June 11, 2014 Studio Update

IMG_4222IMG_4230 IMG_4229 Mold making. An ancient technique using packing tape coated cereal boxes, styrofoam, wire and wood. To be cast with a special recipe of concrete patch, mortar and paint. Photos to come.

IMG_4223 Wire form with tin snips and needle nose pliers. I love tools.

IMG_4226 Other Ancient Things. My objects span millenia. From re-imagining ancient cultures’ pottery to the Great Pyramids. From now on All Things Will Be Capitalized. There’s a month or two until the show and many tasks and deadlines within that time frame. I am working to finalize some pieces while still inventing other puzzles to solve.

IMG_4231  Does this look finalized to you? I didn’t think so.


IMG_4225 Diptych.

IMG_4224 What’s this?

Want to see it in the show? What color should it be? Please vote now.

May 28, 2014

IMG_4114 Studio Update: Large vessel is out of the studio and into the garage, which leaves me more room to work. Funny thing; I didn’t measure how wide the vessel could get to still make it through my studio door. I just made it as large as I could, in typical Michelle fashion. I had a small moment of panic when I realized that I may have to either cut my sculpture in half or cut a larger door opening to my studio. Luckily it made it. Lesson learned. For now.

I love my little studio. However, for this project it feels cramped. The Glean Project has got me thinking of using material in new ways and with every trip to the transfer station I come back with 5 new ideas for work that I want to pursue.

IMG_4100 Fake flowers dipped in paint. Waiting for their opportunity.

My sculptural work begins with metal armatures then I papercrete them:IMG_4101 Outline of a vessel/rock.

IMG_4112 Small dish/bowls.


Once the shredded paper has sat in a 5gal. bucket of hot water for a day or so it is pulped into ‘oatmeal’, strained and re shredded by the trusty drill with masonry mixer attachment, my faithful studio companion (pictured above).

IMG_4108Shredded, oatmealed, strained (water squeezed out) paper pulp.

IMG_4109 Re shred after straining.

IMG_4116 I’ve mixed up many batches of papercrete since beginning this project, using several different recipes. Because of the nature of gleaning my materials supply was always changing. Different paper, dry mix mortar, a 60lb bag of concrete (which I used up, after sieving out all the pebbles), and this lovely bucket of wet pre-mix concrete, pictured upper right. In this recipe I am mixing almost 50/50 paper to wet concrete. The easiest recipe yet! Unfortunately, this bucket of pre mixed love is almost gone. : (  However, I am sure that the transfer station will not disappoint in my next visit.

IMG_4118 This is papercrete after using the mortar mixer attachment to mix the ingredients. You could do it by hand but since my operation has expanded to include many 5 gal. buckets and larger quantities of papercrete I use the drill for every application that I can.

I am using this Glean Residency-ship to explore papercrete as a viable sculpture material. I didn’t know much about it before, but now I feel like a pro. I like working with papercrete because it has a texture and consistency similar to that of clay.


preparing clay for pottery

Pictured above: preparing clay for pottery by mixing sand into it. India. (image: Wikipedia)

I mix my papercrete body much as you would a clay body. I create metal armatures of vessels, bowls and sculpture to push the papercrete onto. I’ve been thinking of how early object makers formed pinch pots and vessels with their hands, leaving thumbprints from using their hands as the primary tool for shaping clay forms. I like that my work has that look, almost prehistoric. Like it was dug up.


IMG_4113 This is part of the second large sculpture that I will make.

Inspiration: Roman Amphorae


IMG_4127Plans for plinths.

IMG_4124 Paint!

April 25, 2014 Studio Visits

studio visits april 25_3

A crate of trophies at Sarah’s studio.

studio visits april 25_2

And a bowl of magic.


studio visit april 25_1

A photo of (from left) Sarah, Whitney, Francesca, Alyssa and Amy at Whitney’s studio visit. It was a great day visiting everyone’s studio and talking about what we have gleaned so far, what we are making and plans for the exhibition. It was inspirational to see so many amazing artist spaces in one day.

April 20, 2014 studio shots

4_20 paint Thank you to Hazardous Materials at the Transfer Station for this paint, my collection has grown thanks to my last gleaning this past Friday. The kind people over there even set aside a 60lb bag of concrete for me. Ask and you shall receive! Alyssa and I had fun looking through their art supplies.

IMG_4034 Here’s a shot of a couple of the small sculptures that I made with papercrete and metal, with paint. My palette is somewhat organized but my theme is loss of control or ‘harmonious chaos through painting and sculpture.’

I am having fun working with the materials that I can glean from the transfer station but it is a different way of working in the studio. Much of the material must be reconstructed/deconstructed or used as a raw ingredient to make another material.  IMG_4038This is a studio shot of one table of fun.

The large papercrete vessel is in production.IMG_4036 A 3-4 foot tall vessel made of wire/metals/papercrete. This is the largest sculpture in production so far. The process of making papercrete has expanded; to make more in a batch I shred more paper into a bucket, pour boiling water over and let sit for 1-3 days. Then I use a drill with a cement mixer type attachment to pulp it, then strain, then combine to make a half of a 5 gal bucket of papercrete. I’m happy that I’ve gotten pretty good at the process, it’s going faster and this large piece is getting built. Although, I am unable to see yet how it will turn out. It could be a great piece, or, I could hate it. Just going through the process of building something of this scale with papercrete is exciting to me and I am grateful to the Glean Residence-ship for the opportunity to explore papercrete. IMG_4039IMG_4040

There is still a hole in the bottom of it that allowed me to work at its base, that’s the fan part that I used. I think that it may look like a very large pinch pot. This piece is going to have some weight to it, but it will be lighter than a giant concrete vessel because of the papercrete that I’m using. The stuff dries super tough and stiff, like concrete, but not as brittle. And, I’m told, you can drill, sand and saw it when dry. Can’t wait to see how this comes out.

April 8, 2014 Train yards, tools and wire skeleton for vessel

4_4My last trip to the Transfer Station was more spring like. I always enjoy passing the train yards on the way to deep northwest. I am gleaning different things now, widening my definition for what useable art materials are. I’m taking home hard plastic planters and crates to alter and encase in papercrete.IMG_4009

Here I’m using some pristine 1/4″ board to make two panels for paintings. I found a full 4×8′ sheet of it and many smaller scraps without a scratch on them. There is soo much wood at the transfer station, I could make panels for painters all day long.IMG_4010I like that the support for this panel has branded information on it. I think I’ll keep it there.



Also working on a large vessel, here’s the skeleton.. I gleaned wire mesh from old window screens, a deconstructed fire place screen, some chicken wire, other wire screen and all sorts of tying wire; galvanized steel, copper, scrap pieces.. The bottom support for this is part of a fan that I found. Perfect!

March 29, Very Rainy Day

3_29 Headed to the Transfer Station on Saturday under a blanket of pouring rain.

3_31 2 This is actually a “slow day” at the transfer station. I did glean some nice sheets of wood laminate, and a bit of wire, but overall it was a slow day, due possibly to the heavy rain. I did learn that I should wear tall rubber boots on days like that – lots of material was just out of reach, just past a small pond, or, large puddle. Sunny days are ahead I’m sure.

March 22, 2014 The process of papercrete

start with paper gleaned from the Transfer StationFirst, tear gleaned paper into manageable pieces to later be shredded into smaller bits to fit into blender/cuisinart (see below). Thanks to the red color of the rosin paper that I found, the paper pulp resembles ground beef. When paper is shredded, mixed with water and pulpy, then it is time to strain it.


Next step, combine paper pulp with concrete mix. I’ve been doing half and half. I scored a huge, full bucket of premixed concrete on my first gleaning trip, so it’s easy to just scoop it out and use, but you could use dry mix also. When the pulp is combined with the concrete mix it’s a fibery, less sticky concrete mixture that feels like clay or a mud pie. It sticks to armatures well and is easy to use.

A few small sculptures..



07I like the uneven-ness of these models. Chickenwire was manipulated, bent and combined to make armatures for the papercrete to hang onto. I’m working with lines in space mostly here, loopy, curving lines and connecting lines. Bloopy, bloby lines and blobs. I’m interested in what I can do with some very basic design vocabulary; curved lines, straight lines, diagonals, shapes. The composition has to be interesting enough in order for me to want to make it and there are pages in sketchbooks exploring these ideas, but only a few designs make it to the papercrete stage.

I am interested in designs that are lopsided, or, look like they are challenging gravity and will almost fall over. I’m interested in giving an element, as simple as a line, a personality or character. And although you won’t see the human body represented realistically in my work, my sculpture is often figurative. Through the use of abstraction and minimalism is how I choose to talk about the figure. I am working up plans to make a large scale papercrete sculpture now.