Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lotus Zen Fountain - "How To"

Hello! How is everyone? I'm writing like many people will see this when I know it's probably only a small handful. What the heck!
Anyway, in a crazy stupor I entered my Lotus Zen fountain design into a local Sculptures exhibit and now I have to create it! Of course I've known about it for a few months, but it just seemed like there was so much time! It's due the 3rd week of June, so I finally decided to get to it this weekend.

Thought it might be fun to take pics and catalogue them here--so folks would get an idea of how I create a Lotus Zen fountain. Also, for me it's fun to see it come together so quickly! (Kind of like those "home renovation" TV shows when you see a whole house remodeled in 30 minutes)!

First I sketch out my design, trying to figure out exactly how to assemble all the pieces to make it work as a fountain. So, it's more than a sculptural piece of art, it's also functional and therefore much more complicated to make. How to house the pump? Where should the water spurt out of? Will it splash? How to attach petals so they won't crack? What shape should petals be, like a lotus or a water lily? What does the seed pod look like? The Lily pad? What shape should the bowl be? Glaze color? Which clay? These are all questions that I ask and answer myself during the sketching process. I'd like to add that I tried 2 test versions of the flower itself before I came to this design. The first 2 were darn ugly!

Next, I rolled out a slab for my lily pad leaf. (not shown). I cut out a paper template that I drew by hand and then used it to cut out a piece of clay for the slab. Sit leaf aside to dry a little bit.

Seed pod formation came next--hand built/sculpted and poked holes (not shown)...set aside to dry.

Lotus petals--cut out paper template from hand-drawn petal. Rolled out slabs of porcelain clay, cut them into smaller squares, then covered them up with plastic so they wouldn't dry out too quickly. Then, I trace around the paper template onto the clay and cut out one petal at a time. I then "pinch" the clay, compressing it evenly to thin it out (see picture). I grabbed Terry from his wood shop to take a picture for me!
I do this for each petal, then bend the bottom a bit so it can be attached there. Leave to dry a little bit so it will keep shape.

Then, I determined where the seed pod will sit on the leaf. (Note: real lotus flowers do not actually sit on the leaves, they have a very strong stem. But, my clay lotus needs good support underneath it, so I'm using the leaf!) Before attaching the seed pod, I cut a hole in the leaf--so that the plastic tube from the fountain can come up through the leaf and into the seed pod. Attach pod.

Next, after the petals are stiff yet still a little wet, I attach them to the leaf at the base of the seed pod. I use the biggest petals for the first row, then they are smaller as I go up. I got 2 rows done this weekend! I've covered it up securely so I can still work on it during the week. I hope to add 2 more rows, if possible.

Coming up: Throwing the base for the lily pad leaf and creating the bowl!


  1. Looks like you're having fun in the studio!!

  2. wonderful- thank you for sharing. it is always interesting to see how artists draw out and plan for their creations. sometimes i sketch ideas out in the strangest places and on the strangest pieces of random paper!
    Love your artistry and the results so far of your lotus fountain- please keep us posted!

  3. Please make more! I would love to have one at some point. :)

  4. This is fantastic! I have been thinking about making water features recently, and was concerned about the logistics of the pump. Thank you so much for sharing!