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The Red Bull


I remember the day my good friend and neighbor, Kay C. approached me and asked me if I could make her husband something for his birthday. I was in the garage working on something, and she came up and we started talking and she said she really liked my work and if I could make Steve one of my animals. I wasn't sure she was serious. Kay has amazing taste in art and home decor. Her house is a gallery, each room decorated with a unique theme. She was asking me and my work to join her "gallery". I said, of course, I'd love to sculpt something for Steve. What do you have in mind? She said she was not really sure, and I said do you think he has a spirit animal? She said, I'm not really sure, but would find out!

So, she asked a couple of Steve's friends, and they said his spirit animal is the bull. I said that's really cool, and was getting excited and said I've been thinking about making a bull lately. I asked if she had anything in mind, and she said she would love a red shorthorn bull. I asked, what the heck is a red shorthorn bull? She let me know she grew up on a farm, and they raised shorthorn cattle, and the red ones were her favorite. I had no clue what a shorthorn was, so she sent me a pic.

Red Shorthorn Bull

That's not exactly what I envisioned, lol, but I really loved the colors, and the deep reds, and wanted to create a portrait of this red shorthorn bull that brought back memories and emotions to Kay and the meaning behind Steve's spirit animal made it even more special.


At the same time Kay approached me, I was in the beginnings of moving my studio from my house, into a church that lost its practice, due to the pandemic. As sad as that seems, it was a gift for me, and I took over the nursery of the church, tripling my home space. I was beside myself. One of the visions of my work is to work larger. For me, I'm limited by growth by the size of my studio, something I've realized over the years. My first creation in the studio would be the red bull.

I began by sketching out the bull's portrait to try to plan ahead, especially to make sure it could fit in the kiln. Eventually, I would end up taking the kiln apart, placing the ceramic portrait on the lowest support, and then restacking the fire brick layers. I liked a big space to work in because a sculpture is going to be viewed not only up close, but from afar, and having a space I can walk around, varying distances will change the dynamics of a sculpture. I wanted the bull to pull you in. Below is the modeling process prior to firing and the final ceramic sculpture.




Once I completed the Red Bull, we had a good ways to go before he could see it. So, for the longest time, I think a few weeks and some, she hid it in plain sight in their entrance, on a pedestal, under a red windbreaker. She's a hoot, so I didn't question it at all and when his birthday came up, it was the biggest surprise in the world. She invited me to the party, me not knowing he hadn't seen it for months, and she unveiled the sculpture under the red windbreaker, introducing me to all her good friends. That's a memory I'll never forget and will cherish.❤️ I appreciate everything Kay's done for me and this commission is a favorite, for sure. She let me have total artistic license and it was an amazing experience working with her, collaborating with her, and knowing she trusted me. Love ya, Kay!

Below is the finished sculpture. The red underglazes I applied were of three different hues and turned out to be a beautiful deep red. I fired it twice, once for the bisque fire, and a final mid fire which brought it to the clay's mature state. The underglazes at this state turn a deeper red and I really like the way they react to the Cone 5 heat. To accentuate the texture and movement of the sculpture, I use a black underglaze wash. The horns were a little bit of a challenge, just because I wasn't sure they would dry properly without cracking. But the challenge was accepted and they came out exactly how I envisioned them. Overall, this turned out to be a sculpture I'm really proud of.

Unfortunately for me, the church was sold for residential plots and I was only a renter for 3 months. I have moved back into a new room in our house, that is now my home studio, and it's a beautiful one. and I will be able to work on large sculptures once again, with my newest studio. I hope you enjoy this story and the process and continue to follow me. Much love.❤️🌻

Matt











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