Tuesday 10 October 2017

Jabberwock Pt.33: Summing Up.

So, it’s all over.  At work we always encourage the students to evaluate their work, so here is mine…

The Cheshire Cat

This was one of those projects which was an ‘if I have time at the end’ job.  It was slightly rushed, and it didn’t come out quite as I’d planned, but then as it wasn’t the main focus of what I was doing for this open call.  The concept of portraying an ‘invisible creature’ worked, but if I’m honest I’m not too happy with the eyes, and the body ended up a bit long.  But it wasn’t a bad piece, and people seemed to like it.  One problem which did occur was that it is hollow and made of plastic- and thus, as air expands (and plastic softens) it started to inflate in the hot spring sunshine… visions of the cat exploding like a cheap, overinflated pool toy thus occurred, and probably wouldn’t have gone down too well with visitors, but luckily it survived until the end of the show, and beyond in fact as it ended up sat in the garden for quite some time until finally succumbing to the elements.

The Rocking Horse Fly

These I am proud of.  The original intention of building them (somewhat laboriously) from ply was dropped, and I chose to use them as a practise piece and way of refreshing my memory on 2D Design at work, a program I hadn’t used for a while.  Then they served equally well as a way of learning the intricacies of the work laser cutter.  I’m equally proud that I made them entirely from scrap and not on works time too…

Is there anything I’d have done different?  Well I had originally intended to manufacture them out of clear Perspex, and managed one test version out of some scrap I had in my materials stockpile at home.  But the cost of buying that much material new made me baulk at the idea, and there wasn’t time to acquire broken or scrap material.  It was far cheaper for me to buy some 3mil MDF and just stay late after work to get it cut.  The wooden colouring was a compromise too- I had thought about having them spray painted so they’d glitter in different metallic shades, but the naff paint didn’t sit properly on the MDF.  They work well in plain wood anyway though, and fit in with the descriptions in the text.

I’ve also been able to use the design for the wings for a few pieces at work, and a number of people have asked me if I they could have a Rocking Horse Fly piece too for their gardens etc, so the design should live on, as indeed will the ones from the show, suitably repaired for re-use elsewhere.

The Jabberwock.

Right, the biggy. I agreed to build it in slightly blasé fashion, overriding my slight doubts about doing the whole Steampunk thing again, and ignoring the practicalities of the situation to an extent.  I’m no hipster, but I definitely felt that what was once a niche theme had become too mainstream and clichéd, and thus was hesitant about reviving the Steampunk aspect of my work.  But I figured a proper sculpture would be something different to my usual model making, and with weekdays off and a spare room to build it in, not to mention a good couple of years to do it in, it seemed a feasible build.

Of course fate has a way of playing silly buggers, and the three foster kids moving in then a change of jobs complicated matters.  No spare room, no free time.  Luckily my father in law graciously offered his basement as a build location, even if it would mean just a few hours on Sundays as working time.  And then getting a job in a workshop full of tools and scrap material was heaven-sent for this project.

Actually getting to the stage of cutting wood out was tricky- the exploratory stage went on rather too long in the end, though I was happy with the final design I arrived at, even if it did mean a lot of sketching and building models to get there.  I did love this process the most though, and it was genuinely fun sketching, trying ideas, building models, evaluating and tweaking the designs until I arrived logically at something I could do via a proper process.

Given the constraints of building and transporting- particularly having to design something which would fit, dismantled, into the back of a slightly rubbish people carrier- I’m happy with the final design.  The only thing I’d have done different would have been to make it a bit bigger.  But then if I’d have had the money to do that, I’d have done it in actual metal rather than wood, and hired a van to shift it all to the site.

On the subject of cost, I’d reckon I’ve spent about a hundred pounds on it, over the 9-10 months it has taken to build the actual sculpture.  Almost all of this cost is on paint, nails, glue, screws, bolts, and chains.  The upside of the new job was access to a workshops-worth of tools I could borrow at the weekends and also the contacts needed to acquire waste materials.  Almost all of the ‘big’ pieces of wood were recycled from the hoarded remains of the dismantled furniture from my last job or scrap from the then-current technician role, and also the bits built specifically for the “Home is…” shoot in 2013-14.  Smaller bits were built from scrap from work which was destined for the bin.  Without this amount of up cycling I dread to think how much it would have cost.

I’m disappointed that in the end, I couldn’t get it quite how I wanted- the vagaries of the British weather and the final painting meant that finishing the monster took me right to the end of my planned ‘emergency, contingency’ period.  This meant I couldn’t do the ‘crew’ of the vehicle, so it doesn’t quite make sense after all that concept work.  The whole thing of having this logically work as a piloted machine disguised as a monster has gone, so it relies logically on either it being perceived as ‘abandoned’ or just working itself because of magic.  I’d hope to avoid that get-out clause right there, but hey-ho.  It certainly cast a slight but telling sense of failure over the whole thing at the end for me at the time, though that has softened with passing.

So what now?

Well, the piece survived the ravages of the weather and the public, and even the ravages of being on display for longer than first anticipated (the show being extended for an extra month or so).  Which left me with the issue of having nowhere to store it.  Luckily and thankfully the grounds team decided they’d add it to the sculpture trail until it fell to bits.

It does, however, achieve what I set out to do with the sculpture, which was to meet the brief of producing a large, Steampunk interpretation of the Jabberwock, following a process of logical development.  I enjoyed the process of designing it and coming to the idea, the concept art and the models.  The build itself was challenging, and occasionally fun, even if it had started to drag a bit by the end.  It did as a project though somewhat dominate my life for a year, meaning I did little else in the way of miniatures work (as the quietness of this blog will attest to).  I have a list of other projects as long as my arm to try and do now.

Also, the project is not quite at an end- there are a couple of other avenues still to explore.  A specific brief for an exhibition may well take me down the illustration route with a graphic novel, as well as a short film with stop-motion tied to the Jabberwock theme.
But that is a problem for Future Benjy. 

The final bit of the actual Jabberwock build?  Clare, who commissioned the thing in the first place, has a graffiti wall in her spare room, and thus the Jabberwock will for the time being live-on in some way on that wall...

A note on this blog

Thanks to competing work, published through the Ribbon Art and Photography blog, this one has rather been neglected.  Hopefully a relaunch of it, with some new projects, will be on the cards shortly thanks to the more practical nature of some recent work I've been doing...

Jabberwock Pt.32: Process

Part of the business of showing the Jabberwock, involved contributing a small selection of the development of the scjulpture in the Process Exhibition also being held on the site.

Obviously I coudlnt just bung the models on a table, so I started coming up with designs for some sort of display cabinet, but pressures on developing the actual sculpture meant I had to fall-back on a simpler solution, and use a set of home-made shelves which were surplus to requirements at work.

A selection of the models were chosen, and they were displayed alongside a design sketch, with a caption.

Having been test-setup at home, it was all shipped (dismantled) to Rydal Hall and rebuilt on-site, though it would need to be carried by Clare and helpers to the converted barn which would be the exhibition space, as I wouldn't be around for the opening of the show.

It all looked terribly good on the final display, and gave some idea to viewers quite what had gone into the build of the final sculpture.

Alongside the shelves, I also contributed the photoset (slightly tarted-up) with the final model.

All in all it was an interesting opportunity to display a little selection of the background to the build, and a nice space in which to show it all.

Jabberwock Pt.31: I Created A Monster...

Just a simple post this one, with a few shots of the sculpture in place...

Jabberwock Pt.30: The Devil in the Details...

With the main parts of the sculpture built, it was time to go a bit mad at the last minute with the small details which would 'make' the final piece, most of which were added after it was built on location.  These would be sourced from all over the place, starting with the unusual source of a dead, very dead, laminator from work.

Having melted a sheet of plastic around its innards in a bizarre mechanical suicide, I took it apart forensically with screwdrivers to try and mend it, realised it was beyond saving, then took it apart (rather less forensically) with a mallet.

The result being lots of lovely lovely cogs, gears, rollers, and other gubbins.

I wanted a Rocking Horse Fly as if it was a pet attached to the machine, so laser-cut on from a piece of scrap perhaps the smallest one I have ever made...

Mounted in a plastic jar with a new, custom-made lid.

And attached to the machine.

With the plan to have the 'eyes' from lamps, and with railway lamps being prohibitively expensive, I turned to the scrap bin at work, and some wooden boxes made by, and abandoned by, some of our year 9's.  Some bodging later, and the addition of some plastic funnels for lenses (with old car headlamp bulbs inset, and they made a passable lamp.

Painted white and mounted on the head, they had the right effect.

Name plates were knocked up from more scrap on the laser cutter at work late one night- the thing had to look like a 'real' road locomotive originally, so works plates, name plates, and number plates were quickly designed and cut out.

"Fyrdraca" was chosen as the name, as it cropped up in an old book of the Anglo-Saxon languages and roughly translates as Fire Dragon, which seemed appropriate.  The graffiti on the hull is assumed to have been painted on by the creatures who have found, and are controlling the machine; I liked the idea of the cards, representing the Queens Guards who have been killed by the machine, the symbols on the hull akin to the kill marks pilots used to paint on the sides of their warplanes.

Plate showing the 'owner' of the machine (in a nod to the Century Survey steampunk project I did), and the vehicle number; 42 of course, because I am a massive Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fan.

The builders plate, a nod to where the sculpture was built in real life...

One of the 'claws' made from mechanical odds and ends found in the workshop.  The original plan to have these as tree branches didn't quite work out, as the groundskeepers at Rydal Hall had done a very efficient job on the formal gardens of keeping it all tidy, and I didn't have time to go hunting around in the woods for a suitable bit when I was there on the day...

The chain had two purposes; it both looked like an authentic part of the crane, and also helped as an extra layer of security for the head and neck, in addition to the various bolts, nuts, hinges and so on.  My main regret is that the original chain, carefully left outside to rust and weather naturally over the winter, got nicked.  So the replacement from B&Q was far too shiny...

The chimney was made from two lengths of guttering, and a lot of ply and scraps.

The controls were very much a freelance interpretation, mainly made from paint/playdoh pots and odd lengths of dowel, but then they wouldn't really be seen so just needed to hint at their presence.

I liked the idea of the vehicle 'crew' having kept trophies from the people who had come up against it, and these were mostly sourced from poundshops or the scrap-tool bin at work.

The sword stuck in it is a nod to the poem which inspired it all.

The notorious cowcatcher, buried (not very subtly, I admit) to hide the supporting plate a bit.

The monster in place.  Seen from a distance, its slightly-underscale appearance wasn't too obvious.