This complex design will take a while to finish!
This James W Scoville building Elmslie “Sullivanesque” sculpture is now out of the kiln, it is still about 200 degrees and had to be handled with gloves, it turned out perfect!
One can see the color change in photos from the previous dry/unfired state and now that it’s been fired to a little over 2,079 degrees, actually cone 2 tipped because I added a 15 minute “hold” at the set temperature, but because of the “heat work” it went a little higher, but the result is better and the color is nice and even top to bottom, whereas in the past the very bottom of large pieces like this would turn out slightly lighter due to slightly lower temperatures near the floor of the kiln.
A Virginia museum has an original, that one still has the old grey paint slathered all over it but the red clay underneath can be seen.
Someone has one they have been trying to sell for quite a while for $5,000 !!
Exterior Ornament from the James W. Scoville Building, Chicago (Primary Title)
Dankmar Adler, 1844-1900 (Artist)
Louis Sullivan, American, 1856 – 1924 (Artist)
Northwestern Terra Cotta Co. (Artist)
probably modeled by, Kristian Schneider (Modeler)
The first hand-pressed clay sculpture is finished and drying now before it can be kiln fired.
Once this is fired in the kiln I will have an exact size and weight and a firm price for these signed, numbered and dated works reproducing this historic George Grant Elmslie/Louis Sullivan 1884 Chicago design featuring a styled webbed lotus.
The design is an early work by these men and it dates to the foundation of what has become known as the “Sullivanesque” style of architectural ornament.
The James W Scoville building was demolished in the 1970s, many of the original artifacts were salvaged, most are in private collections while a few are in museums such as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts where it appears in photos on their web site still sporting it’s old battleship grey paint that was slathered on the original facade over the rich red brick and terracotta.
Now instead of hoping one of these might come up at an auction, and only finding ONE when you might really need a pair for a project, and instead of paying upwards of $5,000 for one of those, these authentic hand-pressed kiln fired sculptures can be had new, in any quantity, made exactly the same way the originals were made in the 1880s- one can purchase these from me at $349 delivered (48 states only)
As can be seen in the bottom photo, these really ARE made exactly like the originals- including the typical webbed compartments in the back- the portion that was embedded into the wall.
The webbing gives considerable structural strength and stability, and when kiln fired to almost 2,100 degrees F it becomes vitrified and has less porosity than even modern hard brick. As a result these can be built into a brick or stone wall or displayed in the garden too.
These will probably be around 50 pounds in weight as this one took 60 pounds of clay.
The model is coming along slowly but surely, below is an updated now 5 minute long time-lapse video of sculpting the original master model.
The model is coming along nicely, it’s a pretty complex design that requires a lot of planning, but as I rough out the details in the clay there will be more time-lapse videos and photos.
I pressed the first LS2 panel today, it took 60 pounds of clay, the sculpture will need to firm up a little and dry a little before I can finish cleaning up and refining the surface details.
It takes about 2- 3 weeks of slow, careful drying of pressed clay sculptures of this size before they can be kiln fired.
The firing process in an electric kiln takes approximately 36 hours and the high quality clay I use is fired to what is known as “Cone 1”- about 2,100 degrees F which vitrifies it nicely to become harder and less porous than standard hard bricks are.
Once the sculpture was removed from the plaster mold as shown, I have to spend considerable time going over every milimeter of the surface to model-in any missing details, sharpen edges, eliminate any surface defects, mold seams etc.
Each is a signed, numbered and dated work of art.
A timelapse video of the whole process is here;
The new mold for pressing terracotta from is finally dry, it took 2 weeks in front on a box fan on high. The main base piece weighs 90#, the other 6 sections probably adds another 50# to that.
George Elmslie and Dankmar Adler’s 1884 Chicagoan James Scoville building “Sullivanesque” design is sure to be stunning in kiln fired red terracotta. There are a few originals out there, at least one is sitting in a Virginia museum, and others as well as other designs from the same building have been spotted on already sold live-auction sites after having sold for an insane $5,000- $15,000, but when people have NO lower cost options and want a particular design then they have to pay through the nose, they also have to accept whatever condition and quantity is available.
It would really suck if someone had a great design in mind for their project, but it takes 4 identical pieces and they can only find 2 at a salvage yard! That’s a common delemma whe dealing with antiques- you need 2 someone only has 1 for sale, or you find 2 but one is so damaged it’s almost unusable.
That’s where I have an advantage, because if a client needs 4 of these or 44 of them, they could have them, and at a far more reasonable cost! At this time the interior-cast stone version of this panel is priced at $229, shipped to any of the lower 48 states;SIZE: Nominal 21-1/4″ high by 13″ wide, 3″ deep.
WEIGHT: Nominal #35
When these are pressed from terracotta, due to clay shrinkage, the fired terracotta version will be slightly smaller- approx 10-15%, so those will wind up around 19″ high and 11-1/2″ wide which will be a nice residential scaled sculpture that can be displayed indoors or outdoors, it can be embedded into a brick, concrete or stone wall.I expect the terracotta version will probably be priced around $329https://www.urbansculptures.com/cart/product/sullivanesque-panel-after-james-w-scoville-chicago-nr-ls-2/
To-day I started the process on the Washington Irving school, once at 4727 Pine St., Hammond Ind W1 pier capital model.
I happened to find photos of this interesting 1936 George Elmslie/Louis Sullivan “Sullivanesque” style design at the City Museum in St Louis and decided to create a model of it. I was able to scale the size of the original terracotta artifacts to about 20″ square. Though the originals were actually about 20″ deep embedded into the wall as well as projecting out from the wall about 5″, I needed to modify that original configuration to a more practical one for how my clients would likely use it- hanging ON the wall, or embedded 3-4″ into a brick or stone wall, so with that end goal in mind this model is designed to do both as it will be a nominal 4″ deep.
The original pier capitals projected out from the face of the brick facade by about 5″, as a result the design on the fronts of the capitals wrapped around on the two sides, since doing that configuration would mean making my model 5″ deeper yet (9″ total) it would make it a less than useful design for how it would be used in a non pier capital display, so I will not wrap the design around the sides beyond possibly the smallest amount on the corners.
George Grant Elmslie & William Hutton- architects, and the Midland terracotta Co with modeller Albert Fritz are said to have executed the original terracotta artifacts for the school in 1936, the school was demolished in 2003.
As the description on a placard at the City Museum says- this is an outstanding example of the Louis Sullivan style of architectural ornament. The Art Deco inspired chevron or “V” is surrounded by thistle leaves and is sprouting leaves of a plant or bud of a flower. The flower which made up of seeds emerges from the plant stalk.
In looking at the design itself, I noticed this curiosity which I circled in red;
The modeller, said to be Fritz Albert, obviously left that little square of material in the center of both larger squares, in actual modelling practice the easiest way to scribe or cut those vertical and horizontal cross lines would be to make one motion top to bottom and left to right with a tool, but Fritz didn’t do that, instead, he made four cuts to leave that little center intact, the question is why?
It’s almost as if it’s a deliberate miniature version of one of the four larger squares, but since the Elmslie/Sullivanesque designs were all based on styled organic plant forms and geometric shapes, it may be the four squares and center square are an Art Deco inspired styled four petal flower and bud.
Since none of those involved are alive to ask, we can only guess, but it makes sense.
The plaster-piece mold for this is done, waiting for the last section to set before taking it apart, and finishing up the last segment of a time-lapse video of it.
It took 125# of plaster and some 7 gallons of water, about half of that water will evaporate out.
It will be probably 2 weeks with fans blowing on it to dry it out enough to use for pressing the clay into.
This is exactly how the working molds were made for all of the Elmslie “Sullivaesque” terracotta, and all of the similar architectural terracotta as well.
About the biggest difference between then and now is only in my using a rubber positive copy instead of taking this plaster mold directly off the original clay model. With the rubber positive I could make additional or replacement molds from that whereas the clay original master is typically destroyed in the process.
Back in the old days these kinds of designs were typically custom made for each building job, so they tended to only need a few of each, a dozen maybe. If they made terracotta cornices and windowsills, these were typically made by extruding the clay thru a die under mechanical pressure for small ones, for larger ones they used a system of running a template along the clay which was the same way they did the elaborate plaster ceiling crown moldings- shaped in place using wood runner strips and templates.
I printed out the two full sized reference images I need for the two planned models, a tape measure opened to 24″ is for visually scaling the sizes in the image.
The one on the right is a W-1 pier capital design from the Washington Irving school, Hammond Indiana, the one on the left is a lunette design from the James Scoville building in Chicago.
The Scoville lunette is from an assembly of two that were sold at an auction outfit for some $15,000, while the pier capital from the 1936 Hammond Indiana school was designed by George Grant Elmslie and William Hutton in the Sullivanesque style by Louis Sullivan. The school was demolished in 2003 and this particulat artifact resides at the city museum in St Louis. I found some great photos of it that were taken by a photographer on a photo sharing site, after I inquired about the artifact’s dimensions he very generously uploaded 109 photos to an album for me to download and see, the 109 photos were all taken of artifacts in the city museum’s collection of Elmslie/Sullivanesque artifacts and others, a real treasure trove and there’s other designs I like that I may also make models of at a later date.
The pier capital will require a little thought as it was originally a 20″ cube, with all but about 5″ of it embedded into the brick wall, the sides of it that were visible had the same triangular designs as the face does, so that presents a couple of issues to decide on, for the interior cast stone the casts dont need to be deep as they would hang ON the wall, but I plan to do these in terracotta and those could be embedded INTO a wall, so if I retain the original configuration of the sides having a design instead of being flat, then I would have to make this considerably deeper- say 7-8″ deep so about 4-5″ can project out while 3-4″ would be embedded, we’ll see what I decide on that, meanwhile I will probably start the Scoville Lunette model first.
As I look around in google and flickr’s images, there’s certainly no lack of a large variety of Sullivan & Elmslie designed architectural terracotta, both pictured on building facades as well as stripped-off artifacts such as those found at the City Museum in St Louis from demolitions.
As I find interesting designs that I like and think will sell, I’ll be working on more models of these unique and interesting designs.
I’ve already identified at least two pieces I want to model next, the first one was from the same James Scoville building as the recently finished design with the webbed lotus leaf design.
The original shown below was sold at an auction site a few years ago for a whopping $11,250 plus the usual buyer’s premium which tends to add about another 20% and sales tax on top which brought the final price on this to an insane $15,000;
I’ll probably work on developing the design and starting the model of the main section of the above in the next 2-3 weeks, I may make the side pieces as well since it’s MUCH easier to make them and have them fit properly if they are done together, it would take 10 different uniquely shaped moldings for the surround, but they were nothing but flat blocks with a half-round design on the surface acting as a nice visual border.
Probably when it’s done in fired red terracotta the pricing for each main motif sans the borders will run around $325, but it will be available in interior cast stone as well. The borders will be modelled and stored away in case a client wants them, I won’t automatically just make molds of those as there may not be any interest in the border pieces.
The other design I liked is at the City Museum in St Louis MO., I once went to St Louis to visit a friend of mine there, and to exhibit at a dog show sponsored by Purina, my hotel was some distance from the show grounds on the Purina property, but I visited St Louis.
So this is a pier capital from the Washington Irving public school that was demolished in Indiana, it was about 20″ square, with an interesting repeated design. I’ll be starting a model of this soon as well. Probably when it’s done in fired red terracotta the pricing will run around $325, but it will be available in interior cast stone as well.
With the plaster backing done for the rubber positive I made yesterday, I removed the assembly from the rubber mold. Once the plaster backing on this master positive is soaped up well, I can make the plaster piece-mold of this for pressing the terracotta into, The piece mold will be made in at least 5 pieces, most likely about 8 pieces.
It won’t happen very soon as I used up the very last bag of pottery plaster I had on hand and I’ll have to order more along with some other materials and I need some more clay, but I don’t want to order clay when it’s below freezing, so I may order the clay in the spring and order the plaster and other stuff I need now- soon!
I’ve begun the process last night to take my design towards making it in hand-pressed kiln fired terracotta, that requires two additional mold making steps, the first of which is making a rubber positive master cast using the new rubber mold, the second step is making a plaster piece-mold taken off the rubber positive.
Shown below is the rubber positive that was poured in last night- the remaining cavity not filled with that amber colored rubber will be filled with plaster to save on expensive rubber since only the face is the important portion of the design.
The amount of rubber shown in the mold was 2 gallons total, and this cost just about $200, so it’s easy to see how much it would cost to fill this the rest of the way up with this rubber!
Once this rubber is cured and the cavity filled to the top with plaster, it’s taken apart and the plaster and rubber master positive can be used to make the plaster piece mold.
This is similar to the way this was done for the originals my work is based on, though the final plaster piece molds are made identically to the way they were for these pieces back in the 19th and early 20th century when these ornaments were used on building facades.
All of the Sullivan/Elmslie designed terracotta ornaments were made exactly the way I make them- hand-pressed clay into plaster piece-molds, and then final finishing and detailing all done by hand one at a time.
The Virginia Museum of fine art which has a few artifacts from this building also has at least one of these lunettes with a very similar design on it as the spandrel panels have.
I like the shape of it as well, I have no plans to but easily could make the surrounding flat pieces for it if a client wanted them.
I will be working on this model very soon, of course it takes time and this type of work is done when I have time, and more time for the various mold making processes to get done, but progress photos will come along here soon enough.
This would most likely be priced around $325 in fired red terracotta.
The museum has their artifact sized 18-1/4″ x 18-1/2″ and 4″ deep, this size would fit into my existing kiln, so this is another design I can keep my model of full sized like the originals and offer both interior cast-stone this size but less deep to hang ON the wall, and hand-pressed terracotta which will be slightly smaller due to the shrinkage of the clay but made a nominal 3″ deep which can be additionally used outdoors in the garden or embedded into a brick or stone wall of any type.
Dankmar Adler, 1844-1900
Louis Sullivan, American, 1856 – 1924 (Architects) Northwestern Terra Cotta Co., probably modeled by, Kristian Schneider 1884-1885
A photo of the grey painted artifact in the museum which is not on public view at the museum, appears here; https://www.vmfa.museum/piction/6027262-7946023/
The artifact they have is a gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Now with the clay model done and ready to make the mold of this interesting webbed lotus flower motif, I have begun that process today and will be finishing it to-morrow
A timelapse video of the process; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBhOYdwVyhU