What is a day at Pour Horse like? Full of adventure and intrigue? Scintillating conversation and delicate tea biscuits?
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.