Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Work in Progress: Papier-Mâché Whale Vertebra Part One

      Before leaving Northern California for good in September I made one last trek out to my favorite beachcombing spot near Point Reyes National Seashore to collect a few more buoys.  While rambling along the rocky coast I nearly fainted when I made one whopper of a discovery: a massive, decaying whale carcass. I had always hoped to run across a lone whale vertebra washed up on the shore and here was not just one, but indeed an entire whale's worth!

      Now, it isn't legal for an individual to possess any part of a whale, and the vertebra pictured below was way too heavy, oily, and stinky to drag back up the cliff with me anyway, so I was satisfied to take a few pictures of my find and call it a day.

      Back home, while editing the photos, I couldn't shake the desire to add that whale vertebra to my nautical collections, and I determined that I would try my best to duplicate my own (legal and less smelly!) version in papier-mâché! I guess I had papier-mâché on the brain, having recently watched a video about how one of my favorite artists, Mark Dion, and his team of sculptors recreated in papier-mâché all of the gear used in a little-known 1908 expedition to the Far East.

     Working from my photographs and using the buoys pictured above for scale (I did take those and that wicked-looking gaff hook home with me!) I drew out a full-scale template for all of the elements that I would need to build a sturdy interior structure upon which to layer the mâché. Fortunately, at the time I was working at the Oakland Museum, and was permitted to use the woodshop and some discarded wood to create parts that I would be able to take home and assemble when I was ready to start the project!

     I am now happily relocated (once again!) to Los Angeles, working for a super-creative, awe-inspiring company, and settling into my new life here; it seems the time is right for getting to work on that whale vertebra! I'm so glad I took the time to figure out all of the mechanics of the interior structure while I had access to a woodshop; all of the elements screwed together just as I had envisioned, and before long I had a rock-solid "skeleton" for my new papier-mâché project! 

     The next step will be to cover most of the structure with wire mesh to further fill out and refine the shape of the vertebra and provide a good, textured surface onto which the mâché may be applied. 

      I will post an update as soon as I start the process of applying the papier-mâché!


Mike said...

I can't wait for the finished product! :)

Unknown said...

...the finished product and MORE blog entries for us strangers who really enjoy them.

Unknown said...

the finished product and MORE blog posts for us strangers that really like your posts