Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Small dragon sculptures

            I've started working on the small dragon sculptures for the Kickstarter project. (Wondering what I'm talking about? Look here.) One of the wonderful things about this project is that I'm gathering a lot of data on what people ask for if they have the option to make requests. In this case, the options were red stoneware, or porcelain.
            I had hypothesized that either there would be approximately an even distribution between the two, or that more people would select porcelain. Why porcelain? Well, historically porcelain has a lot going for it. It's bright white, and there aren't many kinds of clay that are. It is very very smooth, which means that it takes texture and detail particularly well. Some porcelain is even translucent when it is thin enough, which is truly a remarkable quality in clay.
            However, my hypotheses were both wrong. For these small sculptures, 80% of you chose red stoneware. Wow! I was really mistaken! Isn't that cool?
            What's going on here? Well, I don't know for sure; this isn't a study, after all, and I didn't ask people why they made the choice they did. But I have some thoughts.
            The first thing that occurs to me is that porcelain no longer has one major attribute that was very important for a long time: rarity. Now we all have access to it; go look in your cupboards. See any white dishes in there? Probably, unless you made a special effort to avoid it. Your bathroom sink is probably porcelain. So are the tiles in your shower if your shower is tiled. Some of the things that make porcelain desirable for me to use also make it desirable for industrial uses - durability, color, availability, etc. Maybe people choose red stoneware because it is different. When stoneware was the most common material for dishes and sculptures to be made of, porcelain was special. Perhaps now that effect is reversed.
            Another thought I have is this: the fact that porcelain is so white may be a factor in the decision against it. White is beautiful in its way, but it is essentially an absence of color. I would not be surprised if many people would select a color rather than an absence of color. In addition, the red stoneware I use is a very handsome color itself, so it's not as though I'm asking whether people want white or neon orange. (Not that I have anything against neon orange... in small quantities, that is!)
            For those of you who are waiting for the pictures, here they are! This is what your dragons start out as, a line drawing of each of its parts on a slab of clay:

            These dragons are porcelain, so each will go to one of the four people who selected porcelain. Next, I cut out the parts. I don't want these dragons to be flat, so I made some rough adjustments to the shape of the body and wings.

            I also flattened out the wings some so that they are nice and thin, rather than chunky. The legs I will leave to stiffen without cutting just yet. Such small things are easier to work with when they are stiff, and I don't want to bend them by accident. This is what the wings look like before and after flattening, including the stone I used to flatten them:

            And this is the original sketch I'm working from:

            Each of these dragons will be unique. I draw each one freehand on the clay before cutting them out, and they are each positioned differently. They look rough now, but when they are stiffer I will be able to touch them without changing the shape. At that point I will smooth away the sharp edges and messy marks, and then put the parts together.

1 comment:

  1. I'm one of the people who ordered a red stonewear dragon sculpture.

    First off, it is super cool to see your process for making them! I had no idea that you would draw them out on the clay that way and cut out the shapes like paper.

    Second, for me, I chose red stonewear because white porcelain is boring to me. Also, as you said, it's everywhere in the bathroom. Rather than feeling special, it makes me think of bathtubs and toilets. I'd rather have the more earthy-colored stonewear.