1.16.2008

Picking up the Pieces

My first project of the year has not gone well so far.

As planned, I used the mokume gane piece I'd done in translucent, black, and blue polymer clay with gold leaf as the helmet of an Ancestress mask. I inserted metal beads into the top, forming a spiky crown. As usual, I sculpted it on my plaster form, covered with foil, and using ArmorAll as a release. After baking, I cool it for at least an hour still in the oven, then try to remove it from the plaster form. If that doesn't work (which it often doesn't), I pop the mask into the freezer for about 30 minutes, so that the plaster can contract a bit, and make it easier to get the mask off. That usually works.

Not this time.

After being in the freezer, this mask was unusually brittle, and began to crack on the sides near the eyes. This could've been repaired and hidden, since I planned to add fiber hair later, but when the mask cracked badly at the chin, it was all over. I was able to salvage the helmet and crown, as you can see here.
As my first clay instructor used to say, it's only about 50 cents worth of clay, so get over it! But of course, it's that and more--time, effort, frustration, disappointment--ok, whining over, time for picking up the pieces.

Each failure teaches something. Because of this one, I'm reconsidering the way I sculpt. The removal of the mask from the plaster has always been a challenge, but most of the time, I've been successful in doing it. The one notable, spectacular failure last year, not unlike the one yesterday resulted in the success of Kitambi, Ancestress of Pride (I think she came from the pride I felt in being able to pick up the pieces).

So, I look forward to seeing what successes will come from these pieces.

Back to work.

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