Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pietre Dure, just for fun

It's been awhile since there was time to post here. We continue to work on the home we are remodeling and are to the painting stage. All the new woodwork is primed including the 70+ cabinet doors. Now we clean, clean & clean to prepare for the high gloss finish coat.

Recently, needing a break from the work, my fingers succumbed to the lure of Pietre Dure, an art-historical term for the technique of using small, exquisitely cut and fitted, highly-polished colored stones to create what amounts to a painting in stone. It is considered a decorative art, a type of mosaic without grout. The pieces are all cut to fit together tightly.. It literally means Rock Hard.

In polymer clay, the unbaked clay is cut and inserted into an unbaked clay background. I learned about the polymer clay technique in Encyclopedia of Polymer Clay Techniques; a book by Sue Heaser.

The technique is fairly straightforward. Make a background. Cut a shape in the background, fill the shape with a piece of clay exactly the same shape. Like anything new, I just HAD to try it. After two false starts, I settled on a sailing ship. It's an old fashioned theme for an old fashioned technique.

The billowing sails of the ship seemed to beg for a circular skinner blend. In the 70's I did a large painting of a ship in full sail for my father who has since passed. I have no knowledge where the painting is now but loved the feel of the wind and waves. Googling ship under full sail, I pulled references, put them on one page and began sketching a simplifed design.

After printing out the line art, I made the background using Skinner blends and traced the line art onto the background. The drawing showed all of the cut lines as overlapping pieces would cut away the background pieces if necessary.

A skinner blend was created to reflect the billowing sails and pinched into a rectangle. The sails were slices from the cane then cut to the shape needed.

One by one each piece was cut out of the background and replaced with a matching shape in the proper color and ordination.

The mast was first, then the sails. Everything was cut and fit from the background to the foreground.

It turned out ok, after sanding it is amazingly smooth. At first glance, most people think it's a painting.

I plan to try it again. This time with blends for the water, canes of translucent and pearl swirls for the white water, bits of gold for bright sunlight flashes on the ship....... etc, etc. There are so many things I would do differently, but the work itself was invigorating.

What a delightful respite from the tedium of long hours sanding, cleaning, weeding, and all that is necessary to make our new home lovely.

Thanks for dropping by. If you want to use the drawing for your own attempt, feel free. I would love to see how you do. Be sure to see Sue's book for an excellent description of how to do this challenging technique since there is much more to making Pietre Dure than my simple description.

Thanks so much Sue!!