Friday, 22 June 2012


I am always on the lookout for tiny objects, perhaps vintage doll house pieces which might miraculously be in the right scale for my sets. But it is extremely rare that I find something fitting the dimensions, or that is up to the standard that I seem to have imposed.

Arshile Gorky, The Artist and His Mother (ca. 1926-1936)

It occurred to me that I am not wrong to be so picky about details like bottles and cutlery. In a painting one can leave parts undefined,  bringing focus to the areas that are defined and finished. This can be seen in drawings by Ingres, or figurative paintings by Arshile Gorky, and they are executed in such a way that we do not doubt the artist's ability to draw those areas, such as hands. It is a conscious decision, which creates a certain tension and strength to the areas the artist is focused on.  Cinema uses a similar technique, by means of depth of field, and choosing what to focus on.
But sloppily crafted objects in a scene, whether they are focused on or not will just seem sloppily crafted.

Why not create objects that carry as much importance as the elements surrounding the artist in Dick Ket's self portraits?
Dick Ket, self-portrait, 1932
Dick Ket, still-life with Flute, 1932

I hunted around for a small lathe. I knew one of the first objects I wanted to create was a wine bottle, and that sculpting one would be impossible. Objects we find in the kitchen have perfect and precise shapes, which one cannot hope to mimic freehand. 
A few lathes came up on ebay, but I wasn't prepared to pay so much for something I had never used before, and which I had no idea how well it would help me.

When Liz took a short course in jewellery-making, and made a silver ring from a lost wax casting, she carved the original in a very hard blue wax, which she could carve into and file and sand. I decided to get a block of this wax from Tiranti, and see what I could make with it.

I made a first attempt at a pasta bowl using the Fimo Air Light. I made a block of it, let it dry, and then carved it into shape. This worked somewhat, but the material has a paper-paste texture, which doesn't sand and file down to a smooth enough surface. 
Once I had the block of blue wax, I started over again on the bowl, and finished it in roughly three days, during drying time between layers of skeletal bulk in the puppets.

I made the wine bottle in one day.


The Fimo Air attempt

I made a milliput "casing" to protect the bowl from cracking under pressure whilst thinning the top side out.

The methods came naturally with the tools I had at my disposal. Caliper dividers, files, and sand paper, and patience.


I cut a block of wax with a saw (very slowly), and marked a circle the width of the outer dimension on both ends of the block of wax. It was then just a matter of using a large file and grinding it down on all sides.

I took 2mm off the bottom since taking this picture. It seemed too long.