Starting a New Project, a Mosaic Orca

I’m starting a new project, peeps! This one is going to be an Orca. Breaching on a column of waves. With lights, of course!  The orca I’m going to do in white and a dark violet, Black is the actual color, but it doesn’t illuminate the way that I want this to be. 

Here’s pics of the beginning of the form! Truthfully, this is a fairly crucial part of the process, It’s better to have the form as close to what I need as possible, to minimize work and the chances of error, 

I’ll be doing the dorsal fin and the pectoral fins separately from the body, then attaching them before attaching to the wave column. I need to be able to move the orca around in order to find the sweet spot for the center of gravity. I want this to be sturdy and to be able to stand a child getting overly friendly.

Today was the body, tomorrow is the head and the fins. I have to pick up some plastic to line the inside of the form for the expansion foam, then I can line the inside with it. Wrinkles really don’t matter, because I’ll just plane them off.

Here’s some pics of today’s progress!

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Pictures, Pictures and MORE Pictures !!!

One big, old bear butt!

One big ole bear butt!

More pictures! These will make up for the lack of pics in the last post. In fact, it was hard as could be to get these pics up. Holy freakin’ COW! But it sure shouldn’t be as hard as it was. If this Windows 8 computer was testing me, it needs to stop. I failed the test. Miserably. I know it’s been awhile since I posted last, but check it out. I made up for it. 😉 Here’s the images I promised in the last post. Enjoy! we have 24 hours worth of work left to do, then he’s ready for delivery. I wanted to get it done before Christmas, but no luck. He will be ready for a New Year’s party, I think. I have a little more fiberglass to do, for the nose, then at the feet; some glass tile, a bit o’ grout, and this baby is DONE! The base is oak plank, with a steel structure inside, and gets it’s stain tomorrow. Then we hook him up to the base, to make sure all of the bugs are worked out before delivery, and then off to Seattle and his luxurious new home! ImageImage ImageImage                                            ImageImage      

Let There be Light in the Bear!

We spent last night and the night before, doing fabrication of the lighting armature. The lighting of the bear has to be done before the third and fourth coats of fiberglass go on the bear.

After cutting out the original door, I decided that I didn’t like it; too narrow and too high up. We’ve put the original door piece in and fiberglassed over it. It came out great. After all of the coats are done, then I’ll determine where the door is going to go and then Chuck will cut that out. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to fabricate the hinges for it, but I have an idea…

I’ll post it when the idea coalesces better in my head.

Here’s some images from last night’s work period.

As you can see, the bear is partially together; it won’t be long before I put the glass on! I’m really looking forward to that!

Putting together the armature

Putting together the armature for the internal lighting.

The armature is made up of mostly acrylic rods. I used a piece of white plastic to fabricate the “joints”, so to speak, between rod and armature. The donuts, as I call ’em, started out as solid white block. I just love the drill press! *happy sigh* It allowed me to create a part that would have been hard to find and hard to adapt. Hey, any excuse I can find to buy a new tool is a good one!

The center armature


The LED rope lights. This is the first of them. They’ll be wound round an armature in the legs.

The first of the light fixtures is in, but not set yet. I have to get the lights set at this point in the build. There are parts of this that will be MUCH easier to do before the final three pieces go on. Then we’ll cut the door into the body.

Here’s more light pics!


Busy, Busy, Busy!

 Fabrication of the parts that I need for the lighting armature

It’s been a busy last couple of days! Lots of progress!

I had to fabricate some of the necessary parts, but not a problem! I have the technology! One 12 speed drill press at the ready.

I needed three round pieces to go around the acrylic rod, with holes in them for the acrylic supports and the armatures for the arms and legs, as well as the light fixtures that are going inside the bear. I went to Tap Plastics and got the 1″ white acrylic block to make the donuts.

For the foot pads, the acrylic is clear, with brown paper to protect it. I used a butterfly bit to get the large hole in the middle and a drill bit for the two smaller holes. The carriage bolts to attach the base and the bear will go through those holes. Lighting cords will go through the large hole in the center of each pad.

foot_pads1parts2Fabrication of the parts for the lighting armature


The bottom of the bear, put back together. At this point, the next step is the acrylic piece that’s going into the inside, in two pieces, to attach the top to the bottom of the piece when we get it to the installation site. The attachment piece, like most of the components of the form, are made of clear acrylic. The connection pieces will be attached via fiberglass and acrylic posts that will screwed into place on the inside for attachment to the form itself.





Once again, sexy assistant ripping the acrylic in two pieces for the attachment points inside.




These are the cast jaw pieces for the lower jaw. They are in two pieces for a good reason; it’s easier to get them into place accurately in two pieces, rather than one. It has to do with the angles of the jaw and the jaw set with the tongue. These have been somewhat worked on; the pictures just don’t capture the detail that I’m putting into the teeth. Once I have them carved the way I want, with the Dremel, then I’ll paint the gums with the heat set glass paint, leaving the teeth themselves white.




Here’s a shot of the oak. The grain of this is lovely. We cut it to preserve that grain. I’m staining it a lovely blonde color. Look at the close up. This is going to be lovely. The oak is going to be sitting on a steel base inside of the oak, to hold up the weight of the glass on the form. It’s surprising to people to realize that the glass weighs a considerable amount.





This is the shelf that I fabricated with a heat gun and the acrylic, to form a shelf for the fiber optic illuminator. It will be glued into place permanently when I have it at the best spot for the fibers and the electrical cable.


GRRR! Look at those teeth! At this point, the form is there, and I’m shaping in the fangs. It’s a complex sort of shape; conical with a twist that gives the tooth it’s sharpness and shape for biting and ripping.


This is the upper part of the form, in the process of piecing it back together. I have to do this in stages; next is setting the connection pieces in place. Then the armatures for the lighting. Once that’s done, I can attach the access panel on the back after attaching the bear to the base.  That part is going to involve steel plate under around.



The Ghost Bear

The bear is now off of the form. It looks pretty neat, actually; a transparent bear is something one doesn’t see everyday!

I know I was short on pics the other day, but today makes up for it, I promise, loads of pictures!

Cutting the form

Cutting the form with the 4″ grinder, for the awkward areas. Note sexy assistant…That’s Chuck, my husband

Down the back of the bear head

Down the back of the bear head

Cutting the shoulder area

Cutting the shoulder area

The glass jaw set came out of the mold material today.
Fanatabulous! There was very little flashing, just around the top, where the glass frit went in. Nothing a good diamond bit can’t solve. That’s pretty much the only use I’ve ever had for diamonds; as tools for me to fabricate things out of wonderful art glass.

Cast glass upper jaw

Part of the jaw set before removing the extra glass White opal, cast glass upper jaw set


Most people don’t realize this, but diamonds are actually very common; the market is artificially inflated for a pretty rock. I think I need a diamond blade for my bandsaw, now that I think about it. I feel another tool frenzy coming on! Just a few more tools and I can make just about anything!

So check out these teeth. They were pretty hard to capture on camera. Getting the shape of the fangs is a challenge, but a fun one. It’s soothing to sit there with the Dremel and the diamond bits, shaping the white glass into the right shape. It becomes an abstract shape, when one works on it for awhile. The shape and the production of that shape, become consuming, time slipping away unnoticed. In the psychology field, this is referred to as “flow”; flow is a theory that when we get involved in something, to the point of losing time and becoming immersed in what we’re doing, to the exclusion of all around us.

A fancy way to explain The Zone. Athletes get it, artists get it, scientists get it. It does seem to stave off dementias and to lengthen life span. Which is fine with me; it’s a great reason to not answer the phone. Not that I hear it much; I have a GREAT sound system.

Part of the jaw set before removing the extra glass
The fangs, upper jaw set

DSCN2812 The fangs, upper jaw set


Shaping the fang into the right shape

Shaping the tooth into the right shape for the bear

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This is the lower jaw of the jaw set. It’s safe to handle now. I like to work without gloves so the only safe way to do that is to wear gloves to break off the sharp stuff. I take them off as soon as the sharp stuff is gone. The sensation of touch is very important to me in my work. I need to feel the medium, to get a good grasp of how it’s going to work out.

This glass has had the worst of the sharp stuff broken off, next is the grinding and shaping of the lower fangs. Once all of that is done, I’ll use heat set glass paint to paint the gums the shade of blue grey they should be.

Right now, the tongue is in the mold material. I didn’t like the way it came out the first time.
So I broke it up in the frit maker so I can reuse it in this new and improved tongue.

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Here is the kiln, on the downward part of the casting cycle. At this point the kiln temperature was 905, Fahrenheit. The glass for the tongue is beautiful stuff. It looks just lovely cleaned and sanded to a sea glass texture and translucence.



It’s been a long and very productive day. Tomorrow is finishing the chasing (clean up) of both the top and bottom of the jaw set. Then the claws. Presently there is a paw full of claw in there right now. tomorrow, if I like the claws, in goes the tongue. The eyes have to wait until the final coat of fiberglass goes on, then I’ll put clay over the eye area and make a mold of the shape I want.

It’s time to wrap this post up; I’ll be back in a day or two with more images of the process. Until then, be safe all!


A Girl’s Best Friend

Is a finely crafted power tool!

I spent today with the Ryobi grinder, with the sanding disk as well as my Dremel rotary tool. I so love a nice power tool…

I sanded down both pieces today, which was a breeze with that 4″. I used the Dremel for the tight spots. That bear is now as smooth as baby’s butt. Ready for the cutting off of the form!

I’ll be using a plunge saw for that job. Uh HUH! I can’t tell adequately, what the feel of a quality tool means to me. It’s a thing that is just right. That tool fits in the hand and  is well balanced, making it a pleasure to use.

I also got my fiber optics in the mail yesterday!!! Hurray!

Now I’m waiting for my grout to come. Back order, back order! I so want to check it out!

Fiber optics for the bear.

The fiber optics for the bear claws

I’m really pleased with the fiber optics. It’s an LED light generator, and it’s a nice bright white.

My wonderful rotary type tools.

Look at that sanding disk! It’s been a wonderful tool.

Tonight’s the night that I’m casting the bear’s nose. A deep, dark purple that I’m going to paint over with stained glass paint, it’s lovely heat set enamel paint, dark blue. Here’s the nose in the kiln, second cast.

The nose ready for the kiln

Ready for the second cast in the kiln

I’m back, with an EPIC mosaic to do!!

Check this guy out! I got a commission to do a life size, in the round, illuminated glass polar bear. Is he not EPIC??? Yes, I  could have used italics, but those just don’t capture the size of the beast! Ursus Maritimus. 

He is, at the moment, curing from his first coat of fiberglass, on his upper torso. Next, after I finish burning out investments for the glass casts, is the first coat on the bottom. 

Thankfully, all of this is made easy by some chemical magic; for reasons I know not,Sharpie permanent marker fades completely out of the resin after the cure time is over. 

This makes the job so much easier for me! I am a fan of the creed, “work smarter, not harder”, so that is a wonderful bit of chemical magic!

Even the black fades, but the red fades much faster!

Right now, I’m casting the bear’s tongue. I’ve got to do it in a couple of firings; I want that tongue to be lighter on the edges, and darker in the middle, like the actual tongue of the bear. 

As seen as up close as I want to get, a large yawning mouth full of very sharp teeth at the Portland city zoo! 

You know you have a great line o’ work when you go to the zoo for research. Necessary research, I might add, therefore, making the trip tax deductible…

The grey is oil clay, the stuff that doesn’t harden. The foam form has no ears, those I had to sculpt separately. I also put in the muscles of the face, as the form was missing those, but they are easier to put in at this point, for my short self. 

Is that bear not huge??? That is my ’94 Isuzu Trooper LS. So it’s not a short SUV. No little crossover, here! This bear makes my SUV look small, doesn’t it? It also kills dead, any plans I may have had in my subconscious about going to check out the polar bears…

I’d be fast food. A little fatty, but isn’t that what a bear wants?




If you look below this text, there are the pics of the investments. Mold making is fun stuff, I have to say!

The molds you see are the molds for the tongue, which is in half, because it will have side light fiber optics in the center. That’s pretty much the plan for the claws, the eyes, the tongue and the teeth; side-light fiber optics to light them up. 

I’ve found some lights that I had no idea where available! 360 degree LED’s that are bright! I’ll put those in the arms and the legs,  with the GE 50 year bulbs in the body and the head. 

This bear is going to glow! He’ll be a soft white, with brown eyes that also have light behind them. I may not have to light them, the light from the bulb in the head may very well be enough. 


This is the wax claws, in the mold material, before burn-out. One tray holds one paw’s worth of claws.  

ImageHere they are after burn-out. These are going to be some wicked claws! I’m going to use my Dremel to carve out the channels for the side light fiber optic core. The glass for the claws is going to be a combo of brown and purple, possibly with some red for around the channel. 

I’ve got all of the other pieces invested and all but the last three paws worth of claws done. Today is the day for the molding of the rest of the claws. Three more paws worth to go!