Archive for the ‘Cauldrons’ Category

Fire Cauldron

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Age of Fire: Transformation
Bronze cauldron/pot
collection of Helen Klebesadel, Madison, WI

In the collection of Helen Klebesadel

I’m sure if Rae had continued access to a foundry, she would have made more cast metal pieces.  She loved designing, forming, adding the spurs and vents, and then watching the finished piece appear out of the hot plaster, with the help of a hose and small hammers.

The Fire cauldron, sister to the Earth and Water pots, stands out as the only one to actually be used in a ritual setting.  It has 5 candle holders, of varying heights, in the bottom of the interior, and when lit, their light shine outward.  

It was made like the others, by layering wax on a beach ball. Like the Earth cauldron, it had pieces added to it.  These were three faces of women, cast using Jeltrate like the hands in the Bronze Broom.  These were carefully incorporated into the cauldron so that they were part of it, not added on.  The eyes of two the three women, and the mouth of the third were open, and cut out, so that light could pass through them.  (No, their eyes were not open when the Jeltrate was applied, that would be asking too much of even those valiant ladies)

The feet, like those of the Celtic Mirror, were snake heads.  The title for the Women, Domesticity and Objects of Power show came from the legends of the cauldron of rebirth, and the recurring theme in myth, art and literature of the cauldron as a transformative tool.

The patina for the Fire cauldron was, if I remember correctly, fire.  A smoky fire of twigs and leaves, the soot darkening the bronze.

Cauldron – From the Age of Water, Continuity

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Bronze, copper patina

From the Women, Domesticity and Objects of Power show.  This cauldron is one of 3 Rae did in Bronze, representing Water.  The Earth Cauldron I’ve already Presented, and the Fire is coming in a few weeks.  There was no Air, She ran out of time and access to the foundry before she designed one for Air.

The Water Cauldron came out exactly as she envisioned it, she was always very proud of it.  The designs are Celtic-inspired, with knot work around the rim, a mermaid holding the chain link for a handle loop (no handle has been made), and three naked goddesses for feet, their hair flowing up and merging with the cauldron.

The fantastic blue color was Rae’s choice of patina, created by brushing copper sulphate solution over the cauldron after all the spurs were cut, imperfections ground out, and the last of the plaster cleaned out of crevices.  She would patio the outside, , then the inside, let them dry to a flaky blue-white, then paint right over that again with the solution, 7 or 8 times, drying completely between.  The outer layers of the metal finally took the color, and now it is a part of the surface, and would take a lot of sanding to remove (as if!)

This Cauldron, like her Earth, was made over a beach-ball mold, with the knot work carefully measured and carved in a flat ribbon, and then melted to the outside edge.  Similarly, the feet and handles were carved in foundry wax and applied to their final positions before the burn-out and pour.

The Continuity Cauldron is heavy, though not as heavy as the Earth one, and it can actually hold water.  It IS water, in metallic form.  Happy Birthday, Rae!?

Women, Domesticity and Objects of Power

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

So, a special treat today:  Context.

I have collected some info and images from Rae’s MFA show, titled above.  The show was November 6-23, 1994 at the Gallery of Design, 1300 Linden Drive.  At that time it was Family Resources and Consumer Sciences, now the School of Human Ecology.

Her Artist’s Statement:

Women, particularly cultural feminists, have often considered the possibility, questioned the probability, and even a romanticized the concept of a women’s culture. When I explore the concept of women’s culture, as a feminist, a storyteller, and an artist, I am drawn again and again to the concept of common objects. Common objects fascinate me — the careful consideration to function (its domestic roots) mars our perception of its grace and beauty, for, to be special something must be rare.

In a women’s culture, what might be different in the perception and the value of common objects?

I began to envision what common objects would be like from an intact, continuous women’s culture. If such a culture existd through the ages, what would those ages have been called? We have the “Golden Age” for mainstream culture, and the Renaissance, and the “Middle Ages”. Would it be different if there had been a dominant Women’s culture or even a valuation of women? I know they would be different for me. Using as my starting point stories such as the magic mirror of Snow White’s evil stepmother, or myths such as Cerridwen’s Cauldron of regeneration ( how did a cooking pot becomes a source of reincarnation and knowledge )?, I began to construct any exhibition of found objects from this “mythical” women’s culture.

I not only wanted to explore the concept of a women’s culture, I choose to layer it with the shadowed influences of existing culture – its legends, stories and processes and my own life experience and concerns. What resulted is my manifestation of Objects of Power.

This statement was posted in the show and on a brochure which was handed out.  What few people have seen is her first draft of the statement:

I am working from 3 premises:

•      There is a perceived division between art and craft, functional and non-functional, which does not exist in all cultures and in all times.  It does not exist in my reality.  I like to push this culturally oriented imaginary line around and see what I can come up with when I explore common objects, traditional and non-traditional materials and layered symbology.

•      Certain “Common Objects” fascinate me — they can be graceful and powerful, as well as functional.  We usually miss this grace and beauty, because we assume to be special something must be rare.  Many objects live with us in the mundane-but they also live with us in the world of dreams, mystery and legend.  My work seeks to delve these mysteries and reveal how common objects can become the icons of mysteries we all recognize if we care to look — if we dare to know.

•      Objects that are a common part of our culture often have rich associations with legends, histories, fables, folk-tales and folk customs.  I explore these associations by researching references to each object in mythic, poetic, and cultural literature.  I use interactive and multifaceted meshed layers that reflect this history and hidden meanings found in the research, with concepts from my own life experiences and response to the stories.

This process manifests pieces that are powerful, unique, and sophisticated.  These simultaneously simple and sophisticated pieces reflect the mundane perspectives of our society, but reveal a connection to the power of objects through their secrets, stories, mysteries, and innate grace.

Also from the brochure:


Truman Lowe – Art Department
Leslee Nelson- Art Dapartment
Elaine Shear – Art Department
Diane Sheehan – ETD Department
And Larry Junkins–
he touched my heart & my art, Blessings.

Valerie Weihman – MATC
Tom Loeser – UW
Martha Glowicki – UW
Steve Feren – UW
Fred Fenster – UW
Brian Painter – UW
George Cramer – UW

Those who helped make this show possible
Helen Klebasadel    Jini Kai
Amy Bethel    Mary Walker
Barb Westfall    Mary Bennett
Ari-Asha Castalia    Ann Schaffer
Leslee Nelson    Sara Killian
Suzann Hart    Val Weihamn
Casey Heinzel    Ethan Heinzel
Deb Trent    Bev Gordon
Betsy Tuttle and the folks of the Gallery.

And All My Love To,
Who suffered so gracefully for my art …

The pieces that were included in that show, some renamed:


From the Age of Mystery:  SWEEP OF THE MILKY WAY  Wildwood, Broom Corn
From the Age of Community: COOPERATION    Bronze, Bronze Wire
From Sweeping Changes: INSPIRATIONAL SIMPLICITY Quilted maple, Broom Corn


From the Age of Water: CONTINUITY    Bronze
From the Age of Fire: TRANSFORMATION Bronze
From the Age of Earth: REGENERATION Bronze


From the Age of Consideration: FAT GIRLS LIKE TO ROCK TOO Ash and Pecan


From the Age of Confusion: ANCIENT MOTHER/MODERN LIES Walnut, fabric, mirror, bronze, clay, glass
From the Age of Consciousness: CAGED HEAT    maple, copper, cotton, silk, satin
From the Age of Control: WITH RESPECT TO THE WHORE OF BABYLON copper, lace, walnut, silk


From the Age of Knowledge: CLASSICAL PROPORTIONS/NARROW PERSPECTIVES    Bronze, Wood, Mirror
From the Age of Acceptance: MIRROR OF DEATH/MIRROR OF LIFE     Bronze


I have not found any photos from that exhibition, though I will continue to look.  We do have photos of all the pieces, some in previous posts here, others yet to come.  For now, for your gazing pleasure, the Rocking Chair that she made to fit a large woman, and which now belongs to her little sister Dawn.  Made of Ash and Hickory.  Fat Girls Like to Rock, Too:

Proportioned for the goddess in each of us.

Proportioned for the Goddess in each of us.

Earth Cauldron

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Happy Autumn!

Earth Cauldron

Earth Cauldron

Available! $1000

Turning from Brooms for a while, I’d like to present one of Rae’s Cauldrons.  She did 3 while at the UW, with access to the foundry there.  The theme was the elements, and she did Fire, Water, and Earth.  This one is the Earth.  The outside is a globe, with the continents in relief.  Visible in this picture are North Africa and Europe., with one of the loops intended for a ring handle that was never installed.

All 3 cauldrons were created using the”lost wax” method.  To get the basic shape, Rae started with a beach ball.  She had an old deep-fryer, looked like a toaster with juse one very large slot.  Into this were placed hunks of foundry wax, a brown, sticky substance that dries not quite as hard or brittle as paraffin.  It can be carved with clay tools, and layers built up with melted wax in a variety of ways.  Rae used the pot of just-barely melted wax, butter knives and palette knives, and brushes.    To make the cauldron shape, she brushed layer after layer of wax onto the beach ball, 3/4 of the way up, letting it cool before adding another coat.  For the Earth Cauldron, the entire orb was fairly thin, about 1/4″.

I printed out some maps of the continents, we cut them out, and laid the patterns on a 3/8″ thick slab of foundry wax, then cut through the wax to get little pancakes of each.  These were transferred to the surface of the orb, warmed almost to melting to make them flexible, stuck by heating a thin pallette knife over an alcohol flame.  The beach ball was deflated, the top edge folded over and formed into a lip

This piece also features snakes.  Snakes had special significance to Rae.  They stood for Wisdom and knowledge.  Rather than try to carve snakes from scratch, she bought

Interior Earth Cauldron

Interior Earth Cauldron

some rubber snakes from a toy store.  Since they were burnable material, they were incorporated directly into this piece.  (I’ll describe how the Fire Cauldron’s feet were made later)  One was curled up on the bottom, and is very seldom seen, since you have to tip the cauldron over.  The others are inside, one on the inside surface of the globe, the other curling around the other feature inside the cauldron, the House.

The house is modeled after the quilt pattern called “schoolhouse”.  Again, a sheet of wax (molten wax poured into a lined cookie sheet) was cut into the 4 sides, roof, and then 2 “smokestacks”, complete with windows and doors.  Assembled and placed in the bottom of the cauldron, and then another snake out a window, curled around and into the door.  The house had a lot of significance to Rae, representing home, a sanctuary usually, but the snake moving in and out represented the invasion of that sanctuary, a reference to some unpleasant childhood memories.

Earth Cauldron inside

Earth Cauldron inside

Once the piece was complete, more wax was added as “sprues”, for the bronze to pour into the mold, nd to allow venting of gasses when everything melted.  The entire piece was suspended in a cylindrical cardboard tube, and plaster poured into and around it.  When that hardened, what was left showing was a 3″ circle of wax and a couple of small ones for vents.  The entire thing was placed into a burn-out oven for a couple of days, where all the wax was evaporated, along with the snakes and a few plastic straws, etc.

While that was still hot, the bronze was melted into a crucible, and some heat-suit wearing art students working on the semester’s projects poured it into the waiting molds, while others stood by with shovels and gloves.  The molds were placed in black foundry earth, a slightly sticky mix of sand, dirt, waste oil, and other stuff, if my memory serves me.

There was a problem.  A crack had appeared in the mold, and the molten liquid found it and widened it, and out the side of the mold appeared flames and smoke.  Rushing in with shovels, dirt was piled against the side and held in place with shovels, which turned red with the heat. As more bronze was poured in, more flowed out till George (the Instructor) said enough!

When it had cooled enough to open up, the cauldron had a large, irregular fan of bronze coming off the side, and several places wehre the bronze had not completely filled in the thinner areas, because it had cooled too qucily spreading into them.  Thus the round-edged gaps in the oceans visible in the photos.  The effect was unexpected, unplanned, but not unpleasant.

Then began the long process of cleaning up the cauldron.  The sprues had to be cut off, as well as the excess bronze that had leaked out.  A sawzall and angle-grinder did most of the work.  Hours and many blades, several grinding disks, then sand paper.  The result was a shiny, golden miracle.  Then the patina.

Rae read about, and experimented with, several types of patinas  (finishes) for the bronze.  For the Earth cauldron, she selected a fired milk/mud application.  The cauldron was taken to a friends farm, a pit dug, a fire mad, and the cauldron put into the coals.  dirt was mixed with milk and poured into the cauldron, and the pit, and the cauldron lowered into the hole and covered with more dirt, more milk.  Interesting smell.

The result is a deep brown with darker spots, and a semi-gloss finish.  So it remains to date.