Daughters of Time

   by Quyen Lam for Somewhere in Time (2015)

I made this project using simple tools like Xacto knives, a handsaw, scissors, paint brushes, a crochet needle, Tacky glue, acrylic paint, pens, and pencils. I have been watching a lot of survival shows lately and felt compelled to make my project with minimal hand tools. It was crazy work, but I was determined to make my first experience with the Mystery Box memorable.

I struggled with sawing the wooden disk into branches because it kept cracking. I had the idea to tape the disk to stabilize it, but the tape ripped off chunks of plywood when I removed it, giving it an unintentional rugged look. However hard that was, carving the wooden block gave me the most trouble. I refused to buy any more tools and decided to chip away at the block with just my Xacto kit. At one point, I smashed the block edge with a hammer thinking that it might speed things up. It didn’t really work, but I had a lot of fun trying.

Once the Tree of Life was done, the Daughters were a lot easier. I made them with aluminum wire as a frame and modeling clay for skin.

Clotho, known as the Spinner, spun the thread of life from a distaff onto a spindle. I imagined my Clotho, spinning a part of her life force, her hair (made of cotton and clay) onto a fishing-rod guitar. I envisioned this goddess sitting by a river on a calm, easy day, strumming an alluring tune as she casts her hook and waits for it a new life to bite. She is made of aluminum wire, modeling clay, a thread bobbin, cotton, basswood shavings, a thin strip of foam, thread, and a clothespin hinge.

Lachesis, known as the Allotter, measured the thread of life with her measuring rod. I imagined her atop the Tree of Life, in the midst of the leaves, weaving both the sweet and bitter events of my story with her gold honeycombed rod. She is made of aluminum wire, modeling clay, basswood shavings, Styrofoam shavings, a round dowel, a wooden beehive, and thread.

Atropos, also known as the Inevitable, chooses the manner of a person’s death, and when the time comes, she cuts the thread of life. I imagined Atropos as a gardener, cutting and pruning and keeping her eyes on each of her wards until their time comes. She is made of aluminum wire, modeling clay, left over particles of plywood disc, and thread. I weaved her soul-collecting basket out of burlap strings and cardboard strips. I learned this technique from watching primitive basket weaving (go survival shows!).

I carved the Tree of Life from a block of basswood and used its debris as leaves. I made the tree branches out of the plywood disk, cardboard cut-outs, and modeling clay. I threaded hole-punched paper to create vines and leaves and added foam padding for volume. I modeled the tree roots out of clay, crocheted the burlap strings to form the secondary root system, and anchored the tree to the stage with Tacky glue and aluminum wire.

To make the baby in the bassinet, I painted the wooden egg white, wrapped a piece of cloth around it, and padded the bassinet with cotton. The baby represented my blank canvas so I resisted doing too much to it. I weaved the bassinet using cardboard strips and burlap strings.

For the stage, I drew a logarithmic spiral on the Mystery Box and used wooden craft sticks to extend the stage in a clockwise direction. I liked the idea of having the organic and mechanical elements dueling on the stage, both competing and creating time and space. I decorated the extensions with metal gears made from soft foam pads and paper. I glued the wooden half ball to the center of the stage and made the stage into a clock. I balanced the wooden mini bowl at 12 o’clock and placed roman numerals IX and XII on the clock’s face. I painted the crotchet burlap strings to look like both tree roots and metal spokes.

I made the waterfall by painting plastic strips cut from a canvas wrapper. I used Styrofoam shavings to make foam and painted the aluminum bar to look like a river. I didn’t think they would turn out so dynamic.

At first, I was intimated with painting, and the idea of committing to a color was daunting. But once my friend Bianca showed me how forgiving acrylic paint was, I went to town on the project. It was hard to stop. I painted things several times. It took a lot of effort to stop and leave some of the materials raw.

I used modeling clay to form the river rocks and bridged the gap between the gears and the metal stream with a foam pad. I used a strip of foam to create the stone wall that separates the silver rock bed and the grass. I made the rock surfaces behind Clotho out of cotton and paint. I was surprised to see how versatile cotton could be in creating different textures.

As for the foliage, I mostly used cotton, paper, foam, and basswood shavings. The large flower under Clotho’s foot was created using the metal ball, the wooden ring, and basswood shavings. Finally, the grass was just acrylic paint with some areas shaded using a pencil.

Somewhere in time, the Daughters are toiling. Clotho sits by the water, spinning her hair like wool, and baits her line for inspiration. She catches a vessel in a bassinet and draws it upstream. This egg, blanketed in thin layers begins its journey into the Tree of Life, unaware of the forces shaping its experiences.

Atop the Tree of Life, Lachesis conducts the journey, measuring potential, weaving events into the vessel’s past, present, and future. Below, Atropos, with a careful snip, ends the story. She harvests and prunes the vines that feed and bleed the Tree, removing withered leaves past their prime as well as young buds whose story will never come to pass.

Thanks for looking at my project. I had a great time making it.