First cast

I have begin casting this panel now, this one is for a client who plans an Art Deco bedroom.

The panel was cast today and will take a few days to dry out, then it will get the bright gold finish which I think will look best.

The color of the panel as shown is with special base tint added to the casting material so that the color is completely through the entire panel.

Using a base color like this under the gold (or another color under one of my other finishes) serves two purposes, one is it tends to deepen the final finish color, the other is, should the unforseen accident occur someday of a chip on a corner, or scratch, with the substrait color being close to the finishes’ color, the damage won’t stand out like a sore thumb as it otherwise could.

D 8 mold started

Now I found some time to start the mold for this panel, hopefully I will finish it tomorrow, but I did get a late start on the first application of silicone mold rubber, and it takes about 6 applications total, each an hour or so apart to build up sufficient thickness. Then it cures in about 6 hours, or in this case, over night before the plaster supporting shell can be made.

Here’s the origial clay model laid flat on a board with the first “detail coat” carefully applied, very thinly over the whole surface to eliminate as much air bubbles as possible when it’s brushed on.

Subsequent applications have a thickener added so it’s more of a mayonaise consistancy and will stay put on vertical surfaces as well as build up thickness rapidly.

Without the thickener the material is more like honey, wanting to flow in a slow and sticky way to seek a level like water does.

The final measurements of the panel is about 17″ x 21, meaning the original clay as it was has shrunk about one inch in width and about 1-3/4 inches in length.

All clay shrinks as it dries, and this is about 6% shrinkage, so in order to gain a specific size that has to be allowed for in the original design.

This also shows how damaged or missing terra cotta components on buildings being restored cannot simply be replaced by making a mold off an existing or undamaged element to make replacements- the final casts would wind up about 6% smaller.

The alternative then is concrete “replacements” cheap fiberglass, or having a sculptor sculpt a replacement model about 12% larger if using water clay for the model due to the double shrinking, about 6% if using an oil based clay or other material such as carved and shaped plaster.

Art Deco D8

I’m pleased to report that this recently completed model now has a “sponsor”, and a mold will be made in about a week for this so the client will be able to receive his cast.

Also, the semi-discontinued lion 3886 may also come back again shortly.

It was never a big seller, so when the mold tore I never replaced it and decided to just shelve replacing it till some later date, because each mold costs an average of $300 for the materials, and most of a day labor to build. For me to spend that money and time on a mold it needs to be for a design that sells, or has at least a couple of interested parties with firm orders at hand. Otherwise the mold just sits around taking up space, and they do have a shelf life for the rubber part of them too.

With a previous client perhaps wanting 3 more now, the mold would be good to replace at this point to cast those.

Next Art Deco model

Now that the other model is hollowed out and taken off my easel and laid flat on strips of styrofoam to dry out, I’ll be doing this model next, same size as the first.

I like the slight curving effect, as it reinforces the figure’s exerting pressure upward which is causing movement as evidenced by the vertical lines bending outward, and the horizontal upper section being bent upwards. This one will be #D-9

Art Deco finished

I pretty much finished this model (18×24″) today, except for minor surface cleanup.

For those wondering about the clay I use, this is water based raku clay which I find extremely stable and has absolutely no tendency to warp or crack even in very thick slabs and pieces such as I work with.

This is approximately 2-1/2″ thick, 18×24″ moist, when dried it will probably wind up around 17 x 22-1/2″ or a little smaller. I do not as of yet own a kiln, so these are not fired, but are used for master patterns to take silicone molds from.

For the most part I am able to pull the mold and the greenware model almost always stays nearly intact- leaving open the option to fire it later to keep.

This is the first of a planned 3 panel set.

Almost finished

The one foot and part of the lower leg to it are all that need to be finished now, with the rest of the model only needing some additional refinement and cleaning up which is done as the clay begins to firm up during the drying-out process.


I didn’t do very much on this model today but I did a little bit of refinement of it, the abstractness of this is a bit different to me, and the low relief makes it a little more complicated to get right because the various levels of the surfaces are very subtle and they don’t vary very much, making more use of outlines and angles to delineate the shapes and forms more than any projection.

A little further refinement today on this should be evident.

And today as well

New Art Deco panels planned

I decided to dig out some model ideas I had stored away in a folder, and as I went through the photos I came upon a couple which I wanted to do a couple of years ago but didn’t pursue. The photos were of the 1927 Chanin building and I decided to look for more information on the building last night.

I learned there are 8 panels in the 2 lobbies, of which I very much liked 3 panels, here is a picture of one of them.

I like what I call the “Atlas” look, or as some articles refer to these as; “hyper-masculine” style of these kinds of figures done in that 1920-1930’s era.

The building cost $14 million in 1927 to construct, and the entire 57 story high skyscraper was erected in just 205 days!

Irwin Chanin was an architect and real estate developer who had visited Paris in 1925, taking in the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. He was so inspired by what he saw, that when he returned that he set out to incorporate these designs in his current projects. Not yet a registered architect, he worked with the firm of Sloan and Robertson to build this building.

The original artist for the works on the building was none other than the sculptor Rene Chambellain- who if eagle-eyed readers may remember from elsewhere on this site- Rene designed the set of 5 historic charter seals of the City of New York for the old West Side (Miller) highway.

Each of the Chanin plaques had a theme-title which depicted the following in an Art Deco, cubist design;

Physical life: “Endurance” “Activity” “Effort” “Success”

Mental life: “Enlightenment” “Vision” “Courage” “Achievement”

Not all of the panels have been associated with their titles that I have found yet, 3 have been, the rest are up for interpretation. That means the design above either represents “Activity” “Effort” or “Success,” and in looking over the photos of the 3 in that set, I get the feeling this panel is the one titled “Success” as the other 2 seem to lean more towards “activity” and “effort”, while this one has a confident stride which suggests some task has been accomplished.

A few articles which mention these panels have said incorrectly they are bronze, actually photos I have seen around show at least one has some cracks in it, broze does not crack that way, they are beyond doubt plaster of paris which has been painted gold, though originally they may have been gilded, the gold may have peeled a little or became dirty, and over the years the lobbies would have been repainted, and I’m certain at that time these panels were painted with gold paint to give them a renewed appearance.

I decided on the size for the panel, which will start out at about 18″ X 24″, which after the clay has shrunk on the master model will probably wind up around 16″ X 21-1/2″ or so, a nice size without being too large or heavy.

More can read about the designs and Mr Chambellain as well;

Now that I have the proper sized form to contain the clay, I have about 85# of clay packed in the box, smoothed flat, and ready to begin work.


I have a client who wanted a different lion I have, the large cornice lion from the YMCA building in NJ, but the mold is in pretty poor shape and I don’t plan to replace it any time soon since it was never much of a seller.

So I sent a photo of this other lion I have which is slightly smaller, and a nicer face, and he would like 2 cast in concrete.

I am working now on making the mold for this

He is about 14″ square.


Now Ive begin the supporting shell for this, it will be in several pieces, each piece acts as a relief for various undercuts and opposing angled surfaces.

Multiple smaller pieces make it easier to take apart too.

Here’s a successive series showing how it’s made, with the last photo removing the rubber portion from the model;

Lioness mold

Now that I’m done with the winged lion for the time being, it’s time to turn towards finishing the mold for the lioness roundel which I intend to complete today. The rubber portion has already been done, next comes the plaster shell.

The first public cast is already pre-sold and paid for by a previous client who purchased the wolf head roundel some time back.

I’m inclined now to start a lion model facing the opposite direction so there will be a pair. As I remember i have about 150# of the red clay, and about half a ton of the raku clay on hand. It would be a good one to use up that last 150# of the red clay on.

I’ll have to get a carbide or diamond sawzall blade to cut the winged lion, for the time being I’m only going to remove the head to hollow it out more and insert a steel pipe or the like down inside thru the top of the table so the body will have no place to go.

If I make a mold of this at some point, the wings would need to be cut off horizontally at their bottoms, the shield will also probably have to be removed with the front paws being cut at the wrists.

That way the wings, body, head and shield would each have a mold, and if this was ever cast in something like concrete it would be easier.

The original pieces could be fired in a kiln and re-assembled with mortar joints after a mold is made.

I had no plans to do more with the model past just creating it for my own amusement, but it would be nice to cast it in something permanent.

This would be an estate sized piece with a comparable pricetag, but in today’s economy I don’t believe the demand would be there for something like this.

The model ran me about $600 to make- clay, shipping and constructing the stand it needed.

Still, I’m now wanting to make something else large. I was for a time, a while back thinking of a model of this winged lion in Savannah GA that was made out of terra cotta in 1886 and which was completely destroyed by a drunk driver whose car smashed into it at high speed, went airborn and crashed into the entry of the building across the street from this which was built at the same time.

The photo doesn’t show the scale very well, but the base portion above that ring is around 4 feet long, and the lion is about 4 feet tall or more according to other photos Ive seen of it with people nearby.

Winged lion

Now that the lion is finally mostly dry except for the base which gave me a bit of trouble all along, I hoisted him up carefully to insert a couple of blocks to rest it on so the bottom of the base can dry out better.

The base was originally built up on top of a sheet of safety glass on top of the plywood to keep the moisture from warping the plywood. But unfortunately the glass prevented moisture from drying out of the bottom, which resulted in it drying mostly from the top and sides, and that started causing the slab to want to warp upwards and crack.

As it warped up a bit I broke the glass and was able to get some of it out but the model at 825# was too heavy and too fragle to attempt to lift till now.

But it’s no big deal I can re-contour the bottom of the slab to a flatness, having already done that to the top and side a while back to remove most of the warp. With the bottom flattened out by shaving it down, it will stand on it much better.

The cracks in the base however are a concern for structural stability

so I am keeping the hoisting straps on it for the time being, that’s a lot of weight now supported on less base and the base has cracks across it that I’ve cosmetically filled.

I waited just a little too long to cut the head off while the clay was soft enough to do so, that may need a carbide sawzall blade to do now as trying with ordinary blades dulled them in a few seconds!

I wanted to remove the head and hollow it and the body a bit more and evenly, and then attach something inside to the table for stability just in case so the body can’t fall over should those base cracks weaken further.

I didn’t want to do too much along that line earlier due to the instability and softness, but I waited just a wee bit too long.

I estimate he weighs around 600-650 pounds right now.