Little Man

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One of the things that I wanted to do, more or less the minute I started doing ceramics about a year-and-three-quarters ago, was slip casting. Plus, porcelain sounded gloriously mysterious. . .White gold. . .Liquid porcelain is poured into a two part plaster mold, poured back out again, et voila, a copy of the original. So easy. Except in practice. However, here is Little Man, a prototype for a series of figures that I want to do, and possibly project video images inside of them, if I can make the porcelain translucent enough. He is cast in cone 6 Grolleg from Clay Art Center in Tacoma, Washington, and glazed with Seattle Pottery Supply’s clear glaze. He is about 9 inches tall (what’s that. . .about, uh, 23 cm. . .I had to look it up), and the wall thickness is less than 1/8 inch (3 mm), perhaps less, but not quite thin enough. Subsequent castings that I left for a shorter time in the mold were too weak to handle, partly because my mold wasn’t perfect. I’m working on another.

Technicalities aside, I’m very pleased with the way he turned out. The inspiration came from recumbent tomb statuary in Europe that I saw over the last couple of years (especially Roskilde Cathedral in Denmark, and St. Denis outside of Paris). I will write about this more as this work develops, but I am trying for a mythic figure, a sort of heroic everyman (or everywoman, since there will be female figures also), that will be vague but particular, mysterious but not spooky. I may sound like I’m being coy, but I am not. I am serious in my exploration of ambiguities. I have decided not to pretend that there are words for some things. I have also embraced the idea that my thought process can be intuitive and intellectual, with each bolstering the other. (I just realized that I’ve stolen this idea from Henri Bergson, to a great extent. I have always had a weakness for French philosophers, I guess). .

I don’t think I have ever sculpted a human figure before, strangely enough (having been trained initially as a painter), and I found the experience to be very satisfying. It’s odd to realize you haven’t done something before that you should have done. It’s also odd that it seemed so natural, that eventually my self-consciousness and trepidation left me, and a tactile, sensuous pleasure took over. To me, that sensuous satisfaction carries over into the finished piece. I don’t know how well that carries over into the photographs, since he is meant to be seen in person, but I hope you get an inkling.

2 thoughts on “Little Man”

  1. Mike- make sure the porcelain you’re using is translucent! Yes, there are ones that are not. And try a few if you can.
    If your mold will allow, instead of removing at soft leather, let it get dryer, or even bisque ready dry, then maybe you can remove a thinner piece.

  2. Hi, Doll!
    Yes, it’s translucent (and apparently the most translucent available). Part of the problem is the parting line in the mold. Somehow I damaged it. The plaster that Seattle Pottery Supply sold me was lumpy. I should have returned it, but needed it. Anyhow, I’m going to mix in some cotton linter. Actually I did, but haven’t tried it yet. It has that cottage cheese texture of paper clay which I don’t understand. I had some scrap Grolleg slip (left over from recent failures), which I reconstituted. I’ll try it tomorrow. . .Thanks for your comment!

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