Friday, December 17, 2010

Visions with downsides

Not very often do you run into someone that is working on the very same idea you are and you catch it in time to change your creation...often it is not caught until you exhibit in the same show and by then there is nothing that you can do about it. Also some animal posture is so common that you will run into the same positioning of an animal quite often.

I remember I had a favorite piece that was in miniature that I had had great luck with and I had decided to point it up or enlarge it so that it could be used in an outside area. That same week I happened to be at the foundry and looked over and there it was exactly same position and done by someone a lot more popular than me in the outside enlarged work, so there you go....a burned idea!

When it is maddening is when you hear from someone that someone has created a piece that is exactly like yours and your piece was so off the wall and far fetched that you wonder how in the world someone could have possibly had that exact idea in the exact same position of something that was not a common creature to do in the first place. Go figure!

This is a good place to put in the idea that if you are online in any site at all, you take the chance of someone copying your work, whether it be in Loveland, Colorado or China. Hopefully you will just have to keep your following of patrons and run faster (or keep beating the side of your truck and keeping the chickens in the air, thanks Jack).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I have hit on all the facets of creating but not touched yet on another important issue that often is difficult for creative people and that is marketing your work. 

In the beginning I joined the local art association, helped with two shows a year and began showing locally. At this point all artist should have business cards, one side a photo of your best work and the other contact information.  You will also need an artist statement, biography and mission statement (this last is for your benefit, everyone has to have goals and something to progress towards.)

The demands of a show throw you into keeping a calendar of deadlines for entries, dates of delivery and receptions. One of the things you have to do is keep track of exactly which works you entered where and not to double enter during the same or overlapping time slot.  You always want to stay honest and realize shows only accept so many artist and if you are accepted then have to pull out because of double booking yourself it hurts the organization and adds to their work. (Besides the fact that they will not trust you ever again to enter their show). Fees vary from 10.00 to 35.00 to enter regardless of whether you are chosen or not.

A show entry usually requires, besides the fee, pictures of your work either photos, slides or cd and a stamped self addressed envelope (this will contain your returned slides etc and your acceptance or denial). Now days though much is done online so you may get an email also. Some shows require your bio, statement etc. and some do not. Always read the rules for each show and abide by them, some do not take certain mediums and others weight or size.

Later I began to get a larger body of work and developed a circle around how far I was willing to drive and haul work, taking into consideration gas and motel expenses. Hauling could almost be another book, there is such an issue on how to haul carefully, not to injure work before it is even viewed.

Note: This is a good place to add that you need to keep good records and  large envelope comes in handy for keeping travel expenses, meals, parking, motels and mileage.

When you are accepted you will usually have a delivery date and an opening night reception for the show.  Don't every fail to go and take a pocket full of business cards.  Be brave and verbal about your work, show your knowledge and also your pride.  Most patrons really want to get involved with your piece that way they feel a connection.  Listen for their connection. Be attentive to their input not just your ego.

You may also have the opportunity to show in a tent situation and it can either make you provide your own 10 x 10 or supply one large tent with space.

Note:  This is a good place to put how you should be in your booth (which is usually 10 x 10 area.)  I have seen everything imaginable - artist sitting outside the tent reading a book, artist talking with their mouth full and empty booth's with no live body at all.

The best experience I have had with responses from patrons is to be attentive, knowledgeable and polite. I have a studio chair that puts me up high on the same level with the person speaking to me. I ask them questions, they do the same and we find a common ground. I love people so I could talk to a knot on a log.  I always feel after a show I have gained a wealth of friendships and given them a memory as well to carry home with them.

There are great shows and poorly prepared shows, I have even had work damaged because of mishandling. Always ask what kind of set up they have, grid space, wall space or if you are a sculptor inquire as to pedestals. I have gone to receptions and found art on the floor or leaning against wall. I have also hauled a trailer loaded with pedestals because they had none. 

I have reduced down now where I just have a few shows a year. My largest (just sculpture) show is Loveland Sculpture Invitational, the second weekend in Loveland, Colorado. I love this show because it lets me interact for three days with not only people but people that enjoy sculpture.

One last thing is I try to give back in some way. Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting Station, Denver Audubon, Raptor Centers, Cancer Society, these groups can all benefit in some way to your participation or donation of a piece of work.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

lifus interuptus

Sometimes things happen that completely interrupt all life, as of November 12, I have become a grandmother and it has been one of the greatest things to ever happen. Jameson Hawkins Lee is fantastic and healthy and has two of the greatest parents a child could possibly have. 
But meanwhile please excuse my is great.

Friday, October 29, 2010


One of the special things I do for myself is post quotes around my work space that either inspire me or remind me of the person that gave it to me.  By the way friends are the gifts you give yourself and friendships are like gardens they need to be worked tenderly and frequently.

The creative mind plays with the object it loves. Carl Jung

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. Joseph Chilton Pearce

Every problem is a possibility in disguise.

Fear of failure will absolutely destroy you.  You walk down the middle of the street.  You never take chances. You never go down the little side streets that you look at and say, "That looks interesting. But I don't know that street.  I'll stay right here and just walk this straight line." Eugene Griessman

What you do speaks so loudly no one can really hear what you say.

Failure? I never encountered it.  All I ever met were temporary setback. Dottie Walters

Experience is not what happens to a man.  It is what a man does with what happens to him. Aldous Huxley.

Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right  Henry Ford

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal. Henry Ford

and my favorite!

He who works with his hands is a laborer.  He who works with his hand and his head is a craftsman.  He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist. St. Francis of Assisi

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena...who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcomings, who knows the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows in the end the high achievement of triumph and who at worst, if he fails while daring greatly, knows his place shall never be with those timid and cold souls who know neither victory nor defeat.  Theodore Roosevelt

Some of the things I hang on my walls are cartoons or pictures of inspiration of either human or animal origin. There are days when we all need to realize that we are not alone, need a chuckle or need to restore our faith. Good luck in decorating your space, make it personal, creative, funny, inspiring and even throw in an occasional funny shaped rock or beautiful wind/water created driftwood...let it be you. All work and no play.........

Friday, October 22, 2010

Organizing your paperwork

It has taken me years of doing and undoing to get everything where I can lay hands on anything I need and I still find myself confused and digging.

I have found that in the beginning I was dealing with a lot less and it was so much easier.  My original plan was to keep everything on index cards in a small file box.  I had tabs that included each piece broken down in expenses, dimensions, problems, patrons and shipping.  Then I had my tab for services I use full of business cards.

I quickly out grew the file box and began saving all information on disc (but I also printed out a paper copy for quick references). Therefore my file box became a standing five drawer metal file.
I also learned to deal with financial record keeping, what to save and what is needed to back up your business.  Considering the number of years you must keep information it is often overwhelming if not organized.

My photography (both my research pictures and my body of work)  began to get out of control.  In the beginning I was required to send only slides as entries to shows or studios portfolios.  Eventually everything went to digital and even sending your art work entries was done online.
Another lesson I am learning is that the stark white background with no shadows required by most juried shows years ago are not acceptable photography for online.  So therefore begins another lesson in redoing all sculpture shots.

My personal suggestion to all beginning sculptors, take your own photos and get the equipment in the beginning that is necessary to take excellent pictures, even take a class. It will benefit you and that will be one more of the facets of sculpture that you won't be paying someone that does not care  about your work to do.

 (Little suggestion, even taking your own pictures during clay work will show you errors sooner than just looking at the's jump out at you).

My research is busting at the seams in a multi-fold file but this is something that you can not do without and you constantly add to it.

Your body of work photos are more important (for your portfolio or as handouts in the form of postcards or yearly mailings.  They have to be kept gently, flat, accessible and ready to grab for a show.  Make sure they are stamped on the back side with all contract information. You are right in thinking that it is a given that some people just like to go to shows and collect pictures and that is a waste but you never really know when a real patron that is interested but doesn't want to approach you until later may be taking a picture to remind them of your lovely work.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Once your work is welded and repaired to perfection so that it is a replica of the clay you originally began with you will want to patina the surface, not only to give it life but to protect the surface as well. The best advice I can give you is find an artist skilled in doing patina's and explain to them the look you want for your piece.  Be honest if it is not what you saw or envisioned (you are paying for it.) Nothing can not be redone!

Patinas are done by heating your bronze with a torch and spraying or dabbing with a brush of acid on your piece until you get desired color. Often it is done with mixing and layering different acids.

Some people (both artists and patrons) prefer just the standard old fashioned bronze look.  Others can patina a bronze to copy either true colors of an object or even have  bronze look like stone or wood.  They are truly artist in themselves. All artist have to remember if you are out of your comfort zone learning a process in sculpture or you treasure the time you have to just create in clay, so be it. Some artists do it all, I am not one of them.

Add caption
Keeper of the Sacred Spirit
13 1/2 w x 10 x 9
only five left in this edition
available on oval wood base and polished stone also
pictured sandstone

  Just a little side laugh in the old days of early bronze artist would invite their guest to go out back and pee on the latest work. "Acid is Acid"!

Each piece has a story so here is the story with Keeper of the Sacred Spirit.

"Keeper of the Sacred Spirit" was actually done using a neighboring buffalo ranch where I could go and take my pedestal and work.  The bull I used was named Aspen and even though he was powerfully built you could actually scratch his nose.  One day as I set up my clay to begin work as I had done before I reached over to give my morning scratch and Dave (the owner of Aspen) hurried over to inform me that the one I was approaching was not Aspen.
Needless to say I learned a lesson that day that all animals must be treated as though they are potentially dangerous. Also, that a lot of buffalo look alike but don't necessarily have the same temperament. Many years ago I remember hearing of a female artist being trampled by a buffalo.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


The transformation of clay to bronze or any metal is magical in my mind. This is one part of the process where an artist has to find a foundry they are comfortable with and like letting go of a child, trust.

You deliver your cleaned reconstructed wax to the foundry and in a months time a ceramic shell is formed around the wax leaving sprues and vents for escaping gases and cups for pour holes.

The shell is formed similar to breading a piece of fried chicken (see I am showing my southern roots) you start with fine almost sand and repeat coating layer and layer until you have your finished mold. The last ends up looking more shell like than sand.

The mold is then laid in an oven for the melt out process where all the wax is removed leaving the negative in the mold.

You are then ready for the pouring of the molten metal (at 2300 degrees) done usually by two people carrying a crucible and poured into your mold sitting pour spout up in the sand ready to accept the hot metal. This is very exciting to watch because the foundry people are so talented, (they are also clad in protective gloves and aprons to protect from the heat and possible splash) I use Madd Castings of Berthoud, Colorado and have never had anything strange go wrong...very talented people and artists themselves. I know there are also foundries in Loveland, Colorado that take your clay from start to finished piece and do all the work required. (Anyone that goes to the Loveland Sculpture Invitational in Aug.  would enjoy the tour that one of the foundries gives, Art Castings).

Finally the mold or ceramic is chipped away exposing your work in its tangle of vents and cups often not even recognizable to the piece you gave them in wax. All the excess material must be removed or "chased" as it is called.  The bronze is worked much like the wax was to refine the surface and repair blemishes except with a grinder, saw, welding torch or tig.  Again this is where horns, ears or legs possibly get welded back on your piece. Also this is where hardware gets added to the base of your piece in order for it to be connected to the chosen base.


This might be a great spot to have input on bases for your piece. Bases can be chosen either when the piece is in wax for size comparison or after patina is in place for color comparison or to compliment a certain patina.

I have used three separate bases on the buffalo piece "Keeper of the Sacred Spirit". The original was sandstone, then oval wood base was requested on one edition then a highly polished stone another. 
Each patron had their own preference, it is important to listen to them. In fact due to one of these patrons buying this particular piece in Wyoming I have not since placed my name plate on the base. He made me think, what is important here the beauty of the piece or a brass name plate (I include my plates when I sell a piece now and leave it to the patron as to whether they place it on the work or not). Your name and copyright, edition number etc. is on the bronze itself anyway (usually in a discreet area).

Note:  This edition "Keeper of the Sacred Spirit" only has five remaining copies and once these are sold mold will be destroyed.

I usually take a wax on its way to the foundry by the base shop that I use and discuss my options and look at them while I have the paper pattern in hand. You also consider the edge you would like and also the thickness to compliment the work.  Sometimes as you can see on some of my pieces I have actually combined stone and wood for an amazing look.

One particular piece (the first I ever created) was a tribute to a man who had been in the beef industry for quite a while and was stepping down.  I created three different breeds (just the heads) looking through a pipe fencing over into a feed bunk.  The feed bunk was the base and was created out of a piece of walnut shaped like a feed bunk and made the piece pull together as a unit.

So sadly the base can either make or break a piece of sculpture...think of it as the final addition to your edition.

Friday, October 1, 2010


One thing it took me a while to realize is that artist don't see things the same as non-artist, I see things in layers or textures and colors, shades and movement.  They all influence my work.  Patrons have to respect an artists interpretation of something as much as artist must honor their interpretation.  We should not have to explain why or how we arrive at our interpretations.  That is as varied as trying to explain emotions...on the other hand artist have to respect a patron that finds our work not exactly what they are looking for based on what their minds eye is thinking. Life is diversity and we should accept the fact that people view things and often along the way there is conflict of opinion but that is what makes us all unique.

There was an interesting discussion on LinkedIn about whether it is ok to produce cute or pretty art or is that taboo now days and unacceptable.  I think that like I said above so many people have different interpretations of what they consider buying for art to represent what they want to say in their home or office that it is hard to say whether a picture of a flower is pretty and not considered an artistic interpretation or it is just the thing a person needed to project that look in that particular room.

Whether a person collects abstract paintings or wooden baby chairs it is up to the patron to choose not for the artist to worry about whether or not they will be accepted by other artist because they do representational art versus interpretive.

Diversity, diversity, we find it in life, love, passion and art....leave it alone and don't be so quick to criticize another fellow artist.

Friday, September 24, 2010


If a mold is not too large you can pour your waxes yourself but often I have someone assist.  I have two vats or actually cookers that one is placed at 200 degrees and the other 180 degrees and you want to use the hotter of the two first (that way it gets into all the tiny detail areas or ears etc.) then follow up with the lesser heated wax.  Often if you have a tiny area that you need to force wax into you can also use a hair dryer to blow the wax into that area.

Your objective is to pour a mold that is thick enough to be a good wall in bronze but not too heavy because that is a sign of a poor there is a very thin line of thinking there. It must be 1/8 inch thick to be a good solid wall but there are areas that you will not be able to control such as around ears or in detail areas.

I have one piece I pour that has a large indention in the middle and invariably I will have to pour a little wax over that area even after I have finished pouring the piece because it just is a high spot in the mold and hot wax just tends to run right off of it....therefore I let my wax cool a little just for that particular spot. If you take this opportunity to clean your molds and piece them back together for storage they will be ready next time.  Wax does have a tendency to build up on your molds each time you pour a piece.About every three or four pours you should check your molds to see if age has deteriorated them or they need release.

 I have had a personal battle with mice loving to spend the winter in my studio and they can ruin clay or molds in just a little time.

The wax that you poured from your mother silicon mold is cleaned of every defect and reconstructed if necessary (often feet or horns are cast separately) into an exact replica of your original clay.
Sometimes the texture of hair or eyes and ears catch little bits of mold material or bubbles requiring a good pair of tweezers and a hot dental tool.

There is also a harder red wax that comes in handy at patching.  Always remember hot wax won't seal to cold wax so heat both patch and hole area.  I use a small oil wick lamp to heat my tools but also have an electric hot tool with changeable tips.

I know the lamp sounds antiquated but it gives you time to think between heating your tool as to exactly what you are doing.  You can not just go melting a cast wax, it is usually cast hollow so you can only touch it briefly to repair.  You also must cut off your pour channels and patch that hole.  I pour wax in a 1/8" or more thickness in a baking sheet to use to cut my plugs and fill pour holes, always heating wax to receive heated wax.
After you have reconstructed the entire piece and checked for flaws re-check areas that are special, eyes, nostrils, ears and mouth (all have a tendency to catch bubbles or become malformed.)  These are your last minute checks but more importantly they are incredibly difficult to correct in metal so best done in wax.

Notice the little piece of red wax holding the tail on the above buffalo, that will be metal but it is placed there for support and will be cut off in metal after casting. Also now is a great time to flatten the bottom to where it lays well on your base, I have a flat sheet of steel that I heat and carefully place my wax on to level the bottom and then clean.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Refilling my vision

Wily Hunter
Got away to the mountains to check out the foliage this weekend and enjoy the last few days of Fall that you can actually enjoy in a tent. It was chilly at night (in the 20's) but fun all the same.  Had a wonderful camp sight up at Long Draw reservoir. The beetle kill is ruining the  pine trees but the aspen were changing and beautiful. The camp was just at the edge of a valley so you could actually survey the entire area looking upstream from the lake to the mountains.  Even the small bushes were colorful in their bright reds and oranges.

 Talk about recovery I ever forget the problem with my molds. This is what I meant about refilling your artistic energy and feeling the excitement again. This is where your passion lays so take hold of it and own it...never feel that you are lost and run down without any idea of creating again.

I saw moose, coyote and enough fresh air to amp up my creativity.

Just try to remember your soul is like a bucket and needs refilling constantly, it is not as easy as some people think to just sit down and create.  You have to be in "the mood" but you have to also have a content heart, one that is just ready to create, not worry about tomorrow or yesterday or whether he said or she said.  Art is your baby and your creation and this is your sweet spot to go to and create something that no one else can create.

Whether you be in the mountains, on the back deck or just sipping something refreshing and listening to soft (or loud) music...this is you, your soul is searching for a way to express an idea...let it out.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Silicon Molding-two piece simple

 By now you have your clay work finished and have it sitting on a large enough piece of melamine coated cabinet board so that it allows several inches for the mold material.  A dam or wall either created with thickness of clay, paper cups or even tin will work, just make sure it can support a little pressure from the fluid pushing against it.

You will do one section at a time keep it simple and do not rush.

Registration marks or keys will be worked into your walls to lock your mold pieces together.  These can be made by  using a little (key) mold bought at art supply store (or make your own).  One side of wall will have a positive and the other a negative.  If you use clay for the wall you can poke indention's or tracks where they lock.

Determining where your wall will fall is crucial.

Determining where your wall will fall is I am not crazy just repeating important issue.

This is where you have to look at your piece very carefully for undercuts.  For instance if you have a two piece mold and you pull them apart will you be pulling a nose or ear off , etc.
In some cases you can split tiny areas after silicon has set up to loosen area around something but over time sometimes that weakens the integrity of the area.  Some unnecessary undercuts can be avoided by just filling in with a little clay knowing you can clean it out later in your wax.

Polytek Platsil 71.20 RTV Silicon Rubber

Be careful of items used (no latex gloves) and be prepared to throw away whatever you mix your Part A and Part B together . Plastic buckets are great and then into a third container to blend the two.The largest problem is deciding how much volume you need for the job you have created. This can be broken down by math (there is only room for a 5% error or so) a scale that measures in grams accurately is great. Most important in the beginning is spraying everything  you will be touching with the silicon with release.The wall, board, clay, just don't get it near your silicon itself.

Mix Part A and Part B equally but do not pour together until you are completely ready and set up to continue.They are two separate colors so it will blend to make a third color so stir it until you are sure that it is completely are allowed a little time so you can make sure. If you are making a one piece mold you have the piece already dammed all around the object and just evenly and smoothly pour the mixture all around the piece until you have it covered sufficiently (this is where you do not want it so thin that it tears or pokes through the mold). This will set up in four hours and you can remove the wall and extend it out farther where it can accept the mother mold that will support it through the months of storage.

 This is a plaster mold (instructions on the sack) and you just add a little shredded fiberglass to the plaster to add strength. One thing you want to make sure is that you don't add too much so that you get a pocket of fiberglass like a bubble next to the silicon...this weakens your mother mold. This type of mold is perfect for a relief type piece or a simple piece that can be pulled apart other words it gets more complicated the number of molds you have in a single piece also if you have a vertical piece that requires a thickener (which they sell for silicon) then you are laying it on vertical surface. For that type of mold you would need a specialist in mold making and that is not me.

artist friends

I find in my development along the way I have had support and advise from other artist and hopefully they realize how much I value their friendship. I feel sad for those that are too busy to share their solutions or encouragement.  All is helpful whether you have been in the business 30 years or just beginning.

I recently spent a day with a couple (both being artist) and soaked in as much artistic vibes and knowledge as possible.  Deb Jenkins (can be found on ) and her spouse Walt who is still shy about his creativity are both artists I can have a quiet, calm day or a fact filled activity and come away feeling my senses have been filled. Best advise, surround yourself with artist friends...great input for the senses and heart. I would not even be blogging if it were not for the encouragement of another phenomenal artist Judith Meyers also found on Be inspired.  Most good artists are great people, often shy about their work, take Stephen Spears (check him out online)for example, he does monumental work and does not even have a brag bone in his body.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tough lesson

I have learned a tough lesson on molds. My first 10 years of molds were made with urethane and the last few years with silicon and this past month has been rather disturbing due to the discovery of deterioration of some of my older molds.  There are areas turning to liquid especially sharp details or projections.  I have actually had to take the last few days to keep my wax vats hot and re-pouring constant in order to try to salvage as many editions as possible.  Your editions are only as good as the stability and quality of your mother mold (the one you pour all your waxes from to be taken to the foundry.)

On that note I won't say too much about molding as it is the next step and I am not exactly in the advising mode. As my crisis lessons I will hopefully be able to sanely describe the molding process. This might be the place to insert the idea that the computer or internet should be used as a tool but not necessarily lead to a way of life, it can rob you of very special time needed to create. If you use the computer as an asset, set a time aside daily to take care of business, respond to emails and market but remember your true calling is not the chat line but creating art whether it be pastels, pencil, oil, sculpture and pottery.

 One of the best things I can advise any beginning artist is organize your time, have your ideas set ready to go in the morning and have your tools sharp or ready to work. Set hours that would be the same as a job, even though you are passionate about your art, it is still your job...without creating, marketing and managing it is just a hobby and can not pay for itself in the world of black and red. Another thing is don't let feeling stuck or non productive stall you out, remember you have to keep refueling your insight. You empty your passion every time you create a piece of work so therefore you have to refuel yourself and your passion...go to the mountains and view animals (if you are me and work in wildlife) or go to the Botanic Gardens and refuel if you love to paint...just do whatever gets you back into the mode of excitement.

I know that at times I get burned out, either irritated at myself or whatever and need to re-think so I re-read Artist Way.  Each time I re-read this book it gives me a jump start. There are all kinds of great books out there including the Bible "do what you do good" that will instill your power again. Another thing to do is go to a gallery and check out your competition...all artists are competitive and it will motivate you like nothing else.

 While I am re-pouring waxes check out one of my sites and enjoy all the artists and their particular

 This is a good area to acknowledge help: There are times in everyone lives where they need to acknowledge needing help and advice and I have many people ranging from old friends to new acquaintances to advise me.
Everyone knowing my mold deterioration problem will understand my panic reaction but I would like to share with you advice I received from an artist in Australia.

 "You mentioned some of your molds going bad.  Molds seem to have a short life, depends on the temperature it is stored at as well as what is put in it, not to mention that some materials just don't last.  The only way I know of having a back up is to save the original sculpture, but if its clay or plasticine that is not very permanent so I keep copies in either plastic or plaster, that way if the mold needs remaking I have a model I can make a new mold from....I cast the thing in polyester casting resin, but mix it 50/50 with a material that is called Plastic bond (here in Australia) basically any plastic putty they sell for fixing dents in damaged cars....By mixing the two, one liquid, the other like tooth paste results in a slow running thick material that sets in about 20 to 30 minutes during which time it sets and is also removed from the mold before it all gets too hot." This is from a very diverse artist by the name of Mario Donk and he can be found on fineartamerican .com or

Monday, August 30, 2010


I realize that I devoted most of this blog to beginning artist but hopefully it will help you realize how an idea is developed and help you to appreciate the piece that you have purchased even more than just the visual of it. I try to show pieces as they are being developed and possibly you will see your piece and be able to know the history behind that piece of sculpture.

 The laying down buffalo was titled "Keeper of the Sacred Spirit" and is down to the last five editions so once I sell out and reproduce the AP's or artists copies (which by the way should never be sold as part of the edition) for my family then the mold will be totally destroyed never to be reproduced again.  That is why it is called limited edition.If you look at any sculpture it will have a number then a slash then another number usually near the artist signature.  That represents which number that piece is then the number in the entire edition.

Some patrons purchase big name artists thinking that that piece of work will increase in value after the artist is mature or passes away but in truth you should now days purchase a work just because you love it and can visualize it in your home or collection. (Unless you have the money to invest in masters.) Some patrons collect only certain numbers, some only western, some only abstract, everyone has a different taste and that is fantastic.The thing to remember about bronze is weight, anticipate where it will be going and not only the space it will entail but the don't want to be surprised when a piece weighs 50 lbs and you did not support it properly and it ends up on the floor.

Also another aspect people don't realize is that a bronze can not be in direct sun through a window without some damage to the patina over time. Same goes for a bronze being in the same area with a fish tank, humidity is one of those things that deteriorates a bronze...whether it be a salt water tank, regular or even a humidifier or swamp cooler (my roots are showing but that is what we called them in Texas). I just got a piece back the other day that I am re-patinaeing that had two bright green spots on it and it came from Arkansas (humidity).

So just because it appears hard and unbreakable does not mean it can't be damaged...a simple slip of a watch band or ring can damage the delicate patina. Any owner of bronze needs to check them at least once every six months for any kind of damage. All bronze needs to be cleaned and re-waxed and that gets us into another warning...bronzes should never be cleaned with anything but a clean soft cloth...solvents of any kinds will affect the patina and damage the bronze. If it needs anything other than that, ask the artist, they will usually do it for free rather than have your work damaged by careless cleaning. Bronze will last a life time and are one of the few things that can be passed down from generation to generation without problems

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


There are many different clays available, best advice, try them all and decide what works best for the results you desire.  A few companies even give tiny free samples. I chose medium Chavant (non sulphur) because I love the way it feels and work with it warmed in my heat box (easy to build) and when really warm gives wonderful texture wiped with an old scratchy wash cloth. It is not a water based clay so stays workable if just covered for months. Holds a very fine edge when cool.

 Once I got the basic anatomy done on the buffalo I had more fun just imitating their hair in hot clay and loved the results. You can drag your tool whether it be wash cloth or wad of paper, wire brush or anything that leaves a good design on your clay.

I can't speak for anyone else but I have one bad habit I have tried to break myself of and not succeeded.  I have a tendency to work on specific areas long before my beginning structure is laid. Bad habit! I love eyes so have a tendency to jump the gun and focus on them.  I also tend to work on one side until it is finished and exactly the way I want before going to the other side.  I have always assumed good artist should work in the round balancing the piece as they work.

  If there is an interesting texture involved also I try to get it just like I want. One of the most important things I have learned is that "hey you did it the first time you can scrape it and do it again but better". I always hated throwing a piece into my clay box until I realized I was not happy with it for a reason and to trust my instinct.  An artist has to learn to trust their eye and if you have worked on a piece too long try covering it up for a month and working on something else then go back and things will really pop out if incorrect.  I only do pieces I have passion for so in that case you know your subject upside down and backwards and your brain will tell you when something just is not is like a computer it will eventually figure it out. (Sometimes it is at 2:00 am and you sit up in bed with the answer). I have a friend that says things pop out to her if she looks at it upside down.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


As I mentioned before by the time I begin to build my armature I have already built a grid on a full body photo to give me exact measurements needed.  I have observed that animal and know the attitude I want and now comes what I consider the most important feature of the entire process.

This particular piece of blue contractors insulation was sawed with a small  saw in the desired shapes that I saw working in this piece. I stayed lose and gave myself lots of room for changes. Super glue held the pieces secure enough to support the weight of the clay and of course I formed it on to a board that would support it in the finished clay and the weight of the mold afterward (not board shown).

If you notice I kept the original idea (picture) nearby to remind me of the attitude I was trying to capture in the form before I even began with the clay.
 If the armature is incorrect the entire piece loses its integrity whether it be in strength needed for supporting a mold or in correctness of final work.  I wanted a size that would show a lot of the wonderful detail of the hair and eyes but also small enough to fit on a desk or a foyer without looking cumbersome.

You have to be very careful that the blue insulation is not in command of your shape and not let it dictate to you your own dimensions. I made the form just large enough for support but small enough that I would be adding the last two inches or so in my interpretation not just laying it on the form.

In the last 15 years I have used numerous items for armatures, pipe and pipe fittings, contractors yellow spray foam, heavy to delicate wire in horns, wings or entire wire armature body. I have even gone to the trouble of having a much needed piece machined for me not being able to find it at your local Home Depot (my usual source for materials). A lot of artists use wood or actually weld an intricate base on which to work. Needless to say your armature is just for support not guidance it should again never dictate space or substance to you as your work.

Keeper of the Sacred Spirit

Buffalo have always been a shock and awe type of animal for me.  They are beautiful, powerful and frightening all in the same creature. I first got my inspiration when observing an older bull at the Denver zoo. He later passed away and I was so glad that I had captured his pride in his prime. The picture gave me my pose; I wanted to depict mystic, regal, iconic and majestic to show my admiration for this great animal.

 I have had the opportunity to see them by the hundreds in Wyoming but even better I live about 2 miles from a ranch specializing in buffalo.  The Spoomer Ranch has a large male that I could take my pedestal and work in clay behind the safety of a fence to get up close and personal.  I felt sad he was not roaming the prairie but fortunate to be close to that kind of strength. The picture above gave me the inspiration to do a proud piece that showed the strength and dignity even in old age.
Keeper of the Sacred Spirit

 This sculpture was actually started from a piece of blue contractors foam and went rather quickly mainly because of the love and passion I feel for this animal.  The models name was Aspen and a gorgeous animal.

I love texture and playing with the Chavant while it is warm is how I came up with the woolly hair look .

I also chose the sandstone for the base to lend itself to the ruggedness of the piece. This is a limited edition and luckily I am down to the last few of this edition and then the mold will be destroyed. I have sold two that insisted on having a wood oval under the buffalo because of furniture issues and preference. I don't mind accommodating that kind of request.

Sculpture has increased in value and become an even better investment in recent years because of the  metals found in bronze such as copper.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Photography and Wildlife

Quite often my journey with my camera (a 35mm Canon with a zoom lens) is not specific.  I happen upon subjects doing their everyday thing and click away recording chance moments that get either tucked away for future reference or immediately inspire me. I take shots that would make a real wildlife photographer cringe. My initial focus is on full body shots from each side (these I use to scale down where I can measure and arrive at correct anatomical features). Then I zoom in on details, ears, nose, eye, tufts of hair, tail or hooves (or paws).  I may end up with 3 rolls of film just of details.  I then decide what I want to create in catching their attitude or characteristics I love.

 If I can sit down and sketch, that is when I train my eye to really look at how that animal is put together and just how the hair lays or joint bends. If I have not come up with the attitude that I want to convey I keep in contact with that animal watching it interact naturally until I do hit on an idea. I often think about what makes that animal attractive to me, his majesty, his huge feet or long legs and that is what begins the story I try to convey to my patron.

I should add a bit about inspiration, because it plays a large part in the creative side of your brain. This is where it all begins, this is where your ideas create and stimulate your clay into the shape you envision.

This can vary from a passive, think it through, a little here and a little there attitude to almost a compulsive "mad dog" salivating to get that clay to your vision as if your life depended on it.

This can occur driving down the highway at 75 mph and by the time you reach your destination you have figured out half your structure or armature problems. Or, it can occur strolling down a beach and finding a piece of interestingly shaped driftwood.

Using all our senses creates a wonderful variety of choices although most artist are never lacking for ideas. Believe it or not you do have to occasionally  refill your senses.  You can not create unless you have been stimulating the creative side of your brain.  As "Artist Way" puts it, you have to have an artist date occasionally to re-charge your passion. Love that book by the way, everyone should read it.


Welcome to my studio, my name is Peggy Campbell and I work in clay and cast in the lost wax process. You walk into my work space and it is pretty basic, just space and tools.  I have a 10 x 30 area and in one end you see my wax vats (two roasters, one set 180 degrees and the other set at 200 degrees) and the shelves of stored molds.

Another area is wax working table where I use hot tools to correct imperfections I find after pouring and rolling my molds. Not too many pieces come out without bubbles or indention's.

The area that I work involves dry wipe boards, research material tacked everywhere on cork boards (these I completely trash my walls with so that I have total immersion in that particular subject I am working on) and a working pedestal placed in a corner with mirrors located on both walls to view all sides of the current piece. By the way I have saved research pictures for years and have a multi-fold that I file under whatever subject may interest me. For my web please visit me at...

 I work in Chavant clay so my heating box is also located close to my working pedestal. I have a goals calendar which is dry wipe and everyone should have one.  It forces commitment and sets goals; "what are goals but dreams with deadlines". The opposite end is metal work, minor dremel work, armature construction and desk for record keeping.  I started in a room in my home so don't think artists have to have a huge work space. I also have a large area out back that is either closed in or outside that I use to work on stone since it creates a lot of dust and can really mess up the clay and wax area. Along with the space and tools are my safety features, I wear protective  eye wear when needed and mouth and nose protection. My area has both high ceilings and fluorescent lights and also windows for outside lighting.