making the hat

making the hat and other things.

it’s really hot out, 95 today.  so with one thing and another, i’m up late working, and may well get up in the night to work some more.

today i went to buckhead and visited the atlanta history center.  i’ve never been there before, and it is a famous place for research on atlanta, so i finally went.  actually, i went yesterday, too, but it was closed, so i came back.  but today i went back, and the guy who turned me away yesterday invited me into mr. franklin garrett’s office to photograph a bunch of very old books today.

i shot over a hundred pictures of books on shelves and books behind glass and books close up.  i got a lot of stuff on atlanta, loads on the south, lots of history, even old gardening books.  so i have enough to go on.

back home.

back home i mixed up some cadmium orange hue and zinc white acrylic, and painted in the jacket.  it’s not very opaque, even with white in it, and two coats haven’t finished covering all the pencil lines.

you can just see a circle on his shoulder.  it’s where i’m going to be putting his epaulets.  but i’ve decided that they should be shells.  and i’ve decided that i just happen to have two shells i can use for molds.  so i went and got some plastelene, softened it up, and made a mold out of the shells.  it’s in the fridge cooling now, so i can peel it off tomorrow, reinforce it with more plastelene, and then fill it with epoxy.  then i’ll have shells i can glue down and paint brass colored.  i wasn’t going to do more than the hat, but it screams out to be done, and i have to follow the artistic impulse while i have the time.

much of my day was spent on the hat.  first i needed a mold.  i was going to use something circular, but the dolphin’s head isn’t a circle.  so i cut out some acetate, a rather stiff plastic paper, 24 inches by 3.  that’s the circumference of his head, 2 feet.  so i cut it out and taped it into a circle, and then put it on his head to check.  then i slapped more acetate on top of his head and traced the line i’d drawn around his crown.  i cut that out, and then taped the 24″ circle to the crown circle i’d just cut.  you can see it in the picture.  i made sure that the top didn’t cover the base, because that would mean the putty wouldn’t seal to itself but rather the plastic, and i don’t want that.

then i mixed up a handful of two-part epoxy putty.  gloves are used because the stuff is toxic, and people develop sensitivities to it.  not this time.  gloves, loads of mixing, and then rolling it out on a surface floured with powdered plaster.  i rolled it with that bottle you can see, and shaped it between two wooden yardsticks, cutting off anything outside the 3″ line.  i put the extra putty in the freezer so it wouldn’t set on me.  then i dunked the putty in water to wash off the plaster, and slung it around the mold i’d made.  then it was a matter of smoothing it, getting the bubbles out with a pin, and making sure the putty covered all the way to the top and bottom edges.  and then i let it harden for a few hours.

when i came downstairs for the evening session, i took the putty out of the freezer and mixed up a bit more to go with it, then rolled it out, fitted the top of the hat over it and smoothed it on like pie crust, using a finger dipped in water to smooth the bits and pieces.  it’s setting now.

i had a funny reaction with the putty.  apoxie sculpt.  usually this two-part epoxy mixes up without an endothermic reaction.  it’s not really supposed to have one – where it heats up once you mix it together.  but this time it did.  i put the newly mixed stuff down to work the previously frozen stuff to the point where i could mix them together and roll them out, and when i reached for the newly mixed stuff it was already warm to the touch.  when it starts heating up like that after you mix it, that means it’s going to harden really quickly, and you only have a very little time to get everything in place and smooth before it becomes like a rock.  it happened during the last round of dolphin making.  and i have no idea why.  one day it’ll do it, the next not.  i’ve had all sorts of differential results with it.

anyway, i got it on.  it’s only the first coat of putty.  once it sets up tomorrow i’m going to reinforce it with more putty.  and i’m going to put something, another form, underneath it when i mount it to the head, so if someone comes along with a baseball bat and hits him in the head it won’t damage the hat, or at least the hat won’t shatter and fall off. it’ll have some heft inside it and won’t just be a hollow shell.

but that’s tomorrow.  i’ve got all sorts of things happening tomorrow, so who knows how much work i’ll get in.  today it was five hours at a conservative estimate; five hours in the studio.  two hours doing research.

it goes quick.  unlike our hot summer.

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