Tuesday 6/12: Plastic

Some early experiments with the shrimp’s head

With all my crayon drawings and plans for the shrimp, I thought this would be easy. I’m a crafter—I know how to scribble some notes on a page and turn that into a 3D object. Well, yarn and fabric are generally obedient and forgiving. Plastic is willful and not even slightly merciful.

My initial plan was to use the clear plastic packaging from a makeup brush, basically as-is, to encase the internal parts of the shrimp within the exoskeleton. This seemed like it would work until I decided to use the orange lid to a bottle of Off! spray for the shrimp’s head carapace. That threw off the scale, so I attempted to sew in some scrap fabric. On the first attempt, the needle and the feed dogs on my sewing machine shredded the plastic. I cut the shredded bits off and tried again, but the result was much too small.

This really seemed like it would work.

Working with found and recycled objects offers many opportunities to panic when you’ve ruined your only piece of a particular material. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider running out to Target and buying another brush for the packaging, but that struck me as a violation of the terms of the assignment, the Honor Code, and the message of my sculpture. I wandered around my apartment looking for any possible replacement, hoping like crazy that I wouldn’t have to resort to trying to make Ziploc bags support all of my other materials. I couldn’t find anything.

In desperation, I boiled some water and attempted to use the heat to reshape the Off! lid so it might fit with what I’d sewn. At first, it seemed like it would work, but the PVC was just too hard. I took a break from working at home to go to the studio and pick up the materials I’d left on my desk. I also enlisted Professor Ruby’s help in looking for a heat gun in order to have another go at reshaping the head, but we couldn’t find it.

I went home and finally saw the (huge) clear plastic bag that my comforter had come in. I was so grateful to find a material I could make mistakes with. The scarcity of some of my other materials made me afraid to experiment too much, but now I could try different proportions of plastic to fabric to my heart’s content. In the middle of this experimenting, I realized that I could sew darts in the plastic in order to give the shrimp more shape and structure. If I hadn’t destroyed my original plastic, I would never have tried it.

It’s a lot like the logic behind making a muslin version of a sewing pattern. You don’t want to ruin the (presumably) nicer and more scarce fabric you’re using for the final product, so you do a dry run with muslin and work out the issues in the pattern in a lower-stakes way. However, if I’m just using cheap quilting cotton for the final product, I’ll won’t bother with a muslin; I’ll just experiment. It’s a lot more fun.

I swear, all of this was relevant at some point.

I finally managed to attach the shrimp’s head to its body before I got too tired to continue. The whole process of making the body and attaching it to the head took 8 1/2 hours.


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