Philadelphia Freedom – Making the Prototypes

Kathleen Griffin In Progress Leave a comment  

August 20:

I arrive at Humankind in Philly to work with Kate and Joel. Kate and I will be finishing the butterfly patterns in foam and then wax and then they will be laying them up in epoxy resin around the steel, which was constructed by Bermco Steel and overseen by  Charles at Skyscraper. We have to see if the existing 13 foot patterns can be altered enough to work with the steel now that it is actually cut, or if we have to make a new pattern. I am hoping for the former because I already have about 20 hours of work into the existing patterns.

Going to Kate and Joel’s is more of an art vacation. They have a gigantic shop and an amazing house. They have built a tiny kingdom inside an old warehouse, complete with split staircases, a giant mermaid aquarium (still under construction),  a roof garden where they raise bees and a giant pet bunny in the backyard. It is definitely an artist’s house. I would move in, if they would let me. And the shop is collasal, covering two floors.

After about an hour we know the current pattern will work. I begin to meticulously cut the texture into the wings as Kate goes to work on cutting out a trace of the steel. We have decided to make the wing with a 1/2 inch tolerance for fluctuations in the steel armatures. I am going to have to make the wings a little taller than my original design but other than that it should be okay. About four hours later we are ready to start applying the wax. The goal is to smooth out the details a little, take out the under cuts and give it a smooth surface, so that when the resin comes out of the mold it will be easy to gold leaf.

At 4 p.m., Joel replaces our water with beer and by 9 p.m. he is ready to feed us on the roof.

We spend the evening looking out at the Phili skyline as Kate explains to me the finer points of raising bees.

I am loving the refuge, inside a studio that makes it all seem so easy, with artists who can literally build anything. I find myself thinking, “It’s hard to be an artist and rare – a life based on beauty and its endless pursuit. It’s a vocation, and we live it, whether it be in building giant things or in raising bees and making mermaid aquariums, it is life as we hoped it could be and as we imagine it can be. In resistance to the ugliness, and grind.”

I work another day and a half and by Wednesday at noon the wings are done. Sadly I bid farewell to them and their bunny. I briefly consider throwing the bunny in the car but figure for the good of the project, I shouldn’t steal their pets. In about three weeks the mold will be done and they will be pulling the first butterfly out of the mold, like a Monarch from a cocoon.

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