Nightmare Teeth

April 1, 2009

Cast Porcelain Teeth

Cast Porcelain Teeth

As usual, the blog is about a month behind where I actually am in studio, so let’s start catching up a bit!  I guess it’s time to finally reveal something about the big spring project that I’ve been hinting at.  It’s about teeth!  Shocking, I know.  I’m working on a large scale sculpture/installation based on nightmares about teeth.  You know, that super common one everyone seems to have where all their teeth fall out in a number of gruesome ways.  Personally, mine are always slightly different.  Sometimes it starts with one wiggly tooth that you push back and forth with your tongue, sometimes it starts with a tough piece of toast.  Sometimes they fall out with little trouble, sometimes they crumble, and sometimes they pour out in a seemingly infinite wave.  Regardless of the means, the end result is always the same:  I’ve lost all my teeth and am completely mortified and horrified.

After researching a little about the supposed psychological origins of this dream (add to all this the fact that I grind  my teeth in my sleep as well) and discovering that it is THE most commonly shared dream among… well… humans, it occured to me that a sculptural response was necessary.  For whatever reason, the idea of a dreamcatcher for teeth popped into my head and has haunted me for about a year now.  Versions of what this “dreamcatcher” might look like, how it might function, where it might live have been floating around in my head for months.  I spent some time just researching teeth on their own (and the various diseases and viruses that plague them) and since have become completely fascinated by these bizarre bones/organs. 

From the beginning, I knew it would be porcelain, given the fact that the most accurate dentures are made of porcelain, as well as its permanence.  This idea of teeth as permanent (and yet we have to work so hard to keep them!) stuck in my head and what better means to signal this idea than the permanence of porcelain.  I also wanted them to be slipcast and therefore hollow.  This would make them incredibly fragile (and maybe even some in the sculpture would be broken open, revealing their instability as functional objects?), signaling our ideas about the perfection of teeth and what lenths we’ll go to in order to keep them perfect.  The rest I’m sort of making up as I go.  There have been thoughts about velvet gums, leather cord, and a big luxurious bed with a hand-sewn duvet cover… those are still up in the air.  In the meantime, I’ve begun working on the teeth themselves by creating some “miniature” versions for testing glazes, firing techniques and hanging/display techniques.  I call them “miniature” because they are smaller scale than what the final pieces will be (close to the size of your head?), but they are much larger than life size–about the size of the palm of my hand.

I made some teeth models just from my imagination and began the mold-making process

I made some teeth models just from my imagination and began the mold-making process--about to pour the 3rd part of a 4-part mold

A finished 4-part mold, that produces 2 teeth

A finished 4-part mold, that produces 2 teeth

Prepping the slip--probably one of my all-time favorite parts of the slip-casting process

Prepping the slip--probably one of my all-time favorite parts of the slip-casting process

Opening the mold after it's first cast

Opening the mold after its first cast

A pair of finished cast teeth, ready for the kiln

A pair of finished cast teeth, ready for the kiln

Part I:  Test Teeth Mold-Making!

Next time, Part II:  Casting, casting, casting!

Since I don’t have a title for this project yet, let’s just call it… Dreamcatcher for now…

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2 Responses to “Nightmare Teeth”


  1. I love your site! I have used teeth, real teeth and cast teeth in my work too (I have also had many dreams about losing teeth!)


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