How to build and Sculpt a Custom Architectural Ceramic Fireplace Surround

Siempre Sonador

siempre Sonador

After second firing ready for high fire

After second firing ready for high fire

I recently completed a custom architectural ceramic fireplace surround ( title “SIEMPRE SONADOR”. Above is a picture of it prior to installation.
I will be giving a basic description of the process here in this blog.
First I met with the clients to determine their personal style and get an overview of the project and its layout. This is an important step as it is necessary for the 2 parties to decide if they can work together.  I really love old architecture and figurative movement and use it whenever possible and I was happy that my ideas for the fireplace went well in the home and space.

Fireplace surround


The fireplace would be built for an old 1900’s period style home and would be the center of attention in the dining room area.  The family is the owners of the Elk lake bed and Breakfast in Victoria BC  Canada and take an immense amount of pride in their home and business.

I did an initial drawing of my concept and ideas, as well as a materials list and quote.  From my drawings I set out to sculpt the parts of the fireplace that would take the longest and would need to be ‘repeated’ or molded for consistency in the design.

Sculpted figure for right side on canvas

Sculpted figure for right side of fireplace

I sculpted relief on gessoed canvas out of paperclay let dry and painted on the rubber molding compound. I let it dry between thin layers building up over several days to a week depending on how thick I wanted my moldFor some of the relief tile I used the upholstery on the back of the chairs to match the design elements.

Upholstery design from dining room chairs
Upholstery design from dining room chairs
Completed sculpture design from upholstery

Completed sculpture design from upholstery

Once I had completed the basic designs I needed a reoccuring theme within the design itself. I chose the iris for its meaning and beauty.

Plus I needed added dimension for a more sculptural and aesthetic appeal. I knew The focal point would be the keystone tile which would be an  original one of a kind sculpted figurative relief to match the left and right figures. Here are pictures of the sculpting of the keystone and iris’s.

sculpting figurative tile

sculpting figurative tile

Sculpted low Iris Relief tile

Sculpted low Iris Relief tile

Handsculpted Iris tiles

Handsculpted Iris tiles

left side figure- finished and painted
left side figure- finished and painted
Right side original sculpture before molding

Right side original sculpture before molding

Sculpted keystone tile drying
Sculpted keystone tile drying

The sculptures were placed on a sheet of drywall and left to dry  – the corners were weighted and dried slowly by covering with plastic.

Fireplace tiles cut to size allowing for clay shrinkage and set to dry on drywall

Fireplace tiles cut to size allowing for clay shrinkage and set to dry on drywallAfter second firing ready for high fire

The clay is a porcelain body and slow drying was necessary to avoid cracking or warping. Cracks that did appear were immediately filled with a mixture of the clay body, toilet paper and water (paperclay). Once the fireplace was bone dry it was bisque fired to cone 018, After it is cooled down and removed from the kiln it was submerged in water to test for cracks which were filled with the paperclay mixture.The fireplace was sanded and dried again. It was refired again to cone 018.

Here is a picture of the unpainted fireplace. Once the fireplace was dried again and sanded it was high fired to cone 4 we had to choose a color. After tooooo toooo many glaze tests the customers finally settled on a bronze patina highlighted with dark brown umber and cobalt green accents. Here is a picture of my signature on the back of the iris tile.

Pistrucci signature on back of iris

Pistrucci signature on back of iris

Artist residency internet link site etc.

Artist residency in Canada link here:

Here is a link to a list of Artist residency sites and information for artists interested in applying:

Considered one of the top 100 instructional artist sites is:  Here you can find a link to free downloadable Andrew loomis books if your interested.

For exceptional artist information and specifically marketing your artwork to galleries I suggest this site by Chris Campbell – artist / teacher and potter

a ‘ free to create for 11 months’ artist residency for 20-35 yr old – apply here:

‘Above all, it is a matter of loving art, not understanding it. ‘
Fernand Leger

Juried Art show – The process – Sidney Fine Arts

I recently submitted 3 pieces of Art to the Sidney fine art show in Sidney BC Canada. I am impressed and amazed at the organization and professionalism that was so evident in every aspect of its delivery. First of all because of the large number of artists that submit works for adjudication it was necessary to apply within a timeframe on a first come first serve basis. Artists dropped off artwork for adjudication on sept12th with the jurors viewing the work the 13th and 14th. We picked up our artwork on the 15th and to my utter surprise was emailed the next day (16th) with the results (accepted or not accepted). The Sidney Fine arts committee went above and beyond to deliver results so quickly to over 500 artists with over 1200 pieces of art adjudicated in that time period. What I am really excited about is the website and its informative structure. Not only does it cover necessary information but lets the artist know the complete process step by step. I did not know how artwork was juried but I was elated to find out about the entire process through the sidney fine arts website.  If you are thinking of submitting work I highly recommend artists compete in juried art shows. They force you to go further with your art than you would of thought possible regardless of the outcome of the results.

Adjudication for the 2010 Sidney Fine Art Show is now complete. On Sunday, September 12th all the entered work was received at the Mary Winspear Centre, and set up in numerical order for the following two days of jurying.

Brent LJean PAndy WOn the Monday, our three Jurors, returning juror Brent Lynch, Jean Pederson and Andy Wooldridge each individually looked at every piece and scored it on a 1- 5 scale, based on excellence, creativity, originality and technical achievement with an emphasis on artistic accomplishment. During the day, the individual scores were entered into our trusty computer.
ComputerAt the end of the day scores were totaled and ranked by overall score and variation in scores. This gave a clear view of what was definitely to be accepted or not accepted, with a small number of pieces to be reviewed again.
Jurors1Jurors2On the next day, the jurors as a group reviewed that small number of pieces to make their final selection. After that, they reviewed potential prize candidates and decided on the prizewinners. Then, on Wednesday, all the artwork was picked up by the artists.

Our jurors were stimulated by the quality and diversity of the work, and, to quote Andy Wooldridge, “gobsmacked” by the organization of the adjudication process.

In total, 512 artists submitted over 1,200 pieces of art, and the jurors selected the best 388 pieces, representing the work of 246 artists, for the Show.

Members of the Show committee will be meeting on Thursday, September 16th to do a final review of the results and check the information that will be contained in the accepted artists’ packages. After that meeting, on the same day, we will be sending email notifications to all artists who indicated their willingness to be notified in that way – which is almost all of them. The notification will advise artists either i) that one or more of their pieces was accepted or ii) that none of their pieces were accepted.

Recent Art Activity

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Here are some pictures of recent work:

  1. An acrylic painting ‘Carried Away’ 11″ x 14″ on board
    ‘Carried Away’ Remember the day we laughed in our embrace? We lived with every moment and loved with our whole hearts. We sang from our souls , we played everyday
    You carried me away…
  2. A 3d figurative sculpture with relief titled ‘king of arts’ – a story of a boy puppeteer ‘the king’  a painter and poet(writer) the queen -a dancer and a joker- musician. A handbuilt sculpture incorporating all the arts: performance (music and dance), literary, visual.
  3. Vase – 22″ handbuilt with figurative relief sculpture in porcelain
  4. Vase-20″ handbuilt with figurative releif  for the Havanese Fanciers of Canada dog show held end of oct 2010 

My poem ‘Flora’s Daughter’ written for a painting of my daughter Bethany for the Art in Bloom exhibition at the Victoria Art Gallery and Museum has been selected as a finalist in the poetry competition held by the Poetry Institute of Canada. The poem will be published in a book titled ‘Island Mists’ an anthology of verse (National Library of Canada, Ottawa ISBN 978-1-926774-02-2).

My artwork has also been selected by the jury of the Sidney Fine Art show to be exhibited with the other amazing artists in BC October 15 – 17th at the Mary Winspear Center.

I work in painting, sculpture and drawing and I firmly believe artists should be versatile in a variety of artforms. 3d and 2d are synergistic in the training of an artist and both mediums are important to our growth and progress as an artist. Currently I am working on sculptured vases, a sketchbook project (handbound with acrylic painted hardcover), a figurative oil painting and a china painted handsculpted teapot with cups and saucers. pics to follow once I get some new batteries for my camera.

Here is a site I just found
My next challenge will be to submit to either Oil painters of America, ARC and/or  greenhouse gallery Salon International this year.
ARC prospectus – deadline dec20. 2010
Greenhouse gallery Salon International deadline jan21 2011

My most recent poem:     
The Wisest Words
The wisest words that were ever told
are not from cry or plea
shouted above the crowd
nor spoke on bended knee
The loudest or the softest breath
will not its matter make
In the still of silence is where the wisest words take place
Tis not heard at all
For in the quiet of our thoughts
God’s understanding falls
listen to hear his call