Triptych – Advanced Multidisciplinary Studio

A triptych is a work of art that has three separate pieces that are visually and/or thematically related, but which do not physically touch. Create a triptych with these requirements: one part will be a found object, one part will be made entirely of clay, one part will be made of metal.

I started with a list of potential ideas and subjects I could base my sculptures off of in my sketch book. These are the concepts I considered during the ideation process:

  • Animals
  • Fear
  • Parts of the body
  • Clay tools
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Happiness
  • Light

I then chose five of those listed to expand, creating columns for clay, metal, and found object. The concept I stuck with was “light”, it was a warm day and the sun was out for the first time since the winter. I was inspired by brightness and warmth and decided on making a ceramic light bulb, metal sunglasses, and found a tiny flashlight and extra large matches.








My next step was to sketch what I want the sculptures to look like. The shapes I wanted to make were pretty simple and common, so drawing them was not difficult. I knew the process of creating them would be much more difficult.







Both items are machine made, and my sculpting does not match that, so  I needed to consider how an imperfect shape would add and take away from the idea of light. I created two maquettes to explore the basic shapes and how the materials would behave for my purposes.

The maquettes didn’t prepare me for the difficulties I would have when dealing in a large scale. When clay is very wet and plastic, it completely lacks structure, and when the piece is huge and needs to support itself it’s nearly impossible to get very far. When I punched out a cavity of a large ball of clay, I balled up a towel and put it in the cavity to keep it round and set a space heater on it for a while. The space heater accelerated the drying process and made the clay more leather hard and the perfect consistency for sculpting. Handling the piece with newly formed structure was much easier, but it was still very heavy so I needed to scrape away layers from the inside to make the walls thinner. When I got both pieces bisque fired, I connected them with car body filler. I covered the screw in graphite and poured different colored wax on the bulb.

I contended with a weight and structure problem with the metal as well. I finished each lens first and connected the two with the part that rests on one’s nose. Because both lenses were so heavy, the connecting part needed to be stronger to support the whole sculpture. Once I was able to securely connect the two halves, I was able to attach the arms of the glasses and finish the piece.




Learning Objectives:

  • To explore special issues of working in large scale (time, cost, connotation, etc).
  • To develop an understanding of how meaning in art is generated through the relationships among the artist, the art, and the viewer;
  • To learn to link varied materials together through the connotation of the objects;
  • To cultivate the ability to explore, research, and develop personal ideas and themes;
  • To develop a system of sketching and drawing methods that will allow you to investigate, conceptualize and bring ideas through to a finished project;
  • To use drawings and maquettes to develop ideas and forms;
  • To learn to choose appropriate fabrication techniques to realize ideas;
  • To develop an understanding of the principles and elements of design and begin to apply them effectively in your own work;
  • To develop a vocabulary of the principles and elements of design and the ability to use it in discussing and writing about art.

Project Terminology: Triptych, Found objects, Made objects

Required Materials & Supplies: Steel is available for Sculpture; everything else must be supplied by you.

  1. List of Artists: Bring in examples of diptychs or triptychs to share with class.
Triptych example
  1. Sketchbook/ideation process requirements: Sketchbook will be turned in and should reflect significant time spent on ideation process.




Organic Machine











Getting the sheets of metal to curve in a way that fit together took a lot of hammering and clamping. I started welding the pieces together in the middle, which led to irreversible warping at the ends. I started over, welding at the tips of the machine this time leading the pieces in one way. I was able to bend the pieces to make the proper shape, which ended up curving like an “S” to all fit together. When I made the paper templates, the paper naturally bent to that shape because it is so malleable. With the metal I had to force it into that shape. MIG



Making Ceramic Ocarinas!

Clay is an extremely versatile medium. It is strong, durable, and will last a very long time. It is used in cars, for dishes, as decoration, smelting, on tools, and so much more. I knew we could make drums out of clay – throwing an open cylinder, cutting out holes in the rim, then stretching and tying a piece of tanned animal hide over the top through the holes to make a great percussion. But I was amazed to learn clay can be used to make more complicated kinds of instruments! I read the book “From Mud to Music” and grabbed a project I wanted to try out.

For this exploration in making practical and out of the ordinary ceramic pieces, I chose to make an Ocarina. I think they’re beautiful, sound so pretty, and have a nice shape that fits right in the hand. This instrument also has a cultural niche, being a primary instrument in a very popular video game series. I am playing with the technique, but if I make a few really successful ocarinas I might be able to sell them!

I did more research on the production of the ocarina to have a well rounded understanding of the process I’ll be undergoing. There are all these necessary relations between air flow and positioning, the neatness of the cuts and bevels, and the clay itself will warp and shrink.There are many small adjustments that change the result, so just keep in mind this is only one way to construct a ceramic ocarina.


I started with a closed pinch pot and pinched up a small rectangular mouth piece. I’m using recycled high fire red stoneware.

Shove a popsicle stick down the center of the mouth piece, creating a small opening. Keep the stick in there.

With a popsicle stick that’s been sanded to a beveled tip, make a square right on top of the other stick just before the rounded part starts to curve out. Go into the bottom of the square at a 45 degree angle and scrape the clay down toward the bottom stick to create the fipple edge. The wall in the mouth piece facing the fipple needs to be at the same level vertically and needs to rest exactly between the top and bottom of the mouth piece opening. This is the hardest part and because there are so many tiny details that can have a make or break effect on the sound coming out, it takes a lot – A LOT – SO MUCH – trial and error. The mouth piece edges could be perfectly flush, but the fipple might not be thin enough, at the right angle, or distorted by moisture. Your fipple could be perfect, but if there are small scraps of clay anywhere in there, the air flow will be disrupted and you’ll just be breathing into a ball of clay. I’ve found that even if it looks the same as a working one, if the technique is right, if you’ve been fiddling with one for 6 hours straight, it could still end up sounding like you’re blowing into a bottle.


I haven’t found the perfect ratio of straightness and fipple-ness to consistently make a tone that’s not breathy and quiet, but I totally made 3 that sound great!!! I need to let them dry slowly to reduce the possibility of warping, then fire them twice in my kilns to make them hard like rock and last through the ages!


I like to think that when our civilization is long gone, space archaeologists from the future will dig up our pottery and learn about how we lived and played.


It plays great, burnished for extra appeal

What is Gesture?

Gesture is quick sketching that describes a whole piece. This sketching includes lines in 3D space and ones that imply movement of the subject. Being able to quickly and roughly describe a subject on the page ensures the piece will be proportional. Gestural drawings are the first step in making a finished piece, providing the blueprints for more detailed work.

Vessel Basket Boat Blimp Nest

wood 1 2017 wood 2 2017 wood 3 2017 wood 4 2017

This project was exceedingly difficult for me. My design was intricate for the medium we were challenged to use, and it was a process I was learning along the way. We used strips of wood glued together and clamped in circles on the wall to construct a piece that gave the idea of movement or transportation. I began with a 1:2 scale, drawing wood 2017, measured the lengths of each drawn ring, and multiplied by the scale factor to get the diameter of the ring. I found the circumference of each ring and cut the wood strips to the appropriate length. With the diameter known, I used a compass to draw the intended circle. With metal brackets and screws, I clamped on the cut lengths of wood onto the brackets.

I wish the whole project was devoted to shrink wrap. Everything about it was so fun and cool. The way the plastic forms so smooth and perfectly over the wooden beams is satisfying to look at. I got to use a huge blow torch! The shrink wrap distorted the rings way more than I was expecting. The rings were held together by a frame and wire, to avoid rigidity and breakage. These loose connections coupled with the shrink wrap distorted the end product significantly.

This project was a taste of engineering: drawing blueprints, using math to translate theory to application, then learning to adapt the materials to the blueprints. In order to properly fit the wooden strips around the brackets with sufficient overlap, I learned I had to subtract half an inch from the length of the wood. This process took so much trial and error, which is what the blueprints were supposed to prevent. I believe the reason this sculpture was so incredibly successful was because I was not prepared for how much it took to achieve something close to the shape I was hoping for. My calculations were pretty two dimensional, when what was required was scale drawings of tons of different angles to see the relationship between each curve and the hand. My goal was difficult, but entirely possible. It just required more attention than I was willing to give.


Bell 2017

Bell produces a valid point in saying the goodness of art is determined immediately and innately within the viewer. I believe art is so subjective, and that brain chemistry forbids us to view something exactly the same way as someone else. The point of abstract art is not what it is or what the artist is trying to make it represent. Nonrepresentational art is about invoking a feeling unique to each viewer. Value of abstract are is determined by an unidentifiable force within one’s self – the same sense that allows us to know something that is red, is red.

3D Design

3D design skills involve the ability to conceptualize an idea in three dimensions. Architects, sculptors, engineers, scientists, etc. use physical materials or graphic design programs to display an idea. 3D design is a means through which ideas are expressed as physical or conceptual models.  This discipline balances the aspects of form and function to create a user friendly, aesthetically appealing object that fulfills its intended function.

There is a pretty awesome and thorough design program at PSU, using various CAD programs, welding, woodworking, clay, all the while exploring the theory and history of aesthetic design. The combination of 3D design and mathematics creates a well-rounded set of skills that can apply to many aspects of sciences and arts.  Overlapping of these subjects is what creates buildings that are both stable and beautiful, inventions that provide a user friendly improvement on society and the world, streamline, displacement, suspension, weight distribution in art.

I found a very interesting explanation of 3D design in this journal.


3D design is so versatile and a tremendously useful tool for planning, guiding, and creating. Architectural design is so variant and differs so much depending on culture, time period, and access to tools. Even in contemporary buildings, the typical structure and materials differ greatly.


National Society of Professional Engineers

Content and methods