I Dreamed My Studio Assistant was a Smartmouth Manikin

   by Sherry Zehner for Build A Dream (2014)

THE KILN - I cut the top and bottom from masonite with a jig saw, then cut strips of cardboard from the Mystery Box and glued in the side pieces one-by-one. I used reinforcement strips from the lightweight box the manikin came in, and over lapped the sides. The hinge was cut from canvas cloth and glued on. Then I coated the sides with strips of plaster of paris. I made the blue control panel with cardboard from the box also. The plug is made with painted wire and cardboard. I spraypainted the silver, and used acrylic and watercolor on the panel and small parts. This was the most time consuming piece.
THE CLAY EXTRUDER - With a kitchen knife, I sawed off a piece of the large stick of styrofoam. I made the handle with a dowel rod, and the 'clay' hanging down is actually painted wire. I used acrylic paint.
THE APRON & PANTS (decided not to use the pants, but included pics to show trial and error steps & all the hard work the manikin did hanging things on the clothesline). The clothes were cut from canvas cloth and dyed with a watercolor/acrylic mix. I glued the apron with hot glue. I used the thread to sew the trial pair of pants made from other fabric. I didn't want to cut into the canvas until I knew the pattern fit so I used some scraps of cotton fabric I had on hand to practice on.
THE POTTER'S WHEEL - The top is made from the wooden manikin stand. My prissy manikin doesn't need a stand. She never stays still. The legs are made with dowel rods, and pieces of the large styrofoam rod are glued in hidden places to keep the center rod straight. The seat is made from masonite (tempered hardboard), and the sponge is torn from the sponge in the kit. I threw the clay pots on my potter's wheel. I didn't think it would work, because you need water to throw and oily clay doesn't like water. I almost gave up, but then decided to use vegetable oil as a lubricant. I was blown away! I had already tried heating the clay in the microwave to soften it, but it wouldn't heat. When I started centering the clay with oil, it got really hot which surprised me, and became very workable. I threw the tiny pots 'off the hump' (all off the same lump of clay.) They are sitting on the worktable on the wooden circles found in the box. My hands felt really good and moist afterwards, the opposite of throwing with water.
THE TABLE - The table top is made from part of the canvas board and cardboard from the mystery build box. The legs are made from square dowel rods. On top of the table are pieces cut from the canvas cloth and the round wood discs (now pottery bats) holding the pottery made from the modeling clay.
OTHER: I used the mesh wire as a backdrop in the studio, and the cloth draped on it came from the plaster. I needed a little extra plaster on the kiln, so I scraped it off the plaster cloth wrap, and the little cloth was left behind. I used cardboard for the broom and dust pan, and the card stock paper for manikin blurbs/sarcastic comments. I used everything in the kit except the aluminum rod, plastic egg, Van Gogh ear, and packing peanuts. I did experiment with adding water to the peanuts and was able to saw the aluminum rod, but ended up using the dowel instead. It was a fun project and I enjoyed it very much!

My dream has always been to someday have a real art studio (detached from my living space), so that was my first idea before I even got the package. Perhaps it is just my way of thinking, but where others see a manikin stand, my brain flipped it over and I saw a potter's wheel head. Then I saw the sponge, the mesh wire, the little wooden circles that would make great bats for clay. It was all there, but still missing something. As time passed, I started talking to the manikin and one day she came alive, and started talking back. She insisted on being the center of attention in most of the pictures. She is sassy and sarcastic.

My other sculptures can be seen at: