Vega's Lyre

   by Hannah Walsh for Build A Dream (2014)

small desktop anvil, hammer, needle-nose and flat-nose pliers, wire cutter, x-acto knife, graphite pencils, sharpie, sandpaper, hand mitre saw, jeweler's saw, spiral jeweler's saw blades (for cutting particle board), wood and metal files, carbon paper, glass outdoor light globe (base for plaster hemisphere), hand-held Dremel and drill bits, fabric and string (for stretching canvas), drafting compass, inch/ metric ruler, sketchbook, colored pencils, pocket knife, lighter (to prevent ends of nylon string from fraying), bailing wire (for holding pieces while glue set), Lyre building tutorial at:

Roll of plaster cloth, particle board, canvas sheet, paper sheet, canvas board (canvas removed from board), spool of aluminum wire, round and square wooden dowels, nylon thread, Plastalina clay, wooden mannequin joints (removed from final project), foam dowel (removed from final project)

Hot glue, super glue, acrylic gloss medium, acrylic varnish, gesso (black and white), wood glue, acetone (to remove gloss medium from surface of plaster hemisphere after goofing up), acrylic paint, paint pen, eco-flo gum (for tightening paper)

1. Removed canvas from canvas board after soaking it in warm water to loosen the glue. Saved for later use.
2. Disassembled wooden mannequin. Saved parts for later use.
3. Using a glass globe as a dummy, approximated the diameter of the lyre's hemispherical body.
4. Drafted scale outline of lyre's construction.
5. Used carbon paper to transfer pattern of the “horns” onto particle board
6. Cut out two pairs of particle board shapes with jeweler's saw
7. Filed and sanded contours of particle board “horns” to be rounded and smooth
8. Wood-glued each pair of particle board shapes together to form a thicker, sturdier shape.
9. Joined the tail-ends of the “horn” shapes with wood glue. Bound with wire to set.
10. Removed wire from “horns” once glue had set.
11. Sawed points of horns separately, same method as before.
12. Created two holes at the joined end of the horns using hand dremel, where the tailpiece will attach.
13. Formed a hemispherical shell with the plaster cloth, using the glass globe as a base
14. After plaster dried, removed hemisphere from glass globe.
15. Sanded plaster hemisphere.
16. Marked areas where horns would rest against the hemisphere. Cut out three 1/2” deep rectangular slots along the hemisphere's rim into which the horns fit.
17. Folded more plaster cloth along the rim to reinforce the edges.
18. Measured a length of the square wooden dowel for the peg crossbar.
19. Used wood glue to sandwich particle board horns, dowel, and tips of horns, and bound the parts with wire. Removed wire after glue had set.
20. Nested finished particle board “horn” structure into slots on hemisphere and super-glued them into place.
21. Bulked out the horns outside of the hemisphere with Plastalina clay.
22. Wrapped the rounded horns with plaster cloth.
23. Sealed top two prongs of the horns to the hemisphere with clay and plaster.
24. Set to dry for a day.
25. Filed and sanded exterior of finished plaster form.
26. Drafted designs for bridge and tailpiece.
27. Formed tailpiece with three sawed lengths of square wooden dowel and one rectangular piece of particleboard. Adhered with wood glue and bound with wire to set. Removed wire after glue dried.
28. Formed bridge with one length of wooden dowel and one rectangular piece of particleboard. Adhered with wood glue and bound with wire to set. Removed wire after glue dried.
29. Carved, filed, and sanded bridge and tailpiece to a smooth finish.
30. Drilled seven vertical holes into the tailpiece with hand Dremel. Drilled one horizontal hole at the opposite end of the tailpiece for attachment point.
31. Made seven shallow notches into the top of bridge where strings would rest.
32. Cut an additional length of square wooden dowel to reinforce peg crossbar.
33. Applied wood glue to crossbar pieces and bound with wire to set. Removed wire after glue dried.
34. Used hand Dremel to drill seven initial holes into the peg crossbar.
35. Built up rim of hollow lyre body with quartered foam dowels adhered with super glue.
36. To stretch canvas over the hollow body of the lyre, I sewed the canvas’ circumference with a needle and thread to a loop of fabric on the opposite domed side. I gradually increased tension.
37. Applied water to canvas to increase tension.
38. Painted canvas with black gesso.
39. Hammered on anvil lengths of the spooled aluminum wire to work-harden.
40. Bent lengths of wire into squared zig-zag pattern. Clipped with wire cutters down the middle of this length to create numerous aluminum “staples”.
41. Pinched with flat-nose pliers the ends of each “staple” to form a sharp point.
42. Pressed and hammered each “staple” around the circumference of the lyre body’s rim, holding the stretched canvas in place.
43. Used x-acto knife to trim around the stapled edge, removing the extra canvas.
44. Cut and pulled away all of the thread and fabric support ring.
45. Laid out color studies in sketchbook.
46. Used compass and colored pencils to draft a “flower of life” pattern onto a sheet of paper.
47. First attempt at transferring design onto the lyre failed. Removed sharpie and acrylic gloss medium coat on hemisphere with acetone.
48. Constructed pattern directly onto lyre with compass and a circular paper stencil.
49. Applied acrylic paint in multiple layers until complete. Roughly laid out color on the lyre “horns”
50. Began rough construction of the lyre’s stand using remnants of the particle board, an improvised aluminum and square wooden dowel.
51. Attempted creation of crossbar pegs using wooden mannequin parts. Failed; discarded.
52. Decided that stretched canvas was not holding sufficient tension. Removed canvas and aluminum “staples”.
53. Removed quartered foam dowels that had been super-glued to the plaster body’s rim.
54. Made a deeper cut into the lyre’s plaster body to lower the level of the tailpiece. Filled gap between tailpiece and rim of plaster body with square wooden dowel scrap using wood glue.
55. Hot glued sheet of paper (included in kit) over the lyre in place of the canvas.
56. Wet surface of paper with water. Let dry overnight.
57. Trimmed around circumference of lyre with x-acto knife. Glued remaining edges down with hot glue.
58. Used ruler and pencil to divide the paper “drum” into quarters for future layout.
59. Cut round wooden dowel into seven 1.5” sections with hand mitre saw for pegs.
60. Tapered each of the seven segments into conical shapes with pocket knife.
61. Whittled a bottleneck groove into the top of each peg with pocket knife.
62. Painted pegs with white gesso. Colored pegs with washes of acrylic paint, then varnish.
63. Sketched design for the lyre’s front (on the paper “drum”) on a separate sheet of paper.
64. Painted design in layers of acrylic paint until complete.
65. Finished painting of “horns”, bridge, tailpiece and crossbar with acrylic paint.
66. Varnished paper drum, horns, bridge, tailpiece and crossbar.
67. Hammered a short length of spooled aluminum wire to work-harden.
68. Fed length of hammered aluminum wire through the drilled attachment point of the tailpiece. Bent wire through the holes made previously on the joined end of the horns and secured on underside.
69. Wrapped and knotted lengths of spooled nylon thread between each of the seven pegs to each of the corresponding holes in the tailpiece.
70. Twisted each peg clockwise to create rudimentary tension.
71. Used lighter to melt the loose ends at each nylon knot to prevent fraying.
72. Slid bridge underneath the strings and settled each string into its respective groove.
73. Tuned strings by rotating the pegs.
74. Stretched canvas that had been removed from the canvas board and the discarded canvas (formerly attached to lyre) over the particle board base of the lyre’s stand with hot glue.
75. Primed stand with black gesso. Left to dry.
76. Pencil sketched and painted design on stand with acrylic paint.
77. Coated stand with acrylic varnish.

While working to develop a concept, I was struck by an idea while listening to a favorite musician of mine, an independent electronic artist named Wolfgun. His song "Vega's Dreaming," featured at the beginning of my submission video, asks the question: "What if I'm just a star, who's dreaming that it's me?" Having a love of both the scientific and romantic views of the universe , I was driven to create a beautiful object that represents the earthly manifestation of a celestial body.
Vega is the brightest star in the Lyra constellation, and I found this a very appropriate symbol for a musical inspiration. The Vega Lyre is partly an homage and partly an extension of my own creative identity. I enjoy painting imaginary planetary landscapes, surreal animal figures, and a combination of such imagery to imply an indefinite boundary between the Cosmos and the Earth.

Vega burns hot and blue, which is why I chose a cool color palette on the Flower of Life pattern on the lyre's body. I have not played a stringed instrument since my violin in the 6th grade. This project has given me great appreciation for the craft of musical instruments, and I may create another in the future.