Thursday, August 7, 2008
In the Studio and Meeting my Assistant
Our first day to work at the studio at the sculpture park. But first, I had a surprise, I learned while visiting the studio a few days earlier that instead of creating my sculpture out of stainless steel mysteriously, it was listed on the banner above my studio work space, that I was going to be using the medium of bronze. Shocked, I thought about all the work in previous weeks before leaving Saipan, that was spent in preparation for stainless steel. I inquired, and even while doing so, I kind of like the idea of working with bronze again, bronze casting and sculpture was my main focus in college. In fact a friend Mike Egbert and I had a 100 pound foundry in Boise ID after college. Anyway I had been told that while working in stainless steel I would be separated from the rest of the other artists, at a near by sheet metal factory, that was not real appealing to me, so working with the clay for the later bronzes, in the same studio with the other artists was preferred. So, I kind of kept quite thinking about how I could use what I had prepared as cut sheets for stainless, and still use them for cast bronze. For the next couple of days I began solving this problem in my mind, during the festivities and ceremonies always in the back of my mind I’m thinking how to change the medium. Well I worked it out and decided it was all for the better, and it was something that some of the other artists were experiencing also.
All the artists gathered at the studio with interpreters to meet the artist’s assistance, my assistant is a university art student named Yu, a very nice young man who was eager to help obtain materials. I made a list and inquired about what might be possible and little by little began to get an understanding of the situation and availability tools and materials, in the mean time, Yu moved about 500 pounds of clay to my work site inside the studio area, and we hit it off rather well, I think.
First real day of work and accomplishment. Materials were delivered to the studio area, Plywood, nails and steel for the armature. We began right away cutting the plywood for the form and then the large timbers for the platform or base that will hold the clay sculpture. Measuring is a bit of a chore because I have the only inches tape measure in China and all my calculations for the sculpture were done in inches, China is metric and so we have established that all work must be measured with my unique tape and I guard it well because it’s so difficult to replace. I’m sure that the tape measure I’m using is made in China but you can’t buy one here. There is a great deal of waiting for the use of a tool like hand saws and hammers and if a piece of steel needs to be cut well you must wait for that as well. All the assistants communicate and scurry around hunting down the tool or arranging for the welders to become available and only the hired men that weld can run the welding machine and only them (even though I can weld). The project would go much faster because, if I weld, there is no need to have the translation process, but then I suppose someone would not have a job. The real thing is that all that needs to get done does get done, just going with the flow makes for a better day in the long run. The spirit between everyone is great and having to wait for something gives me time to wonder around and chat with fellow artists and share ideas, lend a helping hand or suggestion.
The weather was overcast and cool. It is fascinating to walk in to the studio in the morning and have our assistant and interpreter there ready and as eager to get started as you are. The studio reaches full speed in about a 30 minutes as the artist’s and their assistants go over the plan for the day. The plan for the Wonenberg studio niche was to create the four platforms that the four sections of the sculpture will sit on while modeling and to make it easier to move the sections around once completed. Having assembled the plywood form for the first section (the bottom most) of the sculpture and lined it with plastic to keep the clay from sticking to the plywood, we moved on to getting the metal armatures welded so we can begin loading the form with clay. Wow, now we are working, Yu is handing the clay to me as I place it in the form in all the corners to begin the process of filling the form. Slowly at first, then we find our rhythm and soon even Chun Hua my interpreter is even helping, chattering away in her bubbly fashion, asking questions and translating my instruction to Yu my assistant.
Soon the day is at an end and the bus is here to give the group a ride back to the hotel for dinner at 6:30 and much needed rest.