Finished Anteaters

I took my work down to the photography studio today in an effort to have some more professional looking photographs of my work, so here are the anteater sculptures I made in La Perdrix

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La Perdrix 2015 – Anteaters

After pushing for the roll of being put in charge of the anteater candlestick in our project to make all the dinnerware for a starter of a meal for 17 people, I decided to go and sculpt some prototypes.

Considering I could barely remember what an anteater looked like aside from the basic shape and features, I needed to have a reference picture before I could do anything. I got up google images on my group member’s laptop and made some very quick sketches to refresh my memory

From these sketches I went and made a few small maquettes of anteaters holding candle sticks

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I thought the idea of an anteater sat looking very displeased with a candle stuck in the middle of it’s head was quite amusing. I decided to do a close up of a displeased anteater head

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After these initial prototypes, I was painfully aware that the anteaters were nowhere near up to the standard I wanted them to be, I envisioned the final thing as being a very real (or at least accurate) depiction of an anteater, and these just weren’t quite right. This was completely down to my lack of references to draw from, which I was fully aware of as I just didn’t have enough understanding of the shape and form. So, I went and borrowed my tutor Ingrid’s laptop, sat down, and drew lots and lots of anteaters.

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I must say, this gave me a much deeper appreciation for anteaters, they are absolutely great, and such bizarrely shaped creatures. They start off so long and thin at the front, and then turn into a massive wedge at the back, with their front legs really out to the sides almost like a bear. What I didn’t realise before this was that anteaters walk on the knuckles of their front feet, with their two big claws facing upwards. This again makes them move very amusingly, and really makes them a lot of fun to draw and sculpt.

So, having a better understanding of the anteater, I then went and made some more maquettes

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I was much happier with these sculptures, and feel they really capture the character and shape of the anteater. However, it was at that point my group came back to me and said they didn’t feel that the anteater fit with the theme any more, as their work had progressed in a specific direction and the anteater would be completely out of place.

While I completely agreed and understood, it was disheartening feeling that I had wasted my entire day working something which now had no place in the project, as well as the fact that I had been checking in with members of my groups all day asking their opinions and feedback and not once being given anything but positive feedback. But I understand that it might not have been evident until we all regrouped and reassessed all of the work being produced together that it became evident the anteater had no place. Despite being disheartened about the loss of the anteater (I was quite fond of them at this point), my biggest concern was that I would no longer have a place in the group. As I mentioned in the initial planning of the project, I have very little experience with ceramics and sculpting being my only talent, I had now lost the only main sculpting role in the group. While someone else in the group was doing some sculpting, I felt like she already had that in hand and there wouldn’t be any place for me. Not only this, but the next day I was put on cooking duty (everyone spends a day in the kitchen) and so it felt like everyone was going to progress without me. Needless to say I was feeling quite disheartened.

However, it all worked out in the end and I found a job to do which I will talk about in my other post, but I wanted to finish the little anteater sculptures I had made at least.

My anteaters were bisque fired, and ready to be glazed

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Using the sepia underglaze, I painted the markings onto the, bisque fired anteaters

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and then dipped them in transparent glaze. I had to make sure to clean the glaze off the bottom of their feet and any other area touching the ground so that the glaze didn’t fuse them to the ground in the kiln when the glaze melts.

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And here we are – the finished anteaters! Unfortunately, they are not as glassy and smooth as I had hoped, which was apparently a problem with the clay being very porous and absorbing the clay. Despite this, I am still very happy with them, probably due to just the sheer novelty of them and my new found fondness for the creatures, although it’s disappointing that they lack the “finished” quality of a ceramic piece.

Not quite big enough to hold candles. Incense holders perhaps?


La Perdrix trip, France – 2015 – Day 1

This year a few of us Makers got a chance to squeeze onto a Ceramics trip to La Perdrix in France after a few ceramicists dropped out. Having been last year and had a great time I jumped at the chance to go again.

We were given two briefs for the week. The first brief being a reasonably straight forward one of making a ceramic gargoyle of our own face, which will then later be fired and hung in in La Perdrix with water spurting out it. Our second brief was a little more ambitious, and the main focus of the week. On the last full day of the week (Monday) we were all to make a big meal, with us having been put into 4 groups and each group being in charge of one course of the meal serving 17 people. These were the “mise en bouche” (the pre-starter), the starter, the main, and the desert. However, we were not only in charge of making the meal, but also every item of dinnerware needed for that course (excluding cutlery). I was placed in the a group in charge of the starter, which meant that we had to make all the bowls/plates depending on what we were serving, the drinking vessels for the meal, and the candle sticks for the table. We were told that we should give our dinner set a theme, possibly an artistic movement but potentially anything.

Myself and my group split off to gather some ideas and do some brainstorming.

Our first focus was to try and agree on what it was we would serve. The night before, when we arrived, we had gone to a restaurant in Bordeaux and eaten some very delicious onion soup. This being a classic French dish, and the big meal being served at the end of the week (and so not too close to the night we had already eaten onion soup), it seemed like a good choice. This drew me to the idea of creating an onion shaped bowl, with onions themselves being a nice curved shape, and eating onion soup out of an onion shaped bowl could be quite amusing.

my initial sketches for vegetable themed tableware

my initial sketches for vegetable themed tableware

While the group seemed enthusiastic at first, it was quickly decided that the idea was far too kitsch, and therefore distasteful and to be avoided. Personally, while I would strongly avoid kitsch in my usual work, I thought that it had a good place in this short project as being fun and straightforward, rather than something which needs any strong grounding in concept. Not only this, but there had been mention of Ingrid selling the pieces on a stall afterwards and giving us the proceeds, and I am all too aware that is a strong market for kitsch

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But this is the nature of brainstorming, so I was happy to throw more ideas around and was happy with not going with the first idea that we had. I then mentioned the idea of Salvador Dali related tableware, melting off the table in the style of the melting clocks in his paintings

Salvador Dali - "The Persistence of Memory"

Salvador Dali – “The Persistence of Memory”

Again the group seemed to like the idea, and people started talking about the idea of making wobbly bowls and unsustainable structures. Somebody mentioned the fact that Salvador Dali had a pet anteater, and perhaps we could make an anteater candle stick

Salvador Dali walking his pet anteater

Salvador Dali walking his pet anteater

I was very excited by the idea of an anteater candle stick. Not only was it a very fun and novel thought, it was something more sculptural which is my only strength in terms of ceramics. Being in a group of 3 ceramics students and having had no more than a basic amount of experience with ceramics myself, I was very much worried about how much I would be able to contribute to the group, especially when it comes to making tableware which generally involves throwing on a wheel. While I am capable of producing something on a wheel, it would be after many failures and certainly not up to the standard that I expected the ceramics students would make with ease. However, I have been told in the past by my tutors as well as Claire Curneen (my favourite living artist who came in to tutor is in sculpting last year) that I have a talent for sculpting and that I should do it more. Because of this, I pushed to be put in charge of the ant eater candle stick.

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I drew some initial sketches, which I was aware aren’t very good representations of an anteater as I didn’t have a reference to look at, and it had been a long time since I’d seen what one looked like. My main idea being an anteater which holds the candle in its tongue, trying to make it as bizarre a situation as possible to be sat in the middle of a table.


First year La Perdrix fun

We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to stay with our wonderful tutor Ingrid in her house in France. We had loads of fun as well as getting lots of ceramics made

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La Perdrix rube goldberg ideas

During our trip to La Perdrix we had to come up with our own ideas for a week long project. I personally wanted to create our own musical instruments (which frustratingly, the group that came the week after us got to do), but our group instead settled on a Rube Goldberg machine. The idea was suggested by Anna (click here to visit her blog) in our group who had been working on a project all around rube goldberg machines. If you want to look at her post specifically on her part of the machine you can find it here

“A Rube Goldberg machine is a contraption, invention, device or apparatus that is deliberately over-engineered or overdone to perform a very simple task in a very complicated fashion, usually including a chain reaction. The expression is named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg”

These can range from small and relatively simple in it’s components, to filling warehouses made of hundreds of complex parts. Here’s a compilation of some more simplistic ones:

and here’s a much more complicated one in the form of a music video:

We all gathered round on the floor and started planning

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My ambitious plan for the machine was to create a dragon sculpture to symbolise Wales for the marble to roll through, possibly moving some wings as it passes through the body

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However I had a bit of trouble when it came to working out the mechanics of it all

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French dogs

I can’t help but sketch dogs when I see them. This was during our wonderful trip to La Perdrix staying with our tutor Ingrid

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Maker Faire Rome!

Trying to sort out the backlog of stuff so I can get this blog back up to date! First, Rome! A few of us on the Maker course went to visit the Maker Faire which was hosted in Rome, to have a look at what being a “maker” involves.

These images are a few of my favourites from the faire, but there was so many different things that I enjoyed, some more conventional than others..

There was without a doubt a strong influence of 3D printing at the show, and during the conferences many people spoke about the sudden increase in 3D printing and the possibilities it can hold, and seemed to be very excited about the medium. However it was also pointed out that this hype over 3D printing may not quite be deserved, and while this is a new and exciting technologies it like anything else has it’s limitations. I personally noticed while going around the faire that while there were many interesting and creative uses of 3D printing, for example coral reefs printed using sand from the area and then returned there to house marine life, there were also many people who had simply 3D printed generic objects (skulls, hearts, shapes) and had put in no creative input and were purely showcasing the technique itself. Personally I do not think that is enough to be of any interest, in the same way that a bucket of paint demonstrates nothing more than that paint exists.

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This was a really interesting construction set by Bare Conductive, using newly developed paint that conducts electricity which allowed you to draw working circuits onto paper and work with small arduinos and LEDs. They were selling sets of greetings cards, houses, and the pens themselves which I bought. While I know practically nothing about circuits or using this paint, I am excited by the idea of learning and there are plenty of guides and tutorials online for me to look at.

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Image This is me wearing a pair of wheel skates, which to me really summed up the spirit of the “maker”. The man who had made them wanted people to test them out to see how well they worked, and being the helpful person I am, I gladly volunteered (plus it looked really fun!). Being someone who can already rollerblade to a reasonable level I thought I would have a relative advantage as these seemed like a similar sort of design. I was wrong. These wheel shoes were possibly the most difficult thing to balance on I have ever experienced, and even with the two support poles and the man holding me up I was still falling all over the place, let alone moving around! I somehow managed not to fall on my arse infront of a crowd of people, thanks to a lot of support (physical, not verbal) from the maker, and stumbled back over to the chair after a minute or so.

Assuming I was just using them poorly, I asked the guy if he was any good with them. “No! I can’t even rollerblade!” he said, “I just thought it would be a cool idea, so I made them last week and brought them here to see if anyone could use them”

“Has anyone been able to use them so far then?” I asked him

“Not really, everyone’s just fallen about like you”

This really made me laugh because he’d simply had an idea, thrown these things together in the space of the week and brought them along having absolutely no idea whether they work or not, and was enlisting strangers to test them

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This was another object that really amused me, a fully working mobile phone with a sim card like any other, but in the completely impractical body of an old phone. While it has no wires and can be taken anywhere and used just like a normal phone, the idea of carrying it around in public and using it to make phone calls is.. completely ridiculous. And that’s exactly what I love about it,  it’s quirkiness.

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Another thing that caught my eye was this set of jewelry made out of completely untraditional jewelry materials of laser cut plastic and knitted yarn. Not only are these in themselves unusual for jewelry, but I’ve never seen them combined together before either, I really like the use of pattern which is repeated, but on textures which contrast each other