Thursday, June 2, 2011

Art Final Exam Project

A couple weeks ago, we were given a theme in our art class.  Egg.  We were to interpret it how we wanted; Easter themes were forbidden, but other than that there weren't really many guidelines.  I went through a myriad of ideas...reproduction, zygote; then, thinking about the shape of an egg, grain of wheat, boat; then, being the Dali fan that I am, I thought of his "Geopolitical Child" and the egg-world with the new-born man breaking out of North America... I sketched a completely broken egg-world with golden liquid pooling out.  Ideas just further developed from there.  Anyway, we were told to submit a sketch, knowing that we would later have to recreate it out of chocolate.

In-class sketches

 When I'm given a project, I become absolutely obsessed--my life becomes my brainstorm in everything I do.  Anyway, I had pretty much decided on my broken-world egg idea, and had made so many sketches until I found one I was happy with.

When all of the sudden, while watching an episode of The Tudors, I saw an armillary sphere in the background of the King's office.  It had several rotating orbs inside of it, and I thought to myself oh my gosh, those orbs could be EGGS!  So, not knowing that the structure was actually called an armillary sphere at that point, I looked up "astrolabe" because I thought it might be that, but no.  Anyway, after a bit of research, I found the armillary sphere and read all about it.  I really fell in love with the idea, especially since it is such a symbol of knowledge and learning, and the idea of having an egg inside to replace the sun/Earth was really beautiful to me.  So, the new sketches began...

I knew it would probably be really difficult to make, so I took my sketch to several pastry/chocolate chefs to ask their opinion about the feasibility of such an idea.  After hearing from all of them that "it is possible," which was all I needed to know (I kind of ignored the warnings of the high level of technique involved).  I wanted a challenge.  How are people supposed to learn well if we don't challenge ourselves?  I could have easily chosen  a simple topic and executed it perfectly, but that's no fun.  Succeeding in the face of a challenge is like an epic hunt for that elusive and perfect kill.

My art professor/chef OK'd my idea but not without marked warnings about the difficulty.  But the fact that he didn't flat out refuse my idea (which he did with other students), told me that it could work out in the end.  We had to adjust our sketches to be to-scale and life sized, specifying the sizes of chocolate molds, and so on.

We were to be given one day to prepare everything (crystallize the chocolate, and mold all the pieces), and then a day to assemble and finish it.  The preparation day went terribly.  I kept trying different ideas for forming the rings, but it was always too fragile in the end and would snap apart--there was no way I could possibly build a structure out of rings that brittle.  It was such a struggle and I was getting so frustrated and upset (once we got the OK from our art teacher, we couldn't change our idea; plus, the final grade would be based on how alike the final product was to the sketch).  Anyway, I left class Friday completely disillusioned and defeated.  I had only made the ball for the base, one platform for the base, and the egg.  I would have to somehow create all 4 rings, an arrow, the rest of the base platforms, and assemble the piece all in four and a half hours.

All weekend long, I was freaking out.  But Monday night I calmed myself, and sat down and came up with a game plan.  I would NOT walk into lab on Tuesday with my tail between my legs (chef had been very disappointed on Friday), I would not be unprepared or embarrassed that my idea may have been too over-ambitious, and, above all, I would NOT have my idea fail.  I wrote down every step of everything I needed to do, IN detail.  Time management is extremely important.  I can't let myself be lost for the next step.

I remembered an idea that chef had proposed on Friday--instead of making really thin rings that are the same diameter, I could try to make thicker rings that fit inside one another (20cm, 18cm, 16cm, 14cm).   Of course, it would differ greatly from the overall concept, and from an actual armillary sphere, but there was really no other option, and it would still look really nice if it worked.  I searched my apartment high and low for things I could use as chocolate molds for the arrow.  Chef had told me I should just carve it, but I knew I had no time for that.  But, thanks to the fact that for some reason I never throw away boxes or wrapping that things come in, I found the flexible plastic packaging that my curtain rod came in.  I cut it out, rolled it on itself, and taped it up.  Perfect arrow stem and tail.  Voila!  Then I found some plastic disposable champagne glasses, and the bottom of the glass made a nice point--I would try to make that work for the arrow head.

I walked in Tuesday with confidence only to hear a disenchanting pep-talk from Pascal Niau (our famous MOF art professor) about how he was afraid that some people may have chosen subjects that were too difficult for their level of expertise.  My chef looked me hard in the eye as Niau was saying this.  But I knew I was going to do it.  I just smiled.

I started by crystallizing the leftover chocolate from prep-day, but it just would not come to the right point.  I had to just put it aside and wait for fresh chocolate to melt.  BAM. 30 minutes gone.

I took the melted chocolate, and, while telling myself over and over that I love the chocolate, and trying hard to squelch every ounce of anxiety, I brought it right to point.  So, I molded the arrow, the champagne glass, and then the rings.  And this time, when I un-molded the rings, they held firm.  A couple broke with a fine crease as I was removing the ring molds, but I stuck them back together and it wasn't a problem.  I felt very happy when I showed Chef how the rings were working and he looked relieved and impressed that it was actually coming together.  Niau came over to inspect things, and Chef accidentally broke one of my rings in half, and then exclaimed--SEE!  It's not strong enough! and I was holding back angry tears and Niau looked disappointed and only said I told you this subject was going to be very difficult... la pauvre.  But for some reason that only made me more determined.  Chef felt bad, and stuck it back together for me.  It was ok.

Next, I un-molded my arrow stem and tail, and it was perfect!  Anyway, fast-forward, and I was ready to start assembling.  Chef was proud of my work by that point (lots of hot and cold going on with everyone in the room--there were all 19 pastry students in the same room trying to do their very best work.  Lots of stress in the air), and he really helped a lot with making the base sturdy enough to hold the rings, and then again with the actual ring-assembly.  It was understood that we would have Wednesday to completely finish, but the grade would be given on Tuesday.  So, for grade time, I had everything done except the placement of the arrow and egg inside the rings.  He was very happy with my progress and told me (in French) that I had spunk and he appreciates someone who loves a challenge and can overcome it.  I got a very good grade, so I'm content.  Here's what I had at the end of that day:

So on Wednesday, I cleaned up the spheres, and affixed the arrow, then sprayed airbrush chocolate onto it to smooth it out and make it look cleaner.  Then I stuck the egg to the arrow.  And voila--it was finally finished. Success!

Now I can really enjoy my 4 day weekend!  


  1. That is incredible. It takes my breath away.

  2. Thank you so, so much. It is definitely the proudest I have been in my work so far.

  3. This is so amazing ! you are so talented Jessica.

  4. Deserves an "A+" with some extra credit. That is amazing.