Much like a potter works clay to create pots and other artworks, so does a brick sculptor work clay to create their artworks.
Unfired, or green, brick are soft and malleable. A perfect canvas for the artists on the following pages, who have sculpted one-of-a-kind brick creations for larger public and private architectural projects. The brick medium is surprisingly versatile and can be used to create just about anything the mind can imagine. Some came to sculpting from bricklaying, others were fine artists who found a new medium, all create masterpieces.
Symphony Road Townhouses were designed to blend into the architectural feel of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, with detailing that hearkens back to an earlier era.
The architect achieved this design intention with bas-relief clay pediments in an Art Nouveau and Greek Renaissance style above 16 windows. The developer was excited to have original art as architectural detail.
Brick clay was determined to be the best clay to use. After tutorials with the brick manufacture’s custom shapes technician, a paver-shape was selected and a hand-casting fabrication method that was similar to techniques used by ancient Babylonians for the creation of the brick sculptures of the Ishtar Gates.
Panels of 3” thick clay tiles were laid out for each of four pediment designs. Line drawings were transferred onto clay and carved or built up per the design. A plaster mold was made from each clay tile. Working with 50 buckets of wet brick clay, assistant Andy Cavatorta and I mimicked the technique learned from brickmakers, flinging wet brick clay the consistency of swamp mud into plaster molds. Each brick was carefully dried on wire racks, bubble wrapped, packed in boxes, and delivered for firing. Brick were then delivered to the building site, where each of 16 pediments was laid out on the basement floor, to be installed by the mason. 272 hand-cast brick make up the 16 pediments. Each sculpted brick was numbered, and corresponded to a paper template.
The developer wanted windowheads reminiscent of motifs that grace many older buildings in the city. Guidance about size, shape, color and expectation came from the architect. Design inspiration came from the neighborhood’s visual elements, as well as history of that area of Boston created by adding landfill to transform the bay area into buildable land. Pediments were to be placemakers for the neighborhood. Surrounds and soldier belt courses of ironspot brick are contrast to the sculptures and resembling neighboring brownstones. Images of positive, peaceful, prosperous symbolism are counterpoint to destruction of the original buildings on this site.
During installation, the mason understood that it was important to connect the design flows of the sculpture. As an experienced craftsman, he was able to focus on the flow of the sculpted lines, angles and planes. Mortar was tinted to match the brick for visual continuity.
35-41 Symphony Road
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Laticrete | Morin Brick Spaulding Brick
Symbol of Welcome at Alumni Hall
Nativity sculpture conversations began with the desired goal of this Catholic University to welcome all to campus in the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi. Saint Francis was the first to use the crèche to encourage devotion to baby Jesus and the Holy Family.
Once approved, design was overlaid with the brick pattern. To aid in initial sculpting, four thicknesses of green utility brick (115/8” long) were plotted on the brick pattern. When red clay greenware was available, wet brick was stacked, row by row, on a large easel covered with plastic. Different thick nesses (4″, 6″, 8″ and 12″) were stacked according to pattern and plan. The mural was erected with 1/4″ clay shims in between each brick at head joints and bed joints to indicate mortar joints. Mortar joints were minimized as they can not be carved. The mural was wrapped tight when not being worked on to maintain moisture. While being worked on, it was misted numerous times, as maintaining moisture content is critical until all sculpting has been accomplished. This process took about three months. Additional slips, clay-based stains, were brushed onto the surfaces of green brick to bring forth highlights of gold, buff and salmon.
Take down began after sculpting was complete. Starting at the top, each brick was numbered and lettered for its row and position in the row, carefully removed from the easel, taken to a work table where holes were drilled to open the clay body for firing purposes. They were air dried on racks for 10 to 14 days. Sculpted brick were then set on kiln cars and run through the tunnel kiln to achieve a medium red finish, complementary to the rest of the building’s veneer, a process that took about a week. Once fired, the sculpted brick were reorganized row by row, and set on the easel again to account for every brick, every measure and to make sure everything looked good. It was again taken down and carefully packaged on pallets with padded cardboard between every brick to protect delicate details during shipment.
At Marian University, I worked with skilled local mason craftsmen to install the 16′ x 16′ work, which took about two weeks. A journeyman mason myself, I consulted and worked alongside the masons laying the sculpted brick, lining up design elements, carefully and painstakingly tooling the mortar joints – some 16″ deep – flush to contours of the brick. ~ Jay Tschetter, Sculptor | Images in Brick imagesinbrick.com
Marian University, Indianapolis IN
FA Wilhelm Construction
Brick Sculptor Team
Images in Brick, Denton NE Sue Horn | Sten Eisentrager
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Literary Sense of Adventure
Life Is An Open Book
The theme of world literature immediately brought to mind books and the exciting world that opens up to children when they learn to read. A giant single book with children exploring it exhibited the sense of adventure desired for the sculpture. Once the design was approved by owner, architects and The Brick Association of the Carolinas (now part of BIA), commissioned this sculpture to commemorate Charlotte’s hosting of the AIA National Conference, the location was pinpointed in the sculpture pocket park, The Green, in uptown Charlotte NC. This connector park between historic city buildings and newer developments with a variety of active and passive design elements including sculptures in various mediums. A reinforced concrete footing, circular brick base and recessed lights were installed prior to sculpture’s completion atop a below-ground parking structure.
Book covers provide a wall surface making this essentially a high relief brick sculpture. 8″ and 12″ bed depth brick added dimension needed for the children. Unfired brick wrapped in plastic were delivered to my studio where the brick were stacked in a running bond using clay spacers to simulate mortar joints. When carving was complete, sandy white clay slip glaze was applied to book pages. Next each piece was taken down, numbered and returned to the brick company for firing. A redbodied brick was selected and flashed during firing.
I acted as consultant and tender, handing bricklayers the units in the order to be installed. Red-tinted mortar was used for children and book’s cover; buff mortar for glazed pages. The 3/8” joints tooled flush follow contours of the form. The book is comprised of two brick courses, one for the cover and one for pages and tied together. It actually forms a V-shaped wall. Interior void was grouted solid essentially making the sculpture a barrier wall. The book (wall) is capped using brick with 8″ and 12″ bed depth.
A sculptor of cast bronze, plaster and clay, I began sculpting in brick when a brick salesman friend introduced me to this art form. Immediately, I realized the durability, relative low cost and uniqueness of the medium is ideal for architectural enhancement, signage and public art projects. ~ Brad Spencer, Sculptor bradspencersculptor.com
Life is an Open Book at The Green
The Brick Industry Association
Wagner Murray Architects
McGee Brothers Masonry
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Forterra Brick | Holcim
Dedicated in 2002 to AIA National Convention Charlotte NC
DESIGNING A Hornets’ Nest
For a City Proud of its Connection and Rejuvenation
Hornets’ Nest commissioned by The Arts and Science Council in Charlotte NC is a sculptural component for the new Charlotte-Mechlinburg Police Department (CMPD) station’s facade in the Westover district. Stakeholders, from architects, Arts and Science Council, community and the CMPD informed the design.
The hornets’ nest is the symbol of the CMPD and the Charlotte Basketball team. The Westover community wanted the sculpture to convey a feeling of revitalization. Architect’s desire was that it complement the building and be structurally sound. Actual horn ets’ nest in cross section revealed modularity in circular fashion.
Solid green brick were manipulated in the clay state. Wetted units hit with hands, feet and branches created a highly textured surface. Community members were invited to workshops to personally alter one hundred brick for the top of the sculpture. Some units bent to echo circular movement of a hornets’ nest were used from ground-level courses to those about 7′ up. Above, porcelain and oxides added color to the red clay brick.As the sculpture progressed up the facade, more colored brick were included until two sides merged into the large section above the glazing where brick were nearly all colored and display a diagonal dynamism. Organic coursing naturally formed two oval hornets’ nests, which were left unglazed for emphasis.
Colored brick fired in a soda kiln shone after installation. This, coupled with their dynamic movement, expressed both feelings of hornets’ flight and rejuvenation of this community. Brick without added color fired in a gas kiln added earthy contrast.
Installed by Steven Stens and me after the building’s brick veneer was laid by the mason contractor, sculpted brick were tied to the backup wall with adjustable seismic anchors to allow push/pull motion and anchored traditionally though the brick were unique. Mortar mix of two parts masonry sand to one part cement was pigmented with brown mason stain.
Coordination with the construction team was required to ensure the work fit the space. The back of some sculpted brick had to be cut to fit around canopy fixtures. Scheduled installation ran smoothly. ~ Michael Morgan, Brickworksmichaelmorgan.net
Westover Police Station
Charlotte-Mecklinburg Police Department
Randolph & Son Builders
Brick Sculptor / Installer
Michael Morgan BRICKWORKS
The Belden Brick Co Diener Brick Hohmann & Barnard