Sunday, May 31, 2009

installing sculptures at Yew Dell Gardens

The main effort for this week was getting ready for the 2nd annual Yew Dell Gardens Outdoor Sculpture Show. The show opened on Friday and it was very successful! There were 65 sculptures by 22 artists and 3 high schools. The opening was attended by over 500 people, with a major portion of the sculptures having sold. We will give more details in a future posting.

Frankie Vessels of Vessels Trucking with a driver, Charlie Williams, showed up at the studio at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday. Derrick of JBB, inc. showed up with the 23 ton crane truck. We filled the semi with large sculptures, and had to haul a bench on the crane truck. A small sculpture (800 lb.) went in the back of our pick-up.
After making the 2 hour drive to Yew Dell Gardens in Crestwood, Kentucky, we installed Oberon on the entrance mound before loading more sculptures onto the crane.
"Embrace" was the second sculpture that was installed. I'm directing the piece down onto its pin.
It was quite a trick to get the straps out from under the 3,000 lb. sculpture. But, that's nothing compared to what it will take to get them back under, when we remove the works.
Raymond Graf's Lincoln looks on. There's a Matt Weir sculpture in the background. We'll show other works in a separate posting.
Every time that we moved the crane, we had to re-set the outriggers and the heavy wooden 'street pads'. Frankie and Charlie were great help, as was Derrick, the crane operator. It's wonderful to work with experienced people - they all help keep me out of trouble.
The next piece to go in was "Reveal".
Meg's "Wolf and Pups" found a great site, with the dark evergreen backdrop.
But then, the rain showed up. We took shelter under a tree, hoping that it would soon clear up. Eventually, we had to keep going. I think it was Derrick (next to his crane truck) who said "just as well soak it up".
We installed the "Vine Bench" under the sheltering tree. It sold at the opening. The new Marketing intern for Yew Dell Gardens watches our progress.
Going back for seconds. We went back to the parking lot to unload the rest of the sculptures from the semi, onto the crane truck. The access gate was too tight to get the big truck into the gardens, so we had to double handle everything.
Keep in mind that it's still raining - at least the photographer (Meg) had an umbrella. This sculpture "Exodus" sold at the opening, too, so it was all worth it.
Then, we installed Meg's "Sea Lion" out on the lawn.
"Miss Jessel" is flown into her site. She sold at the opening.
Anything worth doing, is worth re-doing. We had to re-set the crane and rigging to move the "Sea Lion" into a better position.
Karla Drover waves goodbye from my "Hand Seat". Karla, of Yew Dell Gardens, was the driving force responsible for pulling this show together.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Meg's Reading Girl rock arrives

We finished the molds for the Home of the Innocents figures this week. I'm sparing you the pictures because it's just more of the same, like the last 2 posts.

On Tuesday, Meg's 2 stones from Reed quarry showed up. Vessels trucking hauled in the 14 ton and 7 ton blocks. Meg is inspecting the stone that will become the Reading Girl for Charles City, Iowa. We are both very happy with the quality of the stone.
We scheduled time between the arrival of the stone and the crane to give us the opportunity to split off the extra 3-1/2 feet of stone off what will be the top. (The stone is lying on its side.)
I drill a series of holes along the line where I want to split the stone, and then hammer in the feathers and wedges until it splits.
A 50 ton crane from Bramer Crane Company of Louisville, arrived in the afternoon. The first task was to move Oberon off the cart. He's going to Yew Dell Gardens next Wednesday, and we need the cart for Meg's commission.
Next, we rigged up the reading girl rock to move it off the truck. It weighed in at 28,000 lbs., but weighed 21,500 lbs. after I split off the extra piece on the end.
We set it on the ground and re-tied the rigging so that we could flip it into its upright position.
Then, we set the rock onto the cart-and-rail system. We will commence work on this project once we are finished with installing our sculptures at Yew Dell Gardens next week.
That was fun! Let's keep moving heavy things while the crane's here. Meg needed her Sea Lion moved up onto higher wooden timbers.
Meg bought this stone to round out the load. I thought that I'd be able to talk her out of it (I thought wrong). It will become a reclining reading girl. She already has some preliminary drawings for it."Well, what about this 6,500 lb piece of scrap from off the end?"

"Nope, go get your own rocks."

We woke up at first light that morning to the familiar trill, trill of baby raccoons - the first ones of the year. When we opened the door to get a snap shot, they dashed inside to explore.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

mold, mold, mold

Work continued on molding Meg's Home of the Innocents figures. We wanted to de-mold the first figure, before doing the mold on the second figure. Steve and I are using exacto razor knives to separate the rubber mold on the top piece of the figure. The plaster mother mold for that piece is in the lower left corner of the photo. The rubber mold was removed, and the clay figure re-emerges. We de-molded down to the last sections and duct taped the plaster pieces so that they would not shift. I cut the clay off, so that we could turn this piece upside down. That enables easy access for Meg to finish the clay work on the bottom, which was very difficult to reach otherwise. This is the bottom of the first figure after it has received the rubber coating. The bottom of the baby has been done at this time, too. It is leaning against the wall, in the background upper left. All of the other pieces of the first figure are finished and de-molded. So far, so good.The second figure was cut apart and we put 2 coats of rubber on the main portion. Steve is squeezing out a thick mix of polygel 40 and polyfiber where he plans to place bubble shims. This is the second figure with the first 2 coats of rubber and the bubble shims. This is the second figure after receiving the full coating of rubber. We still have to put the rubber on the butterflies, the blanket and 2 arms. Also, the plaster mother molds for the second figure have to be made. I spent a large portion of this week making 2 big plywood crates for the mold. I also had to chase down a large quantity of foam packing material to cushion the plaster and rubber molds during freighting. Steve and I also spent a lot of time trimming tree branches that were hanging down in our studio road because of ice damage. The branches had to be cleared so that they won't impede the freight truck when they come to pick up the crates.

We're getting close to finishing the mold work for this project of Meg's.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


If you're overbooked with sculpture commissions and you need molds real fast, who you gonna call... Meg had approval on her clay-for-bronze sculptures for the Emily Cooper Memorial. It was time to put molds on the pieces and ship them to the foundry. The first step was to dismantle the first figure group into manageable pieces. We are removing the dove from the babies hands. In certain instances, it is best to cut off appendages to make the molding process simpler. We have removed the babies arms and legs. Next, we will slice through the woman's wrist and remove her arms. The small pieces are pinned to boards, so that we can make 2-part molds on each piece. We were able to enlist the help of Steve McMillen. He and I did all the mold work, so that Meg could move on to other projects. Steve is applying vaseline to the boards so that plaster and rubber won't stick to them. Steve is spraying a mold release onto the clay before applying the rubber mold compound. We use the 2300 from Polytek. The next step was to apply 2 coats of rubber. We use polygel 40 from Polytek. You mix 2 equal parts and apply with a brush. It's important that you apply the first coat very carefully, because that will pick up the details of the clay work. I draw the part lines on top of the second coat (when it is firm) to help determine where to put the shims. Next, we cut plastic shims to make the part lines. We use bubble sheet from Sculpture Depot in Loveland, Colorado. We mix a regular batch of Polygel 40 and then add Polyfiber (from Polytek) until it is knife-grade (not runny) in thickness. We put the thickened mixture into a ziplock bag, cut a corner and apply it like someone would apply icing to a cake. By squeezing a finger-sized line onto the part lines, we can stick the plastic shims into it and it will hold. We tape the pieces of plastic bubble shim together. We heard something on the windowsill, eating the bird seed during a heavy rain. After making and attaching the shims (the hardest part of the job), it's a simple matter of applying successive coats of rubber until you get the desired thickness (1/4 to 3/8 of an inch). On the last coat, you want to make sure that there are no undercuts, so that the plaster mother mold will release. Iron Maiden? The bubble shims have a cool look. Baby Hans Solo in Carbonite? The last step (not counting de-molding) is applying the plaster mother mold. We use Tuff Cal which is a hydrocal with fiberglas fibers. It is formulated to be extra tough and strong. The mother mold insures that the rubber mold will retain it's shape when wax is poured into it. We apply a coat of plaster about 3/8 of an inch to the rubber. Then we spread a layer of hemp fibers which gets covered up by another 3/8" of plaster. The embedded hemp fibers add lots or resilience and strength to the mold. (Hemp? the jokes just write themselves, don't they).

We finished the mold for the first figure grouping this week and hope to finish the second figure in this coming week. Please check out Meg's blog, as she went to Reed Quarry in Bloomington, IN on Friday and bought 2 huge blocks of stone (I'm going to try to talk her out of the smaller one). The 16 ton block is for a commission in Charles City, Iowa.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


The theme of the week is "Approval", because we had committee members visit Meg's studio and give approval to the clay prototypes for her Home of the Innocents sculptures. There are pictures of those pieces on her blog (link in the top right corner).

This is the week's progress on my stone sculpture "Uphold". There were quite a few steps between the block lying on the table, as seen in last week's post, and this upright and blocked-in sculpture. However, I forgot to take the camera to work for several days and missed taking step-by-step shots.

A beaver made a sculptural solution with this tree that is on the edge of our property. (Kind of an anti-gravity thing going on.)