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Bruce Howdle's Wall Murals
The artist explains how they are done.

Bruce Howdle makes sculpture and sculptural vases, but is perhaps best known for his large-scale tile murals. His numerous public commissions include the Puskin Museum, Moscow, Russia and the Latvia Art Museum, Riga, Latvia in 1991, the National Jockey Club, Cicero, Illinois in 1995, John Deere & Co., Davenport, Iowa in 2001 and TDS Metrocom/Wall Properties, Madison, Wisconsin in 2003.


Step 1

The plywood is painted so it will not absorb water from the clay. It is constructed at a six degree slant or greater, so clay does not fall forward when working on the surface. The size of the easel must be 13.6% larger than the finsihed size to allow for the shrinkage of the clay from the wet stage to installation.

Step 2

Lath or 1"x2" strips of wood screwed every two feet over the burlap which is stapled to the plywood. It is sprayed with water to help the clay stick to the texture of the cloth and wood. The burlap keeps the clay from sliding and the wood strips hold the clay on the easel.

Step 3

Clay is applied aggressively to the easel, so it makes contact with the burlap and wood strips.

Step 4

60 feet of clay to groom ready for sculpting.

Step 5

Clay is covered with plastic to maintain moisture.

Step 6

Open area to work, balance stays covered to maintain moisture. This is a section of the Menasha City Hall mural.

Step 7

Sculpting in open area. This is a section of the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge mural.

Step 8

Another section of the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge mural, note the 2" x 6" support for the nose of the elk.

Step 9

This image was taken after seven days of sculpting. Client viewed later and recommended some changes. The top four feet were added after is was cut down, hollowed out and resculpted on a receiving easel.

Step 10

This photo was shot on the sixth day. The seventh day the mural was cut on contour, each piece was removed from the easel, numbered, and laid in order on the floor. The easel was taken down from the wall and laid on the floor, for the mural to be resculpted on.

Step 11

Cutting and removing pieces from the easel. The clay sections are numbered on their right side. Each piece is inventoried on a clear plastic sheet over the original drawing with the number that was scribed on the right side.

Step 12

Each piece was taken to a table placed face down on foam to be hollowed out.

Step 13

After each piece was hollowed out it is returned to its original location on the rebuilt concave easel, which is now located on the floor. The concave easel is built to match installation wall.

Step 14

Hollowed mural resculpted on unaltered easel. Note the boxes in the background that hold the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge mural ready for installation.

Step 15

For the Sportsman's Park mural a form was used to create a 90 degree dove tail corner. Clay was added to alternating pieces to create an interlocking corner.

Step 16

Each piece is numbered on the top edge, and printed on a photo showing its location in the mural. After each piece is numbered and cataloged it is taken to the kiln and readied for firing.

Step 17

The kiln is fired to 2250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 18

Pieces are unloaded from kiln, organized, and returned to the studio floor.

Step 19

The mural is boxed in sequence for installation.

Step 20

The pieces are boxed, and protected by strips and columns of cardboard.

Step 21

The numbers of the pieces are written on the box as well as in a note pad, so if a piece is needed in advance, we know where to look.

Step 22

The boxes are placed in order in the truck so the first pieces of the mural can be readied for installation.

Step 23

Boxes are organized at the site in order of need.

Step 24

In this photo the mural is being laid up like stone or brick, but every piece has its location. Other murals have been glued on panels and hung on a modular system. Some have been glued individually and grouted with or without mortar, and other jointed with dynamic caulk.

Be sure to check out Bruce's wall mural gallery: http://www.brucehowdle.com/pages/gallery.html. Images and text courtesy the artist. © Bruce Howdle.

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