It appears that my blog entries have become scarcer as we move through the month of July. This can be attributed to a few factors: 1) There has been some construction on our house 2) A freelance project has kept me busy on weekends and 3) the goddawful neverending Texas heat. Now we are fortunate enough to have AC, but it has had trouble reaching my studio area. There is also something about not being able to freely walk outside without drowning in my own sweat that slows me to a….snail’s pace.
Speaking of snail’s pace, let’s get to this article’s main topic! A couple weeks ago, I was asked to make a receipt spike, preferably of the multi-spiked variety. Finding some spare skewers, I got to work. The first attempt I never got a photo of, and it is just as well. The second attempt took on an inchworm quality, just an inchworm that happened to have extremely long antennae:
We looked this over and Jess, who is commissioning the work, asked if it could be smaller and perhaps more snail-like. In fact it is at that point that she came up with its name: Manon l’Escargot. I agreed that a snail was a good idea, even if I kept referring to it as an inchworm a few times after. So off I went in search of snaily parts. (aside: look for the above critter in a future blog entry, though I am going to do away with antenna and don it with some antelope antlers…naturally)
The above photo shows what I found for most of the piece. In addition to the skewer, I found some kind of old drain part to be used as the top base, a towel rod holder (the shiny brass piece at the top) to be the head and neck, a caster wheel, which would connect all the parts, and a circular metal spiral. I have no idea what this piece is, but without it I couldn’t have finished this snail, so am very grateful of its existence.
The first tinkering I did was to drill a long hole into the long end of the towel rod. This took over an hour, due in part to the hardness of the metal and also probably due to the fact that my drill bit wasn’t suited to such a task. But it worked nonetheless. The long end of the caster could then slide into the towel rod and together they formed the bulk of the body…at least the slimy part of the snail. I also drilled a couple hole in the top of the towel rod holder which would be where the antennae came in and out. I decided to use a single skewer piece, threading in through one hole and out the other:
It looks rather grim in the photo but the snail made it through okay. I had the hammer the skewer in, with the loop just tucking inside the concave area. This also marked the almost maiden run of my new dremel, which was used to cut one end of the skewer, as well as sharpen it to match the other end, and to work as a spike.
One of the unique challenges of this project was making it so it would be a functional work of art. There were a couple factors to consider. One was making it stay balanced when in use. When I first tested it, I noticed the head would fall over. The drain part wouldn’t be enough to serve as a base, so had to look for something heavier, and that could be held while being used. The thing I found for this was a rubber wheel, about three inches long. I drilled a hole through this wheel, the drain part, and the smaller wheel of the caster, and would connect these all with a screw.
The next issue was finding a paint that could handle being touched regularly. For this I went to local art store Jerry’s Art-O-Rama, that has very helpful staff members. They suggested I use an enamel paint. So I got a few bottles of this and tried it out. The key to making it durable is to paint the objects, stick them in the oven, and let them bake for 45 minutes. Here’s how they turned out:
The two wheels above could not be baked, as they are rubber, and that would have been a stinky disaster. The base wheel is originally black and was painted black, and then sprayed with polyurethane, so shouldn’t be a problem, and the small wheel will be enclosed in the spiral. The tail shown wasn’t yet baked, but was in a second run.
Putting the whole thing together took much less time than all the prep work. It is mostly attached with screws, with a larger screw and nut that keeps the body propped up in the front. The last piece to be added was a couple a small magenta eyes, and Manon l’Escargot was born:
Manon l’Escargot is a commissioned work that has a three inch base, stands about seven inches and has 5 inch antennae. At this point I would like to mention that I enjoy doing commissioned pieces such as this, so feel free to contact me if there is anything you would like to see come to life.