Putting the Bear Together

Chuck and I have been busy today. We put the top of the bear on the bottom of the bear to form one HUGE bear form. Here’s a couple of different views of the bear. The face and the tops of the arms will go on tomorrow after we finish setting the donuts and bending the acrylic rod that will be the armature down each leg, each arm and down into the face.

The bear rises!!

The bear rises above. I’ve had a load of looky-loos!

Side view of curing bear

side view of the bear, as it’s curing


This part of the bear is really a coming together of disparate parts that will make the whole. The armature for the lights, the “skeleton” of the bear, so to speak, is the next phase of the project.

Here’s a view of how the top was attached to the bottom. It’s acrylic tabs and fiberglass as well as liberal applications of E6000. I ought to buy stock in that company; get a return on all of the money I spend on that product!

Acrylic bands for the attaching of the top and bottom into one.

Acrylic bands for the attaching of the top and bottom into one.

Base of the bear spine

Wooden spacer to get the curve right at the base of the spine

The acrylic rod was fiberglassed to the body at this point, then the shelf for the LED fiber optic generator along with two “donuts” above it and two below it.

The idea is that one of these “donuts” as I call ’em, will then hold the rods that will form the armatures down the legs, arms and head.

The fiber optics are going to be laid in at this point, as well. I’ll be running the fibers into the claws, nose, tongue and eyes.

Truthfully, the most challenging part of this is turning out to be the eyes. It’s looking like molds are going to be the answer to the challenges I’m facing.

I did some experimentation today, and eh… I am not impressed. Time to recast them. I also have one more piece of the nose to cast as well, the center part between the nostrils. After that, the kiln goes into it’s box and into storage.

Here’s some more images of the bear. This is the connection point after being fiberglassed with a heavy weight fabric. I’ll be using that from here on out, to give the glass a good foundation to hold the weight of the glass. I have a square support rod that will be under the tail, into the back, to assist in stabilizing the bear.

Here I am, cleaning up the claws. I want them to have a sea glass look, as I’ve mentioned before, so I’m grinding the surface with diamond bits and then using jewelers rouge to give the claws and the tongue a rich, satin finish. I do like what it does. I think that I get the best results from a combination of my little bench grinder/polisher, and my Dremel rotary tool. There is another company that I ought to get stock in; my purchases alone made a salesman swoon with happiness to see me.

shaping and cleaning the claws

Shaping and cleaning the claws

Cleaning and polishing the claws

See, remember folks, do not forget the dust mask. It’s gotta be an N95. Life is too short to get a nasty lung

disease. Have I mentioned it’s incurable?

I’m pretty sure that jeweler’s rouge is no better than the glass powder, so I wear that mask religiously!!

I’m also working on the tongue of the bear, a beautiful dark blue. It’s been a fun process, the carving of the tongue and the teeth.

They come out of the mold, in the basic shape, but there is always air bubbles, or places were the mold cracked and some glass leaked into the crack. It only happened once.

This has been a pretty fun process; I’m enjoying this quite a bit.

I knew this bear was going to be epic, but I have decided on a scale of epic measured by a standard scale of 1-10, that this project is a 15.

I think that there should be at least one minstrel writing a ballad about this. Where’s a cheap minstrel when a girl needs one? I’m pretty sure that minstrels don’t work cheap. My only knowledge of them comes from fantasy novels, which I really do like.

Heavy weight fiberglass in big pieces.

Heavy weight fiberglass in big pieces

We have the bear lying down on a table, with the center rod of the armature propped up with the shelf for the LED illuminator.
The interesting part is how to get the rods bent in the right angle for the legs. The arms are pretty easy; they just need two supports at different points of the arm, to help guide the LED’s and the fibers for the optic system. I’m going to run those before putting the arms together with fiberglass. The fibers are tiny and will easily be lead into the claws by a thin diameter piece of wire, like a crochet hook.

Once the bear has the lights run into the places it needs to be, then on goes the arms, to be attached to the form. It’s gonna be really cool. Now, this leaves us the face of the bear. That will have a short armature and will be pointed into the nose area. The idea is another support for the lights and the fibers.The tiny holes that I need to drill for the very fine fibers are going in right before I tack the tongue to the lower jaw. Then I’ll be wrapping the light fibers and the rope lights around the clear acrylic rods that represent the skeleton. The very last part of the lights to go in will be the fixtures for the long life bulbs.

They are energy efficient; I considered that to be important to the piece. The concept, in my view, needs to extend to the materials that we use, even. In my case, since the bear is a creature of two worlds, the sea and the ice, as well as the land, that needed to be reflected in the materials. His sea glass style claws, tongue and teeth will do exactly that.

His connection with the land, with the ice, these are an inextricable part of the bear, as well. I’ve gotten the oak frame done, a shout out to my wonderful husband, Chuck! He is the perfect employee! He works cheap and has a sharp wit right along with construction and masonry experience, so he is often able to see a part of the project in a way that I, having nowhere near the experience in construction he has, give way to him on many of his insights. The design and the art are all mine, but the infrastructure, most certainly is a joint effort. He teaches me something new on a regular basis.

Working away

Working away!

Tomorrow is another work day, with the armature being set at the top, as well. I’m pretty sure that by tomorrow, I’ll have lights! Then after the lights go in, then it’s time for the base work!

I’m torn on the base; I’ve been having visions of making the base look like a piece of ice floe. It’s been really bugging me. I can just see it, with “snow” drifts, like the ones I remember in Alaska, around the bear’s feet.

On the front of the base, I’m using both aluminum and copper, to make the plate.
The plate will have the Latin name embossed on copper, mounted to the aluminum with brass rivets. I think that will look nice and classy. I’ve done the embossed metal plates before; I find them to be a simple, yet elegant solution.

The copper has adhesive on the back of it for stained glass work, so it’s very nice to be able to have the copper securely, yet easily, repositionable. I’ll do that as the very last thing before I start the process for shipping and installation.

I have my crew; three men at least, as well as me, supervising. The next step is to see what is the most cost effective way to get the piece from Portland, OR to Seattle, WA. I’m leaning towards a moving truck that I can then build a shock-free shipping cradle. It’s somewhat like a hammock, but secured at a number of points. These points keep the sculpture stable, but still give it a shock free ride in the hammock.

With that in mind, I’ve begun looking at moving trucks. It’s looking like that may be the way to go.

I admit it. I am a control freak when it comes to my art work. I feel that is the only way to be. This art has been commissioned with complete faith in me and my skills. I feel that everything, ESPECIALLY the shipping, needs me to be the advocate for my art work.

I’ve started looking now, as I think this is going to come together swiftly once I reach the part where the actual mosaic process occurs. That part, the glass mosaic, is actually not as long as one might think; its the prep work that takes forever. If the foundation isn’t right, the project is inherently fated to fail. The foundation is coming along nicely.

The other part of tomorrow, if there’s time, is another coat of fiberglass over the entire form, making that coat #3. After that cures, then it’s time for the final coat. The final coat is the one that has to be perfect; it has to be smooth as a peach skin, smooth with no major flaws to disturb the final coat of fiberglass. This final coat will get curing agent, as recommended, in the resin.

Pictures tomorrow!


One response to “Putting the Bear Together

  1. Pingback: Putting the bear together | Colleen Patricia Williams

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