Making Mr. W. Rabbit


When a valued client (who is now a friend) commissioned me to make a rabbit sculpture for his garden, I knew exactly what to propose…and, happily, he liked the idea very much.

Mr. W. Rabbit on reflective silver card – template for the stainless steel plinth

Sherri Warner Hunter has developed a method of working glass reinforced cement layers to form what she refers to as concrete over carved high density polystyrene forms. This creates an ideal sculpture substrate for mosaic embellishment to be applied and it can all be done with entirely weather resistant materials.

Sherri’s presentation at the BAMM (British Association for Modern Mosaic) Annual Forum in 2019 was very inspiring. BAMM’s current president, Tamara Froud has trained with Sherri and recently hosted a series of successful workshops in the UK to teach the techniques to others. Attending one of these would have been the obvious solution for me but we were in Spring 2020 – lockdown – and attending a workshop was not an option…unless, of course, it could be delivered online…

So, I approached Tamara and explained my idea – would she be interested in creating an online version of her “Polysculpt” course? Would she welcome testing it out on a very keen and willing student? To my great pleasure the answer was yes and yes. (Tamara is a ‘can do’ artist!)

Within no time, Tamara had e-mailed a proposed course outline and I had gathered the tools and materials required to make a start. Communicating at key stages via zoom call, text and telephone, Tamara then proceeded to expertly mentor me through the whole process, providing useful tips and advice as needed. I tried to document as much of my activity as possible for her in video and photos.

Gathering the tools and materials

Although I did make a small clay maquette, which is the usual starting point, I decided that I would prefer to work from a full scale reference, so I made a 1:1 scale clay rabbit as well!

Clay rabbit for reference

The next task was to carve the polystrene…

Using the ceramicist’s turntables was invaluable for constantly checking the form from every view and comparing it with the clay as I gradually transformed the block into a rabbit form, using hot wire cutters (kindly made for me by Grahame, a fellow maker at Cakebread Workshop), a craft knife and surformers. The fabric behind the sculpture was suspended to prevent the polystyrene bits getting into the shelves – they are, as warned, all pervasive.

Eventually the form was complete to my satisfaction. I reinforced the rabbit’s vulnerable little legs and used card templates to work out the right size and shape for the ears. Once this was determined, they became the pattern for making the ears in armature wire and copper mesh. This done, I could start preparing the surface for the first cement layer…

Why a rabbit sculpture, you might be wondering?

Well, there is a lovely family story behind this but it’s also a private one, so all I’ll say is that there is a special connection with the famous white rabbit from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. This inspired the choice of white and iridescent white glass for the mosaic surface…

Three or four shades of blue vitreous glass tesserae were used for the eye and an improvised technique for ‘tuftiness’ brought texture to the eye socket surrounds and the bob tail.

A position for Mr. W. Rabbit to reside has been prepared and he will soon be sitting upon a reflective dull polished stainless steel topped plinth, keeping a watchful eye over the garden!

Finally, because I grew very fond of my faithful clay rabbit and the key role he played in this creative endeavour, I found it impossible to scrap him back into the clay bucket. Instead, I asked my skilled friends at Castle Fine Arts Foundry to produce a mould from him to enable a series of limited edition casts to be produced. After all, we all know that it’s only natural for rabbits to quickly multiply!

I plan to cast ciment fondu/concrete editions of the rabbit but to begin with, here are two initial casts in resin/fibreglass – one white, one black. They both still need some more work to refine and finish their surfaces, and one of them is required for a further commision from a different client next spring, so…watch this space…

2 thoughts on “Making Mr. W. Rabbit

    1. makemosaictrace Post author

      Thank you, Deb, and I really should have acknowledged your very helpful encouragement and willingness to assist as well. It was thanks to you and other BAMM friends having participated in Tamara’s in-person workshops making the recommendation that I thought of approaching her with the online course idea. Thank you!

      Reply

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