once on 58 Norfolk St
New York City
~ I present ~
Lion block Nr 1265
Cast by Randall
Hand pressed kiln fired red terracotta, photos below show the just finished clay sculptures awaiting the kiln firing as soon as the clay is dry, the version on the right is a rubber cast from one of the wall plaque versions.
Finished pressing one of the lion blocks, backside view;
Shown below how the lion block may be used as bookends when purchased as a pair
The original design used for this came from 58 Norfolk Street in NYC, back around 1976 the building was abandoned and open to the elements, vandalised, stripped and awaiting eventual demolition. The original lion blocks were made of a pale yellow terracotta and originally installed in the facade on the six story building. They were installed on either side of the window openings on one floor I removed two or three of the ten with some difficulty.
The building was demolished sometime in the 1980s presumabably with the remaining seven lions blocks being destroyed.
58 Norfolk Street, NYC around 1975, the red arrow shows the hole in the wall I removed one of the original lion blocks from at the tender age of about 15, I had also removed those four bearded keystones on the lower floor after this photo was taken;
A little closer collage, unfortunately the original polaroid photo doesn't clean up much better for detail even with processing and enhancement;
Well, the officers got out and started to talk to me, best I can remember of this 1975 or so conversation is they asked me how come I ditched the bag of tools under the car as they dragged it out, I said something like I saw some kid down the block that gave me trouble before. Well the one officer was examining the little lion and standing in front of me turning it over in his hands and then he dropped it on my foot on purpose but pretended it was an accident (I knew better) it was pretty heavy, maybe 12# and it hurt but I covered it up pretty well. Then they looked up at the building and asked “who put all those holes in the wall up there?” I said I didn’t know, that I found the lion in the rubble of the vacant lot next door. Meanwhile the officer was still rolling the lion over in his hands looking at it and proclaming how heavy it was and dropped it on my foot a second time! He tried it a third time but I slid my foot out fast and it missed. After asking me for my name and where I lived, I remember telling them fake ones, and the only address I could think of was hilariously enough the address of the Ricardo’s apartment in the 1950s sitcom; “I Love Lucy” 623 East 68th street.
After a bit they shoved the lion into my arms and told me to go. I got on my bike and started peddling north towards home, but as I went a couple of blocks I could see they were following me from a block back to see where I was going, so instead of turning West around Houston St to get home by Washington Sq Park, I continued north on to at least 14th St with them still behind me, so I continued on North as though I really was going to 68th St but they soon turned off as they hit the boundary of their precinct, I never went back to the building after that. Sometime around 1979 or so the building was demolished and a high-rise apartment building erected on the site, the synagogue is still there however in this modern view courtesy of Google Street view;
This is an exciting development of expanding into this new line of top quality durable kiln fired terracotta. Each hand pressed cast must be carefully dried over about two-three weeks, and hand detailed just as they did in the 1890s, of course production is much slower, and the hand labor is considerably more than the interior cast stone is, this will be reflected in the terracotta line's price. A number of my other smaller models are planned to be introduced in this material as well.
Each of these terracotta sculptures are personally signed, numbered and dated works of art.
Please note that hand pressed terracotta is NOT the same as the much cheaper, paper-thin "slip castings" used to produce teapots, china plates, bowls and ceramic pieces! The two processes are similar only in that both use a complicated plaster mold, the difference between slip casting ceramics and hand-pressing clay is- the slip is simply poured into the mold like a plaster cast, let set a while, drained and removed just like a plaster cast.
Slip casting is a condensation process, with the clay particles condensing by gravity, slip castings are usually very weak, very thin, and easy to break, I personally don't like slip casts as they have a very "cheap" feel to me, after brifely exploring slip casting a while back I firmly decided against it for the much better hand pressing method used to create these types of architectural works over 100 years ago.
A word about so called "COMPOSITE TERRACOTTA" I am seeing on Ebay now, I have never heard of this stuff, but in listings I see NO mention of kiln firing, so one can assume the term: "MADE FROM A COMPOSITE TERRACOTTA" means it is a poured red colored concrete-like material, NOT genuine kiln fired terracotta- there's a huge difference!
Hand-pressed clay involves real work, physically taking the moist clay and both pressing and ramming small amounts of it into the plaster mold, pressing and working it in to remove air and squeeze the clay into all of the fine details. As the sculpture is built up to the top surface of the mold it is then levelled off on the back and hollowed out by hand, leaving the clay about 1/2 inch to one inch thick. Hand-pressed work is not a "condensation process", the clay is physically compressed into a very dense shell by physically ramming it, the walls are much thicker and as a result the sculpture is extremely dense, and high quality.
Once the pressed-clay has remained in the plaster mold used to form it for a few hours, it is carefully removed and laid on a wire rack to begin drying. Here is another difference- the pressed-clay sculptures are completely gone over with sculpture tools to add back any fine details, accent others, and generally clean up the whole surfaces, this is exactly the same processes used to create all of the architectural terracotta found on old buildings my work is based upon, the only difference between how these sculptures were made in 1890 and how I am making these pressed-clay sculptures is that in the 1890s to speed up production they introduced live steam under pressure to the open backs of the clay sculptures. I don't have access to large amounts of live steam unfortunately, so the drying out process must be slower to prevent cracking and warping.
The sculptures are fired in the kiln @ 2,060 degrees, otherwise known in the trade as "cone 1" with a slight offset, for about 26 hours.
Tests done on the clay this sculpture is made from using the standard two hour water boil test revealed that the absorption rate of this clay is only 3% which is excellent, most hard commercial bricks aim for a 5 to 6% water absorption to be considered suitable for building facades and garden walls exposed to the weather and rain, 3% puts my sculpture above grade in that regard for resistance to weather and rain.
Here is a picture taken circa 1900 showing workers in a terracotta factory hand pressing the clay into plaster molds, backbreaking hard work and paid by the piece not by the hour:
These are kiln fired.
Note that the terracotta is ONLY available in brick red and ONLY on a limited selection- the designs in the TERRACOTTA category, not to be confused with the red terracotta FINISH! which is on cast-stone only.
Prices include shipping and are shown on each sculpture on the CART PAGES.
I use FEDEX ground service for all shipments in the lower 48 states. I do not ship outside the USA.
If you are looking for something for the garden or to build into a wall, I offer a growing number of hand-pressed, kiln fired red terracotta works. for many reasons, concrete is no longer available.
All of my interior sculptures have a heavy wire embedded on the back to hang them on the wall.
These hand sculpted models are created from scratch by Randall in water based clay, and typically take an average of 20-30 hours to set up, layout and sculpt each master model.
When the clay master models are finished, they are permanently captured with silicone mold compounds which can pick up even a fingerprint and faithfully transfer it to a cast made in it. From the molds, interior cast-stone as well as a growing number of kiln fired terracotta sculptures are made available for clients to purchase.
Existing savaged pieces are limited to what happens to be for sale at high prices, often damaged, rarely found in pairs and being typically large in scale (meant to be seen from the street from 5 floors below) they are difficult to display in today's smaller homes and apartments. Instead of making molds of these pieces, Randall creates new original models based on authentic 19th century and early 20th century Victorian, Art Deco and Louis Sullivan style architectural sculptures. While I do have a small number of older designs directly molded from antique pieces, these are being phased out over time as I create my own original models.
By no means! keep in mind- your walls weigh thousands of pounds and support the roof. HOWEVER- do not use plastic or self adhesive picture hangars of any kind, or try to simply put a screw into the thin sheetrock-these will not hold, and are not designed to.
Install your mounting hooks or other hangars into the solid wood STUD inside the wall, these are spaced 16" apart. You should use an anchor rated to hold at least twice the shipping weight of the sculpture.
To show what a sheetrock wall can hold, here is a photo of two shelves I installed on my bedroom wall for original sculptures that I couldn't mount any other way, the brackets are screwed into the wall studs with 3" screws. The weight for the stone and terra-cotta shown-the top shelf; 175# and 125# for the lower shelf- 300# total.