Saturday, October 25, 2014

Review of customer servive: Polytek Mold and Casting

When it comes to materials and service, I always want to hear when someone has a good or bad experience. In this case, I give two thumbs up to Polytek for there wonderful service.

I called them up with a question on one of their materials. I had used their Poly PT Flex 20 rubber for one of my reliefs. The mold process when well, in fact I was very happy at how easy it was to mix and use and how quickly I built up the mold. Peeling back an area once dry, I peeked at the mold and it looked great - really capturing the detail and had a nice give (important with my deep undercuts.) I was pleased and went to make the mother mold shell out of Forton to make it strong and light.

The problem came when I tried to remove the forton shell from the rubber - it had bonded completely - and I do mean COMPLETELY to the rubber.
The whole thing was ruined and a lot of money lost, not to mention the time and the damage done to the original sculpture. I had to repair the sculpture before making a new mold.

It was crunch time for a big show and I was under the gun - so waited until the dust had settled before calling up Polytek to ask them if the product was incompatible with Forton and what I could do to fix the problem, since I still have quite a bit of the product left and don't want to waste all the material not to mention the money.

Here's where the good customer service comes in:

1) A PERSON answered the phone! Not a robo voice and endless loop telling me to punch a number for something - love having live people on the phone!

2) This real live person handed the phone to another real live person who knew the products involved - immediately - no waiting - they walked over and handed the phone to Stan.

3) Stan LISTENED. That's not a small point - let me make this clear, he LISTENED. Then he actually asked questions. We chatted for a bit and he explained that the rubber I used is usually used for casting and not molding. True - it was an unusual choice to use it for casting but I was under a tight deadline and this set up much faster than my other choice. The store I purchased it from knew it was a different use, but that it could work and given my unique situation for time the only choice.

4) We discussed the mold realease the I used (2300....but to be fair I also had 2500 on hand....did I use the wrong one?) Stan said 2300 was preferred but both should have worked like a dream. I freely admit to being in a sleep deprived state working long hours - I could have really messed up the release prior to putting on the forton.

5) Stan didn't say it was my fault. He said it should have worked but that he felt I would like one of their other products better and would I like to try it out? Well, yeah I would! I didn't call to complain, beat anyone up or expect a free sample. I called to find out if I used the product incorrectly and if it would was something I could still use for my needs or was it was waste for what I was trying to do.

6) Stan took my information and offered to send me a sample of the product.

7) I received an email from Stan within hours of our conversation.

8) Four days later this package arrived on my doorstep.

9) The packaged was packed with environmentally friendly peanuts that are food-based and dissolve in water - Yeah!

10) I received a generous sample of their 74-20 molding rubber to try on my new relief that I'll be finishing next week.

Once the relief is finished, I'll photo the entire process of making a mold using this sample of 74-20 and will post it all on my blog.

And that folks, is how a company gives great service.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sculpting the Bas Relief Tutorial part 4

Here I am continuing to to add clay and build up the forms. It's very important to remember to turn your bas relief as you work, just as you would a sculpture fully in the round.

It's tempting to spend a lot of time in an area - but if you fail to work on all areas in equal amounts, you'll stop for a cup of coffee and come back to discover vast amounts of distortion caused by overworking a single area.

By turning the sculpture from side to side, you'll see where areas will need to be built up or pushed back. As the work evolves, you'll need to constantly reassess the depth of each area. This is where a discerning eye and artistic license will come into play. This isn't a canvas with a drawing or painting and it isn't fully is somewhere in between. You'll need to employ drawing-like techniques to give the illusion of depth to some areas and that fine line can only be found as the sculpture

As you can see here - I have determined how far out I want my high relief to protrude and as I work, I swivel the work from side to side to see it in profile to determine how far to build out the torso and the arms.

Don't be afraid to cut into the work. At this stage I cut off both her arms to allow access to the torso when I determined that it needed to be filled out more and brought further forward in the relief. That is part of the process.

Again, as you work, keep bones and flesh in mind - this will help keep your forms fresh as you work.
When taking a break from the work, as this is water-based clay, it must be wrapped up. I have found many ways of wrapping, but my favorite has become to simply mist the
sculpt and cover with plastic drop-cloth that I purchase by the roll. I like that I can cut it to size for the project and clings to the edges of the wood securely and helps to maintain the moisture until the next session.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sculpting the Bas Relief Tutorial part 3

Now that the clay is on the board and set upright on the easel and the image has been drawn onto the clay, it's time to start adding volume and mass to to image.

I begin by quickly blocking in the shapes - not trying to accuracy or likeness at this point - simply bring up the shapes to the highest point (in this case, the time of the nose and bottom of the skirt).

Always keep structure and anatomy in mind while you are working. Think in terms of bone and muscle. I'm not worried about surface features at all at this point - there will be time for that later.
Try not to become fixated on any part of the image. It's a trap to spend a lot of time working on face and neglecting other areas of the sculpture. Trust me, it never works out and when you finally do bring the rest of the sculpture up to the same level of finish as the face you'll find terrible problems with anatomy and distortion.

That said - I do begin with the face and keep coming back to it, as that sets the tone and emotion of the entire work.

As I said in Part 2, the drawing is going to be obliterated once you begin the actual sculpting. Clay is fluid - it moves while you work and you should never be afraid of cutting a sculpture apart and making changes as needed.

I decided that sculpt needed more tilt and attitude to the head, so I simply took a wire cutter, looped it under her chin and sliced her face off. Easy Peasy

Once her face was removed, I simply tilted the angle a bit and re-attched the face and reworked the neck. Then I set about roughing in more of the anatomy and continued to build up forms.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sculpting the Bas Relief Tutorial part 2

Now that I have all the clay on the board at slightly larger than 18" x 24" and about 3/4" deep I ready to begin. I place the sketch onto the clay and cut away excess clay.

Next I cut the shapes out of the paper and place back onto the clay - this gives me paper to trace around.

I'm using a simple wooden skewer to do the tracing and drawing but you could use a stylus, knitting needle or sharpened pencil to get the same results.

Once the outline of the figures is traced onto the clay, I set the board up on an easel on my table. When sculpting a bas relief it is important to work as vertically as possible. Laying the board flat and trying to work on it will give you a distorted view as the perspective will change the look. Sculpt the work in the same position as
you plan for it to be viewed - as much as is possible.

At this stage it is rather heavy - I'd estimate that the board and clay combined is about 35-40 lbs.

I also like to tack up my drawings nearby as I'll be referring to them frequently as I work.

Next I take a loop tool and begin to dig down the background by about 1/4" inch all the way around. This separates the figures from the background a bit.

Finally, I grid off both my sketch and the clay - using the grid to help me locate proper placement, I begin roughly sketching in the drawing of the figures using the skewer. At this stage it will be very rough, which is fine, as it is only a starting place for me to gauge where I will be building up the forms and the 'drawing' on the clay will be

With the drawing in place I am ready to begin adding clay to the forms.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sculpting the Bas Relief Tutorial part 1

This tutorial is one way to sculpt the bas relief. I have already sculpted two bas reliefs in a series depicting strong young women and this is the third in that series.

I am sculpting in water-based clay. Can you sculpt in oil based or other clays? Absolutely and sometimes I use oil-based clay. But as this sculpture is 18" x 24" that equals to about 40 pounds of clay. If I were using oil-based clay, that would be about $150-$200 in oil clay and a lot of time softening the clay in a clay-warmer as oil-based clay can be quite hard, especially in cooler climates like Colorado.

A benefit with oil-based clay is that I would have minimal board prep. Oil-clays are quite sticky and would adhere to a slick board or Plexiglas's with the need to prepare the board - just apply the clay and it will hold in place.

But I have chosen water-based clay for the texture and surface qualities. In theory, I could sculpt this, hollow out the back a bit and fire, however it's quite large, which would require a very large kiln and flat pieces like reliefs are susceptible to warping when drying.

Instead of firing this as a single piece, I will be sculpting in clay, making a mold and casting in a permanent medium - in this case either bronze (which would be quite heavy at this size) or a polymer modified fiberglass-reinforced gypsum (brand names Forton and Aqua-Resin).

A) The first step is designing the art. Here I have the sketch at full size of 18" x 24" of the new piece "Setting Her Sights".

B) Next I cut out the image

C) I have a piece of wood cut larger than the overall size of the sculpture and has a grid made from small screws and picture wire. This is going to anchor the clay onto the board so it doesn't move or slip around. You'll see that I've sealed off the board using packaging tape - that will keep it from leaching the water out of the clay. It will also help later in mold making.

D) here you can see that the screws and wire are rusted from contact with water-based clay from my last relief. That's not a problem as the clay isn't the final piece - the casting made from the mold is. But you could also use galvanized metals to avoid the rust issue.

E) Now I start slicing off tiles of clay about 1/2" thick and slap them down onto the board. You want to slap them because you want good contact without air pockets.

F) Layer the tiles across the entire grid on the board

G) Taking a block of wood or a rolling pin pound down the clay.

H) Roll or pound until flat

I) Finally I take a serrated metal kidney tool and crosshatch the clay to make a seamless surface. The clay is now one flat seamless tile measuring about 19" x 12" x 1/2" deep and is ready to begin the process of sculpting a bas relief.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Bas Relief wall sculpture for your home, garden or office

My new bas reliefs are now ready for purchase and will be easy to ship as they weigh less than 8lbs each.

These are the first two in a series of four wall sculptures featuring strong young women and incorporating symbolism with flowers and animals.

Reliefs are especially nice because they are wall hung, like paintings, but have depth and spacial presence. While reliefs can be cast in bronze, you'll find that they require special walls and hardware for hanging due to the heavy weight of metal.

When decorating your home or garden with plaques and wall relief sculptures, take the environment into consideration. Is the wall stucco and sand colored? Or dark wood? The background that the sculpture is set against can make a real difference allowing the art to shine and create a special and inviting atmosphere.

 A small sculpture would require a small wall for display or else the sculpture should be part of a grouping - otherwise it can get lost on the wall and lose its impact.

The color and texture on the wall or plants or furniture nearby also work for or against your new art purchase. If you have a busy brick wall, putting a detailed painting or sculpture next to it could result in too much to look at - lessening your enjoyment of the work. Think in terms of contrast to make the most of your art and surroundings: dark against light, texture against smooth, detail against plain.

These weather resistant high bas relief sculptures have a hand created patina and no two are exactly alike. In fact, you can request custom colors to truly personalize the art.

You may buy these wall sculptures as a grouping or individually at $495 each.

Contact me for availability and to purchase sculpture.
Gallery and dealer inquires are also welcome.

You can view larger photos on my website:
"Standing Her Ground" and "True to Herself".

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Glyptic Sculpting Tool Review

I'm trying something a little different by doing a video review today. Depending on how long it takes me to learn to video, edit and upload I may choose to do more in a video format - or may do them occasionally while doing regular blog posts with still photos. The goal is to share information but not to take away too much actual sculpting and studio time.

Every sculptor has an arsenal of sculpting tools. Some are used once and deemed not very useful and others get used into the the ground. I have some great tools that use quite a lot and it shows. I have some that are constantly breaking or pulling apart at the ferrule. Yes, I can usually fix it by mixing a two-part epoxy and cemented it back together - but over time they break again.

One tool that has never had this problem is the Glyptic Sculpting Tool. I have the Glyptic E Handle which is for small and medium loops and do plan to buy a larger tool for my next sculpting project. What I like is that because the loop extends down into the aluminum handle it takes the pressure off the ferrule area, resulting in a strong tool. I can really dig with this baby and it doesn't give, bend or wiggle and trust me, in a cold Colorado studio, the clay can get pretty hard - bending and breaking tools is common.

You can also easily change out the tool's loop ends from small to medium, smooth and serrated. The set of loops that I have is medium serrated and comes with 7 loop ends and a small hex wrench.

Simply loosen the small hex bolt, slide out the loop, choose a new loop to insert and re-tighten the hex bolt and you're ready to sculpt with a new size or shape of loop tool.

I got mine about 5-7 years ago from and it is still in as good of a shape has when I got it. When you compare that to the tools that I have epoxied back together, that's saying something.

Hopefully I'll get video and editing figured out better so I can splice in video of the tools being used...