weighed a little over 500# each!
    The design symbolizes the machine age and air flight, which in the 20s was still fairly new. An alternated design to the hourglass on that were those having a set of 3 propellors.
    The highway and it’s iron superstructure was so poorly maintained by the city that by 1973 a 100 foot long section of the roadway collapsed onto the streets below under the weight of an asphalt truck ironically on it’s way to a paving repair further up the highway. The cause was corrosion from poor maintenance, and the elevated highway was closed permanently and demolished in stages over 20 years.
    My model will have “torn” ragged side edges symbolic of how the highway was cut up into sections, ripped apart and scrapped.
    Only one of these large ornaments apparently survives installed on the facade of a city pier, all the others were scrapped.
    “Desbrosses Street” was named after an influential local family by that name who oddly enough and despite contemporary attempts to pronounce it differently, according to the 1892 book “Everyday English” By Grant White- they pronounced their name “De’ broose”

  • First red terracotta 22-D keystone drying

    The first red clay 22-D is almost dry, probably in 2 weeks I’ll fire this one and the white one that is already loaded in the bottom of the kiln. Meanwhile I’ll be calling in my order for more materials.

  • 137 grotesque mold done

    I have #137’s mold finished, it took the whole 50# bag of moulding plaster. it will be a couple of weeks before it’s dried out but it will be about 3 weeks before I order more clay and materials anyway.

  • First 22-D keystone firing

    The first pressed 22D is dry, so she is stuck down at the bottom of the kiln where she fits nicely and also an inch away from the kiln walls. I decided the best position to fire these is flat on their backs rather than standing upright on their tops where the center webbing and the bottom could possibly sag downwards a bit from gravity when the clay gets soft from the heat. I can fit two of these in laid flat.
    So to do that I can use 5 of my nice tall posts to support the octagon shelf which in turn supports the 2nd sculpture. The 7 small posts laid flat on the shelf are there to raise the sculpture up off the shelf so heat and air can circulate inside it while at the same time supporting it well and evenly all around it’s back so it won’t likely warp.
    I was going to put the 2nd beaver panel in with the one 22D but they won’t fit together with 22D laid flat, so now I have to change gears and press another 22D but using the remaining red clay I have which should be JUST enough, and that will be about 3 weeks before that one is dry enough to fire. So it’s going to be about 3 weeks wait until I can do another load.

    All the posts and shelf, shelves since I have several half octagons as well- are called “kiln furniture” so a different meaning for an old word most people never knew!
    This kiln came with a nice selection of included furniture in the package- a variety of posts, shelves, and wired stilts used under glazed pieces.

  • Beaver panels done

    I took the two sculptures out of the kiln a little while ago, they look good. The beaver started out 22″ x 13-1/2″ and when the clay was bone dry he measured 20-7/8″ x 12-3/4″ and then after firing the final measurements are 19-1/2″ x 12-1/4″, so the shrinkage through the processes amounts to about 11% for this clay.
    He weighs 28#
    The white clay I won’t be using, I got some of that thinking it could be glazed, but having white clay and red clay in the same molds will cause cross-contamination with white bits getting on the red and vice-versa and that could be a lot of trouble trying to control. As it is, a slight bit of the residue of the white clay wound up in the beavers’ beard.
    I have another red one that can be fired next weekend.

    The 2nd 22D is pressed with red clay.

  • 137 mold continued

    I did a little bit of cleanup work on 137’s plaster backing block, so I’ll probably soap it up and start making the side pieces of the mold once I smooth and clean up the one side and top which I had to add a little more plaster to the other day to line up the sides of the plaster block with the sides of the rubber better.