Sunday, November 13, 2016

Molded Plastic Lighting

I was going to hold this post until I was done with the final lighting installment but at this time I'm having artist's block. So - I'm going to write this for now and try again soon. Basically, I was inspired by Chihuly and my past project melting plastic to make some translucent light fixtures out of melted plastic.

So one thing adults do in the privacy of their rooms makes you want to not have too much harsh lighting. And pink light makes the skin look best. So I set out to make a full bed canopy with a light in the center. You know, to set the mood. I spent a few days on a ladder draping fabric and came out with this view from laying inside my bed (disclaimer: I was really into snapchat at the time):

Buying list ($19) for this chandelier was as follows: 

First I made the large bowl into a center base. If you need to know how to use a heat gun please see my previous post. So I heated the edges down to flatten and create textural interest. Then I heated the center so much it became a large hole. That's where the light bulb hangs. I then heated the small red bowls much the same way - flattened and textured - but I accidentally gave them holes in the center, too. So I used the bottoms of the glasses to fill them in. Honestly I think it looks stupid - like a demented wheel. But luckily for me that part (the top) is less visible because of the drapery.
Then I melted down the cups - I would heat them, so they became a little wonky - remember: "textural interest" and then I'd stick them to the bottom of the big bowl in an overall conical shape. I kind of sat the chandelier top upside down and then pushed a bunch of wonky cups together so they formed a nice gradual point - then I heated them so they stuck together. Making sure they stuck together was a terrible time - many scorched fingers as the cup plastic isn't as "sticky" as the bowl plastic. Finally I made sure any large holes (mainly where the 'wheels' hit the base big bowl) were covered with the cup bottoms. And it was done!


Once I had finished, I hung it - this took forever and so much balance on top of a stool on my bed. At one point I fell down and the lamp fell and broke into two pieces so I had to stop and fix it. Crying may have ensued. Why do I make my life difficult? The pictures below are me holding the completed chandelier (that's my hand inside it showing where the bulb sits), and views from laying in the center of the bed staring straight up with the chandelier off and the bedroom light on, then with chandelier on and bedroom light off. 

I think it's pretty boss. And so does really everybody else. Every person who has gotten lucky (pun intended) enough to see it has been like "HOLY FREAKING WHAT. THIS IS CRAZY AWESOME." And the red light from it makes it seem like I'm blushing under compliment - when really I'm drinking that ego stroke in like "oh yeah, tell me I'm great again." Even my Mom, who I had talked to about it repeatedly, and also gives a lot of (deserved) side eye to my crazy projects, asked me why I was doing a real people job instead of putting my art in the MoMA when she saw it waiting to be hung up. Yeah, I was pretty smug about that. 
But as a disclaimer, heat guns are VERY hot. I sustained a large burn during this project that, 11 months later, is still visible. I also burned straight through my multiple layers of canvas drop cloth and burned my carpet. (strangely enough I was able to clean the burn out of the fibers....still not sure exactly how...seems wrong.) So don't try this at home without proper precautions - like a covering clothes and a substantial drop cloth/ floor you don't care about.

So the second lamp is blue (my bedroom is mildly "Arabian nights" themed - decadent drapery, jewel tones {Reds for the canopy, Blues for the desk/shelves, Purple closet/bedding} and Gold accents.) The light sits above where I should keep my desk - that's a long story I might tell in this blog in the future if I even find a good arrangement for my furniture. But the desk is dark blue, the shelves go from medium blue to very light aqua.

On a very snowy day I got everything out and prepared. The $22 buying list is:

So I started with some sketches this time around (snapchat actually helped here):

I, of course, melted down the big aqua bowl as a base with a hole burned into the center. Then gave the cups and bowls some melty texture (flipped the base on it's head) and started making them into a conical shape. 


Finally I finished it by breaking the dark blue bowls into thirds and attaching them to the top of the base. It's not my favorite choice. But it's hung up now and Done is better than favorite. The lamp really blunts the light that it puts out now. (This is the reason for my artist's block as the next lamp is the main light of my room and I need it to put out a generous functional amount of light.)

Here are videos of the lights going on an off so you can see! (They do have mute as you like)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Indoor Propagation: Growth of Gladilous

I really got myself into it this time.

In winter I get a bit antsy. Do I have a backlog of things to do around the apartment? OH HELL YES. Do I want to do those old backlog things? NOPE. It's time to think of some new torture for future Alexandra to have to tackle. OoOoOoOoOo MUAHAHAHAHA... Past Alexandra is a real pita.

So Winter Alexandra (I can't be held responsible for her recklessness) made this purchase:

Right, right. When you're unemployed it makes total sense to use $151.57 to buy ...495 gladiolus corms?!? Oh, Alexandra....why?

So then I made a very complex plan (it was absurd. I can't even put it here. Oh okay - basically I wanted planters around the 80 foot railing of my building so new yorkers below could see the blooms but planters are expensive. I decided to buy tarps and hang them over the railing making a trough on each side - think of a "w" made by a tarp but the railing is in the middle holding the center up - the sides are connected/ held by bungee cords. the glads would sit on each side in the bottom - then grow up to 5' - about 3' above the railing - see the appendix at the bottom to see the email exchange between me, my grandmother, and my mother about this.). And I thought: 'hell! I have months to get my stuff together before all these arrive in mid-march.'

Sidenote: Oh right for all of you who don't know Glads are usually classified with the bulbs - though they are corms. Though you may know of bulbs as those tulips and daffodils that need to be planted the fall before and over-wintered - these are not spring bulbs. They are summer flowering "bulbs"! So they get planted after the last freeze and flower about 90 days after planting. /sidenote

But did I get my stuff together before mid-march? Nope. Instead with all my pent up energy I just decided I could do this hydroponically instead and then dicked around trying to make up a hydroponic solution (no pun intended) for months. Then the corms came in the mail and I still didn't know what to do so I ordered the supplies for the original soil plan - about $300. Oi!

But I decided I couldn't wait for the soil to arrive. Also I was worried that the glads wouldn't get enough sunlight from the top of the soil in the "planters" I made (again - you don't want to know). PLUS: glads are notorious for only blooming for 2 weeks (after waiting 90 days, dammit!) So gardeners stagger their plantings every week or two for continuous flowering. (90 days after the first planting flowers start and they continue even after the first round wilts to give flowers from the next rounds all summer long).

So I started the first round of bulbs inside:

and the second, a few days later. After the first had rooted a bit:

Then around 10 days after being put in the casserole dishes I moved the corms to their own water bottles that I had cut in half so they could grow without intertwining roots. I tried paper towel rolls cut to hold them up in the water but those disintegrated. The caps worked better - but not perfectly.

and then I had a LOT of water bottles on my windowsill. Pictured below you can see the first round (back left), second round (back right), third round (front right), fourth (front left), fifth and sixth (center). I found that they rooted within days, sent out stems (under an inch) in a week, had about 5-7" in a week, 12" at 15 days, 15" in 20 days, and 18" in 25 days. I stopped measuring after that.

I had lots of plant matter in my window and spilling into my living space. Watering them was taking lots of my time.
And then it became too much. Pestilence. Mold. Disease. Too much for me.

That plus the disintegration of my outdoor plans for the flowers (my building found out and wouldn't allow it) meant I had taken enough on this project. So I finally gave up, recycled the bottles, composted the plants, gave away the remaining bulbs, got the NYC parks dept to come and take all the soil I had bought - it's now in battery park -  and tried to forget how much I spent on this failure. The tarps and bungee cords are still on my terrace - let me know if you'd like some.

Appendix, Email exchange:
Me, 10/4/15:
I'm writing to you both to describe my plan for next spring/summer. I've done extensive research and I think I've got it!
I'm most interested in growing something easy that can be pawned off after the season or whenever I need to vacate the apartment - not super heavy and will flower in year one.
I was first romanced by the idea of wisteria. I saw blogs of people who had successfully wintered them in pots on NYC rooftops. But the fastest growing I saw was "up to 10 feet/season" and I really couldn't find a for sale bust over 5 feet long. meaning even to cover the railing mostly by the end of next summer I'd be looking at buying 4 plants - in addition to cost they may not flowers for 2+ years. and I'd have to make sure they don't harm the building.
I then looked into fall bulbs (tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, etc). I called some reputable bulb places and not one rep said it could be done the way I wanted it to. They have to grow roots before the warm temps or else the flowers will be stunted. Womp womp
So I settled on Spring bulbs. They flower in the summer. Yippie. From a cost perspective Gladiolus and Begonias are great. I like glads better because begonias are bushy looking. I want the tulip field effect (where they are super close together). So I found this website that has great reviews among gardening forums - and the assorted packs of Glads are obscenely cheap. Win!
I can order them in January and they'll be shipped in late march. I plan to stagger my plantings for a longer flowering season (each glad only blooms for 2 weeks so gardeners apparently plant them in succession (1/4 of them one week, 10 days later another 1/4, another ten days... so that you get the effect of having longer bloom season.) I looked up our zone etc and I think I'll start planting the 2nd week of april and plant every two weeks until the latter part of July. That's 8 planting days - 16 weeks of flowers!
But glads are SUPER tall. 3-5 feet tall. so they need taller containers than the gutter system I had originally concocted. Even window boxes are not tall enough to plant them 6 inches deep and give them some stem support. So I got my brain to work and I googled into the night (okay, during the day) and found some inspiration!
This is a planter that hangs over the railing with pockets on each side. This is not a great bang for buck and it's not the right size. (there are a lot of these and they are too expensive for my application) But there's a wholesale tarp company in Brooklyn that has colored tarps in many sizes for super cheap. I figure I need about 14 tarps and I'll lay them over the metal railing down the middle then use twine through the grommets to fold them back up. I'll put dirt in the cavities on both sides and voila! planters. Then in the winter I can take down the tarps and use them to cover my patio furniture and contain all the dirt over the winter. I calculated I need about 14 tarps (6'x8') at $2.39 each - under $40.
Since I'll have room on either side of the railing to plant and the glads are supposed to be 4 inches on center from each other I figure that's about 6 glads per linear foot of railing. There's about 72 feet of railing - 432 glads. - Or about $150 from the website above. And at the end of the season I can either dry them for me (or you) to use next season, donate them to another gardener, or compost them.
It's brilliant, brilliant, brilliant I tell you - genius I say!
I might consider going to get mulch/soil now as it'll be cheaper? I have no idea how much I'll need? 6"x12"x72' x2? 124,500 cubic inches. 72 cubic feet? how much soil is that? should I invest in some packing peanuts to offset weight and amount of soil needed? Plus I need bulb booster.
I appreciate the insight you've given me on multiple phone calls on this front. :)
Love you!!!
Grandmother, 10/4/15:
Holy Shit!!! I’m breathless!!   Your Glads sound fabulous and yes, they are a very tall plant that usually requires a planting of short annuals with them to give them a balances look.  Annuals are relatively cheap and you don’t have to worry about their survival from one season to the next…. there is no next season.I checked out the Chinese pocket planters and I wasn’t impressed by their sturdy appearance.  Soil and water weigh quite a lot and when you have something suspended over railings you  don’t want anything falling off and onto someones head….. I think that would fall under “harm to the building” in terms of a law suite from unsuspecting passersby who get clobbered with plants on their way to work.  The idea is great, but work it so any problem that will occur will  occur on your deck and not on the sidewalk below.  Also, be sure the tarp has sufficient drainage so you don’t get bulb rot.  Also, one other thing… Glads are a tall plant and I don’t know how well they do exposed to wind.  Do you get much wind on your deck???    Other than that … “It’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant"…. just like you told me!!
Luv U
Mother, 10/4/15:
My brain exploded about half way through this email.  Help me, help me... gurgle
Me, 1/23/16:
I just placed this order, $150 for 445 Bulbs in assorted colors of #1 or #2 size. The summer will be beautimus!!
Grandmother, 1/24/16:
Meanwhile… how much snow is  on your terrace???

Monday, January 25, 2016

Heat Gun going Gaga

Convocation? at a normal college: Some faculty and newbie students with their parents listening to the President recite statistics and predict never-ending greatness. SNOOZEFEST.

Convocation at Smith College? Grab a bottle of Liquor, interpret your house's "theme" with a costume that features the most skin you feel comfortable showing, get ready to chant and scream.

Oh and if you're a senior you'll need a hat. Seniors wear hats.

During my senior year our theme for Lamont Haus was Lam-ady Gaga. I was stoked and I set to work finding an appropriate way to costume up. (This was still in the Bad Romance Phase of her career).

I stumbled across this as my inspiration:

And I was off.
I could make that - right? It's just melted plastic... And my mom already had a heat gun!

Now what's really a pity is: I think I've thrown out the original sketches I made. It has been over 5 years. UPDATE! I found the original sketch - It was in my old folio. FTW!

So I went to Party City and bought the following:
1 Pack of Big Dark Purple Plates
1 Pack of Small Lavender Party Plates
4 Small Purple Bowls
1 Large Purple Bowl
Phantom Mask
1 Purple Lei
1 Box of lilac rose petals that apparently aren't sold there anymore?

Anddddd.... I started melting on my mother's back porch! You do that by moving the heatgun like a hair dryer in back and forth motions - if you heat just one spot it will melt through and the nearby plastic (still cold and hard) won't give so the hot spot with melt straight through and pull apart. I have done this on purpose but for this project - no good! Do about 4-6" sections at a time or the bottom of a whole bowl.
I first took the large bowl and melted it to make it fit my head a little better. If I'd been smarter I would have just bought a plastic hard hat as a base- then it would have fit, been more sturdy, and not given me sore spots/headaches.
I then added the "stems" of the flowers by "folding" the big plates and adhering them to the base. Then overlapping a small folded plate to gain height. The center is a melted small bowl on the top.
The front flower got an extra layer of small bowl because I had an extra small bowl.
The inner petals were made from small plates pressed into upper stem.
And then you can see the outer petals being installed. You can see the process I had to go through to remove the icky patterning around the edges before I affixed and shaped them.
Then I made some extra head support with 2 plates on the back and side.
Then I hot glued the fake rose petals and the dark purple flowers from a lei to make the face piece on top of a phantom of the opera mask. And the night of? I used a lace ruffle to secure it, using my neck of course. I'm all about safety. The rest of the costume (again - a shame you can't see the original sketches! BUT YOU CAN!) is lace that was put on my body by spray adhesive (ill advised!) and excess petals that are literally hot glued to my body. I still have scars. (Don't try this at home, folks.)
And a great convocation was had by all!
I then used the hat for rally day and to win $150 Halloween masquerade contest.
And finally after 5 years together it made it into the recycling. A long life for plastic plates and bowls. But it will always be my first plastic melting project that make my think of myself as crafty.