Part 3 molding & casting, Project 1 – air dry clay and moldable polymers

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To start this section of the course I decided to begin with the airdry clay. I rolled out some small tiles approximately 5cm square and tried to collect some textures of various fabrics and other objects. I liked the idea of making a collection of tiles. Minature versions of the concrete samples I found during my research in to Rebecca Fairley’s work

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My first texture was some knitting that I had discarded. It was knitted using some soft double knit wool so the texture was very subtle. A better imprint would probably have been gained from courser wool.

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My second texture was taken from a canvas bag strap that I had in my work room. I was a little disappointed with this texture it was not as clear as I had hoped.

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This texture worked really well, it was a plastic canvas (the type usually used in schools for cross stitch by children). Because it was ridged it left a very clear imprint in the clay. I can see this working well in combination with other textures.

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This imprint was taken from some cross stitch. Ofcourse it is reversed but you can clearly see the design. For some reason it reminds me of those Royal Dalton vases that were decorated using lace pressed into the surface of the clay before decoration was applied over the top.

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This tile captures some patterned texture from wallpaper. This imprint worked really well. It must be said I prefer the pattern on a small tile more than on the wall!

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This sample shows the texture when a rubber band ball is rolled repeatedly over the clay surface. I particularly like the random nature of this.

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My workroom bin was the source for this casting. I love the way some of the dust has attached itself to the casting. It was not something I was aiming for but rather an interesting effect none the less!

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This tile did not work as well as I had hoped; it was made using a scrunched up plastic bag. Either I did not push hard enough or the bag was too soft to leave a very distinct impression. It is a nice subtle texture though which may be useful in the future.

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This texture was taken from a net fruit bag. It has slightly smaller holes than the other bags I have and is quite tight so I had to pull it out whilst pressing it into the clay which left great variations in the pattern.

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A ball of string created this impression in the wet clay. I like the variation of depth in the imprinted lines and the varying direction where the string has been wound.

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This was a larger fruit net bag. It was quite loose and required little stretch to lay it flat leading to less variation  in the pattern. I don’t feel it is as interesting a surface as the other tile which used the smaller tighter net.

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Hessian, one of my favourite textures collected during this exercise. I like the subtle ‘flow’ of the weave across this tile as the loose weave stretched whilst being rolled out.

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Dress net left this interesting honeycomb texture on the clay. It left a really strong impression which would make a great background.

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I pressed the clay into some bubblewrap to create this tile. Again a great honeycomb effect was created. It may work well with other textures to add more interest.

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This sample made with scrim is similar to the hessian sample above but as the fabric has more give it has created an even better ‘flow’ accross the surface.

I think I am going to mount all these samples onto one board. It will create in a small way, a record of my home and the textures within it. I may well be moving soon so after this course is done it will be kept as a momento.

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Developing the plastic canvas’ imprinting qualities; I made use of the plastic canvas’ clear texture with strong intersecting lines making this sample quite geometric. It reminds me of some studies I did recently on modernism.

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I decide to develop the hessian sample further: Hessian and string created this texture in the clay. I thought as I removed the string that perhaps I could leave the string in for a different effect.

This experiment led me onto thinking about developing this idea further and pressing some of my own embroidery work into the clay to collect the texture. I quickly assembled some small machine and hand worked samples including stitched nets and drawn thread work and proceeded to roll them into the clay to make an impression:

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This is a small piece of free machine embroidered net made using straight and zig zag stitches which can clearly be seen in the imprint. I really like the texture achieved using this technique. I decided to record this sample in my sketchbook before moving forward.
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This is one of a series of samples made by pressing a heavily embroidered piece of hessian into the clay using different amounts of pressure. This one came out as the strongest impression and is my favourite.

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Again a machine embroidered net, this time an uneven one. I love the mark left behind in the clay once the embroidery is removed but like it even more when the embroidery is left in the clay. It reminds me of marks scratched into walls or fossils left in stones. I spok eto a ceramicist friend of mine about the possibilities of this technique and found out that it is a commmon technique to embed fabric in clay ( particularly using liquid clay ) then burn it out whilst in the kiln. To keep the emboidery in I would have to continue with air dried clay.

Again I recorded this sample in my sketchbook before carrying on:
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I pressed a piece of hand drawn work originally worked on hessian to see if the imprint would be as good as I hoped and it was. This piece reminds me so strongly of fossils and other marks left in sand for example. It would be fantastic to carry this through to a final piece of ceramic but I really wouldn’t know how. Perhaps my tutor would be able to offer up some suggestions / guidance.

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This smaller sample was worked originally on scrim so is much finer. The imprint left behind is much more delicate and less striking but I do love the subtlety of it. Again it would be fascinating to carry on along this line of experimentation. I don’t have access to a kiln or unfortunately the skills needed to take it further at the moment I feel I really need some advice or guidance on this. For the meantime I am going to try stitching directly into the clay whilst it is wet.

Developing samples

At this point in the project we are told to think about how to use some of the techniques from part one and two to embellish or manipulate our samples. It is suggested that we make notes and draw the ideas then develop some to form a new sub group of samples:

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With these ideas in mind I moved on to create some further samples as suggested:

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For this sample I was inspired by Eduardo Paolozzi’s built up textures. I used pen lids, a knitting needle and a large hair clip pressed into the clay to create a texture based on circles. I have been looking at circles as a theme during the creation of a sketchbook recently.  I created holes with a needle so I could stitch into it when dry.

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I need to make larger holes for the stitching as the holes shrink ever so slightly as it drys and make it difficult to stitch. I also found the pressure of the stitching cracked the sample and made it less stable.
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I overcame this by switching to a beading needle. By taping the back after stitching with masking tape I hope I have added enough extra support for the sample as it will have to travel backwards and forwards to my tutor and college for assesment. I also added a light coat of acrylic varnish to bring out the textures. I find the matt nature of the clay did not allow them to show up as much as I wanted. It also made he sample look more finished. I would like to try a similar sample in colour. As I have said before, I don’t have access to a kiln to produced fired glazed clay but car spray paint may work?

I again took a rubbing of the sample to capture the texture before proceeding. Sadly it did not capture much of the surface texture as I had hoped but some of the circular design is visable.
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I developed these two samples from some tiles with embroidery pressed into them, whilst the clay was still wet I added holes and details with the end of a pin and pen lids. Blobs of clay were also added to one to add another dimenson. I am quite pleased with both of these samples. they again would look great developed further into a larger glazed piece.

I took a rubbing of one of these samples in my sketchbook trying to record the texture:
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Harking back to my previous samples for part 2, I decided to try stapling and joining some left over pieces of wet clay with staples. These were great fun to do and I like the effect of the staples in the clay. A narrow impression was left around the edge of the staple by the stapler itself which adds another dimension.
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I decided to try drawing this particular sample in my sketchbook before moving on.
I also cut some small circles from the left over clay. Impressed them with textures from some embroidery and inspired by some of Susan Benarcik’s sculptures, wired them together and formed a base from a spiral of wire to create a small sculpture of my own:
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Moldable polymers

I decided after playing quite extensively with the clay that I would try these polymer materials. I had never heard of them before commencing this part of the course but I thought it would be good to compare them to the clay as a possible material to experiment with further.

After investigating the material and its safety considerations I set myself up in the kitchen. Following the instructions very carefully I was amazed how easy it was to work with. The ability to re-form the material and to re-soften it whilst working was very useful.

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Following on from the clay experiments, this sample again uses the piece of embroidered net to create the texture. It did stick a little but was removed quite easily once the plastic had cooled.

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For this sample a piece of rug canvas was pressed into the warm plastic to crete a strong grid like pattern.20160503_071815

A slightly more experimental use of string to make an impression on the surface of the plastic. agin it was easier to remove the string whilst the plastic was slightly cooler.

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This larger sheet of plastic was stamped using a potato masher and the rug mesh to create a texture, then it was re-warmed in a bowl of water before being formed over a bowl to make a shallow bowl.

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This sample was not very sucessful. I was trying to imprint the polymer with some dress net but is could not be removed it stuck too well. This might work well with a thinner piece of polymer.

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I stitched into this sample whilst it was still warm and slightly flexible. There is little chance of getting a needle through once cold. It might be possible if the needle was heated however.

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For this very experimental sample I placed some of the polymer beads in a large bowl then a layer of dress net and string, then added another layer of beads on top. A small bowl was placed on top of the sandwich and boiling water was added. This melted the polymer and the dress net and string were trapped between the layers. It was then allowed to cool before removing the smaller bowl to free it.

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To create this small bowl a layer of polymer was pushed and ‘smeared’ into a piece of scrim. It was then formed over a cup to create the shape of a small vessel. I feel this idea could be developed further using stitched scrim.

I decided to try drawing this piece, it was very difficult buy I think I managed it!

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To finish this set of samples a few remaining bits of polymer were trapped between a couple of bits of netting using the two bowl method as above. This sample could work very well as a base for a stitched piece the added dimension of the polymer would be quite unusual.

I have certainly had some fun exploring these materials and look forward to trying some ‘wetter’ materials in the next section where I have decided to try making some paper pulp to mold from some surfaces and plaster to try casting the internal space of a vessel similar to the work of Lindsay Harris and Victoria Ferrand Scott.

I really feel that I would like some guidence on using the clay to make vessels for example. I may look around for some local potteries who may run lessons that I could attend to follow this line of enquiry further. I love the tactile nature of the clay and the prospect of mixing it with my embroidery to create a surface is so exciting. It really is something that I would love to explore and see where it takes me.

 

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About Julie Hooker

Having recently returned to my roots in Surrey, I am currently studying a BA Hons degree with the OCA. My work is often inspired by the local countryside in the beautiful Surrey Hills area and the wild rugged nature of the North Cornish coast. Steam engines and abandoned industrial history are also recent themes. A free machine embroiderer and felt maker; I like to explore the use of natural, found materials to create my art, whether that be as raw materials to stitch or weave with or as a material with which to produce dye or print with. Previously, I completed City and Guilds parts 1 & 2 Creative Embroidery at the East Berkshire College in Windsor in 2007. I was also awarded first place in the wearable art section of the National Quilt Championships 2008 and 2009 held annually at Sandown Park.
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