The Prophet and the Pueblo 48 Hour Film Festival

Pueblo 48 Hour FIlm festival Prep

The Pueblo 48 Hour Film Festival screened October 14th 2017. This year Foxy-Wolff brought a short titled The Prophet.

As with every year the Festival has a list of requirements that each video made in the 48 hour time limit must include. This year those requirements included; setting: a body of water, character: a prophet, props: a mask, an aircraft, and the number 11, and the lines: “Survival is Insufficient.” and “We were not meant for this world”. This event is sponsored by the Pueblo City County Library District and this years theme was taken from the All Pueblo Reads book Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel.

If you’ve been following the blog you know we have been quite pressed with the coming installation of Weighting to Rise. So pressed that I didn’t think we would be able to participate this year, but Gabe would not be daunted and came up with a quick concept and script and we went to work.

Using characters from the Limited Liability Insurance Company Play set and a couple of toy planes from the Arc Gwaby pulled this little piece of madness together in no time and we were so glad to be able to participate.

Here it is folks, a true testament to human creativity and ingenuity.

Processing Faces

Face drawing process

I’m going to open this by repeating the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and then pump the breaks. I pause because I cannot remember if the number was a thousand or ten thousand words now. I get confused as I say it. I do understand the meaning behind it and how the phrase blew up in the 1920’s. Wait was it the 1914 and was it “a look?” My mind said to me once “A look” referred to real estate advertisement or was an ancient Chinese or Japanese proverb. Fred Bernard pops into my mind as I wonder what his face looked like as well as the faces of the proverb writers. Due to the proud fact that I have never written a ten thousand, a thousand, or even five hundred words about a picture that I was fond of I have issues relating. What did their faces look like? 

Fully confused by the connect the dots picture gone wrong now in my mind, I would like to add a new phrase into this world of knowledge. 

I would like to add a “A look,” wait scratch that, “The face is worth ten thousand written pages of a false history if one cannot remember the face that represents its culture”. 

drawing in progress

“Your welcome and if someone has already stated my quote then that means they were at least as smart as me,” is how I would follow my new phrase. This, to you that do not know me well, is how my brain thinks. Always rapid and most of the time lots of imaginary nonsense  presented as fact to myself. Yes but how does this fit in with the body of work Weighting to Rise your asking yourself?  Creating the faces fell into a couple of categories in my mind. 

For starters the look of Weighting to Rise in Kate’s mind and in my mind had to be set. Yes our work would respond to each other’s and physically change a little but the basic structure was hashed out before I ever started a face for the show. The faces to me are just as important as the vessels or the wall hanging that they are mounted on. The feeling of the cultural belonging is more important than the individual always runs through my mind as I am painting or drawing a face.

clay painting process

 Secondly, the faces should not dominate the space that surround it. A little bit of emotion in the face is ok but the eyes can not reveal to much. I need the work to feel coveted to the point that if you were to polish it one more time the face will be lost forever. The faces have rules just like every other artistic project I work on. The ideas of loss is not only in the content but also in the firing proses. When drawing onto green ware or bisque with my underglaze pencil I always expect to loose atleast %30 of the rich black. I have a couple secrets about that pencil and that’s why the loss is only %30. Sadly, muhahaha, I will not speak of such secrets. When it come to loss of the underglaze pencil work when the low fire glaze is happening, the ideas of predicting what I will get out is very bothersome.

finished wall hanging

    Then Gwaby, then with tears running down his cheeks into his beard, put his hands into the air and shook them passionately while shouting, “why glaze, why must you eat all of my work!!!” The glaze bucket, in response then said to Gwaby, “wow… tantrum much? Dude your the one who made me.”

Gwaby taken back by this experience wiped his tears and said back to the glaze bucket, “word.”

Underglaze- and mason stains

clay painting process

Thirdly the face needs to be a basic face. Let’s say you did know the person whose face is depicted. You  could write ten thousand pages about that persons face and in the end it could be summarized and he or she had a very average face. I find it very difficult to create this work. Fighting the impulses to make each face as tricky and visually dynamic as possible is so hard. Working in slips and mason stains is an art and props to he artist of the world that can do it perfectly. One of the way i can work through compulsive perfectionist issues has been to do a three step deconstructive process. I work on paper as loose as I can let my self. I’ll render a face in my favorite lighting, hair styles, and value changes. From there I will make a reverse transfer that will go onto the clay. This transfer is a very stripped back version of the drawing. This process helps me to to get to just the basics of a face versus sitting down with a brush and a slab and going nuts with it by doing all the detail I could possibly think up. I put myself in the head space of and artisan of their time. The essence needs to be captured and nothing more. 

transfer process

In my mind Weighting to Rise deals with the passing of life and how Kate and I choose to depict an imaginary version to be. The faces are a way for those people to simply remember their dead. The face, to them, implies that the after life journey is not done yet for them.  If these people could not remember the faces then some how the culture and history would be lost. 

Clay bodies and Slips for Weighting to Rise

Our newest installation, Weighting to Rise, engages our interest on many levels, including our love of ancient art history, conceptual evolution of religion and a contemporary understanding of archetypal imagery. The foundation for all this speculation however, is clay.

In the earliest concept drawings for this show I was thinking about terra-cotta red. I love the color but I also wanted to focus on lower kiln temperatures for this show.  The red clay reinforces the connections were making to ceramic objects of a certain age and there is no need to focus on durability or use for these forms as their true purpose is visual contemplation.

Initially we wanted to source the clay locally, from summit brick, but in cleaning out the studio in preparation for this new work we discovered a reclaim emergency. We hadn’t done any major reclaiming in years and there were hundreds of stashes of future intention in every corner of the studio. Organizing and reclaim all this detritus reframed our thinking on the project. The show is in many ways about beginnings and endings and there were so many of those in our lives when we were conceiving this show. The end of Grad school was one of the larger of these transitions and it was partly the deadline challenges of the student lifestyle that left so many bags abandoned. We just didn’t have the time for so much of what is normal studio maintenance. It seemed right then to use what we could of what we had and reclaim all the rest into a new studio body for the coming year.

Some of it we could rehydrate in the bags and wedge back to life. This is a lot of work but the clay does not have to age as much and so is more immediately useful. We slaked the rest down in buckets and mixed with dry. This clay must be aged for some time to enhance plasticity so we did the reclaiming early in the year to accommodate that need.

Reclaiming clay is heavy and demanding work so its great to get help, Gabe’s girls ran the pug mill for a day and really helped us out.

The rest of the hand wedged stuff was random small batches of the clay we had used in the studio for the last four years. There was a little more than 150 lbs of the 200 we mixed when we first moved in to this studio, about 500 lbs of reclaimable White Stone from Laguna of which we bought a ton in late 2013 and a number of clays we only had a bag or two of. These  clays were for special projects or bits friends gave us to try. It was in this last batch that we had the red clays. The one we started with and held to for the entire project was Laguna’s R2 with grog. we had a box of this from my mom who bought it and didn’t use it so it had gone hard in the bags. We started using this as a sculptural medium in the earliest pieces for the show but we found it couldn’t handle water as well as some of our preferred clay bodies so we decided to use it a slip for surface treatment and not the structure of the work.

We were especially focused on its interaction with another Laguna body, Babu porcelain. we’ve used this for years as a slip in the studio for its very smooth texture and titanium free white color. It was the interaction of these two clays that we intended to build the bones of the show.

While I focused on the structure and build techniques we would use, Gabe began experimenting with using clays alone for building up 2 dimensional images.

As the work continued we considered what to do for black and for firing temps more and more. The black we started out using was a commercially prepared engobe that needs a clear glaze over to develop the color fully. While we really liked these results the surface shift with the gloss was not something we wanted to see everywhere and the terra-cotta looks best a little warmer (Cone 01) and the glaze was 06 making once firing impossible.

From here we went off the rails a bit playing with slips and firing temps. We had a small chunk of clay we brought back from the Rain Harris workshop that I really wanted to integrate. She uses the most beautiful black clay from Aardvark, Cassius Basaltic is a cone 5 clay that is very black with a vitreous surface that is beautiful when used as a slip. Using this would eliminate the need for a clear on the black and the porcelain at least can handle the higher temps.

This switch did require a switch in red bodies. For that we wanted to go with a clay that a friend from grad school in Kansas was mining. It’s a midrange clay with a dusty red finish at cone five and we had about 30 lbs of it, plenty for slips. We really loved many aspects of this look, but the higher temps were often too much for the sketchy assembly techniques and so were abandoned. This wall hanging is the best of that combo, before and after firing

wall hanging with face
wall hanging with face fired

It was really the bull that forced us to get real about the firing temps. The technique we used to put that together was risky enough, asking that hot mess to make high temperatures seemed like a recipe for disaster so we brought back the R2 and began looking for another black. We settled on barnard clay for that, straight out of the bag. On its own its very saturated at cone 01 and was a decent compromise.

From here we began using mixtures of various strengths for developing color in the show using the 3 main bodies as a base: Babu porcelain, barnard clay, and R2 terra-cotta

As mentioned earlier we wanted to use what we had around the studio for most of the project but there were a few pieces we wanted science on our side for. After all the struggles with using white stone for slabs that we ran into with The Magic Box, we chose to put some of the trickier aspects in a clay we knew we could rely on. Laguna’s soldate 60 is a work horse for our studio. While not the most beautiful body, its durable, fires well and so forgiving both to students and sculptors who must push edges.

Part of this winning formula is the 200 body we get from the local brick yard as an attaching slip. So much of the insanity of this show is possible because the perfect combination of Soldate with 200 binding it.

Making The Bull

As we move forward into the work of Weighting to Rise the work seems to need a larger purpose, an aspect of the culture that would give rise to such elaborate and lasting funeral ritual. We needed some belief beyond the honor of the ancestor, a god or possibly a sacrificial ritual to honor the god or the dead or both to give the culture a greater depth and the mystery of antiquity.

Looking for a solution to what the show was needing coincided to my coming across a passage in Stephen Karcher’s translation of the I Ching. In figure 26, Great Accumulates there is mention of a pure red bull, sacrificed by the king with arrows on behalf of the ancestors that renews the year and opens the fields for planting. The bull seemed to fit beautifully, bulls as gods, animals sacred to gods and as sacrifices to gods are nearly universal in old religions and their stories.

Once we had a concept we needed a technique and build procedure. To begin we sought the right bull. Looking at old Minoan mosaic and painted pottery and Picasso’s treatment of the animal we knew we wanted the animal clearly recognizable but just as clearly symbolic.

Graffiti and its process is important to nearly every project we undertake to one degree or another. Graffiti is public, you don’t need to be chosen by a gallery or representative to have the work seen, and it has a fierce sort of beauty that is not easily put into a critiquable box. Those qualities give it a sacred and living quality that layers nicely with the fusion of history and technology that we tune into. We really wanted this ancient, sacred image to have that feel. That lead to imagining some of the techniques Gabe has worked with before the Foxy-Wolff, primarily stencils. To reduce an image in all its complexity to blocks of shape and color seemed to distill the animal into a concept, an object and an ideal.

Gabe discusses the drawing process in this way:

Kate and I had a conversation about the need of "the bull" to this body of work. I looked up pictures of bulls and eventually wound up trying to remember my Myspace account pass word. Luckily Kate came to the studio the next day with pictures of bulls that she had found. The printouts were little 5x7 inch on printer paper. I think I said "cool I can work with that. So how big are we doing it?" So taking the printouts to 3x5 foot seamed like a no brainer to me. I would get out the projector and boom done.

Kate had that look and I knew that I was wrong. She said to me" I want it like that work", as she pointed to The Crazy Aunt tryptic that hangs in the studio. So The Crazy Aunt is in essence a black and white drawing and it relies on the shadow I love. Needed line vs implied, fine art vs illustration, imagery shapes vs the shapes that should be in place, and so on and so on. Yup, I have a lot.
Kate was just so happy about the plan I took it as a personal challenge to see it through. So no projector and no trace paper. Trace paper is how I do versions of The Crazy Aunt and so now what. I guess I'll just have to draw it out. The Bull became three main tasks. Finding the look, life studies, and transferring the image.

I did a 8x10 inch cow head drawing in the stenciled look of The Crazy Aunt and we decided that it needed to simplify a lot. The shapes of the cow head got five colors in very specific areas. Picture in your mind a black and white cow head. Now assign a grey scale to just the most important parts (eyes, nose, etc.) and the light the cows picture was taken in. Then I make up shapes that work best fit the drawing versus what's really there.

Second step is life study applications. Like in any sketch of a flower arrangement from across the room or the architecture of a building, proportion is the name of the game. I can think in step one and two at the same time and so I just started drawing The Bull.  I taped butcher paper down to Kate's desk and started my crazy process.
When the drawing was finished and we both liked it I had my wife come over to the studio and color up The Bull. Black was black, white was white, and browns and reds filled in the rest.

After completion of the drawing, Gabe prepared a butcher paper trace of it, sort of a paint by numbers thing with all the shapes clearly defined and each of the colors assigned a number value. After some discussion on the depth of the back ground we settled on a total of seven colors, two separate colors on layer two so that areas that touch would not be the same color for different objects.

After the complex generation of the image, the build was fairly straight forward, if not simple. The trace was used as a layer guide. After cutting out a layer, it was cut off the parchment and used again to trace the next layer and so on. The parchment was a genius innovation, trace goes to crap the second it touches wet clay, it can handle no water at all. The parchment, because it’s design for food preparation, it held up beautifully throughout creation of all 6 layers to a tile.

Our first step of the build was to make the slabs. Layer one was 3/8″ deep and all succeeding layers were 1/4″ slabs. This took a good deal of forethought as we tried to estimate the number of whole square inches each layer of the 10 tiles would need. It also began to indicate just how massive the project was going to be.

While I prepped slabs, Gabe prepared the drywall. Four new full sheets  were purchased that week and all would be used in both the easel and the build.

Breaking the bull down into manageable chunks was another discussion that we gave much time. The debate focused on the joins of the tiles. Each of the four or five possible options we discussed had merits and drawbacks, in the end we chose the one that would make the initial build more simple but the assembly on tile board more complex. A basic grid was layer overtop of the parchment drawing with the horizon line at greater than 50% to help keep the heavier tiles to the top smaller.

Gabe built a heavy oak frame from old hard wood flooring that both kept the build as precise as we could make it and to slow drying from the side of the tiles. The easel has two drywall layers, also to prevent too speedy a dry time. The bottom layer is a full sheet and the top cut into the exact size of each tile so they could be assembled on the tables and placed back into the frame exactly where needed.

Finally we were ready to begin. We chose the Fourth of July weekend for the build because we wanted it done with no large gaps in making process, we both work outside the studio. Aside from a Gabe having to do some small maintenance for the farm, we had four full days to get it done and we needed every minute of it, with very little time even for sleep while we were at it.

The actual tiles are deceptively simple. We assigned each color to a layer, where that color shows in the drawing the layering stops and that color shows through. Where white (the background color) shows, the tile is only one layer thick, where white for highlight shows, on the horns and the nose, the tile is 6 layers thick. Where a higher numbered color will show, all layers but be beneath to build the correct strata for the overall piece. As mentioned above we mapped this out by cutting each color from the parchment map on the tile, allowing only the areas where we would continue to build presence on the growing tiles.

Tile 4, by far the most complex as it held both the horns and the face took 8 hours to complete. The average time per tile was about 5 hours.

First tiles are cut out and assembled, then taken back apart and the slips added to the pieces where needed.

After some dry time we reassembled them with slip to bind them together and placed into the easel.

After completing all ten tiles we wrapped them heavily for a week so the attachments could solidify and the slips could set.

At the end of the week we opened it up and touched up color where we made mistakes and where the slips were not as crisp as we intended.

Now fully complete the bull will rest under plastic 6 to 8 weeks to dry slowly to prevent the tiles warping. Once dry, we will place the tiles on wasters and fired to 01 to fully develop the terra-cotta color that is the primary color of the finished bull.

Beginning A New Installation

The Magic Box was an enormous and all-consuming project that took up huge portions of our lives over the past three years. Its ben very difficult to nail down the next installation project for Foxy-Wolff. We have been kicking around several ideas since before completing the last, and while there were elements of each idea that we found compelling, not one of them really cried out for making.

Initially we played around with a few possible sequels to the Magic Box, focused on Bob the Unicorn’s childhood, but the rigid control of the rules of that world were too constraining. Also being able to complete an entire installation in a year or less seems an interesting challenge with the potential to dramatically impact its over-all outcome. We were hoping for a work that might be less text dependent, allowing its visceral, emotional content to come to the surface.

An entirely new work seemed in order, so then it was time to begin sifting through ideas.

As one might guess, actually getting to work in the studio brought the best of these to the surface. The last post outlined the evolution of the structure and aesthetics of the upcoming work.

Process and Inspiration

Over the weeks the clay shaped up Gabe and I were refining the overall direction and intent of the installation, with Gabe providing drawings to aid in the conversation.

The concept of the show engages our fascination with ancient funerary art, and religious practices directed toward the dead. Each individual element in the gallery represents a families remembrance and the living process of creation that is the natural product of such a process. We concern ourselves  with the boundaries between worlds, feeling that riding that edge is the place where creativity rises.

Funerary art is also some of the most readily available records of extinct cultures. The pseudo-historical potential of work like this allows construction of a narrative without having to outline a specific “story”. The show marks a significant transformation of both the project (Foxy-Wolff) and our personal lives and so thinking of burial to mark that transition makes a weird kind of sense.

Elemental transformation is also a key concept for this work. the geological transformation of the rock cycle referenced through the clay mirrors the transformations of life and death; family member to ancestor. The technological aspect of the show will emphasize these by allowing us to light the gallery with fire and water  without having to work with building rules and insurance policies.

With this show we are making an offering to those who come to experience the work. In turn we give those an opportunity to offer something back to the work. By giving sand to the images and objects in the gallery, the viewer brings soul from the earth and allows it to rise, much like the fire and water of the videos.

Weighting To Rise gives us an opportunity to share our passion for the strange and beautiful, to mine the great well of myth and belief that surround death and to invite the viewer to share in the process of making the space and the installation live via their participation through action. The finely rendered paintings, made from the same material as the rest of the work  are the center piece of the show and add precision and emotion to the elemental presentation.

 

The Magic Box Complete

The Magic Box has been the central focus of Foxy-Wolff over the last three years. During that time the project evolved into more than we could have imagined when we conceived the idea in hotel room in Hays Kansas. To bring all that time and work together into a solid installation was the focus of nearly a year of that time.

The first step to bring the installation to completion was the show catalog. The size of the objects with their projections makes photography one of the most demanding aspects of a show like this. To get the images we felt we needed, we were fortunate to borrow the gallery at Colorado State University.

Magic Box Catalog (low res)

This was a dress rehearsal for installing the complete show and so required us to consider every aspect carefully. This meant pulling together and retesting all the tech, building the pedestals, and solving the problems set aside for later consideration. Once done, we were ready to set up and photograph the show.

Because projected video is such a crucial element of the installation, lighting the gallery was a central consideration every time it went up. For the catalog we lit the space far more than we did for the actual showings of the work, but even so the images were very challenging to work with.

One of the most incredible things about this project is how multifaceted it is, requiring us to extend all of our skill sets. This was especially true of the catalog. Most graduate students hire out this aspect of their MFA show, but because of my intermedia emphasis, I chose to do this myself. One of the long-term goals of my education was to become proficient in Photoshop and Illustrator. This was the first step on that road. Using some terrific online tutorials, I shut myself in the house for 6 weeks and got focused. In the end I had to learn Indesign as well, plus stay focused through repeated edits but it was a wonderful period of learning and we were really happy with the result. Here is a link to the tastytuts channel. It’s a fantastic resource.

https://www.youtube.com/user/TastyTuts

Once all these preliminaries were complete we were off to install the show at the Moss-Thornes gallery on the FHSU campus in Hays Kansas. Getting the work and equipment to the gallery was our next major hurdle. Our plan was to rent a truck but by the time we finished acquiring all the last-minute gear for the show we were way over budget on the project and so had to find another option. fortunately we were able to arrange the install with graduation weekend so my parents took it and us in their camper and we all stayed for the weekend.

We consider the blog and the website a central piece of The Magic Box. To bring those aspects into the gallery we used QR codes as gallery tags. We generated these through a Japanese company that allowed us to incorporate text and images into the codes design. Using these meant we could keep text and other distractions to a minimum in the space and worked beautifully with the overall content of the piece.  All the QR tags are shown in the catalog pdf above.

Once all the details came together the installation came down to the same effort and endurance required of all installation days. Though exhausting, this is one of our favorite aspects of working in the visual arts. With a couple of good hard days we had the show up and ready for visitors.

In addition to the show in Hays we were fortunate to be invited to show it at the Hoag Gallery at Colorado State University-Pueblo. It was wonderful to get to put it up and take it down so many times in a year, of course each gallery added new features and challenges to the work which really allowed us to understand the dynamics of the entire show.

 

It’s a thrill to see the installation complete and hear from so many people who appreciated the work. We have settled on our next large-scale project and will be developing clay bodies and concepts in the coming months, stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building the Black Church

The design of the last set piece of the Magic Box project was immensely important to the look and feel of the entire project.  This element and accompanying video is the culmination of our learning and focus on a project over two years in the making.  While the piece must work well with all those that came before, It must also reflect the inevitable learning that accompanies work of so much duration and focus.

As with the building for “The Empty Room”,  “The Black Church” was based on a building in our home town Pueblo, Colorado, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. While we considered many church designs for the project, we went with the cathedral because of its classical anatomy and ties to art history, which is an important element of the last video.

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We began by photographing the building.  The main challenge in “sampling” a building like this is discovering how much of the original to stay true to and how much to simplify and modify. To help make these determinations I did an extensive series of drawings, to both see the building fully and to determine the essential elements. In the initial planning stage, before the drawings, I imagined holding a large amount of the detail, feeling that was an essential part of the beauty of the building.

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The slow and deliberate process of drawing the church again and again over a period of weeks helped me to understand the soul of the building, the essential nature of the proportion and what that communicates to those on the sidewalk or inside the structure. By the end of the drawing process I was stripping away the detail and focused on the classical structure.

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From the drawing step, our building was designed, rather than the lengthy process of constructing plaster molds for each section, a heavy watercolor paper was used. This step cut at least 4 weeks from the build which allowed the full project to be completed within the semester.

For the build I broke the structure into four sections, the front section, or Facade and narthex, was built first. This allowed the rules for construction to be set on a relatively small and simple piece and to test the scale of the building against the existing works in the series and to ensure continuity of the installation. Rather than the Laguna’s whitestone that we built the empty room house with, we returned to Laguna’s soldate, a body that we have used for years with success. This decision completely solved the major mid slab cracking issues that had been such a problem with so much of the early construction. Another modification of the build  was to  let the slabs set up several days before assembly. This let the individual units do most of their drying and shrinking before they came together which reduced the amount of stress placed on each piece.

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The second section built was the naive, this section was modified from its proportion in the original building so that we could focus the filming in this section.  Because of the size modification, the roof became problematic, columns were set into the mid center of the hall to hold a sort of half ceiling. This would serve the dual purpose of holding a multi media roof that would be constructed post firing and hide the lighting system for the enclosed structure. The decision to go without decoration or windows on the building affirmed itself as the structure grew.  The exterior and the interior were beginning to be understood as separate realms.  the exterior was to exude imposing darkness and mystery in addition to be immediately recognizable as a holy or sacred place. The interior was to evoke a cave, a hidden space not easily accessible from the outside.

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The third piece was the transept. For the long roof section of this unit a sort of joist was constructed from the side wall panel pieces.

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The last piece was the choir. This was the both the smallest and most complex of the sections.

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Once all the sections were complete, they could be placed together to make decisions about the placement and shape of the passage that would span the whole interior.

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Once the interior was opened it was coated in whitestone slip, to tie it to the earlier buildings and to enhance the cave feeling for the interior shots for filming. During construction of each section a waster slab was placed beneath to limit drying and firing stress. The building was then covered and allowed to dry over several weeks.

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Once the units were dried and fired to cone 06 they were again assembled to assess the warping that took place through the long process of clay to ceramic. While we did have markedly better results with this building, each section did move throughout this time, a solution was then sought to fill the gaps between the sections that would allow light to penetrate into the building. Several solutions were considered for this but in the end we decided on vinyl  joint compound, this substance starts very soft and plastic like clay and would dry very hard to allow the building to be handled as it moves from show to show.  The first step for this was to shrink-wrap the first and third sections so that the compound would only go on  section two and four, minimizing both handling stress and cleanup. Each section was then masked for spray paint.

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The process of application and sanding back the material had to be done through several  times before we were satisfied with the fit. The visible sides were then textured to match the ceramic.

Painting was two coats of semi-gloss black spray paint with an additional two coats of a matte clear finish, this had to be tuned up several times through the finishing as the joint compound was very messy when it had to be manipulated. The interior was largely left alone, but some of the ground bisque clay used on the interior was mixed with acrylic to cover epoxy fill and to allow the heavy texture to be picked up by the camera during filming.

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Once the surface was finished, it was then time to install the lights. small battery-powered LED’s were used, hot glued into position in the roof sections using the joint compound to hide the cord running through the walls and down through the joints into a pedestal built to house them. Initially my intent was to light the interior with fire, but having ruled this impractical from a build and display standpoint,  we opted for half flashing lights.  Though labeled as the same light, we found the flashing lights had a very different temperature from the non blinkers so I applied an acrylic wash to warm up the cooler toned lights.

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Following the placement of the lights, the god tiles were epoxyed into place since their shape and the texture of the walls would not allow them to be simply placed and stay where they needed to be.

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Gabe supplied the finishing touches to the piece, first the multi media roof was constructed of similar materials as the additions to the ceramic. His intent for the addition was that it not draw attention to itself yet compliment the overall feeling of the exterior of the building.

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All these elements unite to form what we believe is an incredibly strong piece that will anchor the gallery presence of the entire installation. The last element added was subtle decoration to the exterior of the church. Gabe executed to scale, tags in black marker around the back and sides of the building. These additions tie the piece into the overall intent and work of the studio and also reward the careful viewer looking for the details that are present throughout the installation.church tag 2church tags 1

Detail and subtlety become the focus of this object, the only one in the group with no magic boxes and aside from lights no dependence on technology. This piece becomes a resting place in the work to contemplate the various layers of meaning in the Magic Box installation and video series.

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Doll House

The next major project for Foxy-Wolff is another play set/ film project.  The earliest inspiration for this piece comes from Barbie’s Dream House, but early concept is as far as the influence goes.  This work was conceived of at the same time we dreamed up the LLICPS, but is so much more complex to build and film that it has taken a great deal of time to manifest.  IMG_4103Our first job was to decide on the scale of the piece.  We were wanting a larger piece than our small kiln would allow so modules were the best solution.  Another priority of the piece was a high degree of precision.  Molds then became the best solution for the build.  Several ideas were pursued, but in the end a two-part press mold was decided on, allowing uniformity of each wall with both inside and outside detail.  When making a doll house, better follow the rules of doll houses.  Each wall would then need two parts, a floor, a ceiling, a roof joist, roof tiles, trim work, gables, and a staircase; in total 15 separate molds were made.IMG_4108Originals were the first step, after determining desired finish size and calculating shrinkage, patterns were created from heavy paper.  all the decoration was applied to the patterns, then transfers were made using graphite and tracing paper.IMG_4107After the transfer process and the tiles were cut, the decoration needed to be removed from the original.  A border was then added to the tile to provide a wall for the mold.  Registration marks were also cut to help the molds fit back together after the original was removed. IMG_4116 Walls were then built and secured in preparation for the plaster.IMG_4119 once the first side of the wall was poured, the walls and the border was removed and the interior received its transfer image and was carved and prepared for plaster.  Early on we could see that an escape route for the clay was essential.  the tabs at the top and bottom were added to create voids to allow this.  in the end this was not quite enough and plaster had so be dug from the window voids as well.  Another tricky issue with these was the need for the window openings to line up inside and outside.IMG_4150 The plaster was added again.  For our plaster mixing formula we follow the one provided by ceramic arts daily.

Plaster Mixing 101: How to Mix Plaster for Ceramic Molds

The basic advice here is excellent and the ratio is nearly always perfect.  The small batches seems a bit watery, we typically add a little plaster when mixing small.image-2After a few days of drying, the molds were broken into so that the original could be removed and the mold left to dry.  At least a week, but the longer they dry, the better the molds become.IMG_4174 As mentioned above, they piece required many details.  The mold making phase of the project lasted weeks.IMG_4179The stairs proved a different sort of challenge.  As I said, precision is a high priority for the project, I was unsure of how to get what I wanted with clay and keep it crisp through the build and pour.  This bit was handed off to Gabe and he engineered and built this beauty in a couple of hours.  This mold was not only huge time-saving but its crisp lines really makes the look of the piece.IMG_4180The roof and the ceiling were difficult to design, this is how the module aspect of each floor works, with locking tabs in the floor and roof of each story. Also critical is tying the porch to the stairs so that the characters can move from floor to floor smoothly.IMG_4181Once the molds were built we had to learn how to use them.  The stairs were a particular challenge, keeping that crisp line and filling all of the cracks and gaps took several tries and approaches.IMG_4186As the molds were dried and their techniques for use were understood, we were ready for the build.  More on that soon.

In Celebration of Lost Days

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Productivity is amazingly important to art and to creating a new business, but there is no way to be “on” all the time.  The last couple of days in the studio we have been taking things nice and slow.  Taking care of things on the farm, taking care of family and chatting a bit.  Gabe also dedicated a day to a drawing on his desk, he calls this a doodle… He’s planning to wipe it off this week.

I’m including this here because I think it says something fundamental about art.  Working in ceramic, we art merchants of permanence in a way.  The work will surely break one day, but those pieces have the potential to outlast our culture.  It can be daunting and for me at least gives a responsibility to be a fairly strict self editor.

Considering the Woman of Dolni Vestonice, it becomes clear why.

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This tiny ceramic object (about 4 inches high) is among the first ceramic objects in the world.  Made around 26,000 BP, she was excavated in a site in Eastern Europe and is a symbol for western prehistoric culture.  Much of what we know about her is speculation, because she has outlived nearly every other trace of culture from the area where she was found.

So then what about a day spent on work never intended to last?  One of the things I love most about this drawing is its placement on the old desk.  The scared paint comes through the graphite and adds a layer of thought and possibility that is often lost in a drawing on paper. And what about preplanning?  This is speculation of course but I imagine that this work was not fully conceived when he began, more like a jazz composition than a concerto. So that as the piece developed he was able to add detail that seemed interesting at the time, but was under no pressure to make something that he would have to look at for the rest of his life.  (This blog post defeats that a bit, sorry)

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Another point that I think is relevant to make here is his effort and concentration on this work.  Truly, Gabe is good at what he does and has spent years practicing his skills in drawing, so it may be overstating things to say he went all out, but he certainly didn’t go half way here.  This impermanent thing got his full attention that day.  This is why this desk doodle deserves this attention.  What did this exercise serve?  Who knows, maybe nothing will come of it, but we never really know.  So often our best ideas and greatest accomplishments come from a little down time.

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We did have a bit of production though.  These bits are from the last firing, you will notice the black spots here .  These are achieved by using an iron oxide bearing spray paint.  We are still in the testing phase here, but can see a great potential.  The next step is to see how they decal.

Limited Liability Insurance Company Play Set Video

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Once the physical play set was finished we were ready to roll straight into video production.  For me that meant writing the script.  We had been laying out the story and direction of the video for months.  My job was to piece those conversations together and write something that was cohesive and communicated what we wanted to say.  Sadly this involved visiting a lot of insurance websites.  Gabe’s prep was no easier, but maybe more fun?  He focused on preparing props and equipment for the shoot.  Here he is shooting the play set for the poster that hangs in Teds room in the opening shot.

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Finding location and actors was a major challenge, but perseverance and good friends made all the difference.  A former student came through with the office and a local theater group provided our actor.  John Brown, who is associated with the Impossible Players provided the skill needed to play our boss.  For the rest of the cast we chose young friends and our kids.  This was perfect of course because it brought the feeling of toys and play to the front.

 

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Once the shoot at the office was finished we were ready to move on the the commercial portion of the shoot.   For this location we used a stall in the studio, emptied, lit and cleaned, it was ready for the shoot.  With out a doubt this was the most fun I had in the whole project, and I feel that it is the strongest part of the piece as well.

Our last location was at Raven Martin’s house.  Our Ted was well placed to provide us with an authentic teenage boys bedroom.

Once the filming was in place the footage was handed off to Gabe for editing and the composition of the music for both of the videos.

Here they are, enjoy!