New Pieces in Process: Saber-toothed Cat and Florida Fossils

Here is an update on some of the new pieces I have been working on at the Armory Art Center this fall. These pieces are still in the works, and all of them are at different stages in the process.

This saber cat was a much larger piece that I fired recently. I reassemble all my larger sculptures on a piece of drywall that is then burned out in the kiln. Drywall will not harm the kiln or the elements in an electric kiln, the paper burns away and the plaster moves with the piece and remains through the firing. This way I don’t have to lift the heavy or fragile piece to get it into the kiln.

First,  I raise the lift to the level of my work table and put down a little grog, this rough fired clay material acts like small ball berrings and helps the heavy sculpture slide onto the lift easily.

With the lift in place and lowered to the height of the kiln floor I can slide the drywall and the piece off the lift and into the kiln. The excess drywall is cut away after the piece is positioned. The saber cat fired for about 4 days in a small gas kiln. I always load large work at the leatherhard state so that the clay is less fragile, and any breaks that happen during loading are easy to fix.

After the piece is bisqued, I will add non ceramic elements. Since I am doing a cold finish, paints, stains, ect. on these new sculptures they won’t be needing a second firing for glazes. This saber cat will be wearing an antique leather collar. I carved a space for the collar in the wet clay, usually a little wider than necessary to account for the clay shrinking. Once the collar is in place I use Bray-poxy to sculpt additional hair that will help it look more like part of the piece. Bray-poxy is a two part epoxy putty that can be sculpted with and added to fired clay. It dries as hard as bisque clay and can be painted to match any surface. It can be purchased over the phone from the Archie Bray Foundation.

I have been experiementing with new techniques for armatures and scale as well. Here, you can see a poster in the background. This is an image I took of a maquette for this piece and then enlarged to the size I wanted the final sculpture to be. This is a great aid for sculpting as well as figuring out what size armature rods will be needed. I usually use galvanized stell pipe as an armature along with dowel rods. I am also using multiple dowel pieces taped together with electrical tape for legs and extremities. These are flexible and act as a movable joint even when clay is put over them. This allows me to change the gesture of the legs more easily.

This prehistoric deer, a blastomeryx, is life size at about 24 inches long. These types of small deer were found in a fossil pit near Tampa. Many of the modern deer in Florida are descendants of deer like this one. These deer ranged in size from a rabbit to a small dog. Their living relatives the key deer that live in the  Florida Keys. The small size of these early mammals often helped them survive climate changes and atmospheric changes that killed off much larger animals.


About Ariel Bowman

I grew up in Dallas, Texas where I learned to love nature, animals, and art. I graduated with a BFA in ceramics from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2011. I am currently working towards my MFA in ceramics at the University of Florida. This blog serves as a way for my friends and family, as well as anyone interested in my work, to view not only the finished pieces, but some of the process as well. You can subscribe to this blog to keep up to date on what I am currently working on in the studio, research, new sources, and exhibitions.
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