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STUDIO

It would be nice to have a room set aside exclusively in which to sculpt or paint. Skylight overhead. Northern light to avoid glare, lots of space for drying sculptures and canvases in varying stages of completion. It would be nice, but I don't have it. For me my studio space is in the kitchen or a corner of the living room.

When I am sculpting, there will be a sculpture stand, butcher block cart with baskets of tools, sacks of clay, anatomy books, plastic bags to use as filler, and the only difference when I am painting will be which tools you see out. Often I like to work to music--preferably soundtracks that fit the subject on which I am working.

For sculptures, an old rolling pin is used to roll out clay like pie dough. Air bubbles are the enemy of terra-cotta when it is fired. Warming air expands and explodes if there is no vent. Although broken pieces can sometimes be glued together, it is easier to avoid the problem. In hollow torsos or body parts, holes must be provided for air to escape. All clay added to the work must be pressed firmly in place. Concern over air pockets is constant.

My sculpture tools come from a variety of sources. Although most sculpture is put together by hand, tools can go where the finger cannot. I've found one of the best sources for useful little dental and medical tools to be county fairs. The tools come in all sorts of shapes from little circles to tiny knives. Everyone has their own favorite tool and it's unusual for two sculptors to agree on which are most useful; so I won't bother describing mine. I should add, some feel the very idea of a tool is heresy.

With stacks of anatomy books, I am always looking for new ones. They are essential to me since I don't have models, and most of my work comes from the imagination with a form to suggest an idea. Anatomy books help keep bones where they belong, muscles added correctly, and proportions correct. It isn't that I wouldn't like to use real models, but living a long way from town, it has not been feasible.

The following is a description of how a clay sculpture takes form:

I don't really know from where their personality and faces come. Some appear to come from a misty past; others a combination of people I have known. I sometimes wonder as I work a new face into reality-- Did I know that man? Was she a daughter or mother? Could he have been my lover? Or are these faces vibrations on the air, a spiritual photo album of those who were? Do they come from an invisible muse who works with me? No answers but they do give me a shiver sometimes as I feel a strange connection to another face appearing from the clay.

With the head, neck and upper shoulders having a certain reality, I put a piece of plastic over the work to keep it from drying. Time to roll out another piece of clay. I measure this one to assure the proper size for the torso. The human form is about seven and one half heads tall. Sculptures, to get an epic look, often are eight; some artists make them more. Average torsos are four heads. I rip up sheets of newspaper, wad them together, and fill the torso which for a moment becomes a cylinder. Finally I set the head upon it to bring the two shapes together. Rolling out more clay, I knead it a bit, and work it onto the cylinder which slowly becomes chest, hips, shoulders, arm and leg buds, then the limbs themselves. Somewhere along the way I've learned what pose this little one will want.

Work is rarely in one setting. Between sessions with the sculpture, I spritz it with water, cover it with plastic. Sometimes I realize something is not going right. An adjustment must be made. An artist friend of mine told me her art teacher demanded that you always build up the sculpture, never remove, always add. This gives the sculpture life; so when I see I have erred, I cut away a big chunk of clay to be able to again build the work.

The finished sculpture is before me. I've refined and smoothed. I have faced it into a mirror that will show me imbalances the eye wouldn't see. A day has passed, maybe two and sometimes more. When the work looks done, I put a large plastic bag over it and take it from the stand, setting it where I can go back frequently. Even during the curing process, I might decide something requires changing.

Drying time is a month or more. Placing the sculpture in the brick lined kiln, the heat is turned up gradually to a final temperature that will fire it hard. After the work has been fired and cooled, I apply the patina. I do not like glazes for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is I've never really mastered them, but a patina (think of the effects of wind, sun and sand on rock) has a creative advantage anyway--or so I tell myself. I use cake shoe polish, in colors I've experimented with and like. It sounds too simple, not artistic enough, but it works well to accent, shadow and give a feeling of age to the work. When it is done, I apply the wax finish coat. A knowledgeable sculptor told me the best source of this--wood floor wax--and so far it appears he was right.

Sculpture is finished. The work of selling has just begun but that is a different story.