• James Scoville Elmslie 1884 “Sullivanesque” mold

    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.

    Elmslie Scoville design mold
    Elmslie Scoville design mold work in progress

     

    Elmslie Scoville design mold
    Elmslie Scoville design mold completed.

     

    Elmslie Scoville design mold completed
  • Two new models in the works, Scoville lunette and Washington Irving school pier capital W-1

    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.

    Sullivan Elmslie design

    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.

  • Model from the James W. Scoville, Adler, Sullivan, Elmslie Chicago building

    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.

    model from the James W. Scoville, Adler & Sullivan designed, Chicago building
  • Another model from the James W. Scoville, Adler & Sullivan designed, Chicago building

    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.

    1973 HABS photo before demolition (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

     

    Jame scoville building elevation view (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

    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.

     

  • Louis Sullivan “Sullivanesque” design

    I just ordered the two  gallons of pourable mold rubber I need to “convert” my “Sullivanesque” design that was recently finished- into a form I can take a plaster piece mold from for pressing terracotta into. Two gallons is not enough to fill the mold, it is only enough to pour about 1″ deep, the rest of the depth will have to be plaster to save on the costs of not having to buy two more gallons of expensive  rubber.

    Sullivanesque model finished
  • Louis Sullivan, Elmsley, Schneider James W Scoville building Chicago, model finished 12/7/2018

    I’m finished with this Sullivanesque model now and plan to start making the mold to-morrow morning. it’s moist clay, somewhat firmer than it was as it started losing moisture, but it’s still delicate and a paint brush can leave marks on the surface so I have to almost flow the first coat of rubber on rather than firmly brushing it on.
    I wanted to get the mold made before it dries since as it dries and becomes completely dry the clay shrinks about 15%, and then when pressed clay copies are made those would also shrink almost that much, so the double shrinkage of about 25% would seriously reduce the final size which I want to avoid by doing hte mold while it’s still moist and nearly the same size it was when I set it up.

        Sullivanesque model finished
  • Antique Louis Sullivan “Sullivanesque” panel arrived

    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

    Another example on another keystone I own;

    And lastly;

    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!