I’m a sculptor!
Well, maybe not. But I learned a lot while working on a special project over the past month. In fact, this project seemed to be a master class in problem solving.
My task was to create two statues to use as trophies for the West Noble Zombie Run which took place on November 3rd. So I started by brainstorming some ideas and doing a few “clay sketches” to see what might work.
These two little rough drafts took about 5 or 10 minutes each. I conversed with the guy in charge of the race so I could get an idea what he was looking for. We decided it would be cool to have a runner dragging or being tackled by a zombie. I thought that might be a little more stable than a runner standing on only two legs too.
After finalizing a direction, I had to decide on an approximate size and figure out how to put together a runner that didn’t look completely goofy. I wasn’t too worried about the zombies because zombies look a little weird anyway, right?
So I found some anatomy proportions which I enlarged and printed out. I was shooting for a trophy that was about 12 inches tall when wet so it would shrink down a little bit as it dried and got fired twice. The final goal was somewhere in the 10-12″ range when completely finished.
After printing off the ideal proportions I put a sheet of plastic over the top and started forming the body parts. At first I thought that maybe I could get away with solid legs and arms but after seeing how thick they were going to be to make a somewhat believable 12″ person I decided it would take about 6 months to dry. I hollowed them out by shoving the blunt end of a needle tool through each segment and cutting off excess clay. I also hollowed out the torso by digging out the clay with a spoon and other simple tools. Looking back, it might have been quicker to build the torso with some slabs.
After creating all the parts I started assembling from the feet up. To get a solid bond at each joint I used “magic sauce,” which is just magic water mixed with clay to make a thin slip. After getting the legs put together I let them firm up a little bit so they could support the weight of the upper body. As the legs were drying I attached the head and torso and put together the arms and hands.
When everything was firm enough I attached the torso to the legs. This was the toughest attachment of the whole project. It was difficult because I had to cut the two parts at just the right angle to make it look right and get a proper lean without the torso falling off the legs. I’m still not sure that I pulled it off like I wanted.
The next problem was drying the runners without the force of gravity pulling the torso off the legs or the arms off the torso or the whole thing off the table onto the floor. It wasn’t really too tricky, I just grabbed whatever I could find and scooted it up next to the statues with some paper towel in between.
I used the same idea after I attached the runners to the base which was just a slab of clay that I rolled out and folded under at the ends. I used a dowel between the jugs of liquid to keep the runners upright as the figures and base dried together.
As for the zombies, I attached those after the runners were attached to the base. I attached the head, arms and torso to the base and runners’ legs. When those parts were pretty solid I added the legs. I didn’t worry too much about the anatomy of the zombies. In fact, I squished and scraped and cut the zombies quite a bit.
I added two slabs to each base. One said “2012 Winner” and the other was the logo for the race. Now that all the major parts were assembled, I spent a little time working on the details. I carved some clothes and shoes and shaved off some of the excess clay. I enjoyed trying to get the runners to look like actual human beings, I just wish I had a little more time to work on it. They still looked a little “blocky” and the clothes didn’t look very realistic without folds and creases. I had to stop though, so I could let them dry. I let them dry slowly for about a week and a half but I could have used more time. I guess that’s one of the problems with meeting a deadline…
So I loaded them into the kiln with the Zombie Run mugs and a few other items. They were done.
But the fun wasn’t over.
As I was loading the statues into the kiln I knocked off one arm and had to re-attach it. I used the magic sauce and some paper clay. I had mixed up a batch of paper clay for this project. It allows more flexibility in creating and creates stronger joints. But I also read that it wasn’t as strong after it is fired so I only used it for some of the details. The arm went back on just fine. Finally, I was finished.
But still holding my breath… Part 2 will follow and tell the tale of how these zombie statues were finished.
Here’s a preview of the problems to come: