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Tiny horses

One thing leads to another. I went to New Mexico specifically to learn how to make SOAP molds, but somehow that led to an obsession with the Lewis Chessmen, and while thinking of things I might like to 3D print or cast in resin, I started thinking about chess sets in general. Also: my artist friend suggested that my 3D prints will be better if I have some experience with sculpture, even if I’m not very good.

So what should I sculpt? The absolute easiest thing for me is going to be horses. I drew only ONE thing as a child and it was horses 24/7.

I took some polymer clay I had sitting around and some j-mac oil-based modeling clay I was given and went at it.

I first made a few reclining ponies. They are quite small – so small that I had difficulty handling them. The first is made of j-mac and the smaller one of translucent polymer clay. I was thinking of making them into netsuke – these are carved buttons or toggles that are worn with kimono.

Next I started thinking about designing my own chess set and I spent a while looking at classic sets and some 3D printed models. Except for the knight, most chess pieces look like they are turned on a lathe, but the knight is special and asymmetric. For my very first try (back left in the collection) I went for something semi-realistic, but then I thought a much more stylized version might be fun. At the end I started going for something like an ancient bronze statue I’d seen before.

Something like this

When I took that basic shape and made it less flat, I think my result looks more like a sea serpent with a mane, but I still like it.

The polymer clay is easy to smooth and overall easy to work with but it is difficult to get fine detail. The j-mac takes detail but I haven’t yet figure out how to get my toolmarks and fingerprints off the model. I also need to figure out how to stop dropping them while i’m working.

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Lewis Chessmen

While learning how to make molds I became accidentally obsessed with the Lewis Chessmen.  We saw them first two years ago on our trip to Scotland and I tried to 3-D print one to make a test mold out of when I went to NM.  The 3-D print wasn’t detailed enough and soon after I discovered that I could purchase pre-made molds.  They are latex, not especially durable, and  I’m a bit afraid to cast resin in them.  I ruined one already by trying to cast wax into it and then couldn’t get the wax back out again. 

The originals are from the 12C and were discovered on the Island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.  There are 78 chess pieces in total.

Some of the original chessmen in Edinburgh.  
A bishop.  One of my molds includes this particular figure.
A berzerker.  This would take the place of a Rook.  I LOVE him.  Alas, he is not included in my set of molds.
The sets were originally white (walrus ivory) and red (paint).  I’m tryint to re-create that original look.
Playing around some more with warmer/cooler casts and one silver-on-black just to see how it looks.

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Mold Making

Last week I went to visit a friend in Albuquerque and pick his brain about how to make molds for soap and resin casting.  There was a LOT of information all at once and I’m still organizing it in my mind.  Here are some of the photos I took during the workshop.

I have workshop envy

This is the shop where he makes his molds.  Lately he’s been moving more into metal casting than resin, and one March (this year or next) I may come to a metal-casting workshop.  In the back notice the very large mold of the very, very large horny-toad.  I loved that sculpture.  On the back wall there is also a nice mold of the classic archaeopteryx fossil.  I would have taken a casting of that if I’d had space for it in my luggage.  As it was, I barely fit the molds I made myself plus the LARGE quantity of hot green chili I brought back.

 

 

 

 

 

Platsil 73-25 2-part mold silicone. And Nathan’s cool tray to allow it to pour more easily.

Vacuum de-gasser. We only used this once but I think it did reduce bubbles in the silicone

Some molds poured, other forms waiting to be set up.

Shapes glued down and ready for the mold form to go around it. I used cups or PVC for the round ones and foam-core board and hot glue for the rectangular one.

Lizard on a bed of clay ready for mold material to be painted on. This will be a 2-part mold.

 

 

Completed molds are trimmed and dusted with talc so they don’t pick up dust and dog hair.

Nathans epic $100 variable temperature glue gun. The glue sticks are a foot long and 1cm wide.

 

Completed chess mold after the 3D printed original was removed.

Heating wax to pour a shape that can be sculpted more

The final array. Everything I brought back with me: molds, originals, casts in resin, wax and plaster, extra wax and some new sculpting tools.

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3-D printing

I’m getting ready to make some silicone molds for soaps and here are my first prototypes for the designs I want to use.  A trilobite, a ‘white lotus’ from Avatar the Last Airbender and the BAT SIGNAL.  The last one is because I’ve really wanted to make a menthol-peppermint soap and call it “HOLY MENTHOL, BATMAN!!”

 

Trilobite (Girl Genius) and White Lotus (Avatar: the Last Airbender)

Trilobite on a plaster cast of a 4oz round soap.

The bat signal!

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Wrecked Ships

I mentioned the abandoned ships north of Jetty Island recently and discovered that a friend had never noticed them before.  They were sunk to try to divert water in the channel back when ‘they’ were trying to turn the Snohomish south to make Everett a freshwater port.  That failed, but the ships remain.

I took these photos 2 years ago when I paddled out to see them with a friend.

Jetty Island

Paddling among the ships

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Cross Stitch Patterns

I do not cross stitch myself, but I have a friend who does, and who has clever ideas, and I have images that I want to see get out into the world.

I spent about a week trying to find ways to convert images into cross stitch patterns using online tools, then GIMP, then Excel, then Gimp Plugins.  Here are some of my preliminary results.

The octo-gear needs a simpler color scheme and to be made smaller.  I think the owl needs more contrast but the rocket turned out well.

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Paint Pour Art

The local 4-H Arts program had a workshop where the kids could learn to make acrylic-pour art on canvas.  Since I’d been looking at exactly that just a few weeks earlier and thinking that I wanted to try it out, I jumped at the chance to sign up with my two younger children.

We did a ‘flip cup’ pour with only 3-4 colors as this was suggested to get the best results for the kids.  And I held back a bit to watch how everything turned out.  Part of the secret seems to be patience – don’t rush the process of letting the colors spread out.

Spreading the paint

The initial flip

 

I happen to like the one made by my youngest best, I think choosing highly contrasting colors help the final outcome.  I also noticed that the color I used most in the cup isn’t necessarily what you get most of on the canvas. (For mine, I used nearly 1/2 purple, but it’s not dominant in the final painting).

My final painting using purple, green, light blue, and white

Youngest daughter’s final result using red, orange, purple and silver. I really didn’t think these colors would work, but now it’s my favorite.

My middle child’s effort. Sorry about the glare here, I’ll get a better photo when it’s dried. He was going for ‘space’ and didn’t quite achieve that, but it’s still cool.

They are still drying right now and will have a poly finish applied before they are ready to go.

The kids loved this so expect to see more!

 

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Prehistoric Caves

In addition to the mushroom cave, we went to 4 other caves during this trip:  Lascaux 4 (reproduction), Font-de-Gaume, Chauvet-Pont d’Arc (reproduction) and one more where the kids went spelunking and rappelling (and I did not!).

The ones that I went to are all caves that have famous cave paintings in them. Lascaux is the most famous, but I think the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc paintings may be more beautiful.

The reproductions were interesting.  I had some hesitation about going, thinking ‘why would I spend my time going to a fake cave, better to just see the real one and skip the others.’  I’m glad I didn’t do that.

For Lascaux 4 and Pont d’Arc, the process of making the reproductions was just fascinating.  They are full size, to-the-millimeter, faithful reproductions of the inside of the cave. To the extent possible the paintings were replicated using original techniques.  My favorite bit: they hired a ‘professional nose’ to visit the caves and replicate the SCENT – which is now pumped into the replica, so that it will feel even more like you are in the real thing.  No photos are allowed inside the full reproductions (or in Font-de-Gaume – the only original cave I visited) so all of my photos are from the museum at Lascaux.

aurochs, horses and reindeer

yellow horse. See how much he looks like Preswalski’s horse.

closeup of the reindeer

3 aurochs and the yellow horse

This was not the only place, but Lascaux 4 was the first place we encountered armed military guards. They’ve been taking things seriously since the terror attacks.

Horses in Pont d’Arc (from Wikimedia Commons)

In Lascaux 4 the most common animals were aurochs and horses (17,000 years old). Reindeer were the most common food but were not depicted with nearly the same frequency.  In Chauvet-Pont d’Arc is by far older than Lascaux, at over 30,000 years old and had good preservation as the entrance to the cave was blocked for tens of thousands of years. Font-de-Gaume has some as old, and is primarily a bison cave. No photos were allowed here. I bought a book, but the photos don’t do it justice. The drawings aren’t in as good condition but in the dimly lit cave, with a light playing over them, much as it must have been with crude lamps when they were drawn, the animals seemed to reveal themselves more clearly.

Common to all the caves: predators were rare and were always ‘hidden’ they were in the shadows, in the cracks, hard to see. Humans were rare and crudely drawn, especially compared to the beauty of the horses and bison.

PS  We got lost looking for Pont d’Arc cave and accidentally drove past the actual Pont d’Arc – a natural bridge, and the original cave sight, although we didn’t know it at the time.

Pont d’Arc

PPS We also drove past some signs indicating that the road would be closed for the Tour de France, but I didn’t get a shot of it 🙁

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Sandalwood Tree

Or at least – ‘artists impression of a sandalwood tree’.  I admit it looks more like a madrone (and like all my other trees so far), but I’m happy with it.

A little break from photos of France.  I am getting ready for my fall soaps and thinking of new labels in color.  I wanted a wood grain, but when I tried looking for photos of that I was disappointed in the results.

And if you are thinking “what is a madrone tree?” They have a very striking cinnamon color bark that peels. The outer bark can get rough and darker, the inner bark is smooth, flowing and can be orange to green. They are a broad leaf evergreen that lives in the pacific northwest.

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Jardins de Marqueyssac

This is a chateau and large garden on a ridge-line above the Dordogne river. Normally open during the day, it sometimes opens in the evening for a candlelit view of the gardens along with music. I would go back in a heartbeat. I’d love to also see it during the day.

As we were about to walk in, the light glowing through a grape arbor caught my eye.

Inside, in addition to musicians, there were ‘fairies’, colorfully lit fountains and these little goblins popping out of the earth. In the daytime there was a mini rope-net course for the kids to play on, but we didn’t have much time there before it became too dark to see.

Fairies

Enchanted pool

Our girls casting some sort of spell.

Earth goblins. I think I need some of these for my yard.