There are very solid reasons why many avoid the mold and clay making process. Its expensive and risky. Several months have been invested just to get to this moment where actual clay can be formed into a new statue. Just think of the risk of wasting all this time and money toward a goal that hasn’t proved its value. And worse yet, the original maquette has been destroyed while making the plaster impression. The payoff is in the hope that subsequent clay castings will provide the means to sell several ‘originals’. If your successful, these multiple statues will help overcome the original costs, and ideally create a modest profit. So goes the theory.
My 18 piece mold can support either a slip casting or a pressed clay process. However, as my Pieta Amare design is very tall, over 26 inches, there is a real possibility that the liquid slip clay may collapse from its own weight before it has the time to harden and set. Weight will not be an issue with pressed paper clay. The thickness of the clay can also be adjusted with the lower third of the statue being pressed to a one inch thickness wile the upper sections being limited to half inch or less.
Some time ago, in my post “preparing your plaster mold”, I outlined the step by step process of planning the construction of a plaster mold. Each section must pull away smoothly without any undercuts. With my new Pieta Amare, this will prove very challenging as both Mother and Son are facing each other with their hands clasped together and sandwiched between them. For this project, I will need to work separately on the body, face and hands. Then reassemble the pair after the clay has been cast.
Michelangelo’s Pieta, now displayed within St Peter’s, was the first of several carved over his lifetime. This theme of Mother Mary grieving over the crucified Christ had special significance for the artist and continues to resonate a powerful message for us today. The literal translation of the Italian ‘pieta’ is pity; and is the cornerstone of faith as found in Jesus teaching at the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ . Divine Pity as expressed in both Mary and Jesus; one for the other, and the other for all, is the primary theme found within the Beatitudes and the key Virtues.
Within the Pieta, the combined nature of Faith Hope and Love are examined. And these relationships can be best expressed through multiple statues. And so, it is with this in mind that I have started my second Pieta statue, Amare. Over the Fall and Winter months I will build on my new maquette design
With Michaelangelo method, the use of geometry to guide the cuts and chisel blows, I now have reduced the large irregular marble block down to within a few inches of my planned Pieta. This is only the first and easiest step. More of a craft then art really. Michaelangelo had the budget and support to hire apprentice sculptors who would have normally chipped away reducing the stone down to this stage. As a master, Michaelangelo’s time was invested in the unique artistic expression of the original maquette, and then after the blocking was complete, the master would coax the flesh from the stone. His genius was reserved for final touch that would form the muscles and tease out inflections.
For me, I am happy to look back and see how my Pieta designed fits within the blocked marble. I have the inch or two needed for a buffer to adjust for future mistakes, flaws or last minute inspiration. It’s time for the true sculpting to begin.
The Fired Clay Maquette
Marble Fully Blocked to Size
Perfect Fit with Wiggle Room
Stone is a reductive artistic process, once you start to chip, there is no going back. So the Maquette is used to keep the chisel on track… More on that in my next section on blocking out the marble statue. Up to this point, months have been invested working on the design and emotion of the smaller Maquette. And so in order to preserve the value of all the work, a plaster casting has been made and then a clay copy has been pressed or poured. More months of effort.
A statue of this size (two thirds life) needs weeks to dry before it can be fired. If there is any residual moisture left in the statue, it will surely crack as the water is vaporized and steam pressure snaps the clay apart.
In fact, there is no practical way to fully dry your clay piece outside of the kiln. The “green ware” will always retain the ambient moisture that is all around us suspended in the air. There is no escaping the relative humidity in the air you breath. Continue reading