Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bulbs with Bike Parts

At the end of the week I install my work at Esvelt Gallery in Pasco, WA. My show, "Biomorph" opens January 6 and runs through February 6 with a reception January 14 at 1pm. The gallery, on Columbia Basin College's campus, is open M-Th 8am - 8:30pm and Friday 8-noon. 

One of my installations will consist of 100 bulbs, each made from a mold and altered before firing and glazing. A few of the bulbs have non-ceramic bike part or mechanical additions attached after firing. The bulbs will be installed on the wall in a grid.

bulbs in a box waiting to be glazed and fired
bulb with a bike part taped on as the epoxy sets
finished bulb from above
bulb with a chain attached

The bulb installation at Biomorph is a version of an installation I have created several times before, the first time was with raku fired, hand formed bulbs as a part of my senior show in college.

"Ericano" installation from 2002

This year (next year, really, since I'm writing on New Year's Eve) I have limited installation time so I created an installation grid on paper so that we won't have to plan, level, and measure the placement of screws during installation. The paper should be able to just be hung on the wall and then all the holes can be drilled based on the paper grid. Making the grid was a huge pain, since we don't actually have a 7' x 7' space on the floor in our home. I laid out 3 different 4 foot wide rolls of paper and measured and squared the grid several times to make sure it was even. I did this on a rug, which added some frustration, and while my daughter was trying to play with her toys in the same room. Hopefully the frustration will be worth it on a fast installation day.

paper grid for bulb installation on Friday

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Finishing More Sabbatical Work

It is Christmas, so I am obviously not working in my studio today, but I did finish up (or nearly finish) some work at the end of last week that I haven't posted. The piece I was most worried about is an asymmetrical piece that I was never able to balance when it was wet. I built it in sections, like everything else, but because the top pieces were so long and narrow, I held them up with foam to get the angles right, then let them dry laying down. 

early sketch for asymmetrical piece

When I glazed these pieces, they were also laying down on stilts so they didn't have a dry spot on one side.
glazed and fired pieces without bike parts

I put together the bottom and top parts with their bike parts separately. The base has a section behind with chain pieces hanging out. I bought a tool to separate the chain into smaller sections. I also spent some time with the chains and the wire brush wheel in the garage cleaning the dirty grease from the exterior of the chain sections.

first layer of bike chains, upside down while epoxy sets

I epoxied several chains in place and let the epoxy set for a day. The next day I took off the masking tape and added a second layer of chains to create a fuller (and more weighted) effect. After the chains were in place I was able to turn the piece over to continue putting the two larger sections together.

second layer of bike chains taped in place while epoxy sets

The top three long pieces attached to a gear stack which will eventually attach to the base of the sculpture. The original angle I had envisioned turned out to be too dramatic and would have resulted in a sculpture that might tip over. Instead I put several small stacks of gears together with half circle spacers separating the bottom of each gear stack. Once the epoxy sets in the bottom gear stacks, I should be able to attach the top section at a more stable angle. 

long bulb pieces setting with foam supports  /  base with gears setting after chains were epoxied in place

Not all of the work I started this sabbatical will necessarily be finished before my January "Biomorph" show in Pasco. One that may or may not be finished is a computer key piece I started near the end of my work time.
bike wheel top with bulbs setting in place

The idea for this sculpture is that the bike wheel top might be a moving piece that spins around on top of a metal rod that is attached into the green gear of the base. Of course a bike wheel is a rather large spinning piece, perhaps even unwieldy, so the balance will need to be tested and assessed after the bulbs are secured to the wheel.

base during building with green gear to hold rod and bike wheel
The biggest problem may not be putting on the bike wheel, it may just be that I run out of time to finish the open end of the base. On Friday I epoxied the keys in place. It was a surprisingly fun activity. The keys snap in place like they would on a keyboard. I used epoxy to ensure they wouldn't snap out of place later.

base after firing and key attachment

The two bike fork and pitcher plant pieces will probably be finished before the show, though they are not finished now. I have attached the bike forks to the bases and most of the pitcher plants to the tops. The pieces are now tall and narrow which negatively affects their stability, but I will be adding more weight to the base of each so that should improve.

unfired pitcher plant base and bisque fired pitcher plant tops before glazing

The bike forks are at a large scale that, in some ways, dwarfs the bases themselves. Right now each of these pieces is taped up and a few pieces are missing from each, so its hard to get a sense of the whole piece.

base with bike fork being epoxied in place

Three of the pitcher plants have interior attachments that mimic a plant's stamen. The others are more complex on their exteriors.  All of the pitcher plants attach in some way to the top of the bike fork.

pitcher plants with "stamens' being epoxied in place

The first round of pitcher plans slide onto the top fork and stack on top of one another. The others are more complex, with some sliding on, others tucking around the middle of the fork and one slotting onto the side of the bottom of the fork. 

two sets of pitcher plants taped in place while the epoxy sets

The pitcher plant / bike fork pieces are unfinished today because the end caps aren't attached. I have glazed them, but they were not ready to take out of the kiln before the holiday. I should be able to attach them in the few days before my show is installed.

glazed end caps in the kiln
The end caps with be attached to the base with gear stacks or other bike parts. The earlier base has just one end cap. The later base has four end caps with gear stacks and four small end caps with ball bearings.

bike fork bases with some gears and end caps in place

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Closing in on the End: More Epoxy and More Firing

It is with exhilaration and exhaustion that I near the end of my sabbatical work time. I am planning to be done working on Friday so I can spend time with family, but I may spend some time finishing up (and packing the work) after the holidays and before my show is installed on January 3. In case you wanted to come see the show, Biomorph opens January 6 at Esvelt Gallery in Pasco, WA.

This week has been one of putting stuff together. I have about six multi-part pieces in some stage of being epoxied together. None are completely finished, though at least two will be tomorrow when the epoxy is set.

early sketch for red and blue gear piece
This first one is pretty similar to the sketch in the end. I haven't added on very many of the bike part decorations on the outside because they can always be attached with fast drying epoxy if need be.

tape holding on metal part while epoxy sets
I had to epoxy this piece on two different days because it has so many twists and turns and I can't use tape to secure each piece as the epoxy sets. I ended up putting stuff under the edge of each section so that the gear would be level. I supported the pieces with clay, foam, jars and gear stacks while they set.

gear stacks holding base level while epoxy sets
The pieces should be ready to put entirely together tomorrow after the epoxy sets.

base and top sections help up with a bag of flosser and some underglaze bottles and tape while epoxy sets

The other gear stack piece wasn't as difficult to put together. The pieces mostly stacked straight up so I could put several together at once.  

early sketches for this piece (top right of sketch) and fired piece before epoxy

I had to attach the gear stack underneath the top section (all the red pieces were built attached to each other) and let that set before putting the whole section on top.

two gear stacks (they look like one) being epoxied to top red piece
Because of the angle of the top attachment, I have leaned the piece against a pedestal so that it won't shift as the epoxy sets.
the whole thing being gently held in place by a pedestal

The first multi-part piece I built this summer should be mostly ready tomorrow. This piece is based on bike parts left over from my SRAM project last summer.

early sketch for this and other pieces
SRAM bike part held in future position
I epoxied the elements together on three separate days because there are so many pieces: eight orange pieces, eight small pieces, four metal parts on the base and two large black pieces. I taped the small pieces together as the epoxy set.

glazed and fired bike parts (that's a new orange under glaze)
tape holding on bulbs while epoxy sets
Today the whole piece is resting on its side with a long bolt and gravity holding the metal arms in place as the epoxy sets. I'm not allowed in the studio tonight because I might bump the piece.

finished piece (plus masking tape) upside down

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Pieces Start to Come Together

It's finally getting interesting again, guys! I'm not just under-glazing! I am still under-glazing, but that's not all I'm doing. I have fired three kiln loads of glazed work. That should mean I have three kiln loads of finished work ready to be either displayed or epoxied to bike parts. I would like to say the finished work is ready to be photographed with a nice backdrop and careful lighting, but I have accepted that professional photos aren't going to happen in 2013.

under-glazed bulbs ready for glaze spraying
One of the kilns is still hot. I will unload it tomorrow, but the other two loads came out and I started to epoxy the bike parts today. I'm still doing plenty of under-glazing, but I'm trying to prioritize the pieces that need to be epoxied first. The epoxy takes 24 hours to set, which means I have to add several days onto each multi-part piece. I can't epoxy all the pieces together at one time; I need to start with the base and work my way up.

under-glazing table
Most of this week I divided my time between under-glazing, spraying glaze (in the cold), and loading and unloading kilns. I also went to school for most of a day to prepare my winter quarter classes. It felt a bit strange being back at school, especially because most of my colleagues were doing advising and the office was pretty empty.

glazed work waiting to be loaded into kiln
Dividing my time this week was very nice, since I was able to balance the boredom and monotony of under-glazing with the freezing digits that result from loading the kiln or spraying glaze (both activities I do outside). The remedy for frozen fingers is sitting in the heat and applying underglaze. The remedy for a frozen brain is to load a kiln or spray some glaze.

sorting gears to find the best fit for various fired parts

Today, though, I was able to start putting the bike parts and the fired clay parts together. This was loads more interesting, though a little scary, since I could actually make big mistakes at this point, or discover mistakes I made weeks or months ago.

testing the fit of a gear for this top element
The first thing I had to do was match all the fired pieces with their bike parts. I ended up running back to the computer a few times to look at old pictures I had taken while I was building, just to be sure I had the right part in the right place.

I prefer the black gears (right) to the silver (left).

I've gotten a new box of bike parts from Revolution Cycles since I built the work, so I was able to make some substitutions at this point if the new part was a better fit or had a nicer surface. I also found a new way to freeze digits. I took a few gears out to the wire wheel in the garage to buff them. Happily my husband had done this for most of the parts earlier in the year and I didn't have many to clean myself.

one of four orange bulbs to be added to this piece

Once I had tested and checked the parts, I mixed up a big batch of PC-7 (my favorite epoxy) and started sticking stuff together. The epoxy is a paste which stays pliably for a long time. This is good if I need to fix mistakes, but means that I need to be sure the pieces will stick together for a full day. I usually tape the pieces together to be sure they are positioned right, then leave the room so I won't bump them.

masking tape in place to encourage a correct fit

The stacked pieces usually don't need to be taped, since gravity will supply the pressure and my interior support helps keep the pieces from shifting sideways.

black epoxy around the main contact point for the bike gear

I usually try to err on the side of too thick when I apply epoxy, though I need to be sure the epoxy doesn't squish out the sides when I put two pieces together. Usually I can clean up any mistakes or excesses with a toothpick and some old phonebook pages. The phonebook pages don't leave fuzzies on the surface like paper towel does.

bike gear pushing into epoxy
clay form added on top of bike gear and a second layer of epoxy

This sabbatical work is supposed to be a learning process for me, and I learned something quite valuable today. I only wish I didn't have to learn by actually making the mistake. I have one piece that seemed like a good idea, but now that I've fired it, I realize I should have made some serious structural changes.

Three long ceramic forms (hopefully) being supported while epoxy cures. The green towel is acting as a cushion between the two tallest forms.

This asymmetrical piece may or may not make it out of the experimental realm. I spent at least 30 minutes trying to attach the top pieces to their gear today. I yelled at the piece about six times and I finally had to just stop and let the epoxy set as it was. The fit isn't quite right, but the major problem is my apparent disregard of physics. I guess I thought these tall forms would be held up by magic, because a small attachment at the bottom end, and at a severe angle, now seems dubious. I should have built in a few more contact points along the inside where the three long pieces naturally touch. 

I tried to add epoxy to these contact points, but I was already holding up the pieces with bubble wrap, foam and masking tape, so they wouldn't all fall down. I couldn't reach the base without wreaking more havoc on the pieces. I know some of the epoxy at the base is visible and rough, but I'm not sure how much or how rough. Tomorrow's unveiling may be filled with tears, curses or relief, who knows.

My studio is littered with epoxied pieces and potential next steps.