The Story of Gourdelia

Gourdelia is a large copper/bronze hollow form that is a collaboration between Toni Ellis (who has been my student for nine years) and me. Gourdelia came into the world as a miniature gourd that I picked up a few years back. By miniature I mean 4″ tall and 2″ in diameter at its widest point. I couldn’t afford to use it as a mold for a hollow form in silver clay, and my base metal clay firings were rarely successful, so the infant Gourdelia slept quietly in my “Box of Odd Shapes,” awaiting her debut.

When there were no more excuses, I realized that Gourdelia’s moment had arrived. I covered the gourd with a layer of bronze clay, in a way similar to the one introduced in the “Rocks” project from my first book. I dried it, then made one vertical cut along the gourd. The clay was pretty flexible after it had dried, so it easily peeled off the gourd without breaking.

I re-joined the cut and covered the clay gourd with layers of copper and bronze clay, to create the look of inlay, or married metals. Still, it looked boring to me and I felt uninspired. This is when I decided to hand it to Toni. If you look here, here, here, here, and here, just for starters, you’ll understand why Toni.

Toni got involved right away. Over a few weeks she gave Gourdelia a complete makeover: a corset, a fancy hat, a scarf and a pair of fancy high-heeled shoes from, and a tail. Toni opened a hole at the bottom so the hollow form could be filled with carbon for firing. Here is the clay gourd, all ready to be fired (you can click on the photos to enlarge):

Gourdelia was fired all by herself, half filled with carbon, lying peacefully on her side under an inch of carbon, at 1000°F for one hour. Then she was cooled down and fired again for 3 hours at 1470°F. Here she is yawning as she emerges from the carbon:

As you can see, some separation occurred between the copper and bronze layers, due to their different shrinkage rates. The gaps were filled with clay and Gourdelia was fired again. I won’t bore you with the details of the long finishing process. Here she is, at last, front and back:

Now Toni and I have joint custody.

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