• More progress

    Ok now I have all the molding roughed in and a little general overall cleaning up, I decided to try “cross hatching” the texture in the background to see how it’s effects might look.

    I also replaced one of my 150 watt CFL bulbs with one LED spotlight and the change in lighting while slightly less bright really changed how the images come out now to much better definition with shadows:

  • Nurse roundel progress continued

    After I started laying out 4 or 5 of the egg & dart molding repeats I realized I made an error with the calculator. I had divided each quadrant into 3 sections instead of 4, so there would have been 4 fewer repeats as a result if I continued.
    After fixing that error by starting the border design over from scratch I now have a little more than half of the repeating designs roughed out, here’s a progress shot from a little while ago.
    I still need to transision the sides of her face, but I’m pretty happy with the face, the face might get tweeked a little more yet, we’ll see.

    The other model with the hat is dry enough now I can take it over to the gallery and lay him in the display window as I won’t be making a mold of him untill I actually have n order for one in my hand.

  • Nurse roundel progress

    I only managed to work on this for about a half hour tonight, so I mainly did some refining to her lips, chin and hair.

  • Nurse roundel

    At first I was going to leave the convex molding plain, but as it progressed, the plain convex molding and shape was starting to resemble a car tire, with a fancy hub cap to me, so I decided it really needed the egg & dart.

    Looking at the original, it is not a random repeat design as it might seem, it has an even 16 repeats of the egg & dart pattern. it became clear they placed an “egg” at exactly the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions, leaving 2 repeats between each, so it was easy enough to find the four main points 12, 3, 6, 9, and then measure the distance between 2 points, divide by 3 and then use that measurement to find the remaining 12 points so they would all be evenly spaced.

    I have the centers of the 16 egg points marked out now, and according to a 1901 book on ornament it’s clear from the little guide-lines at the top in the drawing which I accented- how they laid these patterns out center to center evenly. All of these ornaments and elements had considerable geometry and math behind them as should be evident to the reader when observing these 1901 drawings below.
    The 1st one shows the basic layout of the egg & dart;

    This one shows the layout of one of several variations on the common Greek fret molding design, it becomes abundently clear exactly how these were laid out so nicely and evenly using an even grid of squares! I assume at the moment the diagonal lines relate to some other measurement probably related to proportions between the sections of repeats;

  • Nurse model progress

    After roughing out a face and shoulders onto the roundel I hoisted it up on my work bench easel so I can work on it better.
    Models like this make me overjoyed I installed a half-ton chain hoist in the ceiling of my studio when I built it 🙂

    It’s diameter is a little larger than the wolf and lioness roundels were – from which I kept their shaping templates. One of the pieces of the template system included a curved cleat screwed to the modelling board to keep the model from sliding down the board from it’s own weight, but that jig is too small and it’s curvature doesn’t match up well with the new model, so I attached it but filled in gaps with some styrofoam to spread the weight out a little bit, and decided to tilt the board back to a lower angle so the model has less tendency to slide down, and puts less force on the cleat so it doesn’t distort the clay.
    I’m probably going to bite the bullet and do the egg & dart moulding, the blank convex shape molding just looks like there’s something “missing” from that plainness.

    I stopped at this point for now since the clay is quite soft and still very sticky which makes it a bit of trouble to try and detail, but I made good progress quickly.

  • Nurse roundel , ST Vincent’s Hospital

    I decided to do the nurse roundel next, the original roundel is one of I believe two over the entrances of what was the St Vincent hospital student nurses’ residence building in Greenwich Village.
    Some time back the 758 bed main hospital building was demolished, it featured an ornate chapel with stained glass windows. The neo-Baroque chapel, opened in 1889, served as a refuge for survivors of major catastrophes, including the sinking of the Titanic, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the AIDS epidemic and the September 11 attacks.


    The Catholic-charity-run St. Vincent’s Hospital is under investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s fraud unit, which is probing whether honchos purposely tanked its finances so it could be sold to a private developer, The NY Post has learned.

    Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars went up in smoke during the center’s collapse, and DA investigators are examining sky-high payments to top executives and private consultants at the hospital founded by the Sisters of Charity in 1849, said multiple sources familiar with the probe.

    Former CEO Henry Amoroso, once a top church official in the Newark Archdiocese, oversaw the runaway spending, which led to $1 billion in debt and bankruptcy before the hospital closed in April 2010.

    The hospital went bankrupt in 2010 and the extensive complex of buildings were sold to a developer with plans to demolish and build 350 condos.
    The nurses’ residence adjoined the main hospital in the same block, I don’t even know if it is still standing, or whether it will remain standing even.

    Now I begin by shaping the main background potion of the roundel using the templates. But I needed to remake the template based on this one, but an inch longer to allow for a larger diameter, and then a convex curve to form the egg & dart molding.

    With the new template I started with the clay

    And in about an hour I have the back portion all properly shaped and contoured as far as it can go using the template system

    Next step is some carefull cleanup of any defects left behind from the process, then the metal post assembly needs to be dug out and removed from it’s attachment to the plywood, it’s held in place with a floor flange awith 4 screws. Then the central hole can be filled in at that point.

  • Art Deco rat

    On the 1927 Greybar building near Grand Central Station on 42nd Street there’s a large canopy over the entrance, one interesting and odd decoration are the Art Deco styled rats climbing up the supports for the canopy;


    Besides the rats, if you notice at about the one o’clock position above the rat there’s a rosette where the adjacent support enters the wall, but if you look closely you can see this rosette isn’t a typical rosette flower at all, it’s actually a rosette made up of eight rat heads arranged in a uniform geometric circle! A pretty clever and interesting little design, the rats and the cones are representative of the mooring lines used on sailing ships way back then and the 19th century when rats climbing up mooring ropes gained access to the ships and any food contents thereon. Someone invented the metal cones for the ropes. Similar to the Elizabethan collar dogs are made to wear after surgery to prevent licking and biting at the surgery site, the rats were unable to climb around the cones to gain access.

    I’ll have to come up with a model of this because it’s pretty cool, but I will have to figure out a configuration for such a model as “converting” this very 3D metal sculpture into something to hang on the wall probably does not work well, I’m not sure if even having it horizontally on a table works either since it really kind of needs that upward angle. It will be something to think about for sure.

    Now that I have the current model done I’ve been thinking about the next one, I have at least half a dozen in mind, here’s 3 of them that I’d like to make models of but all 3 have issues that have to be resolved first so I’ve sort of “back burnered” them.

    The horse head keystone would be cool, but all of the examples I’ve found pictures of have broken ears, even this one which is sitting in the fenced area of the Brooklyn Museum has been repaired long ago, those thin projecting ears are very fragile and there’s not a real simple way to deal with them and yet retain the charm of the original design. Casting this in concrete would be a real poor material and very heavy, it could be made in pressed clay though, but as can be seen with this terracotta piece the ears still broke probably from ice falling on them.
    This is a design that would have been more practical made in cast iron.

    I thought of possibly adding a typical projecting cornice on top which would connect with the backs of the ears and eliminate that fragility, though adding that on would increase the weight considerably as the trade-off, but it’s about the only good solution for this inherently weak and fragile issue with the ears.

    The Art Deco rat has issues with the full body, cone and angle, but this might work out as a half depth plaque/panel which would solve the issue of how to display it.

    Then there’s the nurse roundel on this old nursing student residence hall entrance, by coincidence it seems to measure just about 20″ across it’s diameter and that is exactly the same size my wolf head and my tigress head roundels are, and I still have the templates to make the roundel’s shape, including that concavity, the only difference is the nurse has that egg & dart molding and my two models don’t. If I made these in pressed clay which is likely, I would have to expand the templates to allow for one additional shrinkage, or accept that the end pieces will be smaller.

    I think the nurse roundel needs that molding Or something like it as “filler” for what would otherwise be empty space. That molding area could just be a couple of opposing convex/concave beads even instead of that difficult to get even egg & dart molding.
    I don’t know how they laid out those moldings in the old days, I did one foot of it in clay once, it was a real chore, but I’ve seen it done in stone too- hundreds of feet worth of it, and it’s always extremely even and consistant. Maybe with clay a plaster mold made from a one egg, one dart model could be used to press the design in a repeated pattern around the clay model, but it all would still take a lot of hours of tedious cleaning up and fixing to get it right, not quite sure I’m up to that!


  • Finishing up model Nr 308

    Now I finished hollowing the model out and after I finished that he is laid flat again on some strips of wood to let air circulate to the interior while it’s under loose plastic cover.
    He has shrunk 1/2″ in length now from 19″ to 18-1/2″ while the work has been going on.
    He also has a model number which is 308.

    (update July 2015: AFter firing to 2050Âş the sculpture is now 16-1/2″ tall, a total of  2-1/2″ down from the original wood form size.)

    I hope to do the final cleaning up on the surfaces in the next couple of days and then move onto the next model, I haven’t decided yet on the next model but expect I will soon!



  • Lions

    I took all of the pieces out of the kiln this morning, here’s a couple of the lion blocks nr. 1265 which turned out great;

    The other pieces had some wierd issue I have to find out the cause of, meanwhile I came up with both a weight and size loss chart for the 3 lions;

    #1 dry weight: 7.80#
    #2 dry weight: 8.00#
    #3 dry weight: 8.05#

    Original model size as molded: 10″ x 4-1/4″ ( 25.4cm x 10.8cm )

    Pressed clay dry weight size:

    Length/height: 9-1/2″ ( 24.2cm )
    Width: 4-3/8 ( 11.0cm )

    Fired weights:

    #1: 7.00#
    #2: 7.30#
    #3: 7.40#

    Fired size:

    Length/Height: 8-15/16″ ( 22.7cm )
    Width: 4-1/16″ ( 10.3cm )

    I come up with a net shrinkage of 1″ in 10″ rounded out, and a loss of about 0.70 pounds from bone dry to fired, but actually the pieces started out around 10.50# which means about 3.30# of water and organic materials out of 10.50# are evaporated and burned out in the process, roughly 32% weight loss and 10% size loss.

  • Another kiln load

    After drying 3 of the larger lions Nr.1265, and 4 of the Art Deco 8A sculptures in the oven @ 150-170 degrees F for 7 hours, I placed all of them in the kiln around 6 pm with the revised user 6 program. They will sit in the kiln @ 195 degrees for 8 hours which takes about 2 hours for the kiln to reach.
    With that schedule the kiln should shut off tomorrow night around 8:45 pm after firing for 26 hours 45 minutes.
    I should be able to see what I have on sunday morning.

  • Art Deco 8A

    I have added a terracotta version of the single section Art Deco now.

    This is an exciting development of expanding into this new line of top quality durable kiln fired terracotta. Each hand pressed cast must be carefully dried over about two-three weeks, and hand detailed just as they did in the 1890s, of course production is much slower, and the hand labor is considerably more than the interior cast stone is, this will be reflected in the terracotta line’s price.
    A number of my other smaller models are planned to be introduced in this material as well.

    Each of these terracotta sculptures are personally signed, numbered and dated works of art.

    Please note that hand pressed is NOT the same as the much cheaper, paper-thin slip castings used to produce teapots, china plates, bowls and ceramic pieces!
    The two processes are similar only in that both use a complicated plaster mold, the difference between slip casting ceramics and hand-pressing clay is- the slip is simply poured into the mold like a plaster cast, let set a while, drained and removed just like a plaster cast.

    Slip casting is a condensation process, with the clay particles condensing by gravity, slip castings are usually very weak, very thin, and easy to break.

    A word about so called “COMPOSITE TERRACOTTA” I am seeing on Ebay now, I have never heard of this stuff, but in listings I see NO mention of kiln firing, so one can assume the term: “MADE FROM A COMPOSITE TERRACOTTA” means it is a poured red colored concrete-like material, NOT genuine kiln fired terracotta- there’s a huge difference!

    Hand-pressed clay involves real work, physically taking the moist clay and both pressing and ramming small amounts of it into the plaster mold, pressing and working it in to remove air and squeeze the clay into all of the fine details. As the sculpture is built up to the top surface of the mold it is then levelled off on the back and hollowed out by hand, leaving the clay about 1/2 inch to one inch thick.
    Hand-pressed work is not a condensation process, the clay is physically compressed into a very dense shell by physically ramming it, the walls are much thicker and the sculpture is extremely dense and high quality.

    Once the pressed-clay has remained in the plaster mold used to form it for a few hours, it is carefully removed and laid on a wire rack to begin drying.
    Here is another difference- the pressed-clay sculptures are completely gone over with sculpture tools to add back any fine details, accent others, and generally clean up the whole surfaces, this is exactly the same processes used to create all of the architectural terracotta found on old buildings my work is based upon, the only difference between how these sculptures were made in 1890 and how I am making these pressed-clay sculptures is that in the 1890s to speed up production they introduced live steam under pressure to the open backs of the clay sculptures. I don’t have access to large amounts of live steam unfortunately, so the drying out process must be slower to prevent cracking and warping.

    The sculptures are fired in the kiln @ 2,060 degrees, otherwise known in the trade as “cone 1” with a slight offset, for about 24 hours.

    Tests done on the clay this sculpture is made from using the standard two hour water boil test revealed that the absorption rate of this clay is only 3% which is excellent, most hard commercial bricks aim for a 5 to 6% water absorption to be considered suitable for building facades and garden walls exposed to the weather and rain, 3% puts my sculpture above grade in that regard for resistance to weather and rain.

  • More model progress

    I did more work today on the eyes, eyebrows, cheeks and hair, I’m just now starting to like where it’s going.

  • Model progress

    I decided that since this model is so deep and heavy, I would rough hollow the back out, so I got it off the easel and standing vertically on the work bench so I could unscrew the backer board to access the inside.

    I probably took out about 35# of clay from the back, it was a bag and a half worth.
    With it being lighter I screwed the backer board back on and then laid him down flat so I could unscrew the bottom board to give the bottom a curvature. Once that was done I screwed the bottom board back on so it keeps the side baords stable and the model from sliding down from it’s own weight as I continue working on it.
    For scale, the boards are 4-1/2″ wide.
    From what I managed to learn, back in the days when these master models were made for building facades this 4″ or so portion of the back of the models were made from Plaster of Paris, and clay was modelled on top of the hard but still wet plaster and a mold made of the whole thing when it was completed. The plaster would have to be fresh/wet or soaked in water if it had been dry, otherwise it wouls suck the water out of the clay like a sponge and there would be some issues with shrinkage.

    I’ve never done it that way but I can see how it has advantages, for one it absolutely sets the exact size and shape correctly, and when dealing with 100-150# of clay it is easy to distort the shape when it’s all solid clay, I’ve also not been able to get the perfectly straight sides and nice sharp corners they did by shaping the clay.
    I can also see how it worked well to have a few standard forms since they would have to have been made in certain exact standard sizes within a limited range that was used.

    I may try the 4-1/2″ deep plaster form on a future model.

    I did quite a bit today on this, much of it reducing the cheeks, nose, changes to the eyes that include altering the style of iris, eyebrow changes and I decided to see how adding some hair under the hat will work figuring with so much of a beard he would have a lot of hair as well.
    Think I’m liking it better now with these test changes.

  • Pressed clay lion block 1265

    I made three of these before I set the mold aside for now, I really need to make a set of block molds of the five plaster sections before using the mold more because it’s the only mold I have since it was made directly off of the clay model.

    Here’s a shot of the three pressed clay lions drying out, it’s easy to see how much the clay shrinks in the drying process by comparing the first one on the left with the most recent one on the right, the shrinkage is about 1/2″ to 5/8″ of it’s length.

  • Model progress

    Done with the model for tonight, I guess I spent about 3 hours so far on it, long way to go yet. I worked on the hat more, moved the eyes out a bit further.
    The bottom is currently horizontal due to the form, but when the model is done mostly and firms up, I’ll be unscrewing the bottom board of the form and I have a template with a curve, the bottom of the sculpture gets a curve, concave with about a 1/2″ rise in the arc.

    And now after a little more work, I stopped on this for tonight, I wound up moving the hat down about 1/2 or 3/4 of an inch. Still not sure on the eyebrows, the original stone has them but they are strange looking, the other stone that I still own does not have eyebrows at all defined. A lot of the old pieces didn’t have eyebrows actually defined and I’m not sure I like them as they are giving the face a sort of tragic, depressed expression.