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.
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.
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!
After the experimentation of the nested monster piece I was interested in pulling away from the very glossy “ceramic” surface of that work. For this piece I wanted a more varied surface that would reference natural materials such as rock. To achieve that I mixed two new glazes. The first was a white reticulating glaze that came from a triaxial blend experiment from a previous semester, the second was a black vitreous engobe. Mixed in with these was an attempt at a gray clear which was too blue and not suitable for mixing in 10,000 grams. I like to use 300 gram tests that don’t precede to full batches on one of a kind sculptural work as I am not likely to be asked to reproduce the work by a client. Sculptural work is also more forgiving of certain glaze flaws that are not negotiable in functional pottery.
Having spent several days in testing and mixing and then on to glazing, the work was finally ready for firing. Its large size really limited what could load with the piece, this turned out to be a great thing. Our primary kiln is a very old Skutt on a kiln sitter, up to the day we fired the play set, we had never had any problems with it. Because of this I had become pretty complacent about witness cones and other precautions to prevent over firing. So then, since this was an important firing, this is where the problems occurred. My estimate is that the kiln went at least to cone 10 but probably higher than that. Fortunately, the sculpture clay that I preferred at the time was a cone 10 body (Laguna’s Soldate 60) so the kiln was not lost, though the shelf the work was on did have to go in the trash. The glazes and the attachments were fairly ruined. To my advantage was the brush glazing technique that I chose to use on the play set. It meant less glaze and so the surface came through fairly in tact, though not at all what I had planned. For the play set the major problem was massive cracking on the interior. I was able to do pretty solid repair using PC7 and acrylic paint, so the piece was saved. The rest of the work in the kiln was a total loss.
The very dark glossy surface of the exterior forced me to completely change my plan for the little action figures. I was wanting a drab, gray or brown surface for them originally but that would not have been adequate contrast for the video, so I opted to go with bright color that would allow them to be visible both inside and outside the play set during the commercial portion of the video. This also makes them more in line with actual toys and so felt like minimal compromise
The three small objects above are the first attempt at action figures for the play set. Obviously based on Fisher Price toys from the seventies, I wanted the objects simple and direct and to work with the mold making technique that I am focusing on this semester. I began with three small pieces of clay that I allowed to dry to leather hard. Using sketches, I carved the solid figures so that they would have no undercuts so that they could be easily cast and reproduced. For the video I am wanting to produce several identical objects that can be broken and replaced through the course of the filming.
When the figures were complete I then made forms for the molds using foam core and duct tape. I made the forms in two pieces because the openings are small and I wanted simple access for notching the bottom piece. The top of the form was attached with more duct tape after the bottom half of the mold was cast. Rather than setting the object into clay to cast the first half, I placed the figures directly into the wet plaster after it had a moment to slightly set. This was a great innovation in several ways, however the figures did slip and move making the molds possibly unusable, especially in the case of the male office worker.
After the molds came out of the forms I separated them using hot water and cleaned them up with a metal loop tool. While I love the little molds I made, there is no doubt there is much improvement that can be made on them. I’m looking forward to another try.
A new semester began at FHSU this past Monday and I returned to the studio to resurrect the play set and prepare it for firing. In spite of 6 weeks dry time and constant careful attention it cracked in several places. Part of the reason for this was the massive walls of the “rock” body vs the very delicate interior of the space. I used my favorite recipe for fire able fixes: 200 clay slip from summit brick (its primarily fire clay with lots of grog) Karo syrup and toilet paper. This gets me great consistent results in stoneware clays with little follow up needed.
This piece is intended to serve as a prop in my next video project to be installed on You Tube. As the project has taken its sweet time to be ready to fire It has allowed the concept for the work to evolve. While I still intend to base the production of the video off toy commercials of the 80’s, I have increasingly wanted to say something real about work and employment based on my experience dealing with the twists and turns of my job over the last year. The goal for this piece is to make a video and an object that on first glance is light and funny, but carries the human content and meaning that I need my work to contain. Stay tuned, it goes in the kiln this morning.