Cloud Sculpting

There is no such things as "too deadly" for daring artists

"Say, what are those ?"   The boy kept on asking and asking aimless questions. Allniol was against bringing him along, but he was the relative of someone he owed to. He wondered how bad it would be, to just jettison him there in the cold sea. Pretty bad, thinking about it. The Llonari lineage never had a lot of offspring and thus treated their descendants way kindlier than most, even considering parent-child bonds. And on top of that, they were his only way of business in Oblogga. So for now, he would restrain his instincts and ignore the annoying kid.   "If you're looking up, these are Clouds. Savor the view, we won't be this high for long."   And now the skipper was joining the conversation. Wonderful. She would better focus on skipping if he had enough brainpower to do idle talk. Cheap hires like her never were good enough to keep him company while connecting to the mind of their skips and suddenly she was able to answer Llonari? But if it had come to this, Allniol would not lose.   "By the look of it, they are carved clouds. Block tonals, sculpted raw. Being so low, it won't be long before they dissolve and join the great flow of all things."   "What is the great flow? How do they join it ?"   The boy turned to face him, eyes gleaming with curiosity. Allniol had all the pain of the world to prevent his body to turn pale sigh. He was not in any mood to converse about philosophy, so he diverted the attention of his interlocutor to another carved cloud, close enough to be heard.
 

Nothing can be left untouched for long. Even the far-up Clouds, in their freezing cold sky, are not out of bounds anymore. Thought to be unreachable for eons, the sky finally opened when the unstoppable might of Akkhlorn turned its gaze upward. The legend didn't only trailblaze the path to new heights, but a whole era of discoveries. One of them turned out to be a wonderful art form.

 

A story of progress

Akkhlorn's skip was a unique breed, and the only one of his time able to reach the sky. Whenever another tried to achieve the same feat, the skip would freeze to death, sinking to the Abyss while aiming for the top. Not before its crew, less resistant to the cold and poorly protected. For a time, it was believed that none other would ever redo the deed and the researches that the sample he brought back kickstarted were doomed.

 

This is where the shady biomancers of Joklobbo came in sins. When no one but the dreamers lost in cloudgazing thought seriously of going back up again, they showcased their brand new breed of skips. This time, their pluripotent Sphere hatched a dozen of elongated, fully black skips with almost no membrane. Their shell was made of a material very resistant to the cold and kept the heat inside very well. Specifically designed to skydive, this new kind was handed to crews of explorers in exchange for new cloud samples.

 

Although it didn't go as planned and many crews were lost bodies and souls, the results were satisfactory enough to the Joklobbs so they kept improving their techniques. A few iterations later, the new skips were stable enough to survive a long time in the sky and not suffer any after-effect or frostbite. Ultimately, two designs won the evolutionary competition and were mass-produced.

by William Christen
   

Skelts

Close to the prototypes, they are rather big skips despite a slender figure. They are long, although only the front half is hollow and their only membrane is on the front. The other half is used to store the energy required to move their impressive set of appendages. A regular skelt has two pairs of pectoral fins, one big one small, a pair of pelvic fins, and a caudal fin. They move slowly through wide swings of their pectoral fins and tail. That makes them unsuited for long travels but perfect for long-time journeys up in the sky, thanks to their slow metabolism and big protein storage.

 

They have a very cold-resistant shell, allowing them to work close to clouds and even touch them for a short time without getting frostbites. The skelts are the highest delving skips, but even they have their own limits. If they go too far, the air bladder will explode, shredding their insides and the crew. The mouth of a skelt possess two huge claws and is surrounded by a collection of long, sharp teeth able to rip and cut chunks of clouds and do more precise work at the same time.

Mollns

Way smaller than the skelts, the mollns are really cramped, allowing two people at most. They have a rounded shape and are extremely thick. Their main mean of locomotion is the dozen of thin, spider crab-like limbs spread across its body. They are too heavy to swim in the Expanse, so they need a carrier skip to get through. Nonetheless, Mollns are remarkably nimble in the sky, where they fix their limbs on the clouds' deadly ice.

 

Specifically designed for cloud sculpting, they possess a great arsenal of tools for this purpose. Notwithstanding their unsettling look, they are the most common kind of sky skip, largely favored by artists and even many scholars. Their size and versatility allow skippers to take their art to a whole other level.

 

Albeit both breeds were originally designed for exploration, it didn't take long for a group of young √Čthivl to purchase one and subvert its use. When timorous attempts were made to explore the sky, they went on and realized a feat unthinkable then: using the claws of their skelt, they carved the pattern of their names in a very recent art form at the time, the Scripture. Even though the art piece faded swiftly, it remained long enough to cause an uproar in the artistic community. The young crew, whose name was lost in history, triggered a new era.

 
 

Art of the ephemeral

Clouds only move in one direction: down. Eventually, the warmer water of the Expanse melts them. The same goes for ice sculptures, whatever shape they have. They are drawn to the bottom of the sky, not by their weight but by the terrible currents. Therefore, every piece is destined to be ultimately lost. Most sculptors take pride in that matter, claiming that the true goal of their art is to be dissolved in the vast Expanse. They believe vanished art is imprinted in every wave and every being. This led artists to add minor patterns to their works in order to drag them even faster in the Expanse.

   
They went across a bunch of tonals, but they often failed to raise interest in youngsters' eyes, who prefer the vulgar figurative shapes. And this one didn't seem different. It was a relief for Allniol when he sighted this kind of tasteless sculpting. It was an octopus, all eight arms extended around him like it was repelling as many foes. Surely it will occupy Llonari long enough to give him a rest.

Art of teamwork

Clouds are big. Giants of ice falling down an unseen Surface. While some are doable alone, the majority is way too much work for a single sculptor to finish before the titanic shard melts down. To complete the art in time, teams are put up together, either permanently or just for one piece. The composition of a team is from half a dozen skips to two dozens when the leader wants to tackle a very ambitious project. Some of the best permanent teams manage to make a name for themselves, getting a great number of candidates to join them.

 

Subjects and Shapes

Tonal


 

This kind of sculpting comes in two forms, either as blocks filled with many holes and connecting galleries, or thin filaments of ice. Thin for clouds, but still the size of a skip if not several. They have rounded and intricate shapes, aiming to reverb waves to form precise sounds. Sometimes words, sometimes ethereal growls. Small loops can also be carved, to emit the artist's signature or music.

 

Blocks are a little bit depreciated, because of their rough and inelegant shapes, though they are actually harder to make. Both breeds can shape ice threads, but only the tiniest Mollns can penetrate clouds and tread harmlessly. Inside the ice, the temperature drops even lower, and more than one sculptor has been found dead in its ongoing creation.

by Damien Schnorhk

Figurative


 
by pxfuel
   

A less considered form is the shaping of figures, depicting real things, living or inanimate. To many, disfiguring the majestic clouds to merely copy the reality is an insult. Lack of inspiration or artistic visions in others' eyes, practitioners of this style have a rough time explaining themselves. Imaginary beasts fall in a gray zone but are generally disliked all the same. Except for The Leviathan In addition, there are many restrictions for the few adepts of the figures. A cloud can only be sculpted to depict a single individual or a couple at most. Full scenes are so hard to make almost no one dares to give them a try. No Sphere either, because it is considered blasphemous by multiple faiths. Unless the artist's aim is to provoke, of course.

by pxfuel

Scriptural


 
by pxfuel
 
 

A fringe school, and ironically the first one. Since the original carving, very few has tried to make scriptural clouds. After all, Scripture didn't spread very well, even in √Čthivl, and carving it in the ice is too much hassle for the meager acknowledgment. In the fleeting life of sculpting, not many will witness its beauty, let alone people enlightened enough to understand Scripture. Lately, it has become a trial to enter the most prestigious carving teams, as the ones aspiring to be on the top should master the whole range of sculpting styles.

 
 

New currents

 

In recent cycles, a new kind of sculpting appeared. Rather than sculpting clouds with the sheer strength of the skips, it is said to be a more evolved mean. While classic sculpting requires the skipper to be skilled in the handling of their skip, this new school adds a level of difficulty. Repurposing military pressure beams, the new wave equipped this technology to their skips. It uses the strength of the current to erode specific parts of the cloud. It is a lengthy process, but also more precise and, according to their users, in harmony with the nature of the clouds and the treacherous winds of the sky. And indeed, their art feels more natural, sometimes being indistinguishable from real clouds.

 

Though outsiders often fail to realize it, there is a great rivalry between traditional carving, also called raw sculpting, and the new current sculpting. Considering the cost of the gear, only the wealthiest can pretend to use currents. This constraint led to a rift between sculptors, calling each other elitists and jealous fools.

   

The Obloggian Perspective

 

Art is for the simple-minded. It has no place in our civilized Sphere, nor do artists. That being said, even I like to cloudgaze from time to time, and it is not unpleasant to have a bit of intention in their shape. Still, to think they use expensive skips en masse to do that, it's such a waste. They can throw their lives away as they please, but it would be for the better if they were mindful of the situation we are in resource-wise. Not that I expect them to be wise, of course.

 
 
   
It worked. Way too well. While Llonari was struggling to catch the sense of the tonal clouds, he had no problems figuring out the figurative work, and the questions to ask. It was now a neverending flow his elder had trouble following. What is it doing ? Who is it ? What will happen to its fight once it is dissolved in the Expanse ? He stopped listening at some point, and warned subtetly the skipper to do the same if she intended to get paid. Eventually the child stopped to ask, displaying a mute scowl. Still better than when he was talking, to Allniol


Cover image: Sculpted Cloud by Timepool

Comments

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Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
8 Apr, 2022 00:17

Oooo another awesome article. Love the story too and the methods of sculpting were really cool to learn about.