Sunday, 21 August 2011

Super wavy


This weekend I started work on the full-size versions of the wave forms for Blue Reef;  they will be something like the models above. I've decided to make 3 large waves, all in rough crank clay and have them stand close by each other, thus creating passages for fish to swim in, as in the picture on the left.

As I've said in previous posts, making items out of large sheets of clay is a difficult process: handling and moulding the form is hard because clay stretches all too easily under its own weight.  It's essential to support all surfaces of the clay during any movement of the entire piece.  I've been using old pillows and tablecloths to rest the work on whilst manipulating it into shape.  Pillows are great for this particular work as they're soft enough to allow me to add the wavy shape into the pieces and supportive enough so as to keep the clay in position whilst it dries out.

Preparing and rolling out large clay sheets in the first place can also be quite a pain.  I've learned from experience that the easiest way for me to do this (lacking a slab roller at home) is to work the clay on two separate cloths, flipping between one cloth and the other between each roll of the clay.  Clay can be stretched that little bit further, by rolling, each time it is flipped, so it's more or less unavoidable that the clay will need to be flipped a good few times for large surface areas. The cloths mean that the clay can be turned and moved whilst supporting its entire surface area, thus meaning an even thickness throughout as the clay is rolled.  Lifting the clay without the cloth underneath it causes stretching and some areas inevitably become thinner than others - or worse still the clay might rip in half as it's lifted up.

Getting a large quantity of clay prepared for rolling takes a bit of muscle power. I have resorted to all kinds of methods of beating big lumps of clay into submission. If the lump gets the better of me, or my arms get tired from wedging, I often just load it all back into its orginal bag and then walk all over it until it's flat, and then take it out, cut and reshape it as necessary, then back into the bag and walk on it again!  I'd say the best method of wedging clay that I've found so far though is to persuade a willing man to do it for me :-)

Lying down, this one reminds me of a ray.
So... I embark on another period of anxious waiting now to see how well these great slabs of clay dry out and fire, and whether they'll stand upright on their own without need for further support....

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