3rd & 4th session progress

The most recent photo is directly below, compared to the photo below that one taken earlier today, it can be seen that I made some large corrections as I work.

The torso was heading mostly vertically whereas the original lion leans forward a little, a fact not immediately obvious due to the shield, wings and other surface detailing, but he does lean a little forward.

I also bulked up and moved forward the stifles, “knees” for those not versed in animal anatomy.

Rapidly reaching the upper chest of the lion, and here is where care needs to be taken as there is now 350# of clay here, and the building up is now proceeding towards the outward and bulking out the upper chest area which will make it more front heavy.

Some temporary support will likely be needed shortly untill the clay stiffens and some of the moisture dries out and it is more capable of supporting itself.

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Progress view so far, I started this yesterday oct 22nd and worked on it about 2 hours I guess, and today about that long. There is 325# of clay there so far.

I am rough laying the clay on and will be adjusting it a lot. I added a rudimentary elbow at approximately the right height for reference, chances are it will move outward a bit as I bulk up the torso as the clay gets a bit firmer and can support more weight.

Louis Sullivan’s designs were very symbolic, and included a lot of organic forms and shapes, with that in mind and knowing the winged lion is both considered symbolic of peace, as In alchemy, the lion is symbolic of gold. Alchemical texts and artwork will depict a lion when a specific magical/spiritual goal is to be achieved.

It would seem fitting Sullivan would used a winged lion on a bank, and that furthermore, they are restrained closed-mouth, non-aggressive standard bearers that are holding up a shield with the bank’s name and date on them.

It makes perfect sense to not have roaring aggressive looking lions by the entrance where you want to welcome banking customers inside, so they were given very mild platonic, expressions:

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Sullivan lion started

This model is officially started now, no turning back!

In looking at photos of the original terra cotta lions that were removed, and referencing the 1914 rendering’s measurements, it became clear the lion’s base was made thicker than the drawing’s specified 2″, it appeared to be closer to 3″ than 2″ so that I what I am doing, starting out 3-1/2″ thick and with the shrinkage it should wind up about 3″ or 2-3/4″ thick.

Almost impossible to see unless you know it’s there and look carefully, the top of the modelling stand has a sheet of glass. I decided to use the glass rather than sheet plastic to prevent moisture from the clay from warping or damaging the plywood top even though it is urethaned, because over weeks of constant contact even that polyurethane will be affected by the constant moisure.

The glass is the perfect solution, it’s totally flat, smooth,and impervious to water.

The base of the lion shown is 17″ wide and 25-1/2″ long, all measurements are to be 10% larger than the 1914 drawing.

Now I stop here on the model so that I may study the drawing and photos, make notes, adjust measurements on a scrap of paper for that +10%, and print out some reference photos to look at while working.

Oh, that is 150# of clay in the photo, or 3 of those white boxes shown in the other photos.

In alchemy, the lion is symbolic of gold – a spiritual quality that is luminescent and rich in value. Alchemical texts and artwork will depict a lion when a specific magical/spiritual goal is to be achieved.

Since the original winged lions on the bank were either gilded or painted gold, the winged lion’s symbolism and color fits a bank well.

Louis Sullivan Bank lion started

Having rec’d my shipment of a half ton of clay, I think I can say this model has begun.

I finished the special steel and ply stand, its shown below.

In the background are 20, fifty pound boxes of clay stacked up. Off to the right is another 750 pounds of raku clay, so I’m glad when I added this room on I built the floor especially strong, but then I knew I would be putting concentrated loads in like this.

Closer shot of the new modelling stand, this is made of welded 1/4″ thick steel angles and flats, with 3 layers of 3/4″ plywood laminated for the bottom and another for the top.

The casters are ball bearing equipped, lockable and rated for 550# each. The stand weighs a little over 150#

Below is a crop of a scan of the original Sullivan architectural rendering of a portion of the entrance doorway, all of the original 1914 measurements for the lions are right there for me to make use of. The clay model will want to be 5% larger to compensate for shrinkage, but in all actuality I will make it 10% larger as there is a good possibility eventually I may press clay casts of it, which means 2 times that 5% shrinkage.

In other words my model should wind up 5% larger than the original, and after making a mold and a cast in clay, it’s 5% shrinkage will make it about the same size as the originals.

The measurements on the drawing are written in sideways, the other numbers such as 119, 120, 121 etc are setting numbers given to the terra cotta blocks making up the rest of the doorway.

Clay ordered

I decided to go with the course red clay for the Grinnel bank lion model, cone 06 to cone 4 firing range, this test sample was fired to cone 1 where it takes on a nice deep rich brick red color, the brick red I’M familiar with, not the so called “brick red” clay I’ve seen that looks more salmon or brown than red to me. At cone 4 it says it turns “brick red” but the sample photo on their web site looks more like leather brown, definitely brown and that’s not “brick red” to me at all.

The clay has 20% of 20 mesh grog and I believe also 30 mesh, and it’s made for handbuilding large 4 foot high pieces with thick walls.

I ordered a half ton of it today @ $330 and with the truck shipping on a skid running about $125, I’ll have $450 into it for clay, plus the steel stand materials, plywood and 4 casters. Looks like about $600 is what it will cost me to get this started.

I could order a ton of this clay for around $550 and the shipping would only go up a little, but since I already have 750# of the raku clay on hand I just bought what I needed for this model.

Modelling stand

Hand building the Sullivan bank lion out of wet clay, with an estimated weight of 800# or more requires not only some mobility method, but something to raise it up to working level, at least the most important portion of it- the face.

So I designed and built this custom made modelling stand out of heavy steel for this task.

I used 2″ x 2″ x 1/4″ steel angles for the 4 legs, 2″ x 1/4″ flat steel for the diagonal bracing, and heavy wall 1″ tube for the top and bottom with which to bolt the top and bottom plywood to, and to hold it all together nice and secure.

I have the steel portion finished, and primed now as shown, and Tuesday the heavy duty 4″ casters with a capacity of 550# each will arrive. Next week I’ll laminate a plywood top and one for the bottom using 3 layers of 3/4″ thick plywood.

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Modelling a panel after Louis Sullivan for a Chicago client last summer;

Lioness Nr 311 finished

Now that this model is done and hollowed out in back, it is off the easel and laying flat to dry out, all the modelling is finished. Since I used the same templates I used on my wolf roundel, the 4 egg and dart border pieces made for the wolf roundel would fit this lioness.

I’m starting to set up shortly for the next model, the companion piece for this, a lion which will face to the right so they could be used as a pair.

Louis Sullivan Grinnel Iowa bank lion

I decided this fall to model a full sized full bodied sculpture after this pair of winged lions outside the Merchants bank. One of the lions was smashed twice by being pulled over, and subsequently repaired. It was never installed right to prevent that in the first place, that it happened AGAIN in 2008 after being “restored” a few years earlier, is inexcusable.

The other lion had some cracks in it and was removed, it was said both were going to either be repaired, or I assume replaced, almost certainly with cheap (to me) replicas made of fiberglass or concrete.

The lions are at sidewalk level, and they measure 48″ tall from back paws to the wing tips, he sits on a 2″ thick square base measuring about 24″ x 24″, so these are quite large! “Boxed” to measure them, they would be about 24″ x 24″ x 50″.

Back paws to his mouth is 36″, so while the photo does not illustrate the sheer scale of this compared to a person standing next to him, the measurements should give the reader the idea.

It is my belief that after a master model was made, the terra cotta company made their plaster mold of it in more than one section, by that I mean I believe the shield was made in one mold, the forelegs and paws were made in 2 molds, the wongs made in 2 molds. They would have pressed clay in each of the resulting 6 plaster molds, and then attached the 5 pieces to the lion’s hollow body.

The base was probably just slab rolled and attached.

The lions would have been stood up on a steel cart and when dry, rolled into the room-sized kiln and fired in there standing up.

The lions appear identical (which shows they were made in molds) but for their foreleg positions. The lion shown has his left foreleg and paw lower than his right, in order to keep symetry, the mirrored opposite lion would have had his forelegs and paws reversed so that his left would be the same height as the one shown.

That was a small detail most would never notice, but it shows they paid attention to that little detail!

Now coming to my modelling of this, there are some technical details I need to work out yet, such as; this could not be cast in either concrete or cast-stone except in multiple sections and then being solid it would weigh a considerable amount, I’d estimate well over 1,000#. So that leaves 2 other materials; resin and terra cotta.

Resin is very expensive, about $80 for a gallon kit, one can imagine how many gallons it would take to make something like this even hollow, so the cost pretty much puts resin off the table for consideration.

That leaves terra cotta, either pressed in or slip cast, either method would work. Like my theory on the originals, it would take 6 molds, the shield, forelegs/paws, wings.

All the pieces would have to be made so that either they are attached and fired, or they are all fired and the pieces cemented in place, both have advantages and disavantages which I need not detail here at the moment.

Another issue is this would take a large kiln, preferably one that allows the lion to stand inside it rather than being laid down, the weight I estimate would be about 600# and that’s a lot of weight on very soft green clay details if laid on it’s side or something in a horizontal low-depth style kiln, not to mention the difficulty of wrestling that much very fragile weight up, over and into a kiln of that style.

Those are some of the details to be worked out before even starting.

WIth the economy the way it is, and will be for some time to come, I don’t foresee a market for general sales on this, so chances are he will sit as unfired greenware on a dolly in my studio for quite some time before I do anything with it, but it’s a project I just have to do!

This will be the largest, heaviest, most involved model I’ve done yet, it will require a lot of special techniques, new-to-me techniques and processes, creative solutions and much more.

If per chance there’s anyone out there even remotely interested in one of these, you’ll want to bookmark this blog and also drop me a note.

I don’t know what kind of price I would put on a terra cotta cast of this, but it would have to be mostly hand finished and with a lot of time involved, it would no doubt be quite expensive.

Lioness roundel

Now that the education panel model is a little past the leather hard stage I have it set aside to finish drying. It may yet wind up a little larger than I scaled for due to differences in clay shrinkage.

I decided to make the lioness model the same size as my wolf model is, I still have the template assembly I used to shape the clay round and concave, this would make it 20″ across with a 1″ border.

I also need to locate some good photos of the subject at hand, especially side views of lioness’ heads for depth.

I may start it this week once I finish up some casting and packing several items up for shipping.

Lioness roundel

Think I figured out who made the lioness roundel, very likely American Terra Cotta co in Chicago, whose territory certainly would have included St Louis Mo.

I found in my book on the co history, a page from their old newsletter which is about 1914 showing a sampling of roundels for a livestock judging pavillion built for the University of illinois.

These have similar borders, and the quality of modelling with detail is strikingly similar, not that other TC co’s couldn’t do this, but the location and history make this co a likely one.

If so, then it’s also likely a well known Kristian Schneider was the modeller.

Concrete

Below is a photo of a concrete cast of lion 3886, unstained. This is 1 of 7 for a client who required embedded bolts on these to attach them to the wall on the exterior of his house over the windows.

This is just an example of some of the custom applications I am called upon to provide solutions for on retro- installations. As the client has access to the inside walls, his contractor will be able to drill 2 holes through the wood wall, spread on some thinset mortar or equiv., insert the rods through the wall and tighten the nuts up.

Outside he plans to stucco around the keystones and the wall.

Board of Education seal model No. 27

This model is finished today, I hollowed out the backside and it’s firming up nicely.

Finished image

I don’t plan to make a mold of this immediately, but can do so at any time.

I have 2 other model ideas in mind to accomplish before summer closes, that lioness roundel detailed further below this post, and a small version of the Commodore Hotel sun-god copper cornice mask.

Also, after some consideration, I decided to eliminate the “-R” extension in my model numbering system. When I began my sculpting career I decided to add that “-R” to each model number I sculpted, so as to put a designated barrier between my own models, and casts made directly from the antique pieces.

It made perfect sense for a while, but over time and with the addition of many of my own models to my line, phasing out some of the old ones, and rarely now making molds of the antique pieces, it no longer makes sense to have almost every model followed by a “-R.”

Over time that -R extension will go away on all of the store pages etc., so don’t let that confuse you, just ignore the -R when inquiring about a cast by number.

Art Deco 8B in resin

I finished casting the last of 12 panels in resin for a client who wants them for her bathroom.

Attached a photo of 8 of them stacked against the wall awaiting cleaning up and finishing, several together offer some interesting design ideas.

These will be solvent cleaned and then they get primed with automotive primer and painted dirty nickel. These will go around the bathroom walls as a frieze near the ceiling.

Lioness roundel

I saw a photo of a very charming, very interesting sculpture on what was originally the offices of US Steel Co., 311 South Sarah st, St Louis.

In fact, on this small one story building there are 7 of them!

I really like this!

It was once a US Steel office but is now occupied by the US Metals & Supply Co, probably a subsidiary of theirs.

I’ve so far found absolutely nothing on this building which is surprising.

The roundel appears to be about 24″ in diameter, and is overlaid on an oblong rectangular panel. I’m definitely considering making a model.

By the way, as I discovered on a Canadian Architecture site, a little tidbit of roundel history;

Medallions (or roundels) were a very fashionable form of ornament during the Renaissance; the most famous medallion maker was Luca Della Robbia in Florence. These are plaques, usually round, bearing figures or family symbols in relief. Sometimes they have stories or anecdotes. In the Art Deco period, these were left plain.

A roundel is a small circular decorative plate used extensively in Renaissance courtyards and arcades often a niche containing a bust.

So what we see of this shape in the US on facades would be a throwback or tribute to the Renaissance style’s use of these, even if the facade is not fancy Renaissance style, they used a key element from the style.

Here’s a link to the site to learn all about the names of various elements found on building facades, you will discover what we have in the US on facades in the older cities all has it’s basis in form taken from Europe, which is logical since it was the imigrants in the 1870’s 1880’s and 1890’s coming through Ellis island in NYC for processing, who brought the styles and stone carving skills with them.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Wampa-One

Larger image here;

Larger photo

Canadian architectural terms site;

Art Deco

While waiting for the new model to firm up a bit more as the moisture evaporates from the clay slowly to finish detailing, refining and cleaning up the design, a client contacted me about my Art Deco panel 8B and the possibility of casting 12 of them thin to be used as tiles in her bathroom remodelling project.

After exchanging several emails about her project and discussing options, costs, advantages, disadvantages, I decided this project would work best with these cast being made in resin which is strong, lightweight, can be cast thin, and will accept the paints I use for most of my finishes.

As the client wanted the Old Dirty Nickel finish that will work just fine. The main drawback for resin is it’s cost, even casting these panels only 1/2″ thick it will take 4-1/2 gallons of resin, which for that amount runs a little over $275. That cost is about $9 more per panel which must be added onto my normal price for the cast-stone i normally use, but one advantage will be the fact that the shipping will cost her less, and the panels can ship in 1-2 boxes instead of 6-12, so the additional cost is partly if not completely offset by savings in shipping costs.

Resin is too expensive and more labor intensive to use for large, deep sculptures, it just takes too much of it, it begins setting rapidly, has to be brushed or troweled into the mold, and other techincal issues.

It also does not accept stains as I use for one of my finishes.

Resins tend to work best for sculptures like my 8B, or other relatively flat or small pieces.

Panel 8B Art Deco