You Got UFOs? by Gordon K. Uyehara

Most metal clay artists do. No, not extraterrestrials but Un-Finished Objects. The abandoned projects and parts cluttering up the work desk are often referred to as such. I have a lot. Not only do they come from projects that didn’t work out or I lost interest in but also they are odds and ends from class demos. The class demos are, well, not executed with quality in mind. When one does a demo, the goal is to convey an idea in the most efficient manner possible so as not to lose the students’ interest. That is to say, if I were doing it at home, I’d probably take care to make it nicer (read make it slower). But that is the nature of the beast. It is what it is. No doubt it is always easier to make things correctly from the beginning rather than trying to fix it later. Much, much later in my case.

I have unfired parts that are so old, they have taken on a darker dirty-gray tone. Normally, dry, unfired silver clay pieces are a light gray in color. These dark pieces, I have discovered are more prone to crumbling when re-wetted. My parts are most likely Art Clay 650 since I use that clay the most but I do not recall if it is the regular or Slow Dry type. Neither do I know if the other brands or clay types will behave in the same manner but I suspect they will given enough time. My point is that you may have to treat the pieces more carefully than parts made with fresh clay. And you should because they are perfectly fine otherwise and you can still use them (the pieces I made fired out fine – I recommend firing at 1472°F/800°C or higher for at least 1 hour). Otherwise, why would you have kept them? Now is the time to use them. Create new art with your old pieces and feel proud that you did and reclaim your desk space while you are at it!

I recently finished one of my pieces – it was a tsuru (Japanese crane) carving on a flat piece of clay – a class demo. In class I hadn’t taken the care to scribe the lines nicely so when I revisited it, refining it to a presentable state wasn’t the easiest undertaking. But I got it done. Not as good as my finished class sample piece but it was “okay”. So, if you already have a plan for your UFO, then go for it. If you can’t get it to a sellable state, then gift it. Find the motivation to get it done. Now or never. If it is the latter then turn it into paste, try to revitalize it as clay, or fire it and re-utilize it in a traditional manner, or send it in to be reclaimed.

For some of my pieces, there wasn’t any overall purpose. I have some seashell shapes from demonstrating the use of custom molds. How might I use these? I can put them on different foundation shapes to see if I can create an interesting arrangement, put them on a ring, or another accessory, etc. If the inside of the shell is nice, I can put a pearl in it. Play around with different compositions. When you mix up the pieces, you gain a different perspective. Perhaps an idea that is far from what was originally intended. Spend a little time with your parts and you’ll find you can give them new life. Otherwise, reincarnate them into something other than UFOs. Creation sometimes starts with destruction.

7 thoughts on “You Got UFOs? by Gordon K. Uyehara

  1. Well said Gordon, now if only I could actually put that into practice and clear the heap ….. 🙂

  2. Gordon, this article is so timely for me! I am in the process of doing just that. I also have been working with ACS and mixed clay. I was going to test fire some small bits to try and figure out how hot and how long I could fire. Thanks for the tips! Love your work!

  3. Thanks for this Gordon. I do have a couple of pieces that are hanging around. This is a great prompt to get on with it – thanks!

  4. Gordon, as a newbie, you think I have a lot of broken fired and broken greenware hanging around. You betcha! While none of my UFO’s are as well honed as yours….I’m gonna give it a whirl…a Picasso pendant perhaps?

  5. Gordon,it’s like you have read my mind. I recently posted my thoughts and pictures of “Iguana Poop” on the little blog on my website. Very few people read it, but it’s there.Iguana poop is what what came out of a kiln when I was teaching at the S. Florida Art Center last year. I thought the kiln worked, but it melted all of my 5 students’ work. Oh, that was an expensive lesson, but everyone was very nice about it.”Know thy Kiln” They have since fixed it, but I’ve tested it again and it still does not read correctly. I haven’t been able to look at those pieces, but recently the shock wore off and I’ve created something from one of the poops. The UFOs have now graduated from Iguana poop to Moon rocks. They look like some kind of weird castings. Thanks for the great article.

  6. Thanks for the thoughtful comments, folks! Bernadette, I read your blog – that is the nightmare scenario for instructors. Good to turn a negative into a positive! Aloha,

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