Last year I was thrilled to receive a Pratt/PONCHO scholarship, good for credit towards classes at Seattle's Pratt Fine Arts Center. So thrilled, in fact, that I've just now gotten around to cashing some of it in. And I'm not being at all sarcastic here; I have lifelong history of hoarding the things I value most--outgrowing unworn dresses, or letting the premium Halloween candy (precious, precious candy) molder while I wait for the "perfect" occasion to eat it.
So I sat on my scholarship until something just too good to pass up came along: Intro to Kiln Casting with Susan Balshor. In the past I've dabbled in both casting (bronze, silver) and glass (fusing, lampworking) but I never found a good fit for the scale and level of detail I like to work with. Then along came leaded crystal...
As opposed to "hot casting" with ladles full of molten glass, kiln casting involves placing flowerpots full of crushed crystal on top of plaster molds arranged inside a kiln. As the kiln slowly heats up, the glass turns to syrup, drizzling down inside the mold and filling every nook, cranny, fingerprint, and tool mark. You just have to show up a few days later to take your nice cool mold out of the kiln, and--gently--bust the glass out of its shell.
During the 8-week class I did a few few smaller pieces but spent most of my time prepping a wax sculpture that is just about old enough for its own driver's license. Sometime during my sophomore or junior year of college I started making a modeled wax "portrait" of my hand, motivated, I seem to remember, by a comment my mother made when I started to get more serious about sculpting: "Well, you'll never be a hand model now."
Turns out she was right. Although the hand is a sculpture rather than a life-cast, it's a pretty careful rendition (modeled finger by finger) of my right hand as it was then; next to it my hands today are notably knobbier, more scarred, and more masculine/muscular. Funny to think, though, of all the things my hands hadn't yet done or learned when I made that model--I didn't even know how to knit yet!
I sculpted it slightly larger than life, intending to cast it in bronze (which shrinks significantly) but I didn't get around to casting it before I left college and lost access to the bronze foundry. The wax hand kicked around in various apartment freezers before I finally left it (along with most of my worldly goods) at my parents' house while I proceeded to live out of a suitcase for years at a time. When my parents retired and moved crosscountry, my mother somehow managed to transport the hand safely from Tennessee to Oregon. She doesn't often ask me for work, but when she gave me the hand back a couple of years ago she expressed an interest in seeing it made "into something".
And at long last, it has been. It weighs a lot more now, but at least it doesn't have to live in the freezer.