Tag Archives: sculpture

The raw power of a horse sculpture

Detail, Horse Sculpture, by Gary Ruckman

Detail, Horse Sculpture, by Gary Ruckman

Last week, I saw Gary Ruckman working on a horse sculpture in the ceramics studio. The dynamism of the piece was the first thing that registered when I looked at it. It’s incredible! My friend is an expert horse sculptor and it’s always a pleasure to see his newest creation, but sometimes a particular one really gets to you, as this one did with me. The rawness of the piece, unfinished, only added to its appeal. I didn’t think to ask, but it appears to be a draft horse, judging by the legs, hair, and hooves.

What did I like about it? The twist of the lowered neck, the implied motion, strong and sure. I also like the way he works with manes and tails and each horse has a specific character that includes horse hair, along with musculature and stance. I’ve watched Gary’s technique morph over the five years I’ve seen him sculpt horses, but he’s been at it much longer than that. Since I’ve known him, he’s also taken a number of sculpture classes, some from artists who also specialize in horses, and he adds this knowledge to his own. I thought you’d like to see what he’s up to and it seemed especially appropriate, since today is Chinese New Year, the Year of the Horse! Gong Xi Fa Cai! (And while I need to reinsert the gallery, you can read more about Gary by clicking here.)

Full piece; horse sculpture by Gary Ruckman

Full piece; horse sculpture by Gary Ruckman

 

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The Maltese Falcon, old and new

Different renditions of the Maltese Falcon chatting atop our Victrola

Different renditions of the Maltese Falcon chatting atop our Victrola

Maltese Falcon prop used in the movie, which recently sold for over $4 million.

Maltese Falcon prop used in the movie, which sold for $4.1 million November 25, 2013.

You may have heard that the Maltese Falcon, the original screen-used prop from the movie, “The Maltese Falcon,” just sold for $4,085,000. Auctioned at Bonham’s  in New York City,  the winning bid came over the telephone, an anonymous purchase. It was part of a sale of famous movie props. Historically, there were three authenticated falcon props from the movie: the lead one that just sold, which was in the movie, a backup lead version, and a resin one used in publicity pictures. The sculpture was originally created by an unknown artist, possibly Fred Sexton, a friend of Director John Huston. The resin one was likely sanded down to give the smooth, worn appearance of the prop seen in the film.

Humphrey Bogart, by Karsh, National Archives of Canada, via Wikimedia Commons

Humphrey Bogart, by Karsh, National Archives of Canada, via Wikimedia Commons

“The Maltese Falcon” star Humphrey Bogart described the bird as ‘the stuff dreams are made of,’ paraphrasing Shakespeare. The movie was based on Dashiell Hammett’s book about an iconic statue traced back to the time of the Crusades, a golden bird encrusted with precious jewels. In the book and movie, it turns out that the falcon in question is made of painted lead, that the buyers had been duped into purchasing a decoy. Character Joel Cairo offered Sam Spade $5000 for the black bird, so the value has certainly appreciated, since the movie was made, in 1941, and since the book was written, in 1930.

The bird begins to take form, April 2013.

The bird begins to take form, April 2013.

Well, the black bird is something that is part of our everyday life here at Jane Street and, in fact, there are six Maltese Falcons in our house. One is made of painted  plaster and likely linked back to the Sexton statue before it was altered for the movie. Another from that mold is made of resin, but has feathers smoothed down to match the movie version. One is a purchased bird made by a sculptor who copied photos of the resin falcon. The rest have been sculpted by my husband. The first is made of wax and was sculpted when he was in his 20s. Then, we have the newest versions, based on a masterpiece. A paper clay master was sculpted last April, from which four were cast and finished in the fall.

Making the mold; casting the clay master.

Making the mold; casting the clay master.

Pouring black urethane resin into the silicone mold.

Pouring black urethane resin into the silicone mold.

An exciting moment! The Maltese Falcon!

An exciting moment! The Maltese Falcon in raw form.

Since, the bird is in the news, so I thought you might be interested in this story, newsworthy in itself. The detail on the replica clay sculpture is incredible and the proportions are perfect. Mark started off by studying printed off, blown-up movie stills and other photos of the bird. He used them as references for his sculpture. After that, the actual work commenced. Beginning with a 25 lb. block of paper clay, he began marking out the design. Day-by-day, he worked on the sculpture, spraying it down and covering it with paper and plastic after each session. He was meticulous in his work and the resulting sculpture looks exactly like the Maltese Falcon in the movie. After completing his clay master, he built a mold out of MDF, sprayed the master with mold release and cast it with Smooth-On Sorta-Clear 40, a semi-transparent food grade silicone. He then cut it apart, removed the sculpture, cleaned it, sprayed it with mold release then put it back together for the next step. Cinched tightly with ratcheted straps, he mixed black urethane resin and poured it into the mold. The chemical reaction creates much heat…the bird was very hot when it was removed from the mold. Next, he fixed defects with automotive filler and covered the bird with many coats of black primer, which he then buffed with fine steel wool. The paper clay sculpture is unweathered. So far, he’s cast four birds from the silicone mold, sanding each down to give the trademark weathered appearance. He did a great job!

“Mr. Spade, have you any conception of how much money can be got for that black bird?” — Kaspar Gutman

The finished replica of the Maltese Falcon.

The finished replica of the Maltese Falcon.

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Marge Piercy poem: “To be of use”

Samos amphora

Samos amphora kept at Bodrum castle (Turkey). Samos is a Greek island in the North Aegean sea, off the Ionian coast of Turkey. In classical antiquity the island was a centre of Ionian culture and luxury, renowned for its Samian wines. By Ad Meskens via Wikimedia Commons

rule

To be of use

rule

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

rule

— Marge Piercy, from Circles on the Water

rule

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It’s raku time! Let’s go outside and fire up the kilns….

Raku gestookte bal

Raku fired ball. JeroenPascal from the Netherlands via Wikimedia Commons

Jacques Huther during a meeting of raku

Jacques Huther‪ during a raku‬ ‪session‬. Niouz via Wikimedia Commons

Hrnčířské trhy Beroun 2011, raku

Pottery fair in Beroun in 2011, Czech Republic. By Juandev via Wikimedia Commons

Horsehair Vase Judge's Special Award Mashiko 2006 Swanica Ligtenberg

Horsehair Vase Judge’s Special Award Mashiko, 2006. By Swanica Ligtenberg; work and image; via Creative Commons

1 vase boule turquoise

‪Ceramic vase boule, turquoise‬. By Isabelle Milliot (Own work) via Creative Commons

4 japonaise

‪Figure seen in profile, Japanese style. By Isabelle Milliot (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Ogata Kenzan - Incense Box in the Shape of a Folding Fan - Walters 491372 - Open

By Ogata Kenzan – Incense Box, 1663-1743. Walters Art Museum via Wikimedia Commons

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