The steampunk mermaid that sculptor R. J. Murphy is creating for a client in Port Townsend will be jointed so it can move. What makes this novel idea even more novel is that he ís making it out of porcelain china, or what he calls “porcelain paper clay” to be precise.
In the old days, porcelain pieces had to be kept damp if you wanted to be able to add pieces and have them stick together when they were fired.
Modern technology has fortified the clay with added paper, making it possible to add new “wet” pieces to earlier pieces that have already dried. Put the item in a kiln; at 450 degrees. the paper burns away, then the porcelain is fired at 2,250 degrees.
Porcelain paper clay makes it easier to make larger pieces with lots of detail, like a seven foot-tall porcelain mermaid.
Murphy, whose work is on display at the Paisley Whale, 11264 NE State Hwy 104, Kingston, has his studio on Jefferson Point. He moved here four months ago from Orange City, California, to be closer to family and friends. “I’ve been thinking about it [the move] since the1980s,” Murphy said.
While he is largely self-taught, he has studied with other well-known ceramicists, such as Rosette Gault in Seattle with whom he has worked for the past eight years.
He explains all this while he adds new clay pieces to a life-sized mask of a beautiful woman that is part of a driftwood and clay mobile that he is working on at the entrance to the Paisley Whale.
“I call this piece ‘Reflections of Illusions,’” he said, turning the mask so that one can see that the inside of the face presents a different impression; reflects the woman’s innermost thoughts.
Besides being a working sculptor, Murphy offers workshops and classes.
See more of his work at www.rjmceramicdesigns.com.