Julian Jardine - Creating an Orang-utan
For many years now I have been a supporter of the Orang-utan Foundation who's work to save and protect this endangered species has been highly successful. Each year they hold a fundraising week "Go Orange" and in 2010 I decided to create an Orang-utan sculpture to raffle at the gallery and raise funds for the organisation.
The final result can be seen below and £433 was raised through this event. I hope to do something similar again in the future if I can make the time.
Starting with a large pinch pot and an array of reference pictures spread out on the desk my initial aim is to rapidly build up the basic shape of the Orang-utan. Think of it like sketching in a book where you would use sausage and oval shapes to create a person, this is the same thing but created in clay.
Creating a hollow form sculpture has advantages in that it is lighter, less likely to explode in the kiln and easy to tweak at later stages simply by pushing your finger through and pulling clay outwards.
Building up the lower body by adding additional pinches of clay to the rim roughly 1cm wide. Be sure to really blend the clay in when joining. If you work quickly with soft clay it adheres very well to itself, you need to avoid over handling the work as your hands dry the piece far faster than the air.
When joining new pieces of clay to the sculpture it is very important to make sure you don't introduce air bubbles into your sculpture. Push clay on firmly from one side, pushing any air out the other rather than simply adding a lump then smearing the join all around. I normally place the clay just below the inside rim of the piece and push out and up then join the piece on the outside with firm finger strokes.
The Arms and legs are created from rolled out fat sausages (coils) of clay. I then push my finger down the middle to hollow them out so they are also about 1cm thick before joining to the body. When doing this I ensure that the shoulder and hip joints have a hole leading into the main body so the entire piece has one large air bubble inside. This allows you to make one air hole at the end of the model to let any steam out of as the piece fires.Once roughed in I switch to using modelling tools to work in the details of hands and feet, face and then hair. By not handling the work it allows you a far greater time to sculpt without having to spray water on the piece. As the piece dries in the air it shrinks slightly, enough though to apply pressure on the air trapped within which makes the piece feel far more solid. This means you don't have to fill your work with paper which gives off a lot of fumes when fired.
Adding the fur texture is done with a variety of tools from an old kitchen knife, wooden potter's tool and finally a needle tool. I take care to follow the direction the hair would naturally lie in on the animal as I do this, plus vary the length and depth of your tool marks to create the illusion of long and short hair. Once completed I brush the piece gently with a large domestic paint brush (2-3") this removes small clumps of clay that would break off and adds to the finished texture. Smooth areas like the fingers and face can be finalised by using a small wet paint brush.
After being allowed to thoroughly dry out at the studio for 2-3 weeks the piece is placed into the kiln and baked on a low heat at 100c for about 8 hours before firing the kiln to 1180c. The final piece is then finished in acrylic paints using dry brushing which is covered in the leafy sea dragon article.