The broken “Project Angel” sculpture.
On Wed morning this past week, I placed the winged sculpture now just newly named “Project Angel” into the kiln to do a bisque firing at cone 06. All very routine. I worked all day painting Samson and doing some detailing on Foxy David. I went for a coffee break at about 3pm and when I came back the kiln had shut off.
Thursday, the next day, just after lunch I arrived at the studio in great anticipation. “Project Angel” was a new sculpture and would be shown for the first time, a foundational piece of my show, together with the 6.5 Weeks sculpture. I opened the kiln lid and stood in shock. I could not mentally put together what I was seeing. There were shards of clay scattered everywhere inside the kiln, and one of the hands was completely gone! For the first time, one of my pieces had blown up. Unbelievable! Extreme disappointment filled my being. What timing, just before a show! How unfortunate! And, with the hundreds of shards, any kind of repair was simply impossible.
I tried to think, how could this have happened. An answer came quickly. I’d made the basic hand a kind of hollow “mitt”, upon which I'd fashioned the wings. The mitt was open at the bottom, through the wrist into the hollow arm, which was open at the bottom. But I remembered now how I’d wondered about that as I was working on the hands, building the feathers etc. I wondered if the mitt had not possibly collapsed in the upper more narrow extended region of the hand. I had wondered if the weight of the clay together with the pressure I’d placed on it in adding the clay for feathers and in doing the carving might not be causing the “mitt” beneath to collapse on itself. If so it could very easily trap some air, which would then cause an explosion. I had forgotten about that and felt that was exactly what had happened.
There is one thing every person working with clay accepts. Expect the unexpected. Anything can happen. Most often it has to do with the glazes. The colour is not quite what one might expect. It may have bubbled, it might come out crackled, it might have run down the piece onto the shelf and you need a chisel to get it off, or, as in my case, something has exploded. Pottery folk take all this in stride. Sometimes the surprises are good ones as the glaze may have turned out different than expected but better, a new colour that works, a texture that is amazing etc. So, every time we open the kiln we are prepared for the surprise, either good or bad. We always learn something. Without that attitude, we could not work in pottery!
Never-the-less, this was disappointing and I was a little down Thursday night and Friday. Saturday I had made some decisions which have gotten me going again. First, this was to be part of the show and is part of the story. I will place an explanation on the plinth designated for this piece. It will include pictures of what happened, and the promise of a new piece ASAP. (I’m still trying to decide if I actually show the broken piece.) Secondly, I have now already begun remaking the piece, and when it is done I will place it on it’s plinth with the story of what happened. It’s actually very much a metaphor of our own story! Thirdly, I will do things differently, a) to prevent another explosion and b) I will make it out of porcelain clay. c) finally, it will be different in the rendering of the feathered hands. Now that I’ve done it once I have learned from the experience and plan to render the feathers more realistically. Porcelain brings new inspiration!
So, Saturday, (yesterday) became a day of new energy and excitement for me. I was back at work in my studio. I have always wanted to try porcelain clay and feel that this is the piece that should be rendered in porcelain. The results will have much more of an “angelic quality” than the clay I was using.
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness…”Isaiah 43:19