Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Head Making:







Bud & Bobby dug a big ditch beside the road up the hill, an effort to lessen the road wrecking effects of hard rains. The ditch went down thru topsoil, thru red clay, and into a lighter colored layer that looked like it could be workable. Today I tested it and it seemed pretty good, so I dug a wheel barrow full and rolled it up to the studio porch. The hard part is that the clay's laid there for several million years and the tiny saucer shaped particles (clay is the smallest particle before a molecule) have gotten all higgly-piggly, which doesn't help its plasticity, and there are bits of gravel and the occasional rootlet in it. For the first time in my life, I wished for a pug mill.

A pug mill is a bit like a cement mixer, only for clay. By cutting up lumps and turning the clay it gradually smooths it to a near workable state. In the absence of a pug mill, one has one's hands. The process of returning the plasticity to clay is called wedging.
It's a bit like working really tough dough; pushing and smearing with the palms, then adding a twist and turning it back in on itself. A lump the size of a grapefruit is about what the hands can handle. It takes about 8 of those to make one of these heads for the head choosing scene in You'll Always Come Back. I'd like to have about 30 heads on a shelf - enough to look like a lot - the kicker is that they're to be broken as part of the performance. This clay should fire to a bright red-orange terra cotta shade & I want to contrast that with a lot of deep vivid indigo blue, a very little natural golden rope, & a tiny bit of emerald green.

The easiest method may be to make a slurry mold and cast the heads. To do that, I'd insert some metal or paper tabs in a row round the head, bisecting it through the center of the face from top to bottom, then encase the head in plaster. When the plaster hardens, the tabs make it easy to divide the plaster mold into two halves. The model head can be removed, the mold rejoined and a thick slurry of clay poured in and back out, repeating until a layer about a half-inch thick is formed. After the clay sets up a bit, the mold can be removed and reused. Enter the production line.

The cone shape at the top of the head represents the "ORI INU" - the inner, or spiritual head, equivalent to a person's destiny, chosen in the universal potter's shop before birth.

2 comments:

Alan Evil said...

You should make some of them hollow and fill them with fluorescent paint and break them under a blacklight.

Dan Dutton said...

oooo. That might work with my idea of pairing dancers with flashlights to dancers with mylar mirror tennis rackets....

& then there are the windup drone airplanes dropping clouds of red pigment....