Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I'm going back to China!

After a quick count, it's been four years since Janine and I were last in Changchun...and two or three weeks ago I found out that my new sculpture designs had been accepted for the '2012 International Ceramics Symposium' at the 'China Changchun World Sculpture Conference. YEAH!

Bella is the hardest part about leaving for 4 weeks.

The last couple of months have been tough and I have been working hard to get new work finished and get everything organised before I go. I had a brilliant kiln firing last week and I have chosen a select few pieces to take with me to the 'Peoples Republic' the rest I am setting free when I get back.

I love this dude but he's too big for the plane!

Try and work out the puzzle tile in the background.

I left China last time without seeing my sculpture 'Kaituna', a 3m bronze, finished. According to my friends who have seen it complete she is waiting for me, sitting on the banks of the lake in the Changchun International Sculpture Park not far from Rodin's sculpture 'The Thinker".

Might put one of these new guys in my suitcase?

Fly away my pretty.

I am really looking forward to renewing old friendships, eating Chinese food, drinking Chinese tea, making sculpture and sharing it here with you on this blog.

I'll post some more photos soon so watch this space.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Figurative Man - Proposal for Changchun Ceramics Symposium 2011

Proposal 2

My second proposal is to explore the development of my figurative sculptures, samples of which you can see in the photos below. These figures are borne from years of accumulated experiences which have until recently only existed in my sketch books. They reflect my roots in Aotearoa New Zealand and my affiliation with the natural world - and they study the way the figure fits into natural space.

Medium: High-fired ceramic stoneware

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Botany Pots - Proposal for Changchun Ceramics Symposium 2011

Concept pots for 2011 Changchun Ceramics Symposium:Proposal 1

The theme behind these pots is "My Botany Diary". I would collect flora and fauna from Changchun and imprint them onto the surface of the pots to record the journey of my discovery of Jilin Province, China.

Below are examples of what the pots would look like. These are pictures of unfinished pots - not yet glazed or fired. All pots are 500mm high x 300mm diameter.

I would like to fire to stoneware temperatures using slips and celadon glaze to decorate the surface. I would also like to experiment with a larger pot of about 800mm high x 400mm.

Pot 1

Pot 2
Pot 3

Pot 4

3 Pots Together

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Finally - An Update on the Hinaki Sculpture!

The final couple of weeks in China were ABSOLUTELY CRAZY! The countdown was on to get the sculpture finished in time for the big opening ceremony....quite a task considering the scale of the sculpture. The moulders officially started work on the completed clay sculpture two weeks before the due date and although we were assured this was plenty of time, it soon became clear to everyone that the task at hand was far more intricate and lengthy than we thought. Check out the pics below to see how the process evolved....

The moulders prepare the clay form for the application of plaster of paris.

Applying the plaster of paris.

The plaster is set and now the labourious task of removing the clay and steel eels from within the plaster mould begins

The difficulty with the mould became one of fragility where one wrong move would turn whole sections of eels into dust. Climbing in and out of the sculpture was frought with danger!

As the team realised how much work lay ahead to get the sculpture finished it was all hands on deck. Janine and I jumped in to help the moulders where we could but the long days I was doing were nothing compared to what they did for us. These folks worked 24/7 in the final days to get the sculpture finished. We were absolutely and totally humbled by what they were prepared to do for us, which was way beyond the call of duty. These photos speak a thousand words.....thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!

And yes, we did some work too! Strutting our dusty selves at the end of a long morning...this photo was taken after a night with no sleep and an hour before we had to be at the official opening ceremony!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Where the hell are we?

I know, I know, everyone wants to know what happened next but before we move on I thought I would review what has happened so far.

So here we are again...a blank canvas.

Janine and I bending steel to make those eels. In the end I think we made over 120 eels, though we never quite got a conclusive number that we all agreed on.

Welding the frame took about three days. My welding assitant almost never used eye protection, he just kind of squinted a lot. Even though I wasn't welding I still had multiple burns and red sore eyes from being close by.

Once the skeleton started taking shape we started adding chicken wire to the eel forms so the clay would stick and hold.

Aaahh we had so much fun attaching the wire...not! One hundred and twentyish eels means more than one hundred and twenty squares of chicken wire to cut and attach. I would come home looking like I had been attacted by a prickle bush, covered in scratches and punctures.

We finally finished the armiture and took the chance to put the two halves together and wow! The consensus was that it was going to look great.

Adding the clay to one of the first eels. In this photo I'm working from the inside which is tight and progressively gets tighter as the clay goes on and the eels get bigger. I and everyone else that worked inside the sculpture found out that IT IS NOT GOOD FOR THE BODY!

The first eel finished was cause for a little celebratory dance around the place (crazy Kiwis). The eel heads are made with moulds from home that I packed in with my underwear and socks. Surprisingly they survived the journey which made the work a lot easier. The heads are moulded and the bodies are sculpted by hand.

The most annoying part of making this sculpture has been the wrapping and unwrapping of the thing. Because we are working in thirty degree+ heat the clay doesn't last more than half an hour in the open air without drying and cracking. This meant every time we stopped work, even for lunch, we had to wrap each and every eel in plastic. And again, we had to unwrap when work restarted. As you can see in the photo above we didn't actually see the sculpture as an unwrapped whole untill right at the end.

The first complete view of the bottom half of 'Hinaki' reveals that there will be at least a days worth of finishing touches to complete. The realization of just how complicated this sculpture will be to take a mold from begins to dawn. Incidently, this is about time my dreams really start getting really wierd (see earlier entry). It is also around about the time the first of the sculptors begin to finish their first work and some begin their second( I have only finished the bottom half of my first). They are all very sympathetic.

Here Chao and Changchun are spraying down the nearly finished top half of Hinaki with water, maybe for the last time. Even though the pressure is really on to finish there is a strong since of pride amonst the dream team. No matter what happens during the next week or so with the fibre glass mould, right now it looks amazing. We are so close to finishing!

This is a very good day. Everyone involved and none more than I are so excited that it is finally finished. I put all of my worries about making the fibre glass to the back of my mind to just enjoy the moment.
Oh yeah!

After 31 days of blood, sweat, tears, a lot of hard work and no full days off, the clay version of 'Hinaki' is finally finished. Over the next four days we rest and recouperate. I take my dream team out to lunch and say goodbye as they are all heading back to their uni studies. Meanwhile the 'moulders' have started their work on 'Hinaki' and the grand opening looms.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thank-you Dream Team

As you may have gathered from my previous entries this sculpture (the first of this scale) has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. This includes my first steps, college examinations (which I failed mostly), my first kiss....you get the picture. In fact this project has been so difficult that I don't think it would have been possible without the help that I got from the Dream Team.

So I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to some of the people that have been by my side for the past 2 months, without whom I (along with my sculpture) would have collapsed long ago. All of these people study sculpture at the local Changchun School of Fine Arts except for Mei Qi, our translator who has just left Changchun to start her studies of French in Shanghai.

Qi Changchun was originally the assistant of my neighbouring artist "Dids' from Norfolk Island. He is named after the city Changchun which translates into peace, love and spring. Changchun joined the team when time got short and the pressure went on. He is very quiet, very hard working and very talented.

Zhang Peng also joined the team towards the end of the project just as things were getting tough and tempers were beginning to unravel. His name 'Peng' soon became 'Punk' which made me giggle and helped see me through the hard times (he never quite understood!). He spent most of his time getting into those hard to reach places inside the sculpture.

Oh what a smile! Chao Nan was my the first emergency assistant to join us and we were stoked. Chao Nan's dream team nickname was 'big eyed girl' which to Janine and myself (and most other kiwis I suspect) sounds like an insult but apparently in Chinese its quite a nice thing to say. Chao Nan is one of those people that is always smiling and laughing, making light work of the day and a joy to be around. Secretly I think she make 'Chou' work harder trying to impress her.

Yang Wen Jian gave himself the English name "Chou" which is not very English but is a damn site easier than Yang Wen Jian. I found out later that "Chou" is the name of a Kung Fu master which is funny because his dreamteam name soon evolved into "Round Boy". This sculpture is as much Chou's as it is mine. He was with me right from the start advising me on the way ahead. We didn' t always see eye to eye and communication was difficult but we got through in the end and I am very fond of him. Thank-you Yang Wen Jian.

And last but definitely not least is Mei Qi, our translator. She quickly became known and 'Super Translator' and we were offered good money from the other artists fro a swap but (of course) refused! Mei Qi is just out of high school and turned 19 a week after we met. She prided herself on being the youngest translator and, in our opinion, the best too! Like most young people in China, Mei Qi is a single child so we soon adopted her into our 'family' and likewise we met her parents are she adopted us into hers. Mei Qi worked so hard for us and worried more for our safety than my Father does back home in NZ (and thats saying something). We will miss you little sister.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


OK, This is how my dreams have passed for the last few weeks... I am back in N.Z working for uncle Matt Paku and Lincoln Paku my best mate fishing for eels. Every eel I take from the net looks me directly in the eye and winks. I can see the creatures long sleek lines. I can see the bunched muscle of the jaw line and the thin membrane of the fin attached along the powerful tail, twisting and curving. Purpley black, green and yellow, shifting and glistening with movement. I look down to see my eels pouring from a huge hole in my net bag, all escaping to the running stream next to me. I leap onto the nearest one and try to wrap my hands around its thick body. The eel squirms and curves trying to escape my grasp so I tighten my grip. As I squeeze harder the head pops off! There is no blood, just clay. Miraculously as I release my grip both the head and the body do a wriggly dance together, reattach and with a shifty smile and another cheeky wink it disappears into the waiting waters. I wake with a sharp intake of breath to find its still only 5am and I have 2 hous to kill before breakfast.

For the last 6 weeks this sculpture has been my life. It seems to consume my every waking moment and most of my of dreams. 'Hinaki' was my own special Olympics. Every hurdle was a marathon effort. One by one the sculptors around me finish their work while my piece seems to go on and on. With help from Han Lu (art tutor) I requested more helpers from the committee and eventually enlisted extra help from four sculpture students. Cao Nan (big brown eyed girl), Qi Chang Chun (shorty), Zhang Peng (Jail Break) and of course Yang Wen Jian ('Chou' aka kung fu master to some, the 'round boy' to others). During the last week, as well as starting early and not taking a lunch break (to the extreme dislike of the sculpture committee) I was staying for an extra 2.5 hours until 8pm. By the time we actually finished sculpting four days ago, everyone was exhausted. What was once a busy workshop full of sculptors and their work, was now empty. Of all the sculptors I was one of only a few left working. It was such a relief to finally finish. Now the technical stuff begins - mold making. To be continued.....

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Its hard to believe the the sculpture part of Hinaki is all over, finito. Sam is exhausted but in good spirits. A bit nervous about the plastering/mould part of the process but all seems to be going good so far.
Mulling it over. Sam "the thinker"

Finishing touches
Desperation kicks in

The final piece - Congratulations SamIam!