Blue Potatoes and Burlap

I’ve added another mold to my repertoire of veggie forms.. as the heading suggests I got a hold of a lovely All Blue potato, grown at RSK farm in Prattsville, NY by Potato Bob/ AKA Bob Kiley. and if you’ve never encountered the beautiful said potato, here’s a glimpse, just prior to the mold making process, when I draw a parting line around the form to decide where my mold will be separated into parts.

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When sliced open, the interior is a lovely sparkling blueish purple

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It’s a real shame that this color oxidizes and doesn’t hold up over time, because if you’ve been following my project, you know that I wouldn’t think twice about juicing it and painting it on my seed bomb forms if I thought it would give me a new color. Oh well, it still makes a lovely new form for slipcasting with my local clays! Here’s what the two part mold looks like:

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and here are a few color variations of the completed forms:

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left to right: Walkill clay painted with carrot juice, Walkill clay straight up, still moist, and then Marakill clay after drying out.

Here’s it again with three layers of the beet juice:

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Somehow this beet variation looks even more real than the actual potato.. go figure! These are of course made of clay, hollow and filled with seeds. I particularly like how the split on the actual potato translated into the mold, but then again, this coming from someone who gets excited about potatoes…

As the title indicates, burlap has made an appearance in my studio.. it’s being considered for a backdrop of sorts to be used in my thesis exhibition. I like the texture, and also that it is comprised of roughly woven plant material

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“Multipurpose, biodegradable and perfect for composting and planting activities” Seems fitting, don’t you think?

Another consideration for my display backdrop, along these lines, is landscaping fabric, which is essentially a thin, black mesh-like fabric used for keeping weeds from sprouting up on your landscaped areas. I took a picture of the kind I bought, but it’s not very exciting. I think you won’t be disappointed that I’ve excluded a black rectangle here. Somehow this black fabric highlights and shows off my vegetable forms in a more formal manner, like a fancy tablecloth, that happens to keep weeds from sprouting through it. Any thoughts to share on this idea?

While I am partial to the burlap idea, it was brought to my attention that it does not convey a quality of preciousness. I already purchased a big roll of the stuff and wouldn’t want it to go to waste if I don’t end up using it in my display… How ridiculous would it be if I made myself a burlap dress for the opening of my thesis show? High fashion in burlap here. Scroll down the page to the section “Were you raised in a Barn?” Admittedly, I wasn’t raised in one, per se, but there was definitely a barn on the premises, and I’m a fan of the rustic, natural look if you hadn’t gathered that. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

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Carrot Juice!

It’s the new ‘room temperature glaze’ in my world, though I actually like to refrigerate my juice between use to keep it fresh. Here’s a glimpse of what I am even talking about

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I wait for my fully sealed and filled seed bombs to dry out before applying beet and carrot juice to the dry surface with a fan brush. Several coats seems to do the trick. Originally I had considered firing a few of my empty forms just so I could add the lovely orange color to my existing palette. What a pleasant surprise when I discovered that I could get almost the EXACT same color from applying straight carrot juice to my raw forms.

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If I didn’t tell you, would you be able to guess which one is bisque fired to ^06 and which one is raw, covered in three coats of carrot juice? If you weren’t sure, the one on the left has been bisqued, which might explain why it’s slightly smaller as well. Shockingly similar color, eh?! I test fired a few empty forms to see what they would be like and really didn’t enjoy them as much, so it’s perfect that I found a new solution for orange. If you have ever worked with earthenware, particularly iron rich bodies like mine, maybe you can relate to the infuriating nature of ‘scumming’ on the surface. Technically, this obnoxious flaw is caused from soluble salts in the clay which crystallize at the surface as the water evaporates, leaving an ugly white layer along the edges of bisqueware. It is unpredictable, but likely has something to do with the water that I have been using. One method of eliminating the scum is to add a small percentage of barium to my clay, which I absolutely refuse to do, mostly because it is toxic and I don’t want anything to do with it. Well forget barium, carrot juice is much healthier, and it comes from a beautiful vegetable, and I think you already know how much I like them.

Here is a sampling of my new and improved color palette

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Some New Developments

It’s been a productive week or so in the studio. I’ve been busy filling my veggie forms and sealing them up, casting, casting, and more casting. As you may recall, I am using two different local clays as casting slips, one brownish and the other grayish green. An idea was presented to me at my last group critique to consider using some plant based dyes to get some variety in my color palette. Since they will remain unfired, the concern of burning out the color is gone. I experimented with beet juice

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which is a lovely iron rich color that likes to stain just about everything it touches, why not clay too?! First, I experimented with pouring it into my casting slip, but it was too diluted and didn’t give the result I had hoped for. It did ferment and rot and smell really bad. Yuck, don’t bother trying that, at home or elsewhere. I will spare you the visual evidence of that one.

My next approach was to directly paint the straight beet juice onto dry seed bomb forms. This approach worked nicely.

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Since these forms were already filled with dry soil and seeds, then sealed, it was important that I did not hydrate them too fast or they would disintegrate prematurely. I was pleased with how the form was renewed with a vegetable-like surface and sheen. It also gave a sense of fragility and preciousness, which was one of my objectives.

This is another idea I have been working with to obtain a quality of preciousness: placing raw materials in mason canning jars for display with my massive pile of veggies. The jars are most often associated with storage and preserving food, which is a concern of mine as well. Here’s a quick snapshot of what that looks like

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I have various stages of my local clays, seeds, soil.

Another idea I have been working on, along these lines of didactically showing my audience what the heck is going on with my materials, but also on the inside of my forms as well. I cut open some of my empty forms the other day to experiment with interior space

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This gave me the idea to utilize a clear vitrine on top of a pedestel with an exposed interior of soil and seeds to accompany my display. I will get back to you on that one.

Here is how I have been filling my forms, just in case you were curious:

First, I go through my selection of seeds (see earlier posts) and select an assortment to include in each form. Each form usually has between 4 and 8 hearty seeds included completely at random, though larger forms tend to have more.

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I have dried out my soil blend so that the seeds do not prematurely germinate. Next,using a funnel and scoop, I pour the soil and seed mixture into each form.

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After that, I need to close up the pouring spout with a soft piece of clay that matches the slipcast body. I make these little disks and smooth them over the top before letting them equalize under plastic for a day or so

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When they are dry enough that cracking is not a concern, then I add them to the growing piles of completed, dried, filled forms, currently separated by color.

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Stay tuned!