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.
Making progress on this model, here’s a couple of time-lapse videos so far, newest at the top;
1/26 Uploaded the longer video to-day, the design progress can be especially seen near the end;
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.
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.
My purchased piece of Sullivanesque came today, from the 1936 Thomas A. Edison school, Hammond Indiana. The design is such that it could be situated either way shown in the first 2 photos, but hard to tell which way it was originally meant to be installed and was, it looks good either way it’s rotated, and the impressed numbers on one surface which I remember from the pieces in NYC were always on the TOP side. So which way did this go… it’s easier than it might seem to figure it out even without aphoto of the school to tell- the last photo up close tells the whole story, that black from coal soot in rain over decades would have stained the top surfaces not the bottoms, so the 2nd photo with the two small squares at the top divided into 4 smaller squares is the correct orientation.
The back was full of mortar and brick fragments, I removed most of it but since there is an old crack a few inches long I decided to leave that one compartment as is to continue to reinforce it.
Nice thing is, this terracotta block has it’s original depth, unfortunately it was cut out from a double panel that comprised two of these squares. Maybe the other half was damaged, maybe some misguided fool decided to try to cut the longer panel in half to make two smaller ones, who knows… but the damage is permanent on this 80+ year old artifact.
While I’m on this topic, there is unfortunately one misguided fool in Chicago who lately seems to be offering original so called “museum quality” pieces like this that he arbitrarily decides to CUT OFF the so called “dead weight” in the back with a power saw or similar in order to reduce the WEIGHT and make it “easier” to hang on the wall!
Good grief! he permanently destroys hand-made 80+ year old valuable artifacts like this just to remove all of MAYBE five pounds of weight off a piece like this that weighs about 40 pounds, and in the process he destroys the strength and structural integrity of the piece by cutting the back and leaving only about an inch thick left of just the front, stupid! stupid! stupid!
Another issue is these hand-pressed terracotta artifacts all have incized or impressed numbers and letters on them- the very part the fool cuts off with power tools! those letters and numbers are part of the original setting/contract/mold numbering system used to install the pieces in the wall in the proper order on the blueprints, it positively connects the artifact to a specific unique building and maker, think of it like a serial number.
Removing a lousy five or ten pounds off a sculpture that weighs 40 or 50 pounds is useless and makes absolutely no difference for hanging it or displaying it, in fact this piece is self standing BECAUSE it has it’s full depth, once that is cut away it no longer can do that and all it takes then is tipping or falling over once and it will break into multiple pieces and be destroyed.
If you want something to hang on the wall, do it RIGHT with the proper anchor or bracket, or buy a reproduction to do that with it, don’t destroy or support someone who destroys these artifacts like this just to hang it on a wall or shave five pounds off it!
So what numbers am I speaking of on these pieces?
Here’s an example on a keystone I own
When the so called “dead weight” of sawing 2 or 3 inches off the back of one of these artifacts is done, these historic, identifying numbers are lost forever. No museum I ever know of has ever altered artifacts in any destructive way like that, and calling any such wrecked artifacts “museum quality” is blatantly false advertising and destroying historic antiques on a whim, don’t be part of that destruction!