Brass Ring

   by Col Scheele for Build A Dream (2014)

Tools used: Van Aken clay to mold swan wing; wire cutters; needlenose pliers; scissors; paint brushes; exacto knife; clay molding tools; styrofoam rod; round dowel; boundless optimism.

Materials used, from kit: tempered hardboard; canvas cloth; wire mesh; aluminum rod and wire; spool from aluminum wire; natural sea sponges; nylon thread; spool from nylon thread; part of plastic egg; Van Aken modeling clay; canvas board; plaster cloth wrap; section of styrofoam rod; mannequin; 12" x .357" square dowel; wood discs; Van Gogh ear; cornstarch packing peanuts (whole and melted); bottom of box.

Materials used, from studio: Golden GAC 100 and 900 acrylic medium; Golden acrylic paints (micaceous iron oxide, interference gold/fine, iridescent gold deep/fine, iridescent silver/fine, iridescent pearl/fine, cadmium orange); Stephen Quiller acrylic paint, interference violet; water; Jerry's World's Greatest Gesso; sweat; the occasional dog hair.

Techniques used: First, I had to figure out whether to present a dream or a nightmare (see project inspiration section). Once that was settled, I sketched several concepts and toyed with the idea of making molds from ready-made caruosel animals. That seemed like cheating, so I sketched out alternative, less likely carousel creatures.

At that point, issues of scale and materials available drove the project. I needed to build a carousel sized to fit the mannequin, who would be riding in a Chariot of Fire. Then, figuring out how to incorporate the ear...which, if you look at it just right, is kind of shaped like a wing. Ergo, the Black Swan made her appearance. As for the sea sponges, well, how else would a Pig fly?

I began forming the Chariot, Swan, and Pig from aluminum wire. Very nice to work with, but pretty one dimensional. So, I padded the Swan and Pig with the peanuts. (Before I forget, I molded a second ear, using the peanuts, so the swan would have two wings.)

Then I realized the peanuts would squish at the slightest pressure, and used the plaster cloth wrap to introduce stability and improve the shape of all three. As I planned to paint each, I "skinned" them with Van Aken modeling clay. That allowed further shaping and a smoother texture, and gave me predictable results when painting.

The Black Swan was painted with micaceous iron oxide and embellished with iridescent silver acrylic paints. The Flying Pig was painted with interference violet paint; her wings (sea sponges) were painted with interference violet, iridescent silver, and iridescent pearl acrylic paints.

The Chariot of Fire was painted inside with cadmium orange acrylic paint. The exterior got a coat of iridescent gold for a look of hammered metal. A coat of interference gold was smoothed over that for an aged/melting look. Same deal for the Chariot's wheels, except they were outlined and dry-brushed with cad orange, too.

The mannequin, as befits a Warrior Princess, got a helmet of modeling clay. She wears armor of iridescent gold and interference gold acrylic paint. You can't tell from the photo, but she's wearing shooties of iridescent gold. Very stylish. As she's just the other side of fifty, her hair is a lovely shade of white, just like the nylon thread provided.

The carousel's center pole is made of aluminum wire, wrapped around the styrofoam rod to develop the shape. Stretched and shaped wire mesh forms the roof, allowing a view of the sky above. A Brass Ring, cut from the inside of the plastic egg, dangles invitingly from the armature.

The carousel's base was cut from the bottom of the box, and it has to turn, naturally. So I glued a section of the styrofoam rod, which was whittled down to fit inside the wire rod's spool, on the hardboard.

Then I glued the canvas board and both of the .375" square dowels on the box bottom for strength. I drilled two holes through the wire rod spool, and glued that to the canvas board. The aluminum rod was inserted through these holes and bent to stay in place, and in a handle-like shape.

The top of the base was gesso'd, so the cardboard wouldn't absorb the paint. Iridescent silver was painted over the gesso in a swirl design. Strips of cut canvas were painted with GAC 900 (fabric medium) and iridescent silver acrylic paint, then glued to the top part of the base. Rune-ish marks were painted on the canvas, after it was in place, with iridescent pearl.

With the addition of patience and persistence, all was assembled and photographed. The carousel does indeed turn; sadly, I could not figure out how to make an electric motor from the materials provided, so hand-turning it is.

As I mentioned, the first task was to determine whether to use a dream or a nightmare. I decided to use both: the American Dream of grabbing the Brass Ring. The reference is based on Depression-era carousel rides, where the lucky ring-grabber could then ride free. Colloquially, it stands for going for broke, grabbing the gusto, living the dream. With that much at stake, any real dreamer would realize she needs not only Plan A for transportation, but probably a Plan B and Plan C as well. Thus, a Chariot of Fire, a Black Swan, and a Flying Pig, each available at the Warrior Princess' whim.

That's the dream part. As for the nightmare part: first, there's deciding whether having it all really is what it's cracked up to be. Then, there's the off-chance that the Brass Ring will forever be just out of reach...