Many of my friends and family asked me to post photos of my finished pieces so here they are. My first attempts at working in Cement to create figurative sculpture has been quite challenging. The most challenging aspect of using cement has been the fact that it eats up my skin on my poor hands! Sheesh! This aspect of working with cement is nothing like clay! The lime in the cement just soaks up all the moisture in the skin and man, is it painful! I had bought a big box of latex gloves for doing my hair color and tried using them instead of kitchen gloves. The kitchen gloves just get holes in them too easily but if I wear the latex gloves under the kitchen gloves while I’m mixing up the cement it really works well. Also, while I’m sculpting I can wear the latex gloves because the cement doesn’t stick to them like it does to the kitchen gloves. The process of sculpting with cement requires layers and drying in between the layers so there’s really not the same instant gratification that you get when sculpting with clay, which is not fun! But I think as I get a bit more experience and have more than one piece in process I’ll have more to work on and wont have to wait until the next day to work. Another aspect of creating figurative sculpture that I’m going to have to get used to is not having a live model to use as a reference! Hah! They don’t have a lot of people who pose nude here in Boquete! Darn!! LOL! I’ll just have to rely on photos and memory. I really enjoyed making the birdbath and the little leaf plates make fantastic gifts, they are perfect to be used as a soap dish or a place to put your jewelry. I got this tip from Mindy! Thanks so much! As a matter of fact all these are gifts for certain people who will remain secret! If I mentioned your names it wouldn’t be a surprise….but… I’ll be seeing you three friends soon!! Hah! You may know who you are!!! I’m just horrible at keeping ‘secrets’! Sheesh! So, as you can see, I have finally found a medium to play with and I’m looking forward to making lot’s more fun things. Chris McCall, the artist who taught the class, also gives classes in Stained glass! I’ll be learning that next! I’m envisioning a couple of pendent lights for our casita!! I’m excited to learn yet another new art form that looks like lot’s of fun! In my mind, there’s really not much that is more fun and gives me more pleasure than making something beautiful, especially when it’s something useful! This Adventure just get’s better and better! And now, it’s only 16 more day’s until Mariah is here in Panama with me!! I can barely wait!!! Cheers!
Well, after learning how to properly mix the cement, what proportions of sand cement and fiber to use, I’m beginning to get the hang of it. I’ve made a beautiful birdbath from a giant leaf I got on my property up in Jaramillo, and I made a bowl using a stainless steel bowl as a form and placing small leaves in the cement to create a leaf pattern. I also made the stand for my birdbath . Yesterday we learned about staining the cement. Chris (the instructor) gave us notes on all the formulas for the tints and dies, thankfully because he already had all the colors all mixed up and Geesh! The guy is like a mad scientist when he’s working and not especially great at teaching how to actually do what he’s doing. I can totally relate to how hard it is to teach, It’s near impossible for me to teach someone how to do a haircut! I don’t really have the words to describe to someone in great detail , exactly what to do, I have to just do it and show someone. Chris is much like that when he’s trying to teach what he already has in his head. It’s all just such second nature to him and I notice he’s best at showing rather than talking. He has provided us with some great notes on all the formulas and all the important procedures for working with concrete. So, as I said, we colored our pieces yesterday and I had a great time watching all the other students pieces come to life as they painted the different colors onto them. We really have a great group of people in our class, which to me has made this experience even more fun! You know how much I love making new friends and I met some great people as well as got to know someone I already knew. Everyone ended up making some great pieces, all very different and all just beautiful! I’m going back today to finish up a few things. I also started trying to create a figure, which was my whole goal in taking this class. I was really hoping to learn how to do my figurative work that I love so much. The torso that I started is not looking so good! Yikes! It seems as though working with cement is not quite as forgiving and its not the same immediate gratification that you get when working with clay. I just hate that I have to work in layers and wait till the next day to add any detail! I’ll work on it some more today and see where it goes. I suspect I just need to get used to this new medium. Another thing that’s not so great about working with cement is “Ouch!” it’s terrible on your hands!! Sheesh! I’m all cut up from bending the chicken wire and my poor fingers have areas with no skin from the lime in the cement drying it out so badly!! Yesterday I experimented with working with my latex gloves that I have for doing my hair color and that seems to have really worked pretty well! I can buy them at Price Mart in bulk and they aren’t too expensive so as they tear I can just dispose of them and get new ones. I’m going to keep trying to acclimate myself with using cement and I may even set up a little space here at the house, under the carport to work on making a few things. It’s really nice that you don’t need a kiln and the pieces just dry up on their own. There are so many cool possibilities, I’m psyched to explore what I can do and what I can create with this new (to me) medium. I just hope my poor hands will forgive me, Yikes! Latex gloves are my new best friend!
Day two of my cement art workshop and I’m hooked!! On the first day we learned all about cement mortar and concrete and how to properly mix it to make different figures and pieces of art. We’ve been mixing a mortar like consistency with sand cement and a little fiber and water. We practiced by making our first project which was a bowl. We simply used a stainless steel bowl placed upside down on the table and added moist sand around the lip to hide that part of the bowl and create a wide rim on our bowl. Then we covered the bowl with wax paper to assure that the cement will easily release from the bowl. We also walked around the yard and collected cool looking little leaves and placed them on the bowl over the wax paper and before adding the concrete which will give a pretty leaf pattern inside the finished piece. Another option , in place of the wax paper some used plastic wrap which gave the piece a shiny surface after it dried. I decided to scrunch up my wax paper and this gave a wonderful texture after it dried. Then we added the mortar and completely covered the bowl and the sand around the lip. I then added more leaves on the cement to give the outside of the bowl the same leaf pattern. We used a trowel to flatten the very bottom of the bowl giving it a level base so it sits nicely. Then we covered it with plastic wrap and let it dry over night. This morning , first thing we unwrapped our bowls and removed all the wax paper and leaves and used a file to smooth out any rough, pokey edges. Then rinsed it off and put a little water inside the bowl, wrapped it in a plastic bag and put it away to finish slowly drying. If it dries too fast it may crack so keeping it a little moist is important. I just love my bowl, its very organic looking, which I love. The next step will be learning to tint and die and all that good stuff. It will be very interesting to learn about all the different dies and tints and chemicals to use to create color on concrete.
Day two (today) we learned about sand casting. We were told to bring a big leaf with us to class. I went up to our property and got some huge leaves to bring. I decided to use one of my giant leaves to make a birdbath. First we placed damp sand down on the surface about the same size as the leaf, the leaf then goes on top of this small form and then on top of the leaf is the mortar. He instructed me to make it about 2-21/2 inches thick and to make the edges a little flatter so the birds would have a place to sit while they drink. This will dry tonight, we shall see tomorrow what happens with that. I also made the base of the birdbath by rolling up some wire mesh and covering it with a scratch coat of mortar to be added to tomorrow. I cant wait to finish this piece. My mind is just racing, thinking about all the different possibilities! One thing I’d really like to consider trying is making concrete countertops for our casita! The most important part will be learning where we can buy all the chemicals for tinting and adding color. Here’s a few photos of the progress so far….. Read the rest of this entry
Today I’m starting a class taught by a local artist who has an art studio in Caldera (a town about 30 minutes from Boquete). He teaches several different classes and I hope to go another time to learn about stained glass. But today is the first of three days of a class to learn about making cement sculpture. Before I left the states I had spent about 3-4 years participating in a figurative sculpture group. This group got together every week to create figurative sculpture and had been doing so for many years before I was invited to join them. There is a local art league in Palo Alto, called the Palo Alto Art League, and through this organization we were able to use a wonderful studio and hire amazing nude models to pose for our classes. So once a week I took off from my busy schedule, as did all the other sculptors , and we spent about 3 hours losing ourselves in our art. We would also have a great time chatting and sharing stories as we worked on our pieces, stories of our lives, our kids, our travels, our work , our spouses, food, whatever happened to bubble out! The group had a core group of about 5-6 of us that consistently attended and there were others who would occasionally join us when they had time or were in town. We liked to call ourselves the “Sculpturistas !” As time went on we grew into a great little social group, gathering for a yearly Holiday extravaganza and attending one another’s art openings as well as just getting together for organizational meetings that were really a nice excuse to get together. I got so much inspiration and support from this group of artists. Before I joined them I had never sculpted and I was looking for an outlet, something other than my own woe’s to focus on. I will never forget the first time I walked into that studio with my bag of clay and my brand new tool box filled with shiny new sculpting tools that I had no idea what to do with. I was filled with such a mix of emotions, I was nervous and excited, but mostly I remember wondering If I would be able to create anything remotely resembling a human figure. I mean, I had never studied anatomy or sculpture. I didn’t know the first thing about what to do or how to do it. But right away these other sculptors encouraged me and helped me and gave me confidence. When the model dropped her robe and stepped up onto the little platform to hold her pose I remember feeling a little shy about looking at her, I mean….She was Naked!! I just followed the lead of all the others and took out my clay, put it on the sculpture stand and began to let my hands accustom themselves to the clay. Almost instantly all my inhibitions melted away. It was as though none of it had ever been there. I began to work and shape the clay and as it warmed under my fingers shape began to emerge. The others were chatting and there was gentle classical music playing in the background , but it all disappeared as I let myself become a sculptor. The feeling I got from my very first introduction to sculpture was one of losing myself while simultaneously finding myself as I created something from the raw clay. To me, there is such a Devine feeling of pleasure in making an ugly lump of clay into something beautiful. Now, I’m not ever going to be a professional sculptor, the other artists in my group were actually selling and showing their work and had reputations in the community of artists as accomplished sculptors and continue to do so. It’s not my desire to do anything but enjoy having my hands in clay and creating shapes and designs and enjoying that wonderful feeling of losing myself in something other than what’s going on around me and in the world, it’s an escape. I have several bags of clay in my container to be shipped out here, although who knows if it will survive the journey. But, sadly, I haven’t been able to find any sculpture clay here in Panama. I’ve asked around and I’ve learned that I will have to have it shipped in from Florida which would be very costly. So when I discovered this cement workshop my heart leapt! My sculpture group in the states had actually done a workshop with a visiting artist who taught them to work in concrete. I was not able to attend this workshop in the states and now I miraculously have the opportunity to learn here! Yea!! So this morning as I type this, I find myself once again feeling that same familiar feeling of trepidation. Will I be able to make something from Concrete? Something beautiful? I hope so. I have printed out a few ideas of some things I might like to try to make but I have no idea what is possible with concrete. I’ll keep you posted on this new adventure. One thing’s for sure, I’ll meet some new people and hopefully make a new friend or two!