i went to the store for more putty.  nelson wasn’t there, but the girls were more than helpful – they’re as strange as i am.

i got some #10 2-part epoxy, not putty at all but regular don’t-touch-it nasty epoxy.  it’s supposed to bond all sorts of plastics to each other, which would be good, because this is how many plastics i’m dealing with – i got the recycle numbers off the plastics and checked here for what they mean.

Plastic #2: This is high density polyethylene, or HDPE – my vitamin bottle that’s going to be the protein skimmer

Plastic #3: This is polyvinyl chloride, or PVC – all the pipes

Plastic #5: this is polypropylene – the vitamin bottle caps.  don’t ask me why they’re not the same plastic as the bottles.

trouble is, the #10 doesn’t mention polypropylene, or hdpe, and it doesn’t say anything about bonding to the apoxie scuplt 2-part putty i’ve been using.  which means i can’t use it on that.

and nothing says anything about bonding painted fiberglass to cotton-wrapped pvc.  i’m on my own there.  and there’s not much help from the experts.  when i ask them what happens if i contain the spray insulation instead of letting it flow out, their answer is not to do that.  when i tell them that the all purpose pvc glue doesn’t work when you try to bond white pvc to  gray electrical pvc, they shake their heads and wonder why i’d want to do that.  when i tell them it’s an art project they back off, noticeably.

it might be contagious.

i was at my home depot before going to the plastic store, saw my new friend in the plumbing department (hey girl) and talked about something social.  there was nobody in that early, and i got to talk and joke.  i confided to the checkout guy (for the first time) that i’m working on the home depot dolphin.  they all know i’m up to something with all the pipes, but i’ve told them it’s for the guys who built the aquarium.  it was the first time i actually pointed to the front door and said it might be standing there in a couple of months.

it felt kind of spooky, like a jinx.  i’m already known as the wacky lady who sits on the floor and plays with the plumbing fittings.  now they know me as an artist, and soon they’ll all know i’m doing their dolphin.  and i kind of don’t like that big a spotlight.  i love being known by the people i run into every day; don’t get me wrong.  i love messing with people when i’m out and about.  but if everybody knew i was doing their dolphin, i don’t know, i’d feel weird.  that’s why i like public art.  i don’t have to sign it.  and it speaks for itself after it’s out of my hands.

okay, to work.

this is the sand filter, kindly donated by the life support systems crew at the aquarium – thanks again, guys.  i have now stuck it onto the fiberglass dolphin with lots and lots of 2-part epoxy putty.

have i mentioned how much i love working with putty, with clay?  working with my hands is ever so satisfying, and messing around with mud pies is a really special treat.  i love digging in the dirt, messing with wholesome filth – changing my car’s oil isn’t what i’m talking about.  of course, this is an entirely toxic kind of clay, which i wouldn’t on a bet feed that neighbor kid.  but it’s still fun to squeeze and mold.

keeping aware of the flow of rain around all these objects, i’ve got to make sure to channel everything downward and out.  and because this is an organic-looking base, all my edges are rounded.  the bases of the pumps are squared off, and that’s okay, because it’s a pump.  but all the supports are going to look like they grew that way.  as an artist, i know that straight lines are a myth.  i’ll talk about that one day.

you can see the putty, gray and looking like a shadow.  i’ve put putty around all the holes in the pre-made objects.  i don’t want rain getting in later.  so they all get plugged, primed, topcoated, and final coated.  these are necessary steps.  they’re why this part takes so damned long, but they’ve got to be done.  just like i’ve got to take the time to smooth with a wet finger all the newly-applied putty, before it dries and has to be sanded down.

each of these steps takes a lot of time, and so it looks like nothing’s happening for ever so long.  then the paint goes on and like magic it looks like something.  most of the dolphin artists will stick with painting, and sometimes i wish i was one of them.  but i just can’t resist doing exactly what i do, so okay, i don’t mind putting in way more time than everyone else.

once i have the pumps, sand filters and protein skimmer in place, i can start connecting the pipes.  you can see the sand skimmer on top, and the pump below, and it’s connected with 1/4″ pipe and 3/8″ quick connect elbows.  i’m starting with this length of pipe, and it’s so unlike what i’ll be doing when i get to the wrapped pipe.

at every single stage of projects like this, i experience almost overwhelming doubt, panic and overcomplexity.  there’s so much involved in climbing each step that i can’t go on.

until i do a first step.  and then i’m doing it, and it’s simple, and i just do it, until it’s done, or until i hit another place where i have to stop and do that until i can come back to what i was doing before.  it really is a step forward, a step sideways, a step back, and then a stumble.

this is my computer area.  you can see, from top left, a magnifying glass (to identify plastic numbers) on top of part b apoxie sculpt (putty), then a bunch of receipts and papers and junk i can’t toss because i may need it…, then the monitor bottom, a glass of water sitting on my mouse pad, a glass of xmas whiskey with lemon and honey (for this cold), the yellow ms. dash cap, the vitamin bottle, the green ms. dash cap, and my keyboard.  it was a lot messier before and after i took this picture.  the vitamin bottles and ms. dash caps are going to be my protein skimmer.  but first, soaking all night to get the label off.

today i scraped the label and mixed up a few batches of putty to start building it into the dolphin.  i only mix up a walnut-sized chunk of parts a and b each time.  if i did more, it would be harder to mix, and i would have to use it all up at once.  so i only do some.  and i work it for at least ten minutes, sometimes longer.  and i keep working it until i’ve used it up, because it starts to stiffen very quickly, without becoming hard.  and you can soften it with water for awhile.

in the case of the protein skimmer, the wavelet it’s resting on is a small one, and really only the back edge rests on it.  so the rest had to be built on.  i made the bottom support round, as if it were one of the 90-degree elbow pipes.  again, after every application of putty i went over it with a wet finger and smoothed all the edges, ridges, lumps and unfortunate fingernail marks.

then i ripped off all my fingernails.  except no i didn’t.  i need my thumbnails to scrape away clay at the edges of a feathered blend down to the fiberglass, but i need my index and little fingernails short because they do a lot of the smoothing, and are essential in tight places.

such a learning curve.  which nails to keep short.

this is the right pump, showing the putty, which just looks like a shadow to me in this photo.  i was going to try to glue the pumps down to the base with #10 epoxy, but in the end i decided that i’d use a thin wedge of putty, because i could have more surface contact, and could actually build a case for the base, and encase the bottoms of the pump parts too.  so i did that.

and then i ran out and got another two things of epoxy, and another thing of #10 just in case, even tho i haven’t used it then.

because i’m running right up against a deadline, and they’re not open on sunday, and it’s going to take me all weekend to get the pipes on.  and only then can i take it outside and prime it for painting.  and since i don’t yet have the plans that go under his arm, i can’t paint too much.  but i’ve allowed for that, and will just stick it on when it gets here, no problem.

this is the left pump.  the discoloration of the putty underneath is because part of the putty is entirely dry, and is also the old batch, and the dark stuff is the new putty, not dry at all, and anyway a lot grayer than the first batch of putty, which had probably been sitting around for a couple of months.  batches differ.

these are the largest pipes, two 2″ thingies that go under the toilet, i think.  it’s sold as one item, even tho it’s actually three, the two elbows and the fitting ring.  i spent some of yesterday evening and some of this morning wrapping them in gauze soaked in a thin acrylic solution.  they’re now dry and ready to be put on.  but they can’t be put on until i’ve put on the pipes they straddle, and i can’t put them on until i’ve got the pipes connected to the pumps and filters and skimmer.

here’s my first problem.  i put the pipes together wrong.

what i did was to put the pipes together the way i wanted them to go.

rather than putting them together the way they wanted to go.

you’d think it would be a questions of me against it, and that i would win because i’m the human with the intense will to succeed and all the modern materials at my disposal.  i’ll force the damned thing.

right.  that’s not how it works.  i don’t think.  anyway, i put the pipes together starting from some ideal position that wasn’t actually where the pipe was.  it’s hard to explain.  i guess i estimated where the pipe would connect, and adjusted it to fit a compromise position.  and then once i built the pipe and glued it down, it was at slightly wrong angles all down the length.

of every single pipe.

so i have a bunch of ill-fitting pipes that will require a lot of work to get right.

these pipes are still somewhat flexible, in certain places (especially see that gray exposed pipe at the bottom that broke the glue right away and now turns freely), and if i use straps and bolt them to the fiberglass, then maybe i can force them some.  but mainly i’m going to be building out bases and cradles in epoxy.  which is why i got an extra tub, because they’re closed sundays.  the sign in front of the store says ‘go away’ on sundays.

here is the problem illustrated.  with the wrapped pipe fitting as best it can, the 2″ pipe won’t go over the top of the wavelet, were it needs to go.  and unless i absolutely force the 1/2″ pipe to fit into the hollow between waves, i’d have to build the 2″ wavelet out to make it work.

and that’s stupid.  too much time, too much putty, too late at night, for too little impact.

so i found a better purchase.  the same starting point to the pipe but instead of crossing the 1/2″ pipe, i’m going to connect to a pipe at the foot of the flipper.

and oh well, that’s art.  you adjust to what is, and make what you can of it.  and hopefully don’t get caught.

as for staying up until 1 every night finishing this, i’m going to continue doing it, because i need to get the dolphins done and be on to other things – like the rest of the xmas presents i haven’t done, and even presents dating back to the residence in ireland that i haven’t done.  people will think i’ve forgotten them.

plus i told my kid i couldn’t watch the grandbaby during the day until i was finished with the dolphins, and she will notice if i slack off.

the deadline is monday.  actually, because of many factors beyond anybody’s control, the project has been put back several times from its original august start date, and has just been put back again, and it’s not particularly final at that.  but i’ve got to the end of the month to finish these two dolphins, and that means i can do the super special job i always want to do, instead of slapping paint on it and calling it done.  it would be fine that way, but i wouldn’t be happy.

and now i’ll be happy.  and that’s important.

they’ll be tickled.  they’ll be proud to call him theirs.


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