Progress on the custom china Caprice

The days have just been flying by, and I haven’t devoted a whole lot of time to the ceramic horse work. But the customized china Caprice is just about ready to be fired. I thought it might be interesting to share my approach to sculpting a new mane and tail on this piece. Below are two photos of the first part of the process:

Not having much of an idea how other artists go about this, I just went ahead and tried the first thing I could think of. I roughly painted-on wet clay slip that was thickened to the point it was gloppy yet held a shape. So you can see it looks like wet clay. For the tail, first I scrunched up the existing tail and reshaped it roughly in the position I wanted, carved it up, and then painted on the gloppy slip. I did this while the horse was “leather hard” which means it is damp and somewhat flexible. Then, I let the whole thing dry out for a week.

After drying out, the piece loses the flexibility but does become carve-able. I like to work on this dried greenware rather than the leather hard, because you can carve it using just a few tools, and soften out what you’ve carved with a paintbrush dipped in water. The whole thing is more rigid and it feels safer for me to handle.

I can see why the sculptors I know who have gone into ceramics, just rave over how wonderful it is to sculpt in the greenware stage. I love it! The best thing is, no electric power tools!! It is such a peaceful, quiet process; just like the original sculpture stage when I’m creating something from scratch in the non-hardening oil clay.

Here’s how the piece looks now, after carving the mane and tail, cleaning up the seams, and adding a lot of little detailing that the original lost in casting… or didn’t have at all. There are more refinements I need to make but it is almost done:

I’m really looking forward to seeing how this fires into bisque. And then I want to cast another horse from the molds and see how far I can push clay changes to create new, unique pieces from the existing sculpture.