A Walk in Pisgah

My boot has emerged from the kiln with one day to spare. This is my 55th shoe casting. Since it was both a personal piece and for the upcoming exhibit in Waynesville, NC, I decided to do things a bit differently. Why not? What could go wrong?

My first mistake – Telling everyone what I was planning to do. I even took a picture of the boot before pouring the plaster. Now I’m accountable.

It did not come out as expected. In fact, the mold broke. Over 54 shoes, not one mold has broken! It may have been damaged removing the boot, or it could be because it was thicker than normal to carve the leaves into the boot. Or a combination of the two. Fortunately, the upper was in tact, just had a very large gap in the back. Fixable.

My second mistake – adjusting the schedule and then not listening to my gut. I told myself before opening the kiln, just fire it a second time. But no, I opened the kiln, I cleaned off the support material and then, what did I do? I TRIED TO PICK IT UP!

If you know me, a few choice words came out, mostly mad at myself. And I stood there with the upper in my hand and the sole on the kiln shelf, surrounded by supporting material.

But like my boot which has worked in the studio for hours on end, hiked in Vermont and North Carolina, worked in muddy garden messes and even plunged into unexpected sinking sopping wet mud, I persevered.

Because of the materials I use, I was forced to clean out the boot, dry the boot and reattach the parts. This is when the sole broke. And I realized, I had heard the worst sound any glass artist can hear in the studio, PING. I heard the PING when it was trying, but I never saw a crack. I carried the sole without it breaking from the bench to the desk. I thought I was just hearing things. Guess not.

So, here goes the next part of doing something new – I built the sole onto a platform to support it, attached the upper carefully not to combine unwanted material with the glass, and put it in the kiln. This time I took no chances with underfiring, and let the kiln do its job for 26 hours.

Is the boot what I envisioned? Not exactly. With the extra firing, some of the details were lost, it changed a bit in shape, and didn’t fit as tightly onto the mud base I made. But, I kept going, I didn’t toss it in the recycle bin or pulverize it to become another project.

Today I delivered the boot. And it received compliments. My favorite compliment of all, “It’s all glass?” Yes. It’s all glass, plus a lot of determination and a few choice words.

I’m not finished making shoes. The future shoes will also have stories to tell. You can keep up with my future work, and keep tabs on the exhibit through my website, www.dorisettles.com or on Instagram, @funkydoriart. Thank you for walking this mile-long journey with me.

-Dori Settles

February 2023

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