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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Nap Time"

The goal of this week's project was to use metal rods, sheet metal, and plate metal to echo the form of something organic. We could use plants, animals, insects, microbes, or even natural phenomena for inspiration.

As usual I like to inject a little bit of fun into my projects whenever possible and this time around I was in the mood for a little dark humor. The idea of a snake-eating-a rat came to mind. Nothing against rodents of course; I strongly prefer them over snakes, but I wanted to create a typical scene out of Nature.  We all know what happens when a snake eats a large meal; the snake becomes very lethargic and will rest or sleep for a long period of time as it digests its kill. This is where the title for my piece "Nap Time" came from. Also, creating this scene would allow me an opportunity to experiment more with hot bending techniques, and to attempt a ship-in-the-bottle type illusion which has always fascinated me.

The snake body was formed by hot-bending 3/8" metal rods into coils. The rods came in 48" lengths, and were welded together end-to-end as needed. It may not look like it but the snake body used up about 14 feet of rod. This took much longer than I had anticipated and was quite physically demanding to manually bend a total of 18 coils. Although super heated metal can be quite pliable, I could only bend an inch or so at a time, to gradually form the concentric circles.

Nails were bent and welded in place to create fangs. The tail was made with two pieces of hand-cut brass, and then struck with a ball peen hammer to create a scale-like texture. This part was fun in that I got to finally put to use a tiny anvil that I have here in my home studio. The tail is attached to the body with a spring. There is a hollow space inside the tail that holds four BBs which will rattle briefly when the tail is flicked with a finger. Thus my piece becomes "interactive".

The eyes of the snake were not the best choice according to my class and instructor critique. The "language" established by the steel and plate is interrupted by the plastic of the eyes. I can remedy this by substituting something such as small metallic discs or using nuts for the eyes.

The rat is hand-cut from light sheet metal, and it's texture was created using a wire brush attachment on a power tool called an Angle Grinder. The rat's eyes are copper BBs (the same kind that were placed inside the snake's rattle), the tail is a brass rod, and the legs are heavy wire with small magnets for the feet. Here's the ship-in-the-bottle part of all this; the rat went in last, after the snake was assembled and painted. It is not as easy as it may look.

The rat body with tail was inserted first, and then the legs and feet were attached while inside the snake. This procedure took the better part of an hour to complete, and the whole time I was trying not to scratch the painted surfaces or warp the rat body. I found a version of Super-Glue that will bond metal together rather nicely and I used that to attach the magnetic feet. Why magnetic feet? I liked the look of the magnets and it allows for re-positioning of the rat if and when needed.


Here I am in my welding gear.

To balance out the macho, robotic look..I added a "Hello Kitty"sticker on the side of my helmet.


The next post will be on Wednesday May 7th.
See you then.




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