Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas moldmaking

It's been a hectic month, I tried to fit too much into a small time frame, but I'm glad to report that much of it actually got done! Thanks to my loving hubby, who pitched in and spent days painting and moving furniture.

Bob, our son, graduated from Wyotech on December 19th. It was an intensive nine month program, and he switched his specialty to Light Diesel, but he was third in his class and received an Honorable Mention for Outstanding Student! Before he came back home, I wanted to paint the front bedroom so that once the furniture was moved, it could stay. The front bedroom had last been decorated for Allison... the walls were mustard yellow, the doors were burgandy, and the door frames and closet were midnight blue. It was Passage to India themed, and was charming when it was new, and all of the furniture and accessories matched. However, without the burgandy mosquito netting draped over the bed, or the elephant carvings and candle sconces on the wall, it was really ugly! So, we dragged everything out and painted it a pleasant, light minty green with white trim. Which we could have done in a day... except that I decided to paint the awful popcorn ceiling.

Which was a terrible idea.

Three GALLONS of white paint later, and two days of arm-aching rolling, we finally had a white ceiling instead of a dingy grey one. Then we painted the walls, finally, and it was so damp and humid and cold... and we were in such a rush... that the paint began oozing down the wall because it wasn't drying before we tried to put another coat on. We cranked up the heater, washed out the brushes, and fell into bed. Just in time to pack up the truck next morning and head up to Sacramento for Bob's graduation. The Grapevine (mountain pass) was closed due to snow, and opened up just before we arrived, thank goodness. The graduation ceremony, the next afternoon, was lovely, and I cried of course. So proud! Then, we packed up his apartment, loaded everything in the truck and the car, and headed home. Over the icy pass. With a fully loaded truck. Through an incredible amount of traffic because of accidents and overturns on the freeway. Eleven hours later, we arrived home. (three hours longer than usual)

So, the Christmas tree is finally up, the presents are being wrapped, some are being sent, and things are beginning to settle down.

If you've been watching Lesli's blog, you will have gotten a taste for what moldmaking is like. She is much more patient and organized than I am, and her blog gives the best step by step ever!! Now you can see what goes into the process...it's slow, tedious, and demanding. Just the thing for a holiday week, eh? Well, I like to make molds over the holidays, because in the past when the kids were at school, I didn't have to drive them to school and back over the holiday weeks. It became a habit, to do molds at this time of year. Sort of a ritual, almost. Readying for the New Year. Of course, it really is a bad time to do molds, it's so cold and the mold rubber and plaster like to be room temperature. Oh well! I've ordered mold rubber, because new rubber is always the least bubbly when poured, and Brownie should be arriving from Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig any day. I'm going to take my time and play with some ideas for making better molds, ideas that a few of us have been pondering and working with for a while.

This is Brownie, next to a resin Pixie. This will give you a sense of scale on the two pieces. Pixie is a traditional scale foal, so Brownie is a traditional scale donkey foal. My plan of action is similar to Lesli's tactics with her Imp mold... make a good rubber mold, a couple of good rubber Brownies, and then make the cuts necessary to cast the piece by cutting apart the rubber instead of the resin. I plan to use her bubble-free method of getting the mold rubber into the mold, also, which will make life a lot easier with the fuzzy beastie!

Brownie, like Pixie and Dafydd, will be done as custom glazes and bisques only. The molds will be done (with any luck!) in January, but don't look for any Brownies to be made until the Ottos are all gone.

Here's wishing you a happy, healthy, safe Christmas and holiday season, and a secure and prosperous New Year.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shiny donkeys!

This post is late going up... so all of these donkeys are already sold. They went up on MH$P and sold in a day or two. However, since you have seen their painting and glazing, it might be nice to show you some of my favorites from the batch.

The last batch of 14 is being painted currently, and will go up for sale about Dec. 12th on MH$P. So, if you really want a Maureen Love donkey before they are gone, be watching there.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Day in the Life... glazing donkeys

Working with ceramics is a messy thing. Like making chocolate. Except that since you can't lick the spoon (or the airbrush booth), the work space usually stays messy longer. Chocolate would be gone in between working sessions... iron oxide and manganese aren't going anywhere until they are washed.

Before glazing a new batch of donkeys, or anything, I always clean up the airbrush booth, because when you are airbrushing glaze, it stays wet for a while and things have a tendency to stick to it. And not everything burns off. Hair burns off, but can leave little charred ashes. Other pigments definitely don't burn off. So, a spray bottle full of water, a couple of paper towels, and **voila**! Clean airbrush booth!

Now that we have a clean booth, let's assemble the tools that we need to glaze these puppies.. I mean donkeys...

You will notice a mask (!!! STERN FACE !!!) Yes, a mask. Very very important. We are going to be spraying glaze, which has silica (glass) in it. We don't want to breathe it. So, a mask.
Also, an exacto; small paint brushes; the palette; the Ipod Shuffle; an unusual palette with just black in it; and a very sturdy mug full of water. That's important... I've knocked over the water before, and it's not a pretty site. Also, the donkeys are assembled. The ones sitting on the big metal lazy Susan do not require as much work as those sitting to the right of it. You can see the airbrush, with the glaze bottle on it, hanging to the far right. The rubber band keeps the heavy glaze bottle on the airbrush. This airbrush is just for glaze. Since glaze abrades the insides of the airbrush, it is not a good idea to use the same airbrush for both glaze and paints.

Here's our lineup of donkeys, ready for their details. Eyes, spot cleanups, repairs to minor flaws that occurred in the original painting, that sort of thing needs to get done now. Some manes and tails need to be painted, and some dorsals and shoulder stripes still need to be done. I try to do everything similar, at once. So, touchups requiring hoof color or nose pink go first, since those colors are the lightest. Then browns, and finally blacks. Eyes all get done at once, as the hoofs did in the first part of the process. Mass production? No, but it does make things a little easier. The paints on the palette dry out if they sit for too long, so its just easier to keep with each color until you are through using it.

Here, we are going to repair a smudged area that happened when I was painting the previous colors (before they were bisque fired) First, since the other leg is white, we wrap it in aluminum foil. You could use Saran Wrap, or most anything. I just happen to have foil handy. Don't put foil over fired colors, though!

Now, ready to spray it with black... just a light coat will do it.

All fixed!

These donkeys are ready to be glazed. They have all of their details done, and have been checked over for flaws. Spraying glaze is tedious, but spraying really does work the best. You can achieve an overall even coat, and you can gauge exactly how much you have applied. It takes quite a few light coats to get the glaze just right. In between, you can hit them with a blow dryer to dry the glaze enough so that you can touch it. That's where the Ipod Shuffle comes in... good music makes the time fly by, and with the Shuffle you don't have to blast the radio and disturb the neighbors!

One or two coats of glaze, and the one nearest the camera is still wet. Yes, after all of the beautiful colors, I AM spraying them pink! But that is just the dye that is used to tint the glaze, so that we can work with it. In the kiln, the glaze will become crystal clear and glossy.

Into the kiln they go! The bottoms of their feet have been wiped clean of glaze, so that it doesn't melt and stick to the kiln shelf. One final check of the kiln, all systems go... so, push the button and go back into the house. A good days work!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Now I feel better...

For a few hours, there was a ranting post up. But now I feel better. Sometimes, just putting things down in words makes a difference. I love to write, I enjoy expressing experiences, and that is where I tend to turn when something really moves me emotionally. However, not everything is of interest to others.

So, instead, I will direct you to some bonsai articles that I have written recently. The magazine is Golden Statements, the bonsai magazine of Golden State Bonsai Federation. This series of articles is to bring more people into exploring bonsai on the internet, so part of the article is explaining how to use the websites.

No one else might be interested, but my Mom wants the extra copy of each issue to keep. You know, like refrigerator art when you're a kid. :-) That's the Mother Unit for ya.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday at Pour Horse

It's good to see you! Glad you could come and spend the day at Pour Horse. Let's go out to the barn and see what's going on.

If we are walking out to the barn... the workshop.. at Pour Horse, the first thing that we see when we open the door is the airbrush booth. Straight ahead. It's where most of the painting and glazing work is done. The green screen is covering an opening that has a fan behind it, and it pulls all of the paint and glaze spray out. In ceramics, it is important that we don't breathe the tiny needles of glass that are in the glaze, as well as the minerals and oxides in the paints. Some of those minerals can be poisonous if inhaled.

Next, to our right, is the shelf that holds the molds. These are just a few of the molds that are in storage here. Most of these molds are master molds, in other words, the plaster molds and rubber positives that allow me to make multiple production molds.

Now, coming around the corner, here are the kilns. Take a look into the big kiln, and see what I was cooking last night.

Donkeys! For Laurilyn! A plethora of donkeys. They are cooling off so that we can glaze them today, while you are here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On a cool, wet, foggy morning, when condensation drips from the palm fronds and the grass is slick with dew, why would anyone be surprised by muddy paws on their chest? Just because Mommy's cold kept her in bed well after sunrise, why would she seem shocked that we went out and played in the deliciously muddy yard, and then ran in and jumped all over her nice clean bed? Honestly, why People can't feel the dirt between their toenails and detect the lingering scent of possum in the bushes, is a mystery to me.

Mommy has been too busy to let me post, since she is pressed to get so many projects done.

When Daddy let us out at five this morning, we were delighted to find a wet, drippy world. Chasing, snarling, shaking and playing, we worked ourselves into a frenzy of doggy zoomies. Someone (I won't tell who) started digging in the lawn. It just felt so good, clods of dirt flying behind us, grass ripping and tearing between our toes. Casper is the most dedicated to this zen art. He puts his head down, really leans into his shoulders, and digs until he reaches a certain karmic harmony. The funny part is, that when he is digging he looks like a very wooly caterpillar. You can't tell which end is which!

Now we are all happily sleeping, and the sun is burning off the fog. Mommy finally got up and sniffled and sneezed her way to the living room, where she is cleaning the last of the castings. She says that the only thing worse than wearing a mask while airbrushing, is wearing a mask while being unable to breath through your nose! So, no painting today. Enjoy YOUR day, where ever you are!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Typical Week at Pour Horse

What is a day at Pour Horse like? Full of adventure and intrigue? Scintillating conversation and delicate tea biscuits?
Not likely.
More like, full of mud and plaster, dog hair and Lean Cuisine for lunch. If I'm lucky.

Last Saturday, I started a new round of casting. Friday afternoon, I prepared a bucket of slip. The slip needs to be just the right consistency, thicker than cream but thinner than yogurt. By preparing it the day before, the slip has time to absorb any water or sodium silicate that has been added. So, Saturday morning bright and early, it was time to start pouring slip into the molds.

I lined them up in the kitchen. Why, when I have a nice working barn? Well, we were in Santa Ana conditions, and the barn gets pretty unpleasant in the hot wind. It was nice and cool in the house, and I had access to water, and since the kitchen counters were clean and slicked down, there was plenty of room. Besides, from the kitchen I can listen to Coast to Coast AM on the computer. Entertaining shows, about cryptozoology, crop circles, and everything strange. Anyway, it gets pretty quiet around here all day, without some sort of radio show on.

Here is one set of molds. Let's see...the big one on the left, and the two smaller ones next to it, are for Pixie. The next four are Otto legs, and the last two are Otto heads. The one in the background, not being poured, is Boxing Shire. I decided not to make any Boxing Shires this time, but was too lazy to walk all the way outside and put the mold away. He just had to sit around and watch. The odd little round one in the front is the new Cavalier King Charles Spaniel head.

Here's another set. The two on the left are Otto bodies, and the two on the right (big and small) are for Dafydd. Dafydd gets his tail attached.

Otto takes four molds (body, head, 2 legs); Pixie takes three molds (body, head, lifted front leg); Dafydd takes two molds (body, tail) Stormy, not shown here, takes four molds, but two of the molds have multiple pieces inside. We will look at him next.

The molds sit with slip in them for between 20 minutes and maybe 45 minutes, depending upon how dry the mold is; how thin the slip is; how hot the day is; and whether I have something else to do. I try to gauge the walls of the casting to be between the thickness of one nickel and the thickness of two nickels. Smaller horses get cast thinner, bigger horses get cast heavier. The legs, heads, and tails need to be about the same thickness as the bodies, because when they are attached and start to dry, they may crack if they are not. It's all done by feel... no timer, no exact formula. Just gestalt. Seat of the pants. Cosmic Karma.

When the slip is poured out, the casting sits for several hours. Otto legs can demold in an hour, and on up the line, with Stormwatch's body being several hours. Which means that I can cast twice as many Otto leg molds as I can Stormwatch molds. So, that's what I do. Staggering the molds for the most efficiency, I keep busy for almost the entire day, casting; pouring out; demolding; casting again. As the pieces are demolded, they go into a wetbox. But first, let's demold a Stormwatch.

His mold, opened. His mold is designed to be as light as possible, so it is not a big square, like the other molds. Nevertheless, it is heavy, and takes a bit of doing to demold him. He has several very tricksy little inner pieces, since he is a very detailed sculpture.

This is the little piece that forms his inner lip and teeth, on the other side of the mold. It is a tiny piece of plaster no bigger than your fingernail. The long scooped out area from his jaw to the outside of the mold actually holds a piece of aluminum wire. When I pour the mold out, it can be hard to drain his head, so I pull the piece of wire out with a pair of pliers as it is draining. The slip in his head then pours freely out of the drain holes, because air can rush into his head through the tunnel and let the slip go out. Yep, told you. Tricksy.

It takes several pieces of mold to form the intricacies of his tail, because the top of his tail is blowing forward, and the back of his tail has a lot of movement.

There was a real dilemma with his back legs, and the inner/upper area that is formed between them. With the tail, and his male bits, I finally chose to cut the entire leg off, and cast it seperately. That way, I could pour him through his upper thigh, and then attach the leg and have no gaping pour hole in his belly. Which works, but it does add to the complexity of putting him together.

Here is the last piece to come off, and then he is put into the wet box until he can be assembled.

Wetboxes are simply Rubbermaid type boxes, with lids, into which plaster has been poured and cured. A layer of plaster a few inches thick, in the bottom of the box, maintains the moisture level in the box. Castings can be kept in a wet box for weeks. However, eventually they do start to dry out, and it can get more difficult to work with them. One week, really, is about the longest you want to keep them in a wetbox. Periodically, the plaster gets rinsed and refreshed with water.
In this wetbox, you can see the parts for one Stormwatch, one Pixie, one Dafydd, and one Otto (minus his legs, which are in a smaller wetbox)

This box has a Dafydd, a Pixie, and an Otto being assembled. I start working on the Ottos in between casting other pieces. By putting them back into the wet box, I can keep them "cheese hard" for as long as I want. (Know what a piece of American cheese feels like, the kind you peel the plastic off of each slice? That's cheese hard. Still flexible, still quite damp, and you have to use the fleshy part of your fingers to hold them. Tools, fingernails, and other foreign objects can gouge them at this point.) I keep them cheese hard until all of their parts are assembled, all of their seams are cleaned, and any attached areas have been filled in with slip and re-sculpted.

Working from Saturday morning through Sunday night, I filled three wet boxes, and had two Ottos completely assembled. The total tally was one Stormwatch; two Pixies; two Dafydds; and eight Ottos.

Monday is a non-ceramic day. I go over to a man's house to work on his bonsai collection in the morning, and the afternoon is devoted to cleaning house and grocery shopping. It feels good to get out into the sunshine.

Not everyone wants to go outside and work. Some of us like to stretch out in the sunshine that beams through the big front window. Totally gratuitous cute Bear photo. Sorry. It's my blog and I can if I wanna. (grin)

(These photos are clickable for bigger images)
So, working Tuesday through Thursday, here is the tally of assembled, drying greenware.
Seven Ottos and one Stormwatch. Stormy takes one entire working day to do. After a day of putting Stormy together, you don't want to even start another piece. You just want to rest you arms and hands. And have some chocolate.

The other pieces are still in the wetboxes, and will be worked on over the weekend. One extra Otto leg has to be cast, because I broke one while working on it. That's the nice part about casting the horses is pieces. You can just cast another piece, if you haven't joined it yet.

That's one full week at Pour Horse. If the other horses get done over the weekend, we will look at painting and glazing next week. Thank you for joining me.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dog Beach Paradise

When Mommy decided that we could go to the DOG BEACH on Coronado Island, we hopped in the car with Daddy and Mommy and off we went! Casper was given a bone, which he thought was lucky... but he didn't know where we were going! Casper is all about his stomach. Which is why he looks like a fuzzy beach ball.

Here we are in the car, speeding down the highway toward Dogs, Dogs, and more Dogs. It's a pretty long drive, and I'm a nervous car rider. I pace, and try to figure out how to open the windows, and attempt putting my paws on the center armrest to get the people's attention. Mommy just says, "Yasha, sit. Yasha, SIT. YASHA sit. YASHA SIT." Over and over. Sure, I heard her, but I just can't keep my bottom on the seat. Bear lays down and lets me crawl over him, paw him, lick his ears, and try to get him moving too.

Then... the car stopped... the leashes snapped on... the door opened......


Bear just went nuts. He would run over to another dog, or a pack of dogs, and just get right into the middle. And then they would run!

(Edit from Yasha: I was playing around with the blog, rearranging posts, and I accidentally deleted the comments from my friends!! Sorry guys! I will have to lick your faces when we talk again!)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Digging for Bear

Remember that post a while ago, with Bear inside of the Rubbermaid tub? Well, there were *other* videos taken that day. Videos with... ahem... MOI... in them. I'm the Princess, after all. If I ain't in it, it ain't happenin'. Bear is cute, yeah, we get that part. But he's Bear. And I'm ME.

So below, from the secret archives of Allison's camera, rescued from the darkest corners of obscurity, here I am, Digging for Bear:

An Eskie head in every pot

Mommy loves to cook. We love to watch. It's the "Cooking Show", complete with Smell-o-vision and sometimes samples for the audience.

We keep our toes just on the edge of the carpet, so that we are technically in the dining room. Eskies are good about figuring out the technical angles. Toenails can hang over the carpet, and noses can be a little farther into the kitchen, but anything else and Mommy says, "Dogs out!". The offending dog(s) creep back into the dining room and lost their good spot to the better behaved. When food hits the floor, however, it's every dog for themselves.

Sometimes the casserole, or whatever, gets really stuck to the baking dish. Mommy doesn't own a dishwasher (well, she actually owns three, but we aren't the kind of dishwasher she wants to use) A while ago, the lovely smell wafting from the oven was a Shepherds Pie. With LAMB. Real ground LAMB.

Nothing brings out the Wolf in a dog like lamb. It is an incredibly compelling smell, and it gets right into the dogs most primal neural network, causing all of the synapses to fire at once. I'm drooling just thinking about it. If they sold lamb on ebay, dogs would learn how to bid. Most dogs would figure out how to be smarter just to get some lamb.

Anyway, the Shepherds Pie often sticks to the baking dish. This time, in an excess of bonhomie and general good cheer, Mommy sat the dish down for us to clean. She doesn't do that often, but that means it's even more special. And if anyone is reading this who has, in the past, eaten at our house.. or who, in the future, may possibly do so...well, soap and good hot water do wonders. And if it really freaks you out, next time take Mommy out to dinner instead. You can bring us home the scraps.

So, the dish hit the floor, and we all three went for it. We never fight... we just sort things out in a growly, posturing way. Generally, Casper gets his first when it is food related. Casper is SERIOUS about food. He says that it's from his Mysterious Past, but then he stops talking and gets that Look. Like he's an ex-CIA agent and if he tells you, he would have to kill you. So we don't ask. He's just jerking our choke chain, so to speak. We think. Maybe.

Casper hogged the dish, this time, until he almost licked the glaze off of it. Maybe in the future Mommy will divide the Shepherds Pie into three smaller baking dishes, so that there can be an Eskie head in EVERY pot.