I have decided to tell the story of a couple of small sculptures that became bffs - best friends forever.
In 2017 I returned to making ceramics in earnest, starting the year with a small solo exhibition at Framewerk Gallery in east Belfast. An old friend, Claire Cogan (hello) had been working in Belfast at the time and had popped in to see the show. She is an actor and was at that time writing one woman shows, some madder than others and a few aimed at younger audiences.
Claire contacted me about creating a puppet of sorts based on the lead character of a wee show she was working on called ‘Bump’. So, I did a few sketches and one in particular became my favourite, however, I wasn’t sure if he was the best style for a children’s production.
Claire agreed he was lovely but not really right for the part.
That said I was inspired and began to bring Bump to life or at least into the physical world. During the making I thought about creating a whole clatter of versions of Bump, and so Grind began to immerge – though he wasn’t named until both were finished.
I have always been inclined to add other materials and/or objects to my sculptures, sometimes I know exactly what I want to add before all the firing has been done and more often I figure it out after.
On this occasion I knew from my sketch that Bump needed a ruffle collar, some mad hair, large buttons and possibly wire or beady eyes. I had been using tin cans in various ways for a few years by this stage; as pots for my fabric cacti and wings for the figures in my solo show at Framewerk, so why not find another use for them. The ruffle collar was sorted, and, by happy chance a potential platform/base for him to perch.
While I had been helping my mum declutter her storeroom some time before this, I discovered loads of things for me to take to my studio and clutter it up instead. Granddads old wooden boxes full of old screws, nails, nuts and bolts, the head of a broom that hailed from West Germany (pre fall of Berlin Wall), budgie’s cage and more. Well, the broom meant Bump’s crazy hair was sorted, and the bolts, nails and old screws gave me a lovely choice for buttons.
I was delighted with myself.
I toyed with the idea of using some of the many action man boots I have acquired for Bump to be wearing (so’s-to-speak), but he definitely had to have turned up toes in true clown fashion.
I had already a plaster mould of a boot made that had originally been an ice skating boot. I press moulded two boots and with a little jiggery-pokery I modelled them into proper clown foot attire.
The main body was fairly straightforward, though made sure there was a very subtle ‘hungry-bum’ going on at his rear. I wanted Grind to be a little different. Referring to clowns again I decided to give Grind a version of hooped trousers, but he only had one boot and the braces were to be made using some old chain I had hoarded away. This also meant Grind’s upper body would be revealed so of course I gave him a bad posture and a slight paunch.
When making the heads, I tried without a nose – as seen in some of the sketches. I tried modelling a normal-ish nose, a clown’s nose but just wasn’t feeling any of it. Then, while hoking about for something else I found a clatter of beads I had hoarded. Perfect! I gouged into Bumps face, positioned the bead and that was that.
Between the bisque firing and glaze, however, there occurred a bit of an incident.
Grind lost an arm.
My fault entirely.
However, when it comes to my work I’m not so easily daunted. I broke the other arm off, detached his hands from said arms and vowed to find him new arms.
I am true to my word and so Grind acquired the arms of my Tom Baker Dr. Who doll – before you ask the doll was in no way in a collectable state.
Once all the firings had been completed I then went about assembling them both, adding the hair, prepping the tin can bases using rusting techniques; gluing the tin can lids together, bending them a little to give them a bit of texture; inserting the nuts and screws for Bump’s buttons and attaching Grind’s metal chain braces; fitting Grind’s new Dr Who arms; copper plated wire for the eyes and small faux pearls just for Grind and beady noses.
I started Bump around October 2017 but took my time and the following October himself and the then finished and named Grind (thank you Rosie M) were accepted to the Royal Ulster Academy Annual Exhibition 2018. They were sold during that exhibition and to be honest I have no idea who adopted them, I just hope the lads are still providing entertainment and joy to that person.
I’m full of proud.