On Her Way

We loaded up the mermaid and sent her on her way to Norfolk – complete with TV coverage.
Mermaid on Camera 2
Mermaid in Flight 1
Mermaid - On Deck

Metal Mermaid

OK, the mermaid is pretty much done – I have a couple more hours of texturing and touching-up, but I’ve got all day tomorrow. We put her on a truck for Norfolk on Tuesday. Here are a few shots showing the assembly process. (Descriptions are UNDER each pic.)
Mermaid Fabrication
The flat pieces, cut according to the pattern I posted earlier. Cut with a laser from 14 gauge stainless steel.

Mermaid Fabrication (4)
Beginning the process of sorting out who goes where – these are parts of the tail fin. You can see the leading and trailing edges up front and the side faces in the background. I use the neighboring pieces as bending guides; as the edges are drawn together, it forces the planar sheets to curve into the proper shape.

Mermaid Fabrication (6)
The tail tacked together.

Mermaid Fabrication (8)
Her hair being assembled. You can see some of the printed out guides from Rhino that I use to keep myself somewhat less confused.

Mermaid Fabrication (11)
The face was, ahem, a real bitch to get to fit properly. I should have broken that center strip up into at least 3 parts – this would have saved about 3 hours of bending and tweaking due to the tight curves in opposite directions lying right next to each other. I printed out a profile section at 1:1 scale from Rhino to use as a guide. Do you get the idea that I love that program?

Mermaid Fabrication (14)
Parts being finish welded.

Mermaid Fabrication (17)
One arm is assembled and chased, with another underway. This is about when I remembered fully just how hard 304 stainless really is. There is carbon in there, and it precipitates into the Heat Affected Zone around and in each weld – making it just that much harder right where you need to grind. Weee.

Mermaid Fabrication (19)
The other arm roughly finished and the start of the main portion of the tail.

Mermaid Fabrication (21)
Attaching the face to the hair – with both mostly chased out. This was the last of the small parts to get done before moving on to assembling the tail/body and hooking them all together.

Mermaid Fabrication (24)
Mermaid Fabrication (30)
Putting the structural member in. I designed the structure keeping in mind two factors: the fountain construction docs called for a 6″ sleeve to receive the sculpture, and aesthetics. I used 5″ standard pipe to slide down into that 6″ sleeve, plus the thick pipe looks less like a lollypop. Structural engineers in Norfolk analyzed my design and found it adequate without any changes to account for all the forces in play on the piece – that means I done goodz.

Mermaid Fabrication (32)
Torso panels going on.

Mermaid Fabrication (39)
Attaching the first arm – I was able to spin the pipe on the table in order to work on both left and right halves. My back thanks me. At this point, the size of this thing in comparison to the garage is becoming really evident.

Mermaid - Upright
John Kinkade of the Guild and Mike Allison helped me stand her upright. I built a shipping stand for her so she can ride upright on the truck out to Norfolk – I like to avoid having the piece in contact with the flatbed when possible to minimize the risk of denting the (relatively) thin sheet metal. I also prefer not to attempt to cover the sculptures – the coverings tend to do more harm than good.

Mermaid Fabrication (45)
Yours truly doing some final chasing on the parts I couldn’t get at in the garageshopstudio.

Mermaid Fabrication (48)
Got a sunrise shot of her the next day. Basically done but for some final texturing and nitpicking.

This was a huge project for me – not in terms of size, but time. Start to finish in just about a month is pretty much unheard of. I wasn’t sure if I could do it. 10 hour days for 30 straight days will do it, I guess. That and lots of beer and the support of a really awesome woman.

And some great friends.

And a good portion of too stupid to know better.

Bizzy. Backsun.

I’ve been out in the shop (studio? – either way, it’s just the freaking garage) bending and welding sheets of stainless steel into the shape of a mermaid – for 18 straight days.

Why the hell would you want to do that, Mark?

The City of Norfolk, Virginia contacted the Guild looking to have their iconic mermaid logo sculpted into three dimensions. Ren put together a package of potential artists, and, long story short, they chose me. The single greatest criterion for this choice was most likely the simple fact that the fabrication method I use permits a much faster design-to-finished-sculpture time frame. Ya see, Norfolk first contacted us at the tail end of April – with an unveiling date of July 2nd. That pretty much rules out anything cast – and should rule out any kind of sculpture at all, unless crazy people happen to be involved – ooh, look at the grouse!

I spent a couple weeks in May coming up with two designs for them to choose from, both based on their original logo.
Mermaid Outline
The first idea was simpler from a fabrication standpoint. It consisted of a series of plates bolted together.
Mermaid - first design
This concept was nixed – probably a bit too industrial. I loved it, most likely because I’d be done with it already.
Time was so tight Ren put her considerable drafting skills to work on the second design while I doofused around in Solidworks on the first one. Here’s what she came up with:
Mermaid - Main View
Hmmm. Who’s the artist on this project?
Showing perfectly sensible good taste, the City chose Ren’s design.
(Time for dinner. More later.)

So, now it’s time to figure out HOW to make it. I struggled for just long enough to realize that Solidworks is just not the right tool for such a task. Nor would any of the other tools in my toolbox be fast and accurate enough (in my hands at least) to build the complex surfaces needed for the mermaid. FormZ? I’d have thrown my computer out the window after half an hour. I realized that an old friend was going to be required – hey Rhino, how ya doin’? Before I lost my marbles and abandoned the Windows world for a Mac, Rhino was the program that first enabled me to make the switch from carving stone to computer sculpting. I was amazed at how it all came back to me – I was able to jump right back in almost as if the last 5 years hadn’t intervened.

Nonetheless, I was still too inept to just start building developable surfaces that looked like the mermaid in Rhino. I needed something to start from – so I modeled the rough form in Modo.
Mermaid in Modo
It was pretty easy to flesh out the shape I wanted – that sort of work is the bread and butter of polygonal modelers like Modo. Plus, it exports formats that Rhino has no problems translating. Here’s the mesh out of Modo with the beginnings of surfaces (the tail) that will eventually be the sheet metal of the mermaid.
Mermaid - Mesh to NURBS in Rhino1
Some more progress:
Mermaid - Mesh to NURBS in Rhino2
And the finished model:
Mermaid 4-View
From here, it’s time to unroll all those surfaces so that they can be used as a pattern to drive the laser cutter. My Rhino rustiness let me make a few problematic surfaces – they were curved in two directions, which is pretty damn hard to persuade 14 gauge stainless steel sheet to do. Happily, Rhino also includes tools to compensate for this – actually, Rhino seems to be one of those programs that allows you to do pretty much anything you can think of; the tools are there if you just dig deep enough.
Anyway here’s what the unfolded parts look like:
Mermaid Paths
And here’s the final design, all gussied up for its trip to Italy:
Mermaid Render - Front
(No, it’s not REALLY Italy – just a cheesy computer render)
I’ll post more when I get some time.