Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The hand

The centrepiece of my beer cooler commission will be a decaying zombie hand.  Therefore, I started it by getting cracking on the zombie hand. 

Firstly, here's a close-up of the fingertips and fingernails.  I really enjoy sculpting fingernails, and I'm quite pleased with these.

My preferred way of making a hand is to make the fingers separately and then glue them together, which is what I've done here.  In this case, I've glued them together around the base I'll be using, but I haven't glued them to the base.  Before I do that I'll epoxy the hand and paint it.

These are the fingers prior to being stuck together in a hand shape.  At this point they're nothing more than long sticks with knobbly knuckles.

Here they are in the process of getting stuck together around the beer cooler base:

From here, the next stage is to put soft tissue on the palm and wrist.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Bad habits

I have a bad habit.  Actually, I have a lot of bad habits, but right now I'm only going to talk about one of them.

When I'm making things, I tend to use my fingers a lot.  I sculpt with them, I paint with them, and I use them to wipe various substances away from wherever they've got that I'd prefer them not to be.  

In this case, the substance in question happened to be superglue.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Beer cooler commission

My skull chalice is a big hit at parties, and as a result I now have a commission to make a beer cooler in the shape of a decaying hand.  Making a beer cooler will neatly sidestep a problem I have with the original chalice, which is that it isn't large enough to accommodate a whole bottle of beer.

The beer cooler commission will be based around a ready-made beer cooler.  I could get some neoprene and make one up, but why bother when I can get a pre-made one more easily than I can source neoprene sheeting?  The whole purpose of a beer cooler is to, well, keep beer cool, so I think an insulating lining is quite important here.

The commissioner specifically states he doesn’t want any bones sticking out of the wrist, as he feels that is a bit passé (which it is).  He also wants a grey-blue tinge to the skin, so we're shooting for something that's been dead quite some time here.
I think I've mentioned before that I tend not to do a whole lot in the way of preliminary sketches.  That's mainly because I like surprises.  I did, however, do a quick (and very crappy) sketch of how the hand will wrap round the cooler.  I can neither confirm nor deny that I may have done this during a business unit meeting at work.

Monday, 20 August 2012

What I did on my holidays

Hi everyone.  You may have noticed that I haven't blogged over the last few days.  That's because I've been in Auckland to see Slash's Apocalyptic Love tour with Miles Kennedy and the Conspirators.  It was amazing.  My partner, who saw Slash play with Guns 'n' Roses in 1992, says he's in even better form now than he was then.

They don't let you take cameras into the venue, so these are taken on my phone and therefore not the best quality, but they'll give you an idea:

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

What's in my oven?

It's a head.  In this weather, this is pretty much the only way I can get things dry.  I hate winter.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The skull chalice

Well folks, here it is.  My skull chalice is finally finished.  I'm going to let the pictures do the talking with this one.

Here it is full of beer

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Waterproofing paper mache

UPDATE: here is what the skull chalice looks like now it's been painted and epoxied.

"Waterproof" and "paper mache" aren't the most natural word associations ever, so one of the most important things to consider when making a paper mache drinking vessel is how I'm going to prevent it from disintegrating when it's in use.  As I mentioned, there are ways around that.

This post is all about how I treated paper mache to turn it into a drinking vessel suitable for everyday use.  For starters, the actual paper mache is moulded around a ceramic liner.  The liquid itself will be in the liner, which can be removed for washing (because no one likes to use a dirty cup).  Ceramic is a much better insulator than glass or metal, so it won't develop any condensation that could get into the paper skull and damage it.

The type of glue I used is important too.  This is Selleys' Aquadhere PVA, and unlike some other PVA formulations it's water resistant when dry.  When wet it is water-soluble, so I've mixed it with water and used it as the paste for my paper mache.

That's a good start so far and would have given me a nicely water-resistant skull.  But that's not all.  I'm bringing out the big guns on this one: epoxy sealant. 

Yeah baby!

This stuff is intended for use on boats, and it absorbs right into the surface for high-performance sealing.  You can get it or something similar from marine supply stores, or TradeMe (for readers outside NZ, that would be Ebay).  Be aware, however, that it isn't cheap.  You will need to shop around to get a good deal on it.

This particular sealant is a translucent amber colour, because it's designed for use with wood.  That's fine for my skull, but it would be a problem for some projects.  You can get clear sealants and marine varnishes, or you could probably get away with using exterior polyurethane.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Making a skull: finishing it off

Last time I posted, I made the basic shape of my paper mache skull.  I built up the front of the face, added teeth, and did the fiddly bones inside the nasal cavity.

The skull from the front...

...and from the side

I used paper pulp to build up the jaw.  Human jaws have vertical ridges where the roots of the teeth are, so I've made my teeth with roots which will produce those ridges and also make sure the teeth are stuck firmly in place.  This is quite important, because the teeth will hold some of the skull's weight.

Close up of the teeth
You can see in the close up that a couple of the teeth are slightly crooked.  That's intentional.  In nature you very rarely see perfectly straight teeth without some kind of orthodontic intervention.

Finally, I turn the skull upside down to add the palate and details of the base of the skull.  In the base of all skulls is a hole called the foramen magnum, where the spinal cord enters the brain.  You'd naturally have to block this up to make a chalice, or your beverage would drain out, so I'll be making this foramen magnum look like it's blocked with a piece of leather or some such.  The base of a skull is quite detailed, but it's not hard to do and this is an area where you could take shortcuts, since you won't see it when the skull is right way up.  As you can see from the pictures, I did take shortcuts here.

Starting the base of the skull

The finished base - not quite as detailed as a real one

Once it's dry I'll give it a going over with some sandpaper.  It'll probably take a couple of days to dry properly, after which I'll paint it and seal it.  Which reminds me - it's time for me to go chase up the couriers to find out where my sealant has got to.  Again.  Little heads-up for my New Zealand readers: if you're thinking of using PBT Couriers you may want to re-think that idea, assuming you'd like your package to actually reach its destination.

UPDATE: My sealant has now arrived safe and sound.  Thank you PBT.