Monthly Archives: November 2016

Making a waste mould

With Jill’s help trying to stabilise the sculpture on the back seat of the car, we got it to college late yesterday afternoon.  Today, I tidied up the scratches on the face, re-did the hair and sorted out the squashed ears.


Before setting off on making the mould, I decided to add a bit more clay to the back and front of the trunk to get a better balance to the piece.  Then I set about making a clay wall along the major outline and, following convention, made the side facing forwards the smooth side.  There are lumps of clay behind the wall to give it some support.


Tomorrow I shall plaster the front and hopefully the back.  There is a small possibility that I may also start to clean up the mould too but I need to check that out.


Modelling a head

Some time ago Tim Foster, a wood and stone carver [evening classes at Yorkshire Hut Company], suggested that I should consider making pieces in clay before trying them in wood.  There were two reasons behind the advice, one was that the act of generating the clay model would help iron out potential problems before starting a carving and the other reason was – if you can’t make it in clay [a medium where you can repeatedly put bits on and take some off], you won’t make it in wood.

I’ve kept that advice in mind and avoided heads, and more particularly faces, as I struggled with the quality of my attempts.  However, things have changed following a terrific three day class for portrait sculptors organised by the Society of Portrait Sculptors and tutored by Etienne Millner at his studio.

Pre-course instructions were usefully detailed and included included size and materials for a bust peg [the thing one puts clay on to build a bust] – here’s mine:-


There were 10 students, probably four were under thirty, and I was the only man amongst them.  Etienne and the Society provided each of us with a wheeled modelling stand [which were adjustable in height and very well made] and Etienne had arranged for Hong to be our model for the whole period. He also generously arranged lunches at his home for those who wanted to partake.

Etienne’s studio had been a squash court and had a large roof lights so the space was flooded with fairly diffuse light.  I could have spent ages walking around looking at all the casts of his work sitting shelves [visit his site to see what I mean].

Overall I felt very encouraged by Etienne’s method of tutoring [although before the course I was more than a little daunted by the prospect of input from a man who has work in the National Portrait Gallery].  I felt carried along by Etienne’s analysis of what I had done, where there were mistakes, which detracted from the work, and how defects could be altered.  Etienne would rotate between students, perhaps clockwise one day and anticlockwise the next thereby giving one time to incorporate his input into one’s work.

Hong was a delightful model, so calm, still and unfazed by so many approaches of students with callipers trying to measure this distance or that.  And here she is:-



By the end of Monday my armature and wet clay weighed over 14.5kg and I had the choice of go home with a set of pictures or try and get it home by public transport [Stockwell tube to York] while carrying my rucksack of about 6.5kg.  Thankfully I had pre-planned and had some Instapak RT bags with me [hang over from inventing days] and managed to pack the work in a cushioned fashion in the bag I’d carried the armature in to London.  So, here’s the piece before and after travel – only a few scratches, which it should be possible to repair and then cast.thumb_IMG_7257_1024 thumb_IMG_7269_1024

As ever there is still so much more to learn and to practise!


Ancient to contemporary

Earlier this year there was a short series on BBC4 about ancient treasures found in the UK. They showed the Broighter Gold Hoard, and I was very taken with how it was all gold and made without soldering parts together.  There is a cup with rings on its edge so it looks like a small cauldron. a heavily decorated torc and a small boat with oars, mast, yardarm, and some marine tools.  I couldn’t help but be inspired by the boat and thought how in many ways it seemed to be a contemporary object.  Now, as when it was made in the 1st century BC, a model boat can be used to symbolise life’s journey, references mythic epic journeys, and passage from life to death.

Having made some sketches in early summer and thought about what I wanted to do next, I set out to make my own boat in copper in the way the Broighter boat was made.


thumb_IMG_6733_1024I decided on a more pointed bow and less deep hull and then cut a blank out of sheet copper using the guillotine.


I do not know what was the starting point for the ancient gold craftsman – was it a crude ingot from smelting?  Would cutting be by chisel or were saws or shears used?  With every question I raise, I think that maybe I should go to the Museum of Ireland where the hoard resides [or at least write to them].  Anyway, as with the bowls in earlier posts, it was a repeat of annealing [making the metal soft], beating it towards the shape wanted until it had become work-hardened, and then anneal again.


Once happy with the form I had to hold it to drill holes for the oars and the rivets for the seats.


It looked to me that it would be tricky to get the seats the right size so I made templates in thin card as each seat was a different length and the folds in at the end at different angles.


You may have noticed the other whitish object in the left-hand picture – it is tooth of a horse or cow we found in the outer hebrides this year.  I decided to drill a hole in ti to help stabilise the mast and give the boat some ballast.  Below are a few shots of the finished boat.