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Foray into clay sculpture

Years ago, I purchased a few packets of air dry clay. Never had a chance to use them though.  It is hard to spend a few hours of daylight time playing with clay, uninterrupted, with two little children and their fast hands flying about your workplace.  Then I saw this pretty sculpture at my friend’s house.  Such smooth lines and elegant simplicity, I can almost hear her snobbish words dripping sarcastically from those trout lips!

The Lady with the Lips inspired me to finally scrape together my courage and a few nights ago, I opened one of the packets.  It was actually still workable, remarkable for something I bought almost 9 years ago!  The terracotta clay by Jovi was in fact, almost too soft for my liking.  It flopped about a bit.  Obviously, I will have to experiment more with armature and other delightful support mechanisms.

Here is my first attempt at a face:

I think this looks more like a death mask of someone very old and very ill, lol, but at least I managed to get some of the propertions right.  The clay was drying out very fast and I had a lot of little dried bits sticking to the main portion when I worked with it.  I kept a stiff bristle brush in a little bowl of water and every so often, I’d brush over the face to keep the clay moist.  I had a lot of fun modelling the nose.  Especially as I was scheduled to have septoplasty done on Thursday, 10 November.  Fortunately for me, the surgery was successful and my nose hopefully looks a lot better than the death mask’s nose!

I had half a packet of clay left and could not decide what to sculpt with it.  It was getting late, my hands were icky with dry clay and I’d had enough of the floppy stuff.  So I looked at my crumbly fist and decided to give a go of copying it.  Here’s my “fist of clay”:

It was a very interesting experience to try and capture the angles of the finger bones and the knuckles.  I think I managed to get the finger lengths right.  The clay was too soft to make a hand resting on a wrist, it just kept on collapsing.  So, I decided not to fight it and just let it rest on the base as it wanted to.  They are curing right now.  The weather has cooled down and the humidity is stable.  I hope they don’t crack too much in the drying process.


Antique Objects of my Affection

This is a lovely little reproduction of a classical Greek bust, literally!  Her breasts are very balanced and look lovely – but as I’m living in a Muslim country with potential house buyers viewing my house on a regular basis, I thought it best to cover up my little lady’s attributes.

She is currently wearing a bronze or brass neck-piece with various imitation-coins, beads and glass gems that I bought at a souq in Karama, Dubai, a few years ago.  The shopkeeper told me this was a part of an Afghani formal outfit, usually sewn on the dress itself, and dating back to probably 20 years ago.  I have no real way of verifying this information, but I fell in love with the piece and had no way of displaying it properly – until my little Grecian beauty came to live with me.  I consider this a win-win combination, and at least she is not flashing anybody anymore!

I collect all kinds of weird, wacky and downright bizarre items.  Pictured here, is my little steel shopping cart.  I find consumerism a very fascinating topic of study.  Apart from immersing myself in it when I did my first year Bachelor of Visual Arts at UNISA (not complete yet, sadly, because I moved to Dubai), I still like to observe people performing their daily rituals during the act of consumerism.  The ultimate symbol of consumerism is the SHOPPING CART.  I use mine at Amazon quite often!

In the little shrine to consumerism is my antique ostrich egg.  I helped my uncle clear out our great-uncle’s (by marriage) storeroom a few years ago and found this egg.  It has two dried up objects on the inside, which rattle around in the sealed egg.  I wish I could take it for an x-ray to see if it is a little ostrich in there, or just the dried up yolk itself.  Eggs symbolise potential, which is why there is an egg in the new South African coat of arms.  You can read more about it on Wiki:

I love books!  And here is my oldest book, a very worn third edition of A New Method of Chemistry; including the Hiftory, Theory and Practice of the ART: Tranflated from the ORIGINAL LATIN of Dr. BOERHAAVE’s ELEMENTA CHEMIAE, As Published by Himself, To which are added, NOTES; and an APPENDIX, shewing The NECESSITY and UTILITY of Enlarging the Bounds of Chemistry. With Sculptures. By Peter Shaw, M.D. F.R.S., The Third Edition, corrected, Vol II and printed in the amazing year of M.DCC.LIII – which translates (if I remember my Roman numerals correctly) into 1753.

I derive much enjoyment from reading the entries in their original print-form with the bizarre letterforms replacing the common letter “s”.  Some of them use an “f”, while others use a curved s-shape, but elongated like a flourish “f”.  These always make me laugh, especially in such a serious scientific work – for example:  “glafs-veffel” is “glass vessel”, but try to read out loud a whole page of serious scientific instructions in this typographic format WITHOUT laughing!

This is quite a unique book, in many respects.  Boerhaave’s Chemistry is available in current edition format from Amazon and is still in use today.  I bought my copy from a little vintage shop in Pretoria for about R400.00 a few years ago.  I just saw a good condition Volume I for sale on the internet for about R5,700.00.  I don’t know if my copy would be worth as much, because the back cover has torn loose, there are child pencil scribbles on the inside covers and the overall condition is “poor”.

But the most amazing aspect of this little bit of history:  this book was published in 1753.  Marie Antoinette, the doomed Queen of France, was only born two years later!  Not that she would have read it, but as a contemporary object it occupies a special place in my heart.