Wednesday, January 24, 2018

It's a Learning Process

Now that I have a snazzy new studio in my attic, and an area for woodworking in the garage, I suddenly find myself with a whole new world of project possibilities. No longer does project mode mean taking over the dining room table for weeks at a time, or assembly pieces on the living room floor. It really is life changing for me, and in some ways, the prospect is paralyzing. I have lots of ideas, but where to start?

For a while I've been wanting to experiment with hollow 3D lace, but this involves some problem solving. What to use as a stiffener, and how to get the knitting to hold it's shape? Ideally, I'd like to find a way to make objects that could be used outdoors, so they need to stand up to the elements. The shaping brings up a whole different set of questions, but for now, I decided to do a little experimenting, and start with the first problem, making my knitting rigid.

Leaning back on my love of paper mache', I decided to start with an obvious project, hot air balloons!
The shaping was pretty straight forward with a latex balloon, which left me free to concentrate on pattern and structure. I decided to modify and old circular lace tablecloth pattern, by reducing the repeats from 8 to 6. The remainder was basically spontaneous lace knitting, but I'm happy with the design. One the knitting was complete, I decided to start with a diluted white glue concoction. I soaked the knitting in the glue, then blew up a vaseline-covered balloon inside. This turned out to be a challenge. The vaseline made the balloon very difficult to tie, and of course, I wound up with glue all over my face! But in the end, it worked! I let the glue dry for 3 days, then when I was satisfied, I popped the balloon. It held it's shape, and looked beautiful, but the balloon was a little too easy to dent. I wanted something fairly rigid. After doing some reading, I opted to spray down the entire thing with polycrylic. Unfortunately, wetting the knitting seemed to sort of melt down the shape again, so I had to quickly reinflate another balloon inside. After a few hours, the balloon had dried, but unfortunately, it was less rigid than ever. After throwing a 2 year old tantrum in a 42 year old sized body, it was back to the drawing board. By now I had a glue and polycrylic soaked lace apparatus that looked like a half squished over-ripe cantaloupe. Not awesome! Reaching for the tried and true can of polyurethane, I reinflated yet another balloon, positioned the project carefully, and coated the entire project with a sponge. I let the poly cure for a few days, and at some point the balloon inside popped on it's on, but it had worked. The project was hard as a rock. There was one major drawback however, the poly had a severe yellowing effect. So one problem solved, but another created. But I will try again. I think I'm going to experiment with some different mediums. We will see what happens!

In the meantime though, I am enjoying the balloons hanging in my studio, even if they look a little antiqued.

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