Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Failure...Bad For The Heart, Good For Your Art

My challenge to myself this semester was to try several new projects using materials and methods I've not had prior experience with. I strongly feel the best way to keep myself not only inspired and fresh but also to grow as an artist is to push myself out of my comfort zone.

One of the things I've never done was work with clay. I had an idea to make some sort of light shade or lamp cover out of ceramic with an abstract cutout design. It looked really neat in my head so I decided to give it a shot.

One of the many things about creating art is that often, you find you don't have the skills to bring to life whatever was birthed in your imagination. And this definitely happened with my light shade!! I quickly realized the clay I bought wasn't the right consistency to create a solid, ceramic-type object but as I don't have access to a kiln, I was limited by what material I could cook in a standard home oven. The project I had in my head was a very large-scale installation style piece but I decided to try and make a tiny version for the sake of practicality.


The clay is a flesh-toned waxy material that feels kind of gross, a combination of Silly Putty and Play-Doh~
 I've got my wire mesh to fortify the panels~
 Using a rolling pin, I start flattening the skin. I mean clay. Honestly, I kept hearing the phrase "It puts the lotion in its skin" a lot while working on this...
 Rolling it out over the wire mesh and trimming the excess clay off, I start using a knife to cut shapes into and through the clay layer and aluminum mesh.
 It's a tedious and time consuming task, and I'm getting frustrated because I don't have a curved blade that would allow for finer detail and swirling shapes, which is how I initially pictured the cutout design. At least I had the foresight to put foam core under the knife so as not to carve my kitchen table!
 The first two sides carved and baked and the adhesive drying...canned goods make good weights and braces for projects! I left the first panel in the oven much longer than suggested because it turns out this particular kind of clay doesn't bake to a perfectly solid material. It stays somewhat malleable, which was not at all what needed to happen, nor what I was expecting.
 All four sides are done and glued together, but it is just looking worse and worse! I think that if the panels were significantly thicker, this might have gone better, but perhaps not even then. The panels are bendy and not very sturdy, and certainly won't form a reasonably square shape, preferring to sag and bend at their own imaginary whims.
The description on the box of clay made it sound like it would bake to a semi-translucent material, which I had chosen to enhance the glow of light it would allow through, but that's not how it turned out, so I decided to paint the box in an attempt to make it look less frightening and more purposeful.
 Then, because it was still super ugly, I threw some beads on it. When in doubt, Bedazzle!
 The beads do little,'s still saggy and crooked and lumpy and quite sad looking!
 And so finally, I set it up in the dark with a candle in the middle, and it does the something cool I was hoping for....
 The shadows thrown from the cutout shapes look pretty neat, in my opinion.

If using a sturdier clay and being able to properly kiln-bake it, I think this project would have come out awesome. And if I was able to make it on a large scale and install bulbs or many candles in it or behind it, I think it would look amazing.

So while my test-dummy of a light shade came out pretty lame-o for the most part, I guess the fact that it's 90% Fail means that I now know 10% more than I did about working with clay and how to proceed the next time around!

This is obviously a fitting lesson for not only creating Art but all life situations in general. Mistakes are usually our greatest learning experiences. If we were successful the first time around in all our pursuits, we'd be very boring people without much depth.

This of course, means I am a very deep and fascinating individual....*wry laugh*

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