Sunday, March 3, 2019

Tibetan Temple #6

I build Shrines to the Divine entirely for my own enjoyment. There is no goal, no show in mind, no beginning, middle or end of the project. I am just creating temples, exploring the skills learned, both as an artist as well as a human.

And what amazing discoveries I make along the way. So far with the Tibetan construction, I have learned how to: make a tiny tile floor out of polymer clay, a pattern in Unicorn Spit with a paper towel, make little figures out of three clay rolls and sculpt a Buddha head. Below and in the next post, there are pictures of successful golden fishes sculptures and the collapse of clay columns in the oven.

As an artist, I always feared sculpting. Not that these are ready for prime time, but the activity itself, at least with polymer clay, is so forgiving and quickly rewarding. With clay clay, you're working with cold mud. And water. Very messy. And your hands are always cold. And wet.

I made all the first Buddha heads in my living room in front of the fire on my tiny lap desk and a tiny tray of tools. Although the light is not ideal for tiny sculpting I can easily make forms and shapes and do the detailing later at my well-lit workbench.

I have designed art using the Tibetan Golden Fishes of Prosperity before, but these are the tiniest. I covered the 1x1x9 inch posts with sheets of polymer clay, thinking that the golden fishes would attach well, which they did.

It took quite a long time to condition the white clay, roll out the sheets and wrap them around the posts, and even longer to make 16 pairs of golden fishes to perch on the post corners.


Now that I look at this picture, the first unbaked column with the fishes dwarfs the Buddha head inside. I can see I've got some scale to work out. But the fishes are beautiful and so, I continue to make and attach them to the columns of clay.

I made all sixteen pairs, attached them to the columns and perched them on stands to harden the clay in the oven.

In high school, I excelled at Industrial Arts, taught by a Dominican nun named Sister Mary Augustine, OP, who was my idol. She lived to a ripe old age in the convent. The last time I saw her, shortly before she died in late 80s, she had a printing press in a tiny room on one of the lower convent floors, with a handwritten sign on the door that said, "The Little Crackpot in the Basement."

In high school, she'd roll up the sleeves of her habit and dip her hands into the wet clay slip, or tie her veil back with a piece of rope so it wouldn't get caught in the wood lathe.

Sister Augustine taught me a lot about focus, of which I had little at the time. She gave me a safe environment in which to explore the universe of color light and form. She encouraged us to make mistakes. (I recall a fellow student, Kathy, her motto about all mistakes in Industrial Arts class: "Just put two grooves in it and call it an ashtray."

Sister Augustine would have been proud of my golden fishes. The fit beautifully into the spaces made for them along the column edges, Golden Fishes of Prosperity swimming toward their goal.


I marvel at what you can make, sitting in the living room in front of the fire.

In the next post, I'll share the details of the collapse of columns. 

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