Refining Plaster Prototype

Altering turned shape made on the plaster lethe; trying multitude of tools.


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As my intention to create 4 different feet as a base for the cup, inspired by the 4 legs of the Penguin Donkey couldn’t be realised through the lathe turning stage, I had to work onto the turned form further, and carve the feet away.

Drawing a technical sketch of the base in my sketchbook, and carefully calculating the legs’ positions, I could place my turned form onto it to accurately mark the legs’ positions.

I started carving away bigger chunks with range of small hoop or cutting tools. However, that proved too brutal and I was scared I would accidentally damage the prototype.
Therefore, I went to small metals workshop and used Dremel tool to precisely carve the feet away with much more control in my hands.

This proved as a great, precise and fast way to alter a prototype. Using multitude of attachments and different speed settings I could carve away bigger chunks, take small quantity of plaster closer to the feet and get into the more awkward angles, 20161203_125357as well as smooth the surface level.

To smooth all the edges precisely, I had to switch to using wet-and-dry sand paper of various grades, to safely file away the small quantities of plaster.


I again rather enjoyed doing small, precise and planned manual alteration of form.

However, I’m not entirely happy with the prototype. I feel the legs and bottom curve should be even more pronounced, to better represent the original Penguin Donkey and its long feet and profound curves. I’m afraid the shrinkage of the clay after glaze firing will make the features rather insignificant.

At the end, it is only a test piece to challenge my skills further. I hope I’ll be able to
produce even better and more prototypes with more confidence20161203_131240.

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Penguin mugs, Grayson Perry and Douglas Coupland

Appropriation of Penguin Books’ design and its symbolical use within art.


The distinctive, horizontal blocks of colour and text within as a cover design of Penguin’s paperbacks, proved so iconic that its appropriation on a simple utilitarian ceramic mug became highly popular merchandise.

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In Grayson’s Perry “The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal” (2012), a monumental piece of tapestry from his series, he is using these mugs as a social class symbol, and the movement through classes.
“On the table is a still life demonstrating the cultural bounty of his affluent lifestyle”. Together with the French press, car keys with Damien Hirst like skull keychain, local organic jam, fresh vegetables on the Guardian newspapers or the raw wood table they are all placed on, they are the symbols, the style-creators of aspirational middle classes.
They represent an aspiration for wealth of knowledge as well as monetary wealth, success and domestic nostalgia.

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Douglas Coupland is another artist, and novelist appropriating the Penguin Books in his collages, and text based visual art, blurring the boundaries of art and literature.

This collage of “Jet Boy Jet Girl”, a song name stuck as vinyl stencils onto Penguin Book titles such as “Two Adolescents” by Alberto Moravia.
The punk song by Elton Motello about 15 years old boy’s lust and sexual relationship with an older man adds another complexity to the bluring of bounderies.

The ‘correct’ place for people within their social class or sexuality is challenged, and the nature and freedom of movement between them explored.

If I want it or not, appropriating the Penguin Books or the Penguin Donkey in my work will have significant impact on the context it carries.


https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/the-annunciation-of-the-virgin-deal/DgHzNHCbRZyjLw

https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/jet-boy-jet-girl/CQHy-8Vm-UsLHg

Plaster turning on the lathe

After initial induction into the technique and safety of the machinery used, this year; I could draw a detailed design and create a template, to produce an exact replica of my plans in as high detail and accuracy as my novice skills allow.


Relating to my themes of simplicity, aspiration, and mass production I chose to create a 20161130_202330simple design of a cup that I could practice translating in high accuracy into a plaster prototype, using a lather.
Reading “The Workshop Guide to Ceramics” by Duncan Hooson and Anthony Quinn to guide me, I created a technical drawing to help me record all the details I would need later when turning the plaster.

The simple shape was inspired by my catalyst object from Ken Stradling collection, or rather its first version, with the distinctive base curve with protruding legs, giving it its symbolic name “Donkey”.

I transferred the drawing onto a thick card to guide me in my progress while turning the plaster.
Due to the thickness of the card, I think I lose some details, so next time I’ll have to use thinner one.

To create the 4 separate legs I turned a distinctive foot for the cup, with intention to try to carve and dremle away the excess later.


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Using a multitude of tools and carving away very carefully and little, while often checking the progress with the template was it seemed the best approach to acquire a high accuracy.
The biggest struggle really was to imagine and see the different angles and try to recreate them in multitude of places at the same time so that the template could slide in a bit further each time.


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At the end I was rather happy with the result. The template was slightly off a millimetre or 2, but all the angles and curves were exactly how I wanted them to be.
Moreover, I really enjoyed this highly controlled and measured, then carefully detailed and intricate process to create something exactly as designed.
However, next time I could try more creative and spontaneous approaches?
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Source of my Dug Clay

8GB-Old-Map-British-IslesAs a summer project before starting the degree we were asked to dig up some local clay for further testing, analysing and experimenting with.
Also undertaking a short research into how the area was used before for production; socio-historic timeframe, history and geology.


I dug up my clay in one of my favourite explorational places around Cardiff, where I tend to go on a short bicycle trip to relax and explore.
Fforest Fawr with the Castle Coch nesting nearby, above the village of Tongwynlais.

Landscape – Site of Specific Scientific Interest – the woods surrounding the Castle Coch know as the Taff Gorge complex, are amongst the most westerly natural beech woodlands in the British Isles. … The area has unusual rock outcrops, which show the point where Devonian Old Red Sandstone and Carboniferous Limestone beds meet.

Screenshot of my location from Geology of Britain viewer on British Geological Survey website.

In the area of Tongwynlais, coal, limestone and iron ore deposits could be found in close proximity to each other, allowing creation of early industrial landscape for iron production.
The mine entrances known as “The Three Arches” (or The Three Bears Cave) descending of up to 20 metres deep into the thick bedded limestone, is still visible, but fenced. The walls of the cave reveal how the mines were carved, with cylindrical features; former drill holes for dynamite to blow open the seam.
The iron works ceased in 1879 due to competition of surrounding towns using cheaper methods of extraction.

Looking at British Geological Survey’ viewer, I could pinpoint the location of where I dug the clay substance and look at the geological composition of the area.
Unfortunately, there’s no specific information on surface composition of exactly where I dug the clay; but “Alluvium – clay and slit,…” deposits very close-by in the village.
The bedrock of the forest area is sedimentary Dolomitic Limestone, formed about 326-359 million years ago.


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Me trying to dig some clay.

Equipped with only a small frog trowel, big buckets and a dear friend driving me to the chosen location, I enthusiastically set out for the investigational task.
With the advice from the letter stating the summer project, we’ve found a small stream in the forest. Trying to dig approximately 40cm deep before excavating the clay proved to be challenging without a proper spade. So after about 20cm of excavation I couldn’t go any deeper so collected any, at least a bit plastic seeming substances.

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Carved wooden sculpture next to the mine entrance, also known as the Three Bears Cave.
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Castle Coch next to the Fforest Fawr, with my brother in the foreground.

Back home I spread the mud substance, removed any larger rocks, twigs and leaves and let it dry. In the process a strong smell of mainly sulphur creeped across my house.


Resources: http://www.bgs.ac.uk/discoveringGeology/geologyOfBritain/viewer.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castell_Coch