Melting Man

This spring I was trying out porcelain paper clay and armatures of wire. Paper clay has some ‘magic’ qualities about it, such as, you can add fresh clay and attach it to bisque ware and refire. (Something not possible with regular clay). It also has remarkable strength. I wanted to test that and made tall lanky skinny old men. I started with wire armature. I had no previous introduction to building props of clay to fire along with a piece to protect it in the kiln when the clay goes soft and can slump, crack, and warp. I just made the figure I wanted and stuck it in the kiln. The wire are galvanized, not nichrome. Though I doubt it would have made a difference in this case.

Reading through many books and online resources on sculpting little was ever mentioned about supports. Clay supports are commonly built along with the piece, the supports are to ‘live’ with the piece in the kiln, during drying, through all stages until complete. Then they are tossed. Some support systems can take up more room in the kiln than the piece itself I have heard. I had built the figure and just stuck him in the kiln. I was aware that he might slump some, but ….

Opening a kiln with a piece leaning on the wall is never a good thing! So, he became known as Melty Man exclaiming, “Man! Is it hot in there!”

I then started an earnest search for sculptures who created such works and how they compensated for the stresses at high temperatures and shrinkage. It was challenging to get good information. But it was out there. I found a few artist in other countries who were generous in answering a few questions via direct messaging. Those tips and a lots of following test structures helped me to move forward with the work.

In the next post will be the follow up figure created after this moquette.

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