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sculpture and milk

updated fri 6 feb 98


douglas gray on wed 4 feb 98

In message Jo Gilder writes:
> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
I'm curious as to
> what other ways there are to finish a piece. (I'm a terrible painter and
> glazing just doesn't work for some pieces.) Also the teacher mentioned
> something about painting the piece with skim milk to seal it. Anyone
> else ever hear of this?
> Jo Gilder
> Panama City, FL


Let me first say that I don't typically use any of the following techniques
because I am a die-hard cone 10 glaze kind of guy. But I did teach part-time at
an institution that encouraged student to try "room temperature" surface
treatments. I can honestly say that i saw some wonderful results. Just goes to
prove, never say never. Some of the most unlikely materials can give you the
nicest results.

Yes you can use milk. I read about the process years ago, but have never really
tried it myself. You can brush or pour milk over the bisqued clay and let it
air dry. The milk helps to seal the clay body so that paint can be applied more
easily. If you have ever painted on bisqueware, you know how fast the paint
dries, the clay just sucks it right out of the brush. It is hard to get a fluid
stroke. The milk seals the clay so that the paint can be applied more fluidly.

As for other options, here are a few.

If you want to get a smoked affect, use india ink (or some permanent ink). You
can brush it on full strength, or dilute it for lighter shades of gray. I say
brushing, but you could air brush, pour, splatter, you name it. For that matter
Higgins makes a variety of different colors you could use, if you don't want

Then if you want a slight sheen to the surface, work some Johnson' paste (not
liquid) floor way in to the surface. I use a tooth brush to get in the detailed
areas. Let it dry and polish with a soft cloth.

Another possiblity is shoe polish-kind of a polish and pigment in one

Paints will work fine, acrylic, spray, oils, etc. You might try thinning them
down with the appropriate thinner and using them more like stains. A nice way
of working texture with paints is to apply the paint rather thickly, then with a
damp sponge, sponge or blot off most of the paint. This produces a rich antique
surface, particularly if you layer more than one color.

Wood stains will work, but might be more limited in colors than paint.

Then if you are really a glutton for punishment, you could try coating the piece
with tile grout and setting pieces of tile or colored glass into the surface.
this creates a mosaic type affect that could be interesting on some sculptural

You can also cover the sculpture with elmer's glue thinned with water and apply
pieces of fabric, paper, sand, sawdust, wallpaper, etc. Anything could be
applied. I've seen sculptures covered in chewed gum, cheese puffs, raisins,
pine straw, feathers,...

The only limit is your imagination (and, being a teacher myself, the stated
objectives for the project) Some of these techniques will be more durable than
others (some are more edible). You get to decide.

Hope this helps,


============================================================================ =)
Douglas E. Gray, Assistant Professor of Art
P.O. Box 100547
Department of Fine Arts and Mass Communication
Francis Marion Univeristy
Florence, South Carolina 29501-0547

Sharon Armann on thu 5 feb 98


I have used milk to seal interior adobe walls and don't see why you
couldnt use it to seal an unfired terra cotta sculpture. The air dried
adobes were covered with a finely sieved slip made from the same earth
as the adobe bricks. When the slip dried, I used a spray bottle to
apply the skim milk. I gave it 2 or 3 coats, letting it dry well
between each coat. Here in the desert that means leaving it about an
hour. The information I had at the time said to use skim milk because
milk with fat would attract bugs after awhile. Anyway 10 years later
the walls are still doing fine, there never was a smell or bugs, unless
you count the usual desert critters that seem to enter no matter how
thick your walls or tight your door and window seals.

The milk spary does give a slight sheen to the walls, but I think I am
the only one who notices it. You might try it on the bottom or on a
very small section of the sculpture and see what you think. The milk
coating protects the slip from being brushed or wiped off as hands, dust
rags, or vacuum cleaner equipment touches the adobe bricks.

I'd be glad to answer any questions I can.

Sharon Armann
Phoenix, Az.