Sunday, 24 July 2011

Sculpting in Layers - Work in Progress

I've been spending my days sculpting, relaxing, and listening to music. One of the nicest ways to spend some days off I can imagine.

I've had a lovely holiday off from work, and today is my last day. I've spent my time with my dear husband, getting all the little chores done that get missed during a normal week, having some lovely days out, and spending time making new dolls. We even got to go visit the National Botanical Gardens of Wales, and the National Museum and Art Gallery in Cardiff. It's been to long since I went to the art gallery and I really enjoyed getting to see wonderful works by the best artists in the world. Including a favorite Van Gogh of rain soaked fields, and beautiful soft Claude Monet visions of stunning gardens and classic architecture. But my favorites, as always, were the portraits from tiny miniatures to massive full length portraits. All those faces gazing out of the canvas of people long since gone. Each telling it's own tale of the times in which they lived, the Sunday best clothes of the poorer classes, and the lavish get-up's of the rich. All staged in a setting befitting the social standing of the person shown - some in a studio dressed with the highest care and depicting carefully chosen objects and refinements that can be viewed as a puzzle to the life lived, and others shown in their true settings of everyday life with the dirt and grime of their own society there for all to see. Like the poor hardworking miners of the Welsh valleys captured as they sit quietly alone in the crowd of their local pub, taking a hard won rest and well earned pint while still covered in the black ink dirt that sticks even to their eyelashes like make-up and will never wash off, so deeply it's ingrained. I really must find myself more time to enjoy all the wonderful things the galleries in this country hold. And some day soon maybe I'll get to re-visit some of the fantastic galleries of other countries that I've visited before, and find new treasures in new countries too.

My table has been covered with bit's of dolls all week. And after cutting and sanding what seemed like thousands of bits of dowelling things are starting to look a little bit more doll like now.

Above (first photo) is just some of my new girls (and two boys this time), some almost finished and some still waiting for further layers of paperclay to fill out areas that have shrunk during drying and to re-shape lips, noses, cheeks and eyes. This next week I'll be spending a lot of time finishing these off and getting them sanded ready to be painted next weekend.
I've managed to get all the hands and feet sculpted for all 26 dolls, all of the bodies, and all but 6 of the faces. I was a bit annoyed to find I didn't have the right colours or sizes of eyes I needed for the largest dolls so I'll need to take a trip out button shopping before I can finish those 4. And the two small ones at the front (left second photo) need a very specific eye colour as they're to be cake toppers I've been asked to make for my neighbors wedding. I'm a bit worried about making them look like actual people, so if you have any tips I'd be really grateful for your help.

All the arms and legs have been sanded, wet polished and finished. As well as this one little body that's one of my small 5in dolls. I've given up trying to sand paperclay with sandpaper. All it seems to do it tear up the clay and leave horrible scratches, even when I use the finest grade I can find (which clogs up and I end up using tons of it). So have gone back to my trusted Basic Grey file set, which never seems to wear and always does the job - no matter what I use them on. I really should get another set of them, and I really recommend them if you need to sand or file small bit's and bob's as they have very good points to them, and all the shapes have been really useful, especially the round file, the curved - flat file, and the slightly tapered flat file that's just a little thicker one one edge than the other. To get rid of the very faint lines left by sanding this way I then wipe over everything with a damp cloth. I've no idea where I found out how to do this, but through trial and error with different techniques I've found that if you "polish" and rub dry paperclay after sanding with a damp cloth you get a very nice smooth finish. I use a 100% cotton face cloth as it's just rough enough to take off those rough spots but doesn't leave any marks. While the clay is still damp I then rub it all over with a damp finger to make sure it's totally smooth. Which seems to give the clay a sort of seal so that the paint that comes next will sink in, but not so far that it'll take loads of layers to get them finished. Then they get pinned back up on these concertina fold corrugated card boards that I salvaged from packaging that was being thrown away. I've no idea how I'd dry anything without it loosing some of it's shape without them.

My husband pointed out to me that my dust jar is a bit odd. I suppose that to some it could seem a little bit strange, although I don't really see why myself. He's not the only one that's asked me why I have a jar of dust, so I thought I'd try and explain.

Anytime I make something from paperclay I always sand it over a sheet of newspaper to try and control some of the mess. I was getting a bit fed up of throwing away this Dust as I was sure I could find some use for it. And once I started looking I found loads of things I could use it for, so now I save it all in my dust jar.
This fluffy white dust is fantastic stuff, and as paperclay can be expensive in the UK as I have to get it shipped from the US I think it's only right that I don't waste it.

It's oddly heavier than you'd think it would be. It's not that it has a weight, as it doesn't. It's just that it doesn't move or puff up everywhere if you move slightly or a mouse breathes in the next room like the sandings that come from a lot of air dry clays and other things, so you can play about with it without holding your breath, and you don't have to worry and clean up every two seconds when your in the middle of sanding something in the first place. It is possible to turn it back into clay if your careful with how much water you add to it. But it doesn't have the same texture as a nice new block of paperclay does, so it doesn't really work for the same things. I have used it to make some lovely casts by mixing up the dust to a stiff consistency and pushing it onto rubber stamps then leaving it to dry before removing. They came out really nicely with a lovely aged look because of the slightly rougher texture it dries to. I've also used it as a filler for fine cracks in other clay projects by mixing it up to a sort of jam consistency and rubbing it on with my fingers in a few coats. This was fantastically messy in that lovely child-like mud-pie making sort of way, and gave a really nice finish. I really do use this dust on all sorts of things, and it's very versatile - You can add it to acrylic paint to get a thick gluey textured paint that holds brush marks and scratches like a think oil paint - Layer it onto paper or canvas with your fingers to get a smooth surface like plaster or lay it on thick and scratch into it - Mix it up thinly and wash it over projects to give them a ghostly milky matt wash (so long as you get out all of the lumps, or not if you prefer) - It can be used in any consistency to add a little fill to bed items onto things and stop them looking like their floating on the surface - Or brushed dry onto painted plastic as a blotter to get rid of that horrid sticky thing that happens sometimes. There are tons of things to do with this dust, so I'm going to carry on collecting it and find as many uses of it as possible.
Do you keep your sandings?
What do you use yours for?

1 comment:

  1. Wow Natasha, I have totally enjoyed my visit, your break was filled with creative pursuits, galleries, dolls, & your love of portraits I totally relate too... sounds like you have a great support from hubby too (whether he understands the dust jar or not LOL)!