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All Creatures Great and Small by natureofbeing

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· @natureofbeing ·
$10.93
All Creatures Great and Small
![RFGtile_080714_Pig.jpg](https://steemitimages.com/DQmdiNjj5GEPBLQ1u6Xutkof8bk657CS5VeDEi2uisZhUUc/RFGtile_080714_Pig.jpg)


**Clay is my best teacher, it shows me what I can do, it challenges me, it inspires me, it has been a faithful lover, a loyal friend and a formidable taskmaster. I never tire of this medium because it continually brings me to new places and surprises me.**

You may have noticed that my work and thus my posts are quite varied. Truth is, I like making things in clay and derive great pleasure from discovering how to push my aesthetic and grow my technical know-how in new ways. As a consequence, I tend to have an exploration or two cluttering up my studio.

However, not all of my explorations lead me to great places. I get lots of ideas and some are winners, some aren’t. A few years ago I got the seemingly promising idea to make some sculptural animals for the garden, porch or balcony. I loved the idea of the way each shiny, colorful, animated piece could transform a space. I imagined them peaking out of bushes or welcoming you outside the door next to plants. They seemed like a lot of fun to make and I knew I could successfully market them to interior designers or sell directly to customers. I decided to call the series “All Creatures Great and Small” and to make several new animals each year to add to the collection. 

![RFGtile_080714_heart of gold lioness_profile.jpg](https://steemitimages.com/DQmcXHenfQz3bQLHxp6vW9abuyRi3BYzpa6xi6m5L3WyAkT/RFGtile_080714_heart%20of%20gold%20lioness_profile.jpg)
*Big Hearted Lioness in profile*

I began with making the “Pig of Fortune” and couldn’t believe how much I loved making this little guy! Next I made the Big Hearted Lioness which was also very satisfying. But by the time I was in the middle of carving the third, a rabbit, the technical problems that were arising quickly felt insurmountable.

![IMG_9688.JPG](https://steemitimages.com/DQmcBkF24P6ooXGrp8kve1jzTFnDamAamhuTDsvB22GYJ5t/IMG_9688.JPG)
*sculpting the pig*

![IMG_8540.JPG](https://steemitimages.com/DQmXRfjEaG1U1pwWDQMQaDAYqTTxELTuJyVTF8f6GZJxnxU/IMG_8540.JPG)
*the leaves symbolize the natural fertile good luck that pigs embody, and the garnet crystal in the finished piece supports this good fortune*

My plan had been to sculpt each original which I would use to make a plaster mold for reproduction. In my mind’s eye, reproduction would make these pieces about $400. retail rather than $1,500-$2,000. for a one-off hand-sculpted piece.

![IMG_8564.JPG](https://steemitimages.com/DQmWzu47jDwPSyso6EZQcNwGHeV8z4JA1iNgrwM16Ddx9cW/IMG_8564.JPG)
*original sculpts loaded into the kiln ready for bisque firing*

![Lioness flower detail.JPG](https://steemitimages.com/DQmQf81LgRmN3eLWAqDgjqrNrZBbXcABJdY2U5Mmq4usK4Q/Lioness%20flower%20detail.JPG)
*blooming flower detail is the she-lion's huge courageous heart (cours, the root of courage, means having heart) bursting out of her chest and the adventurine stones added to the finished piece support that generosity*

I enlisted the help of Mudshark Studios here in Portland - a professional mold-making shop run by some friends - to make the first mold of the pig. This turned out to be a very expensive but smart move because the mold took more understanding of mold-making than either Rob or I have.

We predicted that the mold would be complicated to make but didn’t imagine how difficult and maybe impossible it would be to do the actual casting. 

![IMG_9673.JPG](https://steemitimages.com/DQmcQDWk1qtaBEXSUkZCRZ2xbvLKScCoCfVdJzVF4bhZiKQ/IMG_9673.JPG)

![IMG_9677.JPG](https://steemitimages.com/DQmPm21GBvnxaT7RRHv5yXgWh52pM6N2JknKqE3uY3mdM79/IMG_9677.JPG)

We would pour stoneware slip into each mold part: main body, legs, ears and then attach the parts which worked well. But the process was tricky in almost every other way. The wetness/dryness of the slip turned out to be critical and difficult to get just right and the torso had to be removed from the mold before it began to shrink much otherwise it would crack at the neck and legs. Yet it also had to be dry enough to support itself in order to remove it from the mold. 

![IMG_9681.JPG](https://steemitimages.com/DQmQijGDjcuH1PjqNieZmuwqFsXQ5mrJroGpMuJPivTwK9p/IMG_9681.JPG)

Another problem was once all of the parts were joined together, the shrinkage of the piece while it dried and then during the firing put stress on the areas around the legs causing cracking. The piece needed to be able “move” as it shrank. We tried putting silica sand underneath all contact points as well as newsprint. Of course we also tried slowing down the drying and firing processes; we rigged up all kinds of cranks and pulleys for flipping over these giant molds to help with even drying and slip distribution, we experimenting with wall thickness and basically tried anything we could think of and were advised to do. 

![FullSizeRender (23).jpg](https://steemitimages.com/DQmbRjQDC6n2EVSW5YuHTdTywKnssBAuNuRnsvPi7HZYAbU/FullSizeRender%20(23).jpg)
*before the ears and leaf detail were added*

Everything we tried helped but after weeks of attempts we still weren’t able to cast beginning to end without cracking. I knew I was “done” with this experiment when I wound up putting aside the rabbit in mid-sculpt. It quickly became too dry and hard to work on and I disposed of this 75% finished piece.

I do believe that these pieces are possible to make, for example sculpting smaller animals could have solved many of the challenges. But at the time other commissions came along and I couldn’t take the time to continue to problem solve and furthermore by then we’d lost our juice for making these charming critters. Too many challenges that were too expensive and just didn’t seem worth it after all. 

The good news is that I’ve had an awesome little menagerie of the originals and cracked pieces in my garden and I thoroughly enjoy them all year round!

![in the garden.JPG](https://steemitimages.com/DQmdLroVsSkWfn2XJXrpnzUXHevFEdTT5mXXvqt7MQHADZY/in%20the%20garden.JPG)
*out in the garden my banana grove is just starting up for the season* ![IMG_8540.JPG]

![Lioness in window with Lewellyn.JPG](https://steemitimages.com/DQmWYg7KY44mNQ9GUa3FhfheymeSpDvNL7D72kGcuVRP9yx/Lioness%20in%20window%20with%20Lewellyn.JPG)
*and sometimes we put her in the front window to hang out with our living cat*
👍  , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and 131 others
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vote details (196)
@yoganarchista ·
Wow, amazing works. Thank you for sharing ^^ You are very talented with clay :) I follow you :)
👍  
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@natureofbeing ·
thanks for the compliments and for following!! Much appreciated and just so you know, I follow you too ;-)
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@mayasky ·
Wow! :D Amazing sculptures! I especially like the pig and what it symbolizes... Thank you for another Great post that allows us to see your wonderful work and process. :)
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@natureofbeing ·
thanks so much @mayasky, so glad to hear it! I fell in love with the pig too he's a pretty cute little fellow
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@paolobeneforti ·
I model and teach the clay too. Nice works! :)
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@natureofbeing ·
thanks @paolobeneforti, yes and I'm a fan!
👍  
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vote details (1)
@camilla ·
beautiful work!
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@natureofbeing ·
$0.13
thanks so much @camilla!
👍  
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vote details (1)
@denmarkguy ·
Wow! Thanks for sharing this whole journey through your process-- you are certainly very talented; I really like the final glazes, too. Too bad you weren't able to put them into production...
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@natureofbeing ·
Thanks so much @denmarkguy, I agree it was a sad ending. As I wrote this post I had a flicker of interest in trying them again but it will be a few years down the road. By the way, my mother is Danish and moved to the US in her 20s. I have loads of family in Denmark and fell in love with Denmark when I went for a visit.
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@denmarkguy ·
I came to the US from Denmark when I was 20... and somehow ended up staying on, after what was originally a 1-year exchange. Been here ever since, although we go back to Denmark at least once every other year.
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@macksby ·
So, the little piggie didn't make it.... Too bad!
Love these posts @natureofbeing
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@natureofbeing ·
hahaha, yeah it is too bad....and thanks  @macksby!
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@voronoi ·
Thanks for sharing such a great story @natureofbeing! The process of casting seems beautifully and painfully complex. I've been in spots where I've abandoned a drawing halfway through the original intention. Like the clay pig... There's a point where the exploration of something unknown loses juice and becomes agonizing to complete. Anyway, fascinating story!
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@natureofbeing ·
yes so so true!! I like how you characterize casting as "beautifully and painfully comples" - perfectly captured...
thanks @voronoi!
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