Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 54

Oddly, I felt somewhat better today. I'm moving a little slowly, drinking a hot tea remedy that Chari sent me from Sri Lanka. Chari Godakanda is reponsible for creating prints for us. He's a professional photographer and quite talented and he treats our projects with the care he treats his own. We adore him because he's also the kind of human who sends healing tea when he hears we're sick. If you're looking for a fine art printer for your art projects, consider TheStudio .

Photo 15: Still, a bit more work on the sculpture. Wet paper won't stick to bare wire, so I wrap all the wire with strips of masking tape. I like using really wide tape, but for some applications, the narrow stuff is better.

Photo 16: I've decided that I want the five branches to sprout additional ones, so I wrap more wire around the taped ones and extend them.

Photo 17: Now I wrap the smaller branches with tape as well, taping over the wire twisted over the additional branches. At this point, I can still bend the branches into position, but the additions are solid and won't twist.

Photo 18: Now the armature is done, I start the paste. I use a mix of all purpose flour, water and carpenter's glue. Some people put salt in the mix as a preservative. I don't because the salt tends to burn my hands--especially now that I have a devil cat in the house--and I usually only make enough for a session. Still, I find that if I have some left it keeps very well for a few days in the fridge. More than three days though, it can start to look like a really nasty science project. More than a week and it will smell like one too. The carpenter's glue isn't necessary, but I find it adds strength and makes the mix smoother and more plastic. It's cheaper if you buy it by the gallon.

Photo 19: I don't measure--sorry! But the end mixture is a lot like pancake batter---maybe a little thinner. If you have lumps (and, you will) just let the mix sit for about 10 minutes, then they'll stir out easily.

Photo 20: I start by brushing the entire body with paste. I'm going to use a recycled phone book for the first few layers. It's really handy to brush layers on, decoupage style, and tear sheets off with my wet fingers. Phone book paper isn't much thicker than tissue and works well for this step.

Photo 21: I don't need to fill in the body. Paper mache dries very hard and strong. Remember your first experience with papier mache? It probably involved a balloon. But I will fill this one in to add weight. This is especially important for sculptures with delicate tops. Paper is heavy and I use a lot of it, compressed tightly, for the bottom of the piece. Sometimes, for larger works, I'll include a block of wood for the base. This ensures the finished work will be stable and not prone to tipping over.
It takes a long time for this to dry, so I do it in stages, adding a couple of inches to the inside at every stage of working.

Photo 22: Here's where I have to decide where the arms will be positioned and choose the arrangement of the branches. Once these first layers are dry, the branches will be fairly rigid.

Photo 23: I use these initial layers to suggest the shapes of the branches. This is where I'm most aware that I'm working with "mashed paper" as the wet layers are very pliable and I can shape them with my fingers, even to make fine creases with sharp, curved edges that work with my tendency to mix clean edges with organic curves. Even now, this sculpture begins to look like I made it.

Photo 24: Where I stopped today, as the light faded very fast once the sun went behind the mountains.

Photo 25: I put the sculpture outside. It's not hot, but it is the desert and the dry air will work on it tonight.
Now I shall go and have a bit more of Chari's rich tea, both earthy and spicy. It smells and tastes like goodness. I'm fairly certain Monsanto had nothing to do with it. Thanks, Chari.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your processes with us - its fascinating and you make it look easy (but I know its not...). Be well and I look forward to seeing the next post about this project. Oh and next time I'm in the US, I'm gonna have to get me one of those type of sculptures. I seriously considered buying one of the sculptures at WFC in 2009, but gald I went with my poppet window :)

spacedlaw said...

Nice to know you have help. That doll making is fascinating.

guardianalien said...

I want to get my hands dirty now. I should turn off this computer.


lisa said...

shu-shu-sleeps: my pleasure. for sure.

spacedlaw: it's actually interesting for me too, to take a look at techniques that've become so familiar that I don't think about them so much. perhaps I'll find something new.

guardianalien: It is fun to get you hands dirty, isn't it? I'll be glad when Aubrey is here tomorrow to take photos. Papier mache and cameras don't mix easily. My apron is very stiff from wiping my hands for each photo.

Shari said...

Hi Lisa -
Despite your illness, your branch-haired poppet session seems very productive, and reads very 'zen' (silly I know, but sometimes for me, doing things I can do easily, but still focus on doing well, serves almost as meditation.) It's nice when art 'gives back' to the maker.

I hope the tea keeps working it's wonders on you - lots of folks I know are battling serial illnesses and they are pretty tired of it!

Thanks for the post - a great way to start today :-)