i love making things

that’s why i’m an artist.  because when i see things, i have an overwhelming desire to mess with them, and can ignore the inner authoritarian who says ‘don’t touch’.

because i’m the kind of person who gives museum guards fits.  i get close enough to smell the oil paint, and if there’s a nice texture in the paint, it’s all i can do to keep from rubbing it with a finger.

it’s one of the main reasons i took up fabric art.  and encaustic painting.  because they’re tactile.  and now that i’m sculpting fiberglass dolphins, i’m in heaven because it’s nothing but things, manual operations, using my hands, fingering objects, poking, bending and thumping, cutting, gluing, taping, sticking lumps of plastoline on things and pressing them onto the form.  getting dirty.

so i’m sitting on the floor in the studio, on a folded up drop cloth to stem the cold creeping into my butt.  i’ve got four milk crates full of pvc pipe fittings, a big lump of plastoline clay, a coping saw and different lengths of bamboo doweling, my pencil and eraser, and a big sketchbook.

and i’m putting different bits of pipe together all afternoon.  starting with the pipes leading from the existing models , and working out from there.  so far i have pipes running from somewhere to nodules in the wave-like base of the sculpture.  in one case i think i have pipes going from one nodule to another.  in several others i’ve left the ends just sitting there waiting to be constructed.

so far it’s going well.  i’ve got a whole slew of 1/2″ pipes going from the pumps, blue sand filters and protein skimmer, and running into the base of the dolphin at some point.  and then i did a row of 3/4″ pipes, and a vertical row of 1″ pipes.  i’ve had the 1.5″ pipes set in place for a week or two now.  and i don’t have it all done, but i’m getting there.

because this is such a monumental job, and because i only have 2 of most kinds of pipe fitting, i’ve had to prebuild it a little section at a time.  but i’ve taken pictures, and filled the sketchbook with details of three views of the pipework.  and marked up the dolphin, noting what size and which fitting.  and in one case, where the pipes split, i don’t exactly have the right pieces, and am going to have to see if i can’t build it properly right in the store, sitting on the floor just as if i were at home in the studio.

i want you to know that this is as much a necessary visual aid to me as it is a record for you.

starting with the first  picture, in the center is the model pump, with two red turn thingies.  behind that is a curling section of 1.5″ pipe, and above and behind that is the blue model sand filter, both models kindly donated by staff at the georgia aquarium (thanks again eric).  you’ll notice, maybe, that the top pipe from the pump is 1/4″ tubing, and goes under the curve of the 1.5″ inch pipe on its way to the skimmer, and the 1/2″ pipe to the pump crosses the left flipper, and comes up from a pressure flange (which is what i’m turning a lot of the curlicues of the base waves into).  you can just see the right pump head-on above the flange end of the pipe that leads back to the left pump.

turning the base counterclockwise, this shows the right flipper (as we’re facing the dolphin), where the right pump’s two red thingies are.  (you can see the left pump we were just discussing in the background.)  a 1/4″ tube leads from the top of the pump, thru an invisible section to the right, up to the two Ls stuck on to the mid-leg of the dolphin.  that’s where the protein skimmer’s going to be once i build it.

where the bottom of the protein skimmer is going to be, upper left next to the dark lump of clay, the outlet pipe goes straight down the waves, underneath the other curlicued 1.5″ pipe, and around to the right.   the pipes leading to the right pump come from another wavelet flange at the top right of the flipper, comes down the side of the flipper, turns and rises to the pump.

another turn, this continues the line that goes under the 1.5″ pipe and goes around to the right.  there’s a natural indented line around this bottom set of waves, just like the line above it.  i’m using these to run pipes, because it’ll make them easier to wedge in there so nobody can pry them off.

another turn continues that line around the back center line.  i had to make short sections at this point, because they were all 45 degree elbows, and i only have four of them in the 1/2″ width, which are the pipes i’m using, because they have to connect to the 1/4″ tubes the aquarium guys made their model out of.

without turning the base, after taking the 1/2″ pipe off, i built a line of 1″ pipe right over it, at the back of the dolphin (the join line is to the right of the 1″ pipes, the four 45-degree 1/2″ pipes we just saw have been removed and are sketched in just over the crest of the join).  this is so far the only 1″ pipe i’ve used.  and the most direct and simple.  it goes right over both upper and lower levels of 1/2″ pipe.

turning slightly clockwise now, the out-valve of the blue sand filter on the left side goes around the back of the dolphin and runs down the upper indent between waves.

a little more clockwise, and then it curves up and goes into a flange at one of the wavelets.  so far so good.

below are pictures of the sketches i’ve been making.  you can see the outline of all the pipes drawn onto the dolphin in the clearer of the photos, and the photos are references themselves, but the sketches label each of the pipe fittings, because i’m going to have to go out and get, say, 500 1/2″ 45-degree pvc els.

this is the front of the dolphin.  starting at the top left and working around counterclockwise, the blue sand filters are at the top, and the 1/4″ tube runs from them, down under the 1.5″ pipe, to the pump at 9:00, and from there a 1/2″ line runs over the left fin and goes into a pressure flange on the front left.

the right pump is in front of the right flipper, and the top 1/4″ tube from it runs straight up the side of the flipper to the top of the protein skimmer, while a 1/2″ line runs out the bottom of the protein skimmer and down under the 1.5″ pipe, down and around to the back.  to the bottom of the right pump, a 1/2″ line comes down from a pressure flange underneath the protein skimmer.

the base is turned slightly clockwise, with the right flipper to the far left of the picture.  at the top left is the 1/4″ tubing into the protein skinner, and below is the 1.5″ inch pipe, with 1/2″ pipe running thru it from the protein skimmer and around to the right along the indent between waves, until it finds a pressure flange at a wavelet at the extreme right of the picture, at 3:00.  below that, there’s a 3/4″ pipe running from a split pipe in the back, around the base of the waves and up to a pressure flange near the 1″ pipe.  1″ pipe running from the top right of the picture, over the upper row of 1/2″ inch pipe, and the lower row of 1/2″ pipe, before disappearing into another pressure flange at the base.

this is the continuation of the turn clockwise, with the left flipper now at the far right of the picture.  starting again from the top left, there’s the outlet tubing of the blue sand filters, running over and turning away from us to go around the far end of the dolphin as 1/2″ pipe.  you can just see the 1″ stack of pipe in the distance at the 10:00 position, and starting at 9:00 is the 1/2″ pipe running from the base of the protein skimmer, finally finding a pressure flange on a wavelet.  beneath that is the 3/4″ pipe running at the base.  you can see how it runs down from a y pipe, the other branch of which runs over to a pressure flange on a wavelet near the edge of the left pump.  i guess the water runs from the top of the y.  it’s a pretty problematic run of pipe, actually, because it’s 3/4″ and there seem to be less choice somehow.  the pump at 8:00 is the left pump better seen from the front, but you can clearly see how the top 1/4″ tube runs thru the 1.5″ pipe and goes up to the blue sand filter.

so that’s it so far.  tomorrow i get to put on more.  see what else i can put on.  or maybe that’s enough.

anyway, i can make a list now, of what i need to make this much.  mostly it’s not going to involve lengths of pipe, but fittings only.  and if i can make it all fittings, i will.  and i’m thinking of filling it with something, and probably not that awful spray foam, which causes lots of trouble and is very sticky.  maybe i can use something else.  like sand.  sand and acrylic medium poured into pipes that have been wrapped and bondoed down to the dolphin.  we’ll see.

funny how i keep forecasting how i’m going to do it.  and then i end up doing it differently most every time.  but it’s all just feeling my way along.  it goes fast enough when i get to sitting on the floor with all my supplies around me, coffee included.

which is good, because i’m running low on time and still have to watch the grandbaby.

but jim’s been asleep for hours, i’m down in the studio listening to radio 2xs on the internet, the cat and dog sleeping at my feet, and i’ve done all this work today, just since 3.  but since it’s midnight, that’s 9 hours straight.  wow.  i don’t want to do that a whole lot.


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