Migration: A Southeast Alaska Style Snow Goose

I have been doing quite a bit of work in the style of southeastern Alaska art. I was recently asked to create a migrating snow goose. I want to detail how it was created, and how you can create your own similar work.

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The first step in creating anything in the southeastern Alaska style is to create (or use a copyright free image) to work from. Using a copier, resize the image to how large you want the piece to be (allowing for shrinking). You will need several copies of the image. One will be used as the guide, and the others will be used as described below.

You will notice that the style consists of the outline with many stylized decorative bits. The key to producing southeastern Alaskan style art is to use a craft knife to cut out the outline of your image. If you want the piece to be flat, you can dry it flat. If you want it domed, you can dry it on a domed shape. I used a tap light.

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Carefully study your image. You will see that the decorative parts stack. Carefully choose the ones that go atop the outline. Using a craft knife, cut there pieces, one at a time, from your image. Roll out a thin layer of metal clay (thickness depends on how you like to work — thinner is harder to work with, thicker makes the piece heavier and takes more clay). One at a time, cut the decorative pieces out and, using the original image as a guide, place the pieces. I said you will need several copies; as you cut out more and more pieces, your original will start to fall apart, and you will need to shift to a different copy.

With the first pieces added, it looked like this:

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Some parts can be done with rolled roped of clay (the neck). Some parts can be done with syringe (the feet). Others will need a clay shaper to get them to be just the right shape. Now other layers can be added. At each stage, keep looking at your original. Keep cutting out pieces as you need them, until you have the entire piece in greeenware.

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Like any greenware piece of metal clay, it will need considerable refining. With a piece this detailed, refining can take a long time. Be patient.

To make an asymmetric piece hang evenly, place a triangular hidden bail on the back, with the wide end toward the top.

Firing, tumbling, and applying patina is like any metal clay project — although bulky pieces like this should not be fired with smaller pieces. Smaller pieces might fail to sinter, if mixed with heavier pieces like this.

The finished work looks like this:

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While you are certainly free to make your own goose, one should not be limited to animal styles. Traditionally, Alaskan art is limited to people and animals. However, if you choose to use the style to make something else, no one is going to stop you ;-). Be creative!

I hope I can encourage you to try creating art in the southeast Alaskan style. It takes care but, if one is cautious, it is not as difficult as it might look!

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