Bringing Art Making Into Your Life
Many people think that they can’t try sculpture because it’s too hard or expensive: but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Those of you who have been reading my blog a bit know that even though I do quite a bit of 2d work I mostly regard my self as a sculptor. I’m not sure when this happened. At art school I did mostly photography and drawing, and I had always painted a fair bit. So I had never regarded sculpture as a major part of my work.
But I do remember that the thing I loved most when I was little was making things out of cardboard. I can clearly remember the first time I was bitten by the obsessive making things bug. When I first went to school, we made an underwater scene out of a cereal box. [ Chop the front panel off the box, cover in blue cellophane paper, and make little fish from cardboard. Dangle them from the top with string. Cut out seaweed fronds and stick them to the bottom of the ocean.] After being introduced to this concept I made it over and over again. Kept making mum buy me cellophane from the news agency, and trying to make it better and better.
Above: I’m glad to see the noble art of fish tank cereal boxes continues to this day. I found this one at http://myfroggyboy.blogspot.com.au/2011/08/preschool-fun-activities-fish-tank.html
At some point as an adult it’s like I started to work my way back to my art making beginnings. Something about photography had lost its magic for me, with the plethora of mass making photo techniques and a lack of actual photographic prints: the object was missing. [Don’t worry photography lovers, my love for photography is returning but I will post about that another time]. I began to make more 3d objects, my interest grew and one day I realised I was a sculptor.
But there is always a persistent problem with sculpture. For many of us the mediums are inaccessible. I still don’t have consistent access to a kiln, 3 years after getting heavily involved with ceramics. Stone carving seems a romantic impossibility. Most heavy mediums are difficult to learn. Not necessarily because artists are unwilling to put in the effort but because, they can’t find a teacher. And the space and equipment required for hard sculpture [glass, metal, ceramics] is too expensive for many.
This is where what I am going to call accessible sculpture comes in. I don’t mean only household mediums like fabric, but mediums you can use without breaking out the power tools or the welding gear. Using techniques like sewing, knitting, gluing, bending, taping, on materials like, fabric, wool, cardboard, or even wire, wood and found objects, feather, sticks, you name it. Since I have already done a post about making small sculpture with paper, I will focus on other mediums.
I think quite often smaller or soft sculpture is seen as weaker, or more feminine, but it’s not the case. Or perhaps as nice or cute or crafty? Again, it ain’t necessarily so. You put your ideas, whatever they are into any medium and you can drag it away from nice if that’s your aim. So if you want to try some sculpture but you are not sure where to start here are a few cheap and basic methods to jump on into.
Casting objects is really fun.There are lots of materials you can cast with but many are prohibitively expensive, like resin for example. But there are loads of much cheaper options. You can push objects into clay then cast them in plaster or wax. If you have noticed my making art logo, you will see that it’s some a jawbone sitting on rocks. I found the jawbone of a cat and I cast it in wax by pushing the jawbone into clay and pouring hot wax into the form it left. The wax was from the ends of used candles. I coloured the wax with old crayons. So it cost almost nothing to make. Please use gloves if you are mixing plaster as its corrosive, and beware if heating up wax that it can catch alight if it gets too hot.
Above: casting various bones in wax.
Above: the cast jawbone before its cleaned up.
Above: the final jawbone in white wax.
Above: the original jawbone and a coloured wax version.
2.Sewing, knitting, weaving.
You don’t have to use traditional materials even if you use traditional methods like sewing, knitting or weaving. A while ago I stitched rope together to make an ocean inspired tea set. I collected rope, from all around my neighborhood and fishing paraphernalia and used some previously collected sea flotsam and stitched them together with fishing line. This piece took quite a long time hours wise to make, but no individual technique was difficult or expensive.
Above: my ropey ol’teapot, with fishing hook and sinkers. Nearly all the rope used in this piece was just lying around on the streets.
Above: a detail of the spout and an old shell sewn on.
Above: the cup and saucer made of rope.
Above: the saucer showing, various bits sewn on with fishing line, feather, shells, coral.
You can use all sorts of materials like, air dry clay, play dough or even dough made from flour, salt and water baked in the oven. Materials thought of as temporary such as plasticine will last a long time if you look after it even a little bit. These little bones I made from plasticine were made about ten years ago [or more maybe] and apart from being a little furrier than they were originally they are fine and have held their shape perfectly. They even survived a day we had last summer that was 45C degrees [that’s 113F degrees]. I really like the plain white Fimo brand clay too, which air dries and can be painted. If you are making small objects the Fimo that needs to be baked is great and comes in fabulous colours, but it’s too expensive for larger works.
Above: bones made of plasticine. They are quite little: the skull is about 4cm long [ about 1 1/2 inches].
You really can make sculpture out of anything. Everywhere I go I keep my eyes open for interesting bits and pieces I can take home with me. Like the aforementioned cats jawbone, I also collect bird bones, nests and eggs, feathers, rocks shells and anything I think looks interesting. My daughter recently started collecting rusty metal bits and pieces. All the colours were so beautiful together we started making assemblages organised on pieces of wood.
Above: rusty assemblages.
I like to make assemblages of all the little objects I find. I find I am repeatedly drawn to the same themes.
Above: this assemblage is Jawbone Thread Rocks.
5.Random materials/pot luck
This last category is a catch all for all the weird and wacky things you can make. Really its about seeing the individual beauty of objects. I found this old notebook and decided to write a sort of narrative in it. But once I had finished writing in it I didn’t think it was quite enough visually, so I put hot wax on the front page which soaked through to the other pages. The story is a continuation and the wax on each page pulls them all together.
Above: I went to Hanoi to find myself.
Don’t let yourself be put off sculpture by a lack of formal training or techniques. You really can make sculpture out of almost anything. Now go forth and make something!