Years ago when I cast handmade moulds with concrete, I formed my first ‘couple’. I managed to reproduce 10 of these before the delicate mould was retired. Now, I find creating with clay and firing each original piece is much more satisfying. Each piece is completely different, some even take on a direction of their own. I enjoy this process and am always excited to see the end result, when they emerge from their final firing.
On my first attempt of my couple in clay I put a vinyl cone support under the man, thinking that the woman could be built around him, but as I created, she started to slump.
Instead of scrapping the work, I went with the clay and love the result.
You could view the piece as a man supporting a weak or sick woman, or of a woman buckling underneath the pressure of holding up and supporting the man.
With the second piece, I built a support using cut down containers held together with duct tape. I covered the containers with a bread bag for easy removal. This ensured the couple kept their form. The support pieces were removed on day 2.
Being an egg donor, I am sensitive to the struggle some couples go through to be blessed with a child. I created a baby to fit in the couples arm, making the piece complete. While the piece was drying my three-year old daughter kept putting the baby back into the couples arms, when I would have it sitting next to the piece. I loved that she always wanted the baby with its parents, and not on its own on the shelf.
The piece turned out to be an interactive one. It’s surprising how the physical act of putting the baby in its place makes you feel good.
I sponged a black slip onto both pieces.
Unfortunately the glossy glaze did not give me the desired look. Perhaps they will find a home with someone. Thankfully art appeals to an array of people. I would have preferred a matt finish and will be purchasing my own glazes for future use, and applying a thicker slip.
Live and learn.
The dreaded school holidays arrived, and to keep me sane I made sure that I had a sack of clay at my ready. I had a few ideas of what I wanted to try; some mermaids, fish and this awesome shark I’d seen online, as an award for design. I attempted my first dolphin, of which I hope to create more of, promoting an awareness of the endangered maui dolphin, which occasionally frequents the waters of New Zealand’s West Coast. These pieces would allow me to explore with some colour in the form of slips.
I also had some more meaningful pieces I want to get out; the first being a figure of a woman represented as a bowling pin. A woman who is continuously, repetitively knocked down, and yet gets back up again, all to be knocked down again. Symbolising abuse.
The second brings awareness to breast cancer. A beautiful curvaceous woman, proud of her battle wound, having had a breast removed.
Well after messing up my first two pieces, getting carried away with slips and glazes I had a bit of slip fun with the mermaids and fish, and got a wee bit arty with my ladies.
I love the red stripes, making the bowling pin imagery more obvious.
I’m not fond of glossy glazes so left my survivor lady without a glaze. A double firing of white slip.
Unfortunately the bowling pin lady must have touched something black while in the kiln, which has left a smudge on her back. The breast cancer survivor had a fleck of black glaze on her boob, which I could easily sand off with my rotary tool. I’m yet to seal her, as she has no glaze to protect her.
What do you think?
Continuing on with my motherly theme I created these two ladies, my pregnant woman having a moment with her bump and the blessed mother with her child.
This time to make sure they didn’t slump I used vinyl, taped into a cone, covered in a bread bag as a support. After the first day a drying I could remove the cone and pull free the plastic bag. If more shaping was needed, it could be done then, before the piece gets too dry. The following day I used a cut metal knitting needle to reach the end of the hollow cavity to ensure there is a gap in the clay, about the neck, creating an escape for trapped air during firing, prevent the ladies heads from blowing up, potentially taking out nearby pieces from other artists.
I had fun with the colouring of these pieces, blending brown to green on one piece and using a selection of blues on my watery woman. Unfortunately I was told about englobes, and coated the pieces in Kakapo Green and Peacock Blue. I thought this would give the girls some amazing texture and contrast. The watery lady looked ok, perhaps a bit too busy and the green lady kinda just went a solid bright green. Not really the earthy toned lady I had envisioned.
Oh well, I am told that this is what pottery is about. Experimenting. Especially when you have a group kiln, and you are not in control of the firing temperatures. I think I need to do some googling research of glazes, slips and englobes and perhaps invest in some products to my tastes, hopes and dreams.
I have not been deterred.
Thankfully my family consumes a lot of margarine and Aunt Betty puddings, as these containers make for the perfect moulds for my concrete candles!
Using a 1:2 mix of cement and sand and just the right amount of water, I create awesome little concrete bowls for planting up with succulents, cacti and orchids. Now that I have found the joy of candle making, I have been filling them with scented soy wax too!
What I found was interesting is that you need the right wick for the diameter of the bowl, so that it creates the maximum sized melted wax pool!
There’s all sorts of shapes, heights and thickness to experiment with. I even poured the wax into some drinking glasses, and once cool the wax candle just slid right out.
The wax I use is soft, and can also be used for creating melts to use in a tea light burner.
Simple, natural, handmade in New Zealand, unlike those crude oil paraffin based ones that can only be used in a specific electric warmer. And instead of cleaning out the wax once the scent has evaporated, simply purchase your own scent to add to it!
I love getting my kids involved with any of my Lulus Lists ventures, and put them to work constructing the boxes for packaging, giving them a brief lecture on child labour, how some countries can produce products for cheap by exploiting their staff and why we should encourage people to buy New Zealand handmade goods! ; )