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Hand building: The vast majority of work that I make starts out in the same way, as a hand-built clay form. I build the basic form by using a very basic ceramic technique – pinch pots. I use this to make a hollow body for my creatures, which I then shape and refine. Even my bronze pieces start out in the same way, as hand built clay forms. This video from 2009 follows the creations of one of my beasts from start to finish.
Wood firing: Most of the ceramic work I make is woodfired. I’m part of the standing crew at two anagama (“climbing kiln” in Japanese) stye kilns on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State. Wood firing is one of the oldest methods for firing pottery, and the anagama kilns we fire are built on a design from 5th century Japan. About three times a year, a group of nine of us get together to fire the kiln up to 2400f over the course of 110 hours. We’ll take two days to load the kiln, and then fire it in eight hour shifts, three people to a shift. Once we’re done, it will take a week for the kiln to cool enough to unload it.This time lapse video of an unloading gives you an idea of the scale of the endeavor, and the excitement of finally seeing the results.
Bronze: I’ve been working in lost wax bronze casting since 2012, mostly through classes and assisting at the Pratt Fine Art Center in Seattle. It’s a really fascinating process. I’ve written about it in depth here and here. First I sculpt a clay piece, then take a mold of it. I then cast a hollow wax version, which I modify some more. I then prepare it for the bronze casting by attaching a series of sprues and vents. This is then embedded in plaster, and then melted out to leave a hollow shape into which the bronze will be poured. This video is from pouring the bronze, it’s a beautiful sight to see. Once the bronze is cooled, there’s still quite a bit of clean up and patina work to undertake before the piece is finally finished.
Installation work: Every so often, I get a chance to create an installation piece. While every piece is quite different, I’ve enjoyed using plastic netting and chicken wire as a sculpture material. They have the possibility to create giant, translucent, lightweight forms. Chicken wire, like I used in Ghostdogs, is a wonderfully responsive material, almost like clay in the way it can be bent and manipulated. Plastic fencing is less responsive, but lends itself to interesting geometric forms. This video shows the first stage of creating my “Dirona” installation, which took two days, two hundred square feet of plastic fencing, and one thousand zip ties.