Experimenting with handbuilding methods, and the Sea Bean Trial

21st April

Stymied by the large mould problem, I’ve spent the last few days experimenting, which was something I’d intended to do for a while.  I looked at methods used by other artists using similar motifs, and basically had a go at all of them.

Thomas Edison might have said:

“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

Well, I’ve eliminated a few ways that will not work …… and found a couple that do!  Yes!

Firstly, carving.  Following Pamela Sunday:

 pamela-sunday-sculpture- Tangent

Can’t think why I haven’t tried carving before – brill!  Really relaxing – no wonder Halima Cassell enjoys it so much. I tried carving bean shapes as well, concave and relief.

I also discovered that the cheap sugar tools are very usable.  The flower petal ball head creates lovely pebbles when applied to the back of the clay.  And the smaller heads make interesting bumps and spots.

No photos – forgot to replace the disk in my phone.

I’ve eliminated assemblage as a method. Making individual pinch pots and joining then together – Anna’s preference – is not for me. Nor did I like combining slab strips to make honeycomb.

30th April

I’ve now used the large mould to make curved slabs, from which I made a pod shape, based on Rob Kesseler’s Sea Bean,  using recyc clay.

Rob Kesseler Mucuna Urens vine seed
Rob Kesseler Sea Bean

Some of the clay was decidedly odd – very short and friable.  I had to use some of the short clay, but it seems to be okay, although I had to rebuild a section because I couldn’t resist bashing the bean while it was still too soft. I’m going to try inserting honeycomb sections.  If it works, I’ll redo it in Ashraf Hanna. I think building in this way will be relatively quick. Actually, even if it doesn’t work I might do it in Ashraf Hanna, assuming I’ve learnt enough about the method.

5th May

Well, I’ve made absolutely no progress on the Sea Bean this week.  Life!  Even today didn’t go as planned and I didn’t arrive at uni until lunchtime. Avoided Dave, because I had nothing to say about my work that I didn’t say last Friday. Hey ho! On the plus side I’ve made the ball mould, finished the biaxial glaze tests for Friday, and had a chat with Barnaby Barford. Back to Sea Bean……..

I read a comment that Sea Beans look like hamburgers.  I don’t want my piece to look like a holey hamburger, so I’ve bashed it into a less regular shape. The area with short clay cracked a little, but I’ve repaired it, so fingers crossed.  I’ve drawn on the band of honeycomb ‘holes’, varying the depth so it resists the hamburger look.  Now we’re thinking ‘football’ – thanks for that, Sue and Micaela 😉

Sea Bean Hamburgery-Football

Clay timing was wrong to do more, so, far from staying till 7.30 as planned, I went home earlier than usual. Hopefully next week will see more progress.

Mould Designs

I have, however, been thinking about moulds.  I need more.  I had to use an odd assortment of moulds to take enough slabs for the Sea Bean.  There’s nowhere to keep them at uni and Humpty is really heavy.  So I’ve provisionally designed some flat-pack frame moulds using sail canvas. Now have to do some test ones.

9th May

Dave came to the rescue with a new bag of clay.  Hurray, well done that man! Hence I’ve done the first section insert – no photo as forgot phone. It didn’t fit as well as it might as there wasn’t a mould with a suitable profile.  I used my large plastic glaze bowl.  It occurs to me that if I can get the flat-pack mould idea to work, they should be ideal for doing custom curves shapes.  Anyway, using a combination of chunk-coiling and modelling the first Sea Bean insert worked well.

I also repaired the ball mould – did I mention we ran out of plaster and there wasn’t enough to finish my mould?  I improvised, using a piece of waste plaster for a flat base and scooped up the setting plaster to join it. Unfortunately, the dregs from the plaster bin had shards of set plaster in it, which scarred the ball part of the mould.  When I filled and sanded it, more set-bits popped out.  So I’ve filled and sanded it again. It’ll be fine for what I want to use it for.

I couldn’t resist buying a hemispherical  football cake mould in Aldi.

10th May 

I inserted two of the honeycomb sections without mishap.  It’s a bit tricky to make them fit the cut out.  In an ideal world one would make a plaster mould of each section as a former.  No time, no plaster. It has occurred to me that I can use the section I remove as a former – blast it with the heat gun, and cover it with the template.

The good news is that I’m getting plenty of practice at repairing things. Totally down to my impatience – again! I made one section too big, so, instead of spending time remodelling the section, I tried to force it into place.  Succeeded in forcing the whole lot off the banding wheel onto the table.  Cracked the site of impact.  Then removing the offending section (which wedged inside the pod on impact), I tore the opposite side. I’ve repaired it and it’s now snuggled in Humpty mould.  I’ll remove the section and repair and reinforce the inside tomorrow. I hadn’t intended to fire this bean because of the odd clay issue, but it might be interesting to see what happens to the repairs.


Ball Mould: I’ve started a spherical sculpture – first half in the mould.  Maybe when I have more than one thing on the go I won’t be tempted to push things too far!

11th May

So far so good.  I’ve repaired the inside of the Sea Bean, and inserted some more sections. I’m really not sure how it’s going to turn out.  Hopefully Monday will see it completed and ready for refining.


May 17th

A day to go to the assessment and I’ve finished Sea Bean.  Could do with a fine wire wool refinement before firing, but it’s good enough for the assessment. I’m a bit concerned that there was a disparity in moisture levels between the form and the later inserts.  It had to be ready to display.



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