March 1, 2008

Okay, we’re only a few months away from the official unveiling of the sculptural fountain based on ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ that I designed quite some time ago and have been talking about on this blog ever since. The concept started as a drawing that my co-sculptor, David Spence and I worked out over several weeks time. Here is both a front view:

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And the back:

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These drawings were followed by a small 3D sketch, called a maquette in sculptural terms and executed in sculpy:

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These were submitted for approval to both the institution that commissioned the piece, The Barter Theater Foundation and the Architectural Review Board of the town of Abingdon VA where it will be built.

About two years ago we began the long process that leads to a finished bronze. David decided rather than cut granite being used for the various boulders around the structure that we would use real boulders and make casts of those, to later be poured in bronze.

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A great idea that later became both a blessing and a curse. Here’s assistant Bill Thompson with the chosen boulders. He and David then covered these stones with rubber molds from which, at a later date, wax forms were poured. Once in the wax, the shapes were adjusted to suite our needs, then cast into bronze replicas of those same rocks.

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Back in the studio David and I started on the two foxes, first molding their forms in clay. He would work on one end, while I worked on the other. When either of us ran into a dead end of “this doesn’t look quite right” we would shift around and a fresh eye and hand would take over. Oh, the conversations that we had…

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Slowly the figures would emerge from the plasticine clay. A fox one day…
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A hare the next. For reference, the studio space was blanketed in downloaded printouts, most of them found during long sessions on Google image searches of the animals we needed. A hare, for instance, is quite different in form than the more common bunny rabbit.

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Then there was that grinning trickster, Puck.

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From this point the clay figure was cut into several sections. These sections were painted with many, many layers of rubber mold solution, from which a wax replica was poured. Any adjustments that are needed are executed in that malleable wax. The wax replica was dipped multiple times into ceramic material to form a hard mold. The wax was burned out and later bronze poured into the mold. What is left is various sections of your intended piece that will have to be welded back together. After those weld marks were ground down and smoothed out the reassembled figure was painted with layers of patina (liquid acids that produce various colors on the surface of the bronze). Here then is our Puck, finally in place at the site of the fountain:

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As well as all of his animal companions and the boulders that they sit on.

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That column in the middle of the fountain space is where, eventually, the tree and figure of Titania will be placed. That central part of the fountain will rise to 16 feet in height.

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While the tree section is being cast into bronze we have been given a space at the Barter Theater’s scene shop, courtesy of Rick Rose and Mark DeVol, to construct the 9 ft. figure of the Fairy Queen has made many demands of us so far. As you can imagine, a figure that large demands quite a bit of infrastructure underneath to support the hundreds of pounds of clay used to articulate her features.

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An elaborate structure of steel pipe, copper tubing and wire mesh is used to articulate her skeleton. Sometimes The Queen got unruly and a few further adjustments needed to be made.

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But after offering a certain amount of ceremonial blood letting (cuts and slices from the very sharp ends of all that wire) she began to take a bit of shape.

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And assume her proper features.

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We were, perhaps, a little more than a week away from completion when the faeries began to laugh at us mere mortals. I was working below the face you see above and heard a series of small cracks. I looked up and Queen Titania slowly leaned forward, bending over as if to kiss me perhaps? But that’s 300 or so pounds of clay we’re talking about. A central steel pipe had snapped and down she came, to rest gently on a scaffolding that I quickly swung under her form.

Now, two days later, the clay has been stripped off and a new, and much, much sturdier structure of steel rebar has been welded into place.

This afternoon I’ll start over again.

In the meantime, one of her fairy attendants has been completed and is wending her way into her final bronze form, soon to be joined by another two such companions. The purple wings that you see here are just place holders.

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The completed sculpture is slated to unveiled this June, I hope that some of you at least can make it down for the festivities. And I’ll, of course, keep you up to date by posts on this blog.

Best,

Charles

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February 12, 2008

In the comments section of the post below I was asked if I’d ever tried watercolor as a medium. As I explained, I had, but only once. Here is that piece:agiftfrom-the-spring.jpg

‘A Gift from the Spring’ was as it says a birthday gift to my friend, the writer, Delia Sherman. As it happens she just wrote about the piece on her live journal:

 http://deliasherman.livejournal.com/26542.html

The painting and the short story writen for it are a part of a series  of art and story collaborations by some of my favorite authors that have and will be running, as each short story is completed, in Realms of Fantasy magazine over the next year or so. The  authors so far include Charles de Lint  (June 2007), Holly Black (October 2007), Delia Sherman (the current issue , April 2008), Elizabeth Hand, Jeffrey Ford and Neil Gaiman.

Enjoy,

Charles

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