Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Muddy Monday: Clinky Classic

This month's Muddy Monday posts have been all about exhibiting ceramic horses in competitions, and today, I will talk about my show. Out of the dozens of North American Model Horse Shows Association-sanctioned competitions hosted around the country each year, only a handful are ceramic specialty shows. This means that most, if not all, entries at the show must be a kiln-fired product, in whole or part. One KY show includes cold cast porcelains in the entries, as they contain porcelain powder in their resin mix, and they are produced by the show's main sponsor. For the most part, a ceramic specialty show has a focus on fired, glazed horse art. By virtue of the collectors it attracts, the gathering creates a safe, yet social "cocoon" environment for handling and sharing these fragile artworks, in person. The public, as in unregistered or unbadged persons, are not allowed at these events.

I host one ceramic specialty show, known as "Clinky Classic". Instead of being an annual show, it is held every two to four years. The first one was hosted in Louisville, KY by Anna Tackett, in 2004. She asked me to provide a fleshed-out classlist that would suit the ceramics produced at that time, taking into consideration the many artist runs and the paucity of certain manufactured breeds. Back then, NAMHSA required a core classlist, specific breed classes that had to be included in the show. This worked well for general shows with other makes of models, but in a ceramic show, some classes were empty because few or none had been made, yet! I also designed the trophy and medallion awards for that show, the first time I had sculpted matching awards in this manner. 

All the medallions for the very first Clinky Classic.
The show has grown to award even more!

The show graphic was adapted from the medallion and created by Heather Malone. As time passed, Anna became less involved in the hobby, and allowed me to become the show's new hostess. NAMHSA eventually dropped the core classlist requirement, which freed the show to focus on what was actually in collector hands at the time. The numbers of entries per class, and the class splits/additions that judges needed to make on the fly, dictate what the next show's classlist will be. Thus, the show evolves as the collecting world grows and trends change. I continue Anna's traditional flat ribbon color choices, to this day, in honor of what she started for our hobby. I also create a brand new design graphic each year, along with matching trophy and medallion sculpts.

Left to right: 2004, 2006, 2008, 2012 medallion designs

The tremendous effort and time required to produce the basic awards for the show is the main reason why Clinky Classic is held so infrequently. Other reasons, like real life getting in the way, and changes in hall availability, have contributed to this schedule. The next Clinky is scheduled for November 1st and 2nd 2014. By Fall 2013, preparation had already begun.

2014 show logo.
Each show logo has the theme horse superimposed on a 14-point star.

The 2014 show theme is the Renaissance, and the horse breed chosen for the awards is the Spanish Norman. This breed is a modern recreation of the historic war horse, a horse used for heavy armor combat and games. 

Original unbaked Super Sculpey medallion.

To make production ceramic molds, the medallion image side gets the first pour of plaster. It is later removed with compressed air, to preserve the sculpt. If the medallion remains undamaged from molding, I can pour more plaster halves on it. This cuts out the trouble of making a rubber positive for molding. I got six pours off of the raw Sculpey original. I use raw Sculpey for two good reasons: raw has more flexibility and pops out of the plaster pours easily; sculpey releases toxic fumes while baking, which adhere to the insides of your oven and home or studio, so I never bake it. It is only inert when kept at room temp.

Each now-empty plaster half gets filled with wet earthenware clay, in which I inscribe the copyright notice. This is now the exposed backside or verso of the medallion. I try to use the same clay fill each time, so the signature looks the same from casting to casting. This time, I had to make two fills with signatures. 

On each plaster, I carved "buttons" to key the new half to the first. Next, I add a tube of clay for the pourhole and wall up the plaster to pour the second half.

When I remove the clay tubes and start to peel the cardboard walls off, the molds look like this.

These are the first Breed Champion and reserve medallion tests for 2014. The Clinky Classic glaze color breakdown is as follows:

Blue: Breed champion

Peach: Breed reserve champion

Harlequin Blue field, Peach horse: Gender champion

Peach field, Blue horse: Gender reserve

Purple: Collectibility or Workmanship champion

Green: Collectibility or Workmanship reserve

Maroon: Performance champion

Salmon: Performance reserve

When judges do callbacks for the Overall of each main division, only horses that have won at least one medallion may return to the ring. Medallions from the fun "challenge" classes are not considered for the overall judging. Each Overall champion and reserve gets a ceramic trophy horse. The 2014 trophy model sculpt was finished in November of 2013. This is well ahead of schedule, as for most years, I sculpt the trophy model only 5 or 6 months ahead of the show. Unlike most trophy models, he is full trad size. In previous years, Clinky trophies were large mini and up to classic adult size. This year, I am pulling out all the stops with a HUGE trophy model.

This is a portrait of "Star Of Orion", 2007 Spanish Norman high point winner.

Because this show caters to the tastes of ceramic collectors, I provide ceramic trophies in the official award colors for the factory-finished models. As with the medallions, Breed gets blue and peach glaze, and Collectability/Workmanship gets purple and green. People who collect factory tend to want glazed items. The vibrant art glazes make them suitable as home decor, not just models. 

The 2012 Clinky theme was the ancient Chinese Emperor's Dancing Horse, and the trophies even got sashes and wine cups! 

The trophies were finished with the official show glazes, but applied in drippy sancai style, like Chinese ceramics.

However, the Custom Glaze Breed division gets a special treat, just for their fancy; CMG Breed Champion and Reserve trophies are undecorated bisque. This means they can send the bisque to their favorite glazer, and have a new custom show ceramic. Most shows provide rosettes or certificates to champions, but few shows these days actually award new show horses for the main divisions.

Lower right: carefully wrapped bisque trophies, on the Custom Glaze champion callbacks table.
This show truly attracts wonderful ceramic art!

A great deal of planning goes into the theme and awards for each Clinky, let alone the labor for creating the awards. In the past, ceramist Marge Para volunteered her time and slip to make half of the medallions for each Clinky show. This year, I am going to try and do it all myself! Normally, Marge and I also donate medallion sculpt and production labor to the Kentucky show, Breakables at BreyerFest, but since I have taken this year off from Breakables duty, I can do more for my own show.

In addition to the regular classes, this show makes room for challenge classes. These are opportunities for ceramic artists and manufacturers to provide awards for the best of their own product in showcase classes. Unlike shows that are funded by auction and raffle donations, CC has evolved to turn every donation into award opportunities with no further demand for money from the entrants. Cash donations are put directly into buying more satin ribbons. Ceramic item donations are assigned to their appropriate challenges or Collectibility classes. 

This CMG "Farewell" foal was donated to CC3 by Laurilyn Burson and Joan Berkwitz.
It was the prize for the first place in the Made With Love challenge.

Judges are very carefully selected for each division. I am even picky about standby judges, and try to assign them to their strengths. This year, I would like to bring in some highly-qualified exhibitors taking on the role of judge, and "import" judges from distant parts of this country. This show offers one of, if not the most, competitive model horse judge compensation packages in this country.

Clinky Classic offers optional catered meals from local small businesses, and several fast food places are nearby. The ordering, pick up, buffet set up, and clean up are all done by my dauntless husband, Paul Francis. He usually enlists an exhibitor's husband or two to help him, as it is a big job. Without his efforts, the show would not be able to keep such a comfortable pace and happy exhibitors.

At this time of year, I am ironing out class list changes and adding a new Overglazed Custom division to the show. I am about to make the ceramic mold for the trophies, which will take me three to five 12-hour days. Soon, I will submit all my materials for NAMHSA membership and then open for entries. Until then, you can follow the show prep progress on the Clinky Classic Facebook page. This where I preview photos of the awards and donations to challenge classes. You can view all the results photos from the 2012 show at that link, under Albums.

One important thing I have learned from hosting this show is that my job during show weekend is primarily about results. I can do a bit of light judging, but mostly I need to be available for questions, introducing people, and taking results photographs. For a specialty show like this, it can't be emphasized enough: someone needs to take photos. My weekend job ends on Monday night, after I have submitted the first round of text show results to the exhibitors for proofreading. After about a week or two, I submit the final draft to NAMHSA, for their official records. This last step is necessary to activate all the cards that were won that weekend. The entire show process, when you produce all the awards yourself, takes a full year. I do it, again and again, because it is just so darn much fun.

If you would like to enter a ceramic show, or host your own, I am happy to answer any questions you may have. 

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