Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How to Make a Concrete Butterfly: Part 1

I've had some inquiries as to how I made the concrete butterflies. I'm happy to share my process. Besides, it gave me a perfect excuse to make one more!

Here's a photo of the pieces needed to make the butterfly. (You can click on these photos to see them larger)

I make 4 wings out of hardware cloth. Because I'm making 4 of them and I need them to be identical, I started by creating a paper pattern. I traced the pattern onto the hardware cloth using a thick black marker then cut out the wings with tin snips.  In this example, I'm using a combination of hardware cloth and diamond lath.  Personally, I found it easier to work with hardware cloth alone.  If you do, you'll want to make sure when you cut out the 4 wings that you turn that pattern 45 degrees for two of them so that when you stick them together, the squares in the hardware cloth with criss-cross.  (I'll explain further below).

Also needed is a strip of hardware cloth that will be used to make the body, two strips of wire that will be the antennae, and a piece of rebar for the stake.

I bent the end of the rebar by simply putting my foot on one end and pulling on it.  I'm using #3 rebar, so it's relatively easy to bend by hand.

The reason you cut 4 wings is because you want to end up with a good mesh for the mortar to adhere to. 

The mortar will more easily fall through a single layer of hardware cloth, so to create a more solid mesh, I take two of my wings and "sew" them together using wire.  As I mentioned above, in this photo I'm using a combination of hardware cloth and diamond lath.  In retrospect, it was easier to work with just hardware cloth, so when you cut out two of your wings, turn the pattern to a 45 degree angle so the squares in the cloth cris-cross.

To make the body, coil your strip of harware cloth around the rebar, using wire to secure it in place and pinching the top to form a rounded head.

Next, slip your antennae into the "head", using wire to secure them to the cloth.  I make a small loop at the end of the antennae wire that I thread wire through.  They don't need to be terribly sturdy as the mortar will help keep them in place.  You just want to make sure you can't pull them straight out.

Attach the wings to the body using wire.

You've now got a metal butterfly on a stick that can be mortared.  One lesson I learned when making the first two is that the wings will get weighted down by the mortar.  I wanted my butterfly to be shaped as if it were fluttering around.  However, when I applied the mortar on the first two, the weight pulled the wings down a bit more than I would have liked.  The wonderful artists over on the GardenWeb forum suggested stringing a piece of wire across the top of the two wings to hold them in place.  Once the wings have mortared and dried, snip the wire.  I intend to try that with this one, as I'd like to hold this shape I've created:

In the next post, I'll show you my process for mortaring the butterfly. After mortaring, you could either paint it using craft paints or apply a mosaic finish, which is what I intend to do.

The fun of making these concrete armature sculptures is that they're weather resistant. Wood will deteriorate over time, and metal requires welding. I came across this method of creating outdoor artwork because I can be a relative novice with tools and the materials are very inexpensive.

Stay tuned for the next installment which will be coming to you in a couple days!

No comments:

Post a Comment