Blowin’ it up! with Rain Harris


Last Week Gabe and I had the good fortune of attending a Rain Harris workshop in Hays KS as a part of my midterm critique weekend.  We had a fantastic time, meeting people and learning the new techniques that Rain brought to teach.  The workshop centered around her black flower bouquets, which when paired with resin coated plastic and silk flowers, become a commentary on the distinction of good and bad taste.

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Using a black clay called Cassius Basaltic made by Aardvark Clay, we were instructed in making the beautiful and delicate flowers seen in the sculpture above.  Typically, Gabe and I had a hard time staying on track with the assignment.  This was our first workshop in a long time and we were so excited.  Gabe especially was determined to “blow it up”, his way of saying the was going to go all out.  So while our class mates made beautiful flowers ,mounted on nichrome wire, Gabe and I made monster flowers.

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The top image shows the clay wet, and the lower is after the clay is fired.   Both these flowers were made by Gabe, true to his word, he blew it up…in more than one way…

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The process of firing the work is very aggressive, these went into the kiln and were fired to cone 5 the night they were made.  “I told you I don’t know what I’m doing” was his comment, (though truly loosing one of 7 isn’t bad) and off he went to vacuum the kiln.  We then gathered all the pieces for the next phase of the build.

Our class mates took the lovely flowers on wires and made arrangements using the black clay again as a center piece to hold the wires together.


This is the piece that Rain created, but all of them were really terrific.  And then there’s us.  We took our frankinflowers and the broken pieces and pushed together a strange collaborative hill of weirdness.

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We left lots of the under clay exposed and textured it and forced the broken pieces in, then shoved on the other flowers, most of which did not include the wires that our more skillful and attention paying fellows added.  In spite of its odd ball status, we were happy with it and having a blast.  For good measure I held it up and asked Gabe to poke it a few times.  Im laughing as I type, because we blew this one up too.

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please note how awesome most of these are. Somehow we were just not destined to be among them this weekend.  No tears though, we salvaged what we could and may make some further monstrosity later.  Gabe also  got to make a new friend.

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Thanks to everyone at FHSU for the great weekend!

Stone Woman

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The Venus of Willendorf (or Woman of Willendorf as she is now known) is one of the first pieces of art I can remember being aware of.  The first time I saw a photo of this tiny sculpture I felt a deep connection.  Throughout my making life I have returned again and again to this piece for inspiration.  After writing a paper on sculpture of the Gravettian last semester and doing a series of paintings this past summer featuring figurines from the same period I knew I wanted to include the Willendorf figurine in this body of work.  Initially I thought I would have another couple, living  in the attic, and that the fairy godmother figure would come from outside the house.  As the script evolved however and I got real about the extreme limits of space in the top floor I arrived at a reworked concept to change the roll of this figurine within the story.  She was sculpted from a solid block of clay using many images of the original for reference.  Like Bob, this object is something that people know.  I wanted it to be instantly recognizable so I would not have to involve explanation in the dialog of the video.  Of course some modification was necessary as the original can not stand on her own and this one has to not only stand but “walk” within her space.  Her surface is a fired wash using red iron oxide, traces of which still cling to the nearly 26,000 year old original.

With this piece the objects for the film are complete, though I may remake the magic box holders to allow more room inside the apartments.  The next step then in video production is to construct the set and determine the lighting.  It is our intent to continue with this concept for at least 3 more films, so all our decisions are being made deliberately so that the filming can grow as the world does.

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Bob the Unicorn

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Bob the Unicorn is the resident of the first floor of the Doll House, and he is unique.  Not only is he the only unicorn in the collection, but he is the only figurines of the group made by Gabe.  There were several reasons for handing this difficult piece off to him.  Primarily was the desire for this work to have a marked stylistic difference from the rest of the characters, but also Gabe brings a different skill set to the table.  Gabe’s years of study in drawing  and painting have given him an excellent eye and an ability to deliver convincing detail. Though this work is stylized to emphasize power and size in relation to the other characters of the film, he is very horsey.  Unlike squid or bears, we work with horses every day.   Not getting this piece right was unacceptable.  He is finished in acrylic as the bears are a part of his world and they needed to matchbob outside house 573

Here he is with Ted the squid.  Ted is our hero as in the last video and so interacts with most of the other characters.bob and ted 585

The Complete Squid Family

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Rather than the acrylic surface that you saw on the bears, I chose glaze for the squid, both to set them apart from Bob and his world and to give them the look of being wet.  Above are shots of them alone on a clean back ground and below they are in the house with the magic box on.  It gives a much better feel for the quality of light we will be going for in the video.

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