Luke Jerram Day 6

Helga and the Van all packed ready for Bristol

It was a frosty start to Day 6 as Helga scraped the ice from the window of her van, and we prepared for a journey to Gloucestershire. Our mission today was to take the huge body mould to a very large kiln to be fired. With the aid of two unsuspecting men, we managed to carry the heavy plaster figure on its military stretcher, out from the barn to the van, then loaded four boxes of high temperature bricks, high temperature material, lots of gloves, cleaner, rags and more.  Alongside the figure, we carefully stacked huge sheets of 4mm glass, trying to avoid any unnecessary pressures or tilt to these massive sheets, and off we set, the odd flake of snow now falling. We had never moved anything like this before, and can see why, as we slowly made our way up to Yate.

Mike Row and Luke Jerram carrying the figure to the kiln

We met Luke at Mike Rowe’s studio. Mike has an awesome kiln, 2½ by 1½ metres, with a top lifted by a pulley, and he allowed us to stack a couple of layers of bricks around the edge to raise the height still further.  These kilns are primarily designed for flat sheets of glass, so we were so lucky to find one that would fit our laying figure. Soon we were covered in kiln dust and plaster from the mould as we heaved, shunted and lugged the body around the tight space in the kiln and finally into its resting place.  Given the sheer size, and weight of the mould alone, we will probably not be moving it together with the glass slumped over it, in one piece. At least we hope that the glass will stay in one piece. We feel like we are pushing the limits of kiln-forming, but it is exciting!

Wrapped figure in the kiln

Laying the figure covered in plaster bandages down into the kiln felt weirdly like laying a mummy in a tomb. We then covered the figure in our high-temperature blanket, Luke ensuring it was folding and wrapping around the body form, to give the impression of a sleeping figure out in the cold. The bricks were now set three layers deep around the perimeter of the kiln, further encasing the figure and the glass was cleaned ready to lay on top.  This was a big and relatively thin piece of glass, which only contacted the mould at the shoulder and hip of the figure, so here we became concerned. Was the glass going to just crack and break under tension when laid on the mould?  It teetered there, swaying slightly at the lower end of the body where there was less support, but thankfully did not crack or break. Under stress however, the sheet could crack when heated, so we carefully placed some brick supports on the two unsupported corners. Looking a lot less like a bendy piece of plastic, the glass now looked perfectly set to slump gently over the blanketed form. As is often the case with glass forming, we crossed our fingers in anticipation of a successful firing. After some debate about particular kiln firings, (temperatures etc.) we finally decided on a firing schedule to use. Although we have made several tests with our “mock leg”, this has been on a much smaller scale, and with a kiln we know well. We were not entirely confident with our scheme in an unknown kiln and especially one this big. The slump should be ready in about four or five days.

Later that day Mike called us to say that steam was still coming out of the mould, even at its top temperature, which is unusual to say the least.  But this is an unusual project, so we are always ready for surprises.  Given the scale of the slump, with the tension in the glass and the steam in the mould, we estimated a 20% chance of success, but then often great things come at high risk. Check back for Day 7 to see how it comes out!

Here are a few photos of our day…


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