Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Waldorf water bird

The river scene to promote the Waldorf-inspired charter school is, in my opinion, wholly inadequate without some authentic Los Angeles River flora and fauna.

So I worked to create a snowy egret for the scene. I started with this photo from the Bolsa Chica (I would like to find the photographer, to link back properly to his site and give him credit). 

I couldn't figure out how to mathematically draw a pattern, so I built a maquette out of a printout of the photo and some structural elements cut from magazine paper.

This was a tremendous mindbender for me, and I have no idea how I can draw the final pattern and digitize it in a way that I can offer it to all of you so you can make one. Stay tuned on that.

It turns out the bird I chose was showing mating plumage. Whoopsie. I went with it anyway. The next one will be plain.

Here's a sample of the pieces: two main bodies, two wings (one not shown), a gusset for the forehead, a gusset for the back and neck, and an underside gusset.

 I traced these parts onto paper as a real pattern...

 ...Then I cut them out of felt. And I started sewing. Maybe you can tell by the changing light in the photos, that this wasn't the speediest process. I started at the back of the crown, and sewed the forehead gusset first using a blanket stitch and embroidery thread. Then I sewed the back gusset, and started on the underside gusset.

As the body came together, I stuffed and sewed. I use polyfill. Wool is much better, but expensive, and since this guy is going to be out in public and could mysteriously disappear or become injured, I didn't want to really shell out on the prototype. In the end, I added a black (uh brown, I didn't have black felt) bill piece and a yellow mask.

Unfortunately, I did not plan the legs before sewing the entire body closed. Organizational FAIL. The pipe cleaner legs with no platform to support the weight of the bird was a comically optimistic solution.

Techman suggested that I create a U-shape of wire inside the body to support the weight. Which I will be sure to do before sewing the body closed on the next snowy egret.

This time, I tried to bend the wires into a V inside the bird (each leg going through a tiny hole underneath. The wire is 20 gauge copper wire, doubled and twisted.

Then I glued the bird's feet to some flat river rocks (which are glued together) as sort of a stand. I leaned the whole works into a corner so it can — hopefully — dry properly.

I hope the next egret will be able to stand on his own. But for a first shot at pattern-making, I'm not disappointed with the results. Soup to nuts, this guy represents about four-and-a-half hours' work. Once the pattern is settled, I think new ones would come together much more quickly.

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