Setting up the gallery was a lot more involved than I thought, even for such a small space. I think because the space is so intimate, the arrangement of the hands was important. The Clay Center has these beautiful glass shelves they let me use to put my hands on, and four freshly painted pedestals. I positioned the lights above these shelves to cast meaningful shadows of each hand below it.
As it is currently, I don’t think there is a focal point. The first hand on the pedestal closest to the door you enter through points toward the glass shelves. From there, a hand on the wall leads the viewer to the right and on to the next two pedestals and more hands hanging on the wall. Once the 6 hands waiting to be finished are finished, I will have to rearrange the gallery again to accommodate them. The hand I am most excited about I think is also the focal point, which is a large arm that will be affixed to the wall perpendicularly.
The first few hands I made were very small. There is a 10 percent shrinkage rate in stoneware, so the hands I was making that were my size turned into child’s hands. I wanted to vary the sizes of my hands and that took a lot of clay and a lot of care. All my pieces, even the huge ones, started solid, and once I got the clay shaped the way I wanted it to be I used a wire tool to cut it in half and hollow it out with a small loop trim tool.
Clay shrinks as it dries, it’s constantly shrinking through the whole process as it loses more and more water. Thin layers of clay dry quickly, the ideal maximum wall width of any piece is one quarter of an inch. Air can still get to both sides and dry through in a reasonable amount of time. Thicker layers will have more problems because at a certain point the air stops being able to penetrate the clay, creating a core of wet clay. When clay is fired this way, the wet clay on the inside of the piece expands rapidly causing cracks on the already dry outside. The end result is often a pile of bisque ware shards.