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ugly pot: "when sculptures go bad"

updated thu 7 oct 99


Stephani Stephenson on mon 4 oct 99

As a student, I loved handbuilding . I wanted to handbuild the world.
At the end of my first year I wanted to make THE B-I-G figurative
sculpture. Since I was fairly adept with the female figure I decided to
make a large male nude. Using a coiled slab technique, and with more
gusto than foresight, I started the base of the figure at just above
the knees. I was determined to sculpt every muscle. Problem was,I
started off with way too large a diameter on each leg. The thighs
quickly became massive as I built up. By the time I got up to the butt
I was in HUGE trouble. The backside looked like a whole bagful of
bulldogs. Knowing the finished piece would never fit inside even the
large gas kiln I started trying to reduce dimensions by imposing three
dimensional foreshortening, trying to make it smaller as it got taller,
further complicating just about everything.
By this time the sculpture was causing a stir in the studio. Curiosity
grew to suspense as people wondered just what I would do when I got
around to the FRONT of the figure. It was college after all. A few
football players were taking pottery and soon the entire team was
filing through the studio, viewing daily progress. They were actually
quite courteous, even respectful. Now there=92s a ritual.
I procrastinated as long as possible but finally the day of reckoning
came when I simply had to address the problem of major gonad
attachment. OK, I lost my resolve: I skirted the issue or rather
=91loin-clothed=92 it. When no one was looking I jammed about 10-15 pounds
of clay into an appropriate configuration , slapped it up there then
draped a slab over it . I Stayed up all night and finished the torso and
shoulders.By the time I got to the neck and head he was too tall for
the kiln and weighed....I don=92t even know how much he weighed.
I was so sick of the thing by then , I just wanted out. I stayed up the
next night and put a bird head and kind of a birdwing on him.. We named
him Junior Birdman .
The day came for Junior Birdman to be fired. I had had to section the
head to fit in the kiln...worlds biggest, weirdest cookie jar. He took
up the whole kiln. Firing complete , we opened the kiln to a scene of
true carnage . You guessed it. Jr. Birdman had a major blowout in a very
sensitive region. I had forgotten to remove the big wad of clay under
the loincloth.Though his privates were vaporized, the stupid loincloth
got blown off but lay in only two or three pieces so , yes, I epoxied it
back on. OK, quality control, just shoot me.
At the end of the year I traded Junior to a friend for a little bronze
sculpture, thrilled to get him out of my life. My friend and her family
moved across the country several times. Each time they moved she=92d call
me and say ,cheerily, =93 Yup,we still have Junior Birdman =93. Years later
we both moved to the same part of the country. I went to visit her and
there HE was, in the back yard , in all his kitschy over- muscled
glory. I would have cringed at the sight except that her sons had him
decked out He was sporting necklaces, shades, a vest and a jaunty hat .
My friend told me that her sons started costuming him when they were
little. Sometimes they would change his garb daily. They made him part
of their games and imaginary play and of course he was decked out for
all holidays.
So yes , aesthetic judgement screamed for the hammer, no, the baseball
bat=21 But I have to say that =93Junior BirdEunuch=94 has had a very good
life after all.
P.S. My signature is not on him anywhere and if he and I ever cross
paths in public I WILL deny all.
Stephani Stephenson
Leucadia, CA

tmartens on tue 5 oct 99

Years ago I was packing stuff into a box for an exhibition. Despite
lots of paper the stuff was still rattling so I shoved in a little
sculpture that had gone badly wrong, slumped and distorted
because it went into a highfire kiln instead of the low fire it should
have had. It stopped the rattling beautifully.
We had only a certain amount of time to set up our stuff and then
had to leave (finished or not) I took out the 'rattle stopper' and
plonked it down on a shelf while I got on with the arranging of my
ware. The "Time's up" came sooner than I expected and I hurriedly
pushed the packing paper into boxes and left. As I walked out I
remembered 'rattle stopper' was still sitting there on the shelf with
my other stuff.
Said I had forgotten something and could I fetch it, got an
unequivical "NO!"
So I squirmed and died a thousand deaths of embarrasment over
that damn thing.
You should have seen my dropped jaw and bulging eyes when a
critic chose to write about that rattle stopper slumped sculpture
and go on at length about "what the artist was trying to say about
the imperfections of life"
Glad somebody told me about my thought processes, did not know
I had any!

Gail Turton on wed 6 oct 99

i made a mermaid for my waterfall, sitting on a rock, with her tail hanging
down, arms behind her head, chest pushed out. fired her too fast, and her
arms blew off. so i made another one, and this time her breasts blew off.
was so disgusted, i epoxied them back on, and there she sits 4 years
later...they are still in place.
taught me to fire more carefully on sculptures, thats for sure!
north of dallas tx