The Process of Creating One Sculpture

There are many steps to producing one finalized sculpture, and the entire process can take 2-3 days worth of work.

  1. After the clay sculpture is finalized, it is secured onto a platform where it will be molded.
  2. It is then prepared for the mold by being thoroughly coated/brushed with mold release spray.
  3. After about 30 min, the first layer of the polyurethane rubber mold is applied. The 2-part mold is mixed thoroughly and the first layer is applied fairly thin to ensure all the detail is captured and air bubbles are eliminated.
  4. After an hour or two (depending somewhat on the room temperature), when the first layer isn’t dry yet, but tacky to the touch, the second round is applied, in a thicker layer.

    The polyurethane rubber mold

  5. After another hour or two, the third and last layer is applied. The mold is then left to cure overnight (16+ hours).
  6. When the rubber mold is cured, and no longer sticky, it is prepared for the support shell by being divided into thirds with clay partitions.

    Clay partitioning section for gypsum cement

  7. The section is then sprayed with mold release and left to dry.
  8. I used gypsum cement to create the mother-mold. After mixing it with water to a thick consistency, it is applied evenly to the section and left to dry.
  9. After about an hour, the clay partitions are removed, and a new one is applied on one side of the next section. (The other side will be against the first cement shell part.)
  10. The second section is sprayed with mold release and left to dry.
  11. The cement is applied for the second part of the shell.
  12. When the second section is dry, the clay partition is removed and the third section is sprayed with mold release.

    The gyspum cement mother-mold

  13. The last round of cement is applied to the third section.
  14. When the last part of the cement shell is dry, the mother-mold can be removed. The cement parts can be separated at the seams by slowly and carefully driving a nail where they meet.
  15. The parts should be able to be removed and fit together snugly, as they will be put back onto the mold. The shells are removed for now, so a slit can be made on the rubber mold so the clay sculpture can be removed from inside of it.

    The rubber mold slit to release clay sculpture

  16. The hollow mold is sprayed with mold release, closed up again, and held in place by the support shells. A strap is tied around the support shell to keep everything in place.
  17. After the mold release has set, it is time to cast. The 2-part liquid plastic (Smooth-On 300) is mixed thoroughly and poured into the mold. This particular plastic cures in 10 minutes, which is a good amount of time to apply it using the rolling method. The mold is just rolled around until the liquid plastic has coated the entire surface of the inside of the mold.
  18. The liquid plastic cured to an opaque white, hard material that is now a hollow shell. I could’ve made the entire cast out of the liquid plastic, but I wanted the sculptures to be as light as possible since they will be spinning. The liquid plastic would have been too heavy to fill the whole sculpture, so instead I used it for the outer shell only.
  19. After the liquid plastic cures, its easy to see if it has coated the mold or not because of the color change, so if any part of the mold is still showing through, or the plastic looks too thin, a second round of the liquid plastic is applied using the rolling method.
  20. After the plastic shell is done, the 2-part expandable foam is mixed and poured inside of it. I cut a piece of wood and placed it inside the sculpture, holding it in place for 5 minutes as the foam expands and hardens.

    Foam expanding around piece of wood

  21. As the foam expands, some of it might overflow out of the opening. When it is all dry and rigid, the excess is cut off and sanded down. A thin layer of the liquid plastic is poured on top of the foam to seal off the opening.
  22. When that is cured, the mold and support shell are removed to reveal the sculpture. The bottom of the sculpture is sanded down to a level surface so it is ready to be attached to the spinning disk.

    Final sculpture of frame #1

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Animation placement test 2

Now that the sculpting of the head is finalized, it’s time to start measuring out the placements and angles of all the frames. I created a template of the measurements where the sculpture will sit on and be measured out and cut according to it’s frame number.

The frames aren’t all equally spaced out. The first 9 frames will take up half the animation, while the next 7 will take up the rest. This allows for a slightly slower animation of the splitting of the heads, allowing for a better view. The template:

I also created an updated animation test on Photoshop, to see what it would look like with the finalized sculpture.

The head

After a couple of weeks, the head and it’s facial features are finalized. I purposely tried to construct an androgynous-looking face, that is neither distinctly male nor female, and which is representative of a generic form. I used Chavant oil-based clay, in medium hardness.

Animation breakdown/placement testing

I decided the animation will be sufficiently depicted through 16 sculptures. The strobe light will be flashing at 11fps, making the animation 1.45 seconds long. The story line will consist of one head splitting into 2, which will rotate in opposite directions, then come together again in the back, as a new face emerges in the front again. The face will start to split in two, and rotate. One of the faces will close its eyes, while the other will keeps it’s eyes open, further adding a distinction/separation between the two, and also echo the underlying theme of conscious vs. unconscious. I tested this out by photographing a toy skull rotating at equal intervals, then edited and animated it into a short stop-motion animation in Photoshop.

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Proof of Concept

All the parts are cut, sanded and ready for assembly. The bottom platform is made out of wood. It sits on top of a plastic shelf, where the motor shaft protrudes out of the centre. The motor shaft sticks out through the platform and a flange with an attachment is secured to it, in order for the spinning disc to be easily attached to the motor. A smaller circular piece of wood is placed beneath the acrylic spinning disc to help level it better. To test out the placement and animation, I used 18 styrofoam balls, cut at different heights, which will create the illusion of a styrofoam ball appearing out of the disc.

Progress

Making bottom platform: A circle jig is made for the router to cut a precise groove close to the edge, on top of which the acrylic cylinder will sit. I used a plunge router and a 1/4″ straight bit.


The clear acrylic cylinder will  sit on top of the bottom platform, and encase the spinning sculptures.

A clear acrylic disc is cut into a circle which will fit inside the cylider.

I will be using a gear reduction motor and a control box to get precise speed. The gearbox will also have a much higher torque, making it able to support a lot of weight without the load weight being a huge factor on the speed of the spinning disc.

A custom flange is designed to attach the motor to the spinning disc.

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Project Proposal

Daedalum is a kinetic sculpture that resembles a large-scale zoetrope comprised of 3D sculptures. There is something very intriguing in watching an analogue mechanism like a zoetrope magically transform still objects into animated ones, as they suddenly spring to life. The piece explores this illusionary phenomenon of persistence of vision, through the theme of dreams. The sculptures will play out a short sequence of a human head splitting into two and merging back again, reflecting the separation and connection between the conscious and unconscious realms.

The work will be placed in the center of a dark room where it will be the only source of light, setting the atmosphere and stage for its performance. A large cylindrical window will encompass a spinning disk upon which sculptures will be attached. As the disk spins, the sculptures will morph from one frame to the next, animating the short sequence.

The piece is meant to stimulate the viewer through its use of physics and imagery. Through its large scale, the piece will make an impact in the surrounding space with its physical presence and help create the feeling of an immersive environment. Unlike a dream, the viewer has the freedom to move all the way around the piece and view the animation at any angle, consciously controlling their perspective and actions. The focus of the piece will be on the well-lit sculptures, creating a vivid visual sense, which will be opposed by the restricted sense of touch, echoing the intangibility of dreams. The looping, repetitious movement of the animation will create a trance-like vibe where sense of time does not exist, further blurring the line between dream and reality.

The project will explore the realm of illusion, as it is experienced on a physical level through optics and phenomena of the human eye, and on a mental level through thoughts and memories driven by the visuals and feelings. It will focus on the transformation that feels so fluid and ambivalent, yet always constant, as we slip from frame to frame, dream to dream, subconsciousness to consciousness, and back again.

To create this oversized zoetrope, two main components will be created: the outer casing and disc, and the sculptures that will be housed in it. A motor will be attached to the disc, and will keep it spinning at a constant speed. The disc will have sculptures attached to it at equal intervals, one slightly different than the one before it. Each sculpture will be handcrafted using clay, around which a mold will be created, and out of which a cast will be made. Adjustments will be made to each sculpture before it can be molded and cast for the next frame. The work will be placed in a pitch-black environment, and strobe lights in the inside of the casing will be used to slow down the motion enough to allow the human eye to view it.

The most crucial piece of hardware in the piece will be the motor, which will be obviously responsible for the movement of the piece. It is important for the disk to spin at a constant speed, and be able to keep spinning for long periods of time. The motor will also be attached to a control box with a potentiometer knob and on/off switch.

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