Monday, February 28, 2011

The Die is Cast

Well, a die is cast anyway. Two of them to be more precise.

The experimentation has been progressing well. I think I have plaster mixing and pouring down to a near science at the very least. Here is a picture of the die that I have made for the Portland Head Light tile:
It still needs to be cleaned up and sanded around the edges to finish it off, but I seem to have the technique (or at least my technique) down. I made two of these dies and hope to have this tile design in production before another month is out. I am also working on a die to stamp my maker's mark into the back.

Portland Head and Whaleback lights are the first two lighthouses to get this treatment,but I am planning on a road trip this summer to take pictures a several more. Fort Point Light will get attention next. It has a wonderful keeper's house and is unusual for its square light tower.

I am casting these dies using leather hard clay instead of bisque. Wile bisque would last longer (I can get two casts easily with leather hard - probably more if I make the slab thicker), I can turn on a dime with unfired clay. I roll the slab and incise it the first day, leave it between two sheets of drywall overnight, and then clean up the image the second day and do the casting. The raw clay peels away from the plaster easily after about an hour and is generally ready for another impression as soon as I clean it off.

I will be working on a mold to make larger trivet sized versions of the Portland Head and Whaleback lights. These will be int he neighborhood of 6.5 to 7 inches square and will sit on cork feet.

I'm doing all I can to stay active these days. This has been the most relentless winter I can remember. I have to go back to 1968 to find one in memory that came close. I recall the snowbanks so high that we would walk on top of them because you could not see the street from the sidewalk. It was the first year that I had to attend school on a Saturday because so many days had been called off.

You can't help but be affected by this. My back is still screeching at me because of the shoveling I did this weekend. I'm 52 now, so I know I have to be careful, but I'm a one-man show here on top of Lowell Hill, so there you are.

Keeping busy at some pursuit other than the mundane is essential. Small breakthroughs like successful die casting can do a lot to raise the spirits.

More soon!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Another Art Update

The more you work at something, the more you learn. I have been working with the tile art for both the Whaleback and Portland Head tiles. One thing became glaringly clear. Tiles of any size with a mosaic pattern on them need to be impressionistic. Realism just won't fit, and even if it does, it will be impossible to paint because the detail will be too small.

Needless to say, some reworking has taken place. Here is what the tiles look like now:

Mind you, the line below the rocks on the Whaleback tile will be restored. I'm still playing around with placement on that one.

Note too that the names have been removed. They just took up too much space and interrupted the - what's a good word - flow of the art. I may put the names on the back, or assuming someone may actually want to mount one of these in a splash back someday, I may create a small card for each with a little history on each lighthouse. In any case, I wanted the tiles cleaner than text would allow.

Did you ever read "The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge" by Hildegarde Swift and Lynd Ward when you were young? It's a story of (you guessed it) a little red lighthouse that guarded the shores of the Hudson River and kept ships safe from the rocks. It was very proud of the job it did. When a giant gray bridge is built right over it, the lighthouse believes that it has become insignificant. When a beacon shines from the bridge to light the river, the lighthouse is convinced that it is no longer useful. Then one night, a storm endangers ships by gripping them in fog. A tug crashes on the rocks because it can not see the beacon shining from atop the bridge. The bridge calls out to the lighthouse to shine its light and sound its fog bell. When the keeper arrives, the lighthouse is lit and the bell sounds out. Then the little red lighthouse discovers that small does not mean insignificant. It regains its pride in its function.

I must have missed the part of the book that told the reader to travel up Riverside Drive in New York City to visit the little red lighthouse. It is, in fact, properly known as the Jeffrey's Hook Light. It sits beneath the George Washington Bridge and is a New York City landmark.

I know my tile project focuses on Maine lighthouses, but this one seems a good exception. The artwork is currently in process after having received several pictures of the lighthouse from a friend with permission to use them as I see fit.

It's a great story and was one of my favorites when growing up.