Samuel Joseph May (September 12, 1797-July 1, 1871)
Samuel Joseph May was a Unitarian abolitionist minister in the 1800’s. Over the years I’ve been collecting stories of friendship throughout history and was very moved by May’s friendship with the revolutionary abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison; a friendship marked with affection and longevity (the true sign of friendship according to the medieval age). Theirs is a relationship founded in part to help others, to come up against the powers of slavery that had been holding our country fast. (The article I read is by Donald Yacovone: “Abolitionists and the “Language of Fraternal Love”, from Meanings for Manhood, Construction of Masculinity in Victorian America).
Last summer I began working on three pate de verre figures, each representative of a different friendship in history; I decided to take this abolitionist minister as one of my subjects. Now complete I am working on a shadow box type construction that he will be a part of. Keep your eyes peeled here as to where and how he’ll show up. Below shows you a bit of my process in his creation.
Working on the original image in clay, his head and body were built in two parts. I had my buddy the artist Dan Callis pose for me to give me the position of the figure that I needed.
Here is the clay version of Samuel May when completed. I liked the light falling in our hallway at the University, so decided to shoot an image of the clay piece there. I wanted May's palms up which was a bit tricky to do since technically I couldn't have any undercuts and needed the back of his hands to be flush with his legs.
I have at this point made a mold of the clay pieces, removed the clay original, cleaned the mold, and have packed glass into the molds. Here Samuel May as well as another figure (Cardinal Newman) are being cast in glass. The glass has gone through an initial drying phase and I've opened up the kiln to add talc into the vessels so the sculptures can go through their final fusing stage.
Here the Samuel May figure is complete and the head and body are now attached. The grainy quality of the sculpture is due to the glass being in sand like form (called frit) that I pack into the mold.
Because I have to make the parts in vessel like form interesting things happen like the "crown like" look for the head of the figure. What I enjoy about pate de verre is that it's full of surprises. You can see the contrast of the final figure from the original clay image, and although getting detail is sometimes a little risky, I like how the work seems to take on an ancient and timeless quality. Much like friendship eh?