Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ballpoint pen drawings of water for the projected animation titled, and the ship sails on.

Ballpoint pen renderings of Water and decoy ducks - 
image and layout created by animator Lukasz Pater.

Water renderings, pattern option two
Water rendering, option one
I have had to go back to the drawing board, redrawing the water, making up the major part of the projected animation. The water renderings  are too complex (busy) conflicting with the dragon . The animated five-clawed dragon will be projected moving amongst the three-dimensional decoy-ducks, stretching out his limbs and with his claws he will bring forth positive change.  
Water renderings, pattern option one
Water rendering option two
I had to render water for the second animation titled woe-man. It was very simple and I could use it again. But I wanted this animation to be fresh and closely associated to the reference material. The moon flask as depicted below. We are also trying to keep it simple ensuring the animated image integrates well with the form and the shape of the decoy ducks, and of course the shape and size of the wooden base. 

High definition projectors make a big difference
We need enough open, uncluttered space in between the decoy-ducks for the animated dragon to move freely and be visible in the renderings of the water, without creating confusion. Striking a balance is of the essence. I therefore had to spend two afternoons exploring new creative possibilities to render the water. The second set of drawings were equally complex and I decided to refer back to the original reference, the water as depicted in the surface decoration of the inspirational moon flask.
Inspirational moonflask
Water rendering option three

In the end I took inspiration from the simple yet appropriate cobalt painted decoration that covers the background of the moonflask shown here (image on the left). The chosen image, rendered in ball-point pen, a more three dimensional approach, provides us with an opportunity to have open spaces though which the dragon can move and be easily visible without creating confusion or making the visual representation to complex (busy) as mentioned before.
Water renderings, pattern option three

Water renderings, pattern option final

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Registration of the projected animation

Checking the registration of the projection at the start of the installation.
It is vital to plan the size of the installation, matching the ceramic installation with the envisaged projected animation. I need to design and construct a base for the ceramics to be displayed on.  It has to be the right height to achieve a balance between the size of the decoy ducks and the images in the animation. 
Not too low, making it impossible for the viewer to really appreciate and engage the sculptural form and shape of the decoy ducks. It also cant be too high as the size of the decoy ducks determines the maximum height one can go with the projector. The drawings will not fit the actual ceramic work if the distance between the installation and the projector is not sufficient.  I also need to determine how many of the decoy ducks could fit into the oval shape of the anticipated projection. Aligning all these aspects is vital to the success of the entire statement.

I have painted the decoy-ducks a semi-sheen acrylic white paint to ensure that the projection is clear and all the detail is captured on the works.  The entire installation will be in a darkened space of the gallery. I am in the process of obtaining a high definition projector to ensure maximum clarity of the projected animation It is one week to complete the entire installation. 

The exhibition opens on Monday the 9th of May. Not much time left to get everything finalized. Next Thursday everything has to be completed. I have slip cast all the decoy-ducks. Some of the decoy-ducks are being fired and assembled whilst others are drying.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Slip-casting the decoy-duck; step-by-step

There is probably nothing as rewarding as removing a slip-cast product from the mould for the first time. All your hard work, finishing off the prototype, and refining all the detail,  is revealed in the cast. It is always a magical experience, especially for students who are introduced to the process for the first time. The modeling of the prototype and the making of the moulds is a daunting task for most. But the rewards are manifold, especially when the process runs smoothly; when the split lines were done correctly, and one has established the procedure (sequence) for removing the various pieces of the mould, so as not to damage the fragile slip-cast product.
Preparing the mould
This is arguably the most important aspect of the slip-casting process. Ensuring the pieces are secured tightly. I normally make use of rubber tire inner tubes, cut into strips. However, for larger moulds they are often not strong enough, and for the first time today, I made use of large cable ties.  I joined a number of them together to be able to go round the mould. 
The slip can burst through the gaps (see image on left) where the various mould pieces join up. It is therefore critical that  all the pieces are secured properly and tight enough to hold shape when the excess slip is poured out. More about that further down the blog post.

Pouring in the slip – slip cast process.
Your moulds have to be dry. The water is being absorbed from the slip right up against the mould. The process takes about 15 – 20 minutes. Under normal circumstances, the slip build-up (thickness of the slip) should be about 10mm after the fifteen – twenty minutes. 
I make use of a timer as one inevitably forget. It also allows one to get on with other work whilst the process unfolds. When casting a fresh batch of mixed slip, it is necessary to test the build-up of slip in the pouring-spout. By blowing at the edge of the pouring spout, one can see the slip thickness (build-up) clearly. 
When using an old batch of slip make sure to sieve it first. This is necessary to remove dry bits of slip that fell into the bucket when emptying out the slip during the slip casting process (see image on the left). Once the desired thickness is achieved, in this case I left it longer - the moulds were not that dry yet and because the piece was lager than most products I have cast. The product is therefore slightly thicker.  

Pouring out the slip
Pouring the slip out can be a tricky business especially when the moulds are big and heavy and needs careful planning. I cast on a chair to be in a position to bend the mould over with a vessel on the floor, next to the chair, for the excess slip being poured out, to be poured into. Once the excess slip is poured out, it is much easier to pick the mould up and swirl it around as one waits for the slip to pour out. This process ensures that the slip is evenly poured out of the mould. One has to leave the mould standing upside down for all the slip to drain out of the mould. Leave the mould at an angle. Make use of a wooden stick placed on one side of the mould – to ensure the pouring-spout is raised from the floor.  It will stick to the surface and create problems when lifting the mould.
 Releasing the slip-cast product from the moulds.
After twenty minutes I turn the mould the right side up and cut the pouring spout out. I then remove the pouring-spout mould to speed-up the drying process. After an hour one can start the tricky process of removing the rather thick moulds from the fragile slip-cast product. 
Take care to work out which parts of the mould should be removed first, leaving the product to dry further until it is dry enough and strong enough to support itself and be removed in its entirety. The slip cast product starts to shrink and one must not leave it too long in the dry moulds. Often the first slip-cast product (from a new mould) can stick to the mould. This leads to the first cast being rejected. I was lucky this time, everything went smoothly.

Fettling the slip cast product.
Once the slip-cast product is dry and strong enough, one can start the fettling process, getting rid of the slip-cast seams caused by the gaps in the split-moulds. Only then can one begin to refine the rather fragile form and define the detail if and where necessary. Often edges break in the mould, when removing the solid prototype. As a result it becomes necessary to remove the excess slip build-up.

Slip dries quickly and working fast is necessary. I prefer to finish-off the product before it dries completely. Working on a dry slip-cast product is dangerous, the dust being a health and safety issue.
Further more, the product is very fragile when dry, and sponging the product at the leather-hard stage has the advantage therefore, of repairing any damage caused during the removal of the fragile slip-cast product from the mould.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Decoy-duck the moulds

Moulds for the decoy duck

The next stage is mould-making.
This is a complex process, especially when you intend to slip cast the products instead of press-moulding. For a detailed and visual account of my mould making technique - follow the link. Slip-cast moulds are very different, because the thickness of the mould assists the slip-casting process. The dry moulds absorbing the water out of the slip. The moulds therefore have to be thicker than moulds for press-moulding, and more importantly, you need to ensure that most of the detail is captured in the mould. The thickness of the mould (in large sculptures) make the moulds very heavy, and separating the multiple piece moulds during the  slip-cast process, to remove the fragile slip product, can be tricky. Splitting a complex prototype such as the decoy-duck into various pieces requires experience. Various options should be considered to ensure less split lines, taking into account the best option to release the prototype from the mould and more importantly safeguarding the release of the fragile slip cast product. Press-moulding moulds are normally much thinner and reserved for sculptures that are much larger and as mentioned in a previous blog post, you don’t require as much detail at the prototype stage.
Prototype within the mould.
 These moulds were made for me by one of my students, Kenny Sonono, he successfully completed a B Tech in Ceramic Design in 2009 and graduated last year. I was under pressure to get the moulds done a.s.a.p. as the animator is starting the development of the projected animation next week. The moulds will have to be quick dried in the kiln over the next two to three days, set on soak at 40 degrees Celsius (max 55 degrees Celsius).
Close-up of decoy-duck torso in the mould.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Step by step modelling of my prototypes (Y2 Clay) Part two; the Decoy-duck

Prototype mould ready

The final stages in developing the prototype.
Day 4-7.
I always work frantically to get the general form and shape resolved, to a point where I am satisfied with the visual end result, beyond chaos if you like (take control and in control). I am generally impatient until the form and shape reaches the stage that I know I am on the right track and achieving the envisaged end result.

The next stage is time consuming and demands full concentration to ensure the forms and shapes are symmetrical and then only can the smoothing process begin. Never be impatient to the point that you compromise, this leads to reshaping and frustration. This next stage involves refining the forms and shapes using plaster carving tools to achieve the desired effect. I also make use of scrapping tools as indicated below. 
This part of the process is very tedious, but I take delight in refining the forms and defining every detail. It is very rewarding – each step is moving closer to the drawings and the completion of the final prototype.

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the first product released from the mould. The reward is just magic. Drawing, modeling and casting the mould is a very time consuming process, but slip casting and releasing the product from the mould makes it all worthwhile. Every hour a new product makes it appearance without any effort. No pain no gain.
Carving the base.
The base.
Before defining the detail, it is best to resolve the base, especially for slip casting and when working within the framework of an ornament. This is normally a scale matter, such as a centerpiece that can easily be moved around, picked up and handled (see the bottom). Slip casting makes the piece light and can easily be turned upside down and be inspected. This is not the case with a freestanding press-moulded ceramic sculptures or larger scaled pieces that are permanently displayed on a base in a given space and or place.

Know the manufacturing process when developing the prototype.
Prototypes for slip casting or press-moulding.
It can be very satisfying to see the final product take shape and see the two-dimensional image transform into a three dimensional object, complete with a refined base. This is particularly necessary when slip casting the final piece. 

Every detail will be captured in the slip cast process and it is therefore necessary that the prototype be as close to the final drawing as is possible. There is no chance of reworking the form and or shape of the cast product. Press-moulding is the complete opposite and the prototype therefore requires far less refinement in terms of the forms and shapes. Detail is often lost in press-moulding and therefore best applied afterwards, to the sculpture directly. It provides far greater flexibility in terms of adding and altering the forms and shapes.

Develop prototype at eye level and on a turning table
It is very necessary to have the prototype at eye level and being able to swivel/rotate the prototype while working on the forms and shapes, especially when the piece incorporates stylization and symmetry. It is even more important when defining the detail in symmetrical prototypes – especially the head of the decoy-duck (the eyes and cheeks etc). It is taxing enough to get the desired effect, but repeating it on both sides is even more demanding.  Especially when viewing the piece from all angles. 

Heat the two sides to join the prototype
legs side view