Thursday, May 05, 2011

AB 0C° - behind the scenes

Yesterday I picked up my copy of the fantastic 3D Type book from FL@33 and publishers Laurence King.

Its a really interesting mix of 3D alphabet projects from all around the world and the invention is pretty amazing. Not sure which one is my favourite, will take several flicks through to see them all but currently I'm really liking "Peebles and more" by Cloitlde Olyff.

As I mentioned in my post last year, I made my submission specifically for the book and during the crazy cold January of 2010 I spent the best part of a week sitting on a roof trying to freeze the entire alphabet. My project was called AB 0C° and you can see the final piece here.

I thought I would share a little of the process and a little secret about the finished article.

It took me a little while to crack the mould making process, first I picked a font for each letter. Once I had a template printed out for each letter I cut out strips of card from every spare cardboard box I could find in the flat and glued them onto the templates.

Initially I just poured the water straight in, sat them on the roof and waited. This worked great for the first couple when the temperatures were seriously in the minus and the water froze in minutes. Unfortunately the weather started to warm up. While still well below 0, the water started not to freeze instantly and partly soaked into the card board. This resulted in a lot of the letters coming out misshapen and completely wrecked the moulds.

Single use moulds were not much use as the letters were so delicate one slight mistake could result in a leg falling off and having to call in the first aid kit of salt and lumps of snow. I spent hours re-fixing letters.

Thankfully I managed to crack the mould making with three layers of PVA glue. Unfortunately the weather was continuing to warm up and the first few letters started to look a bit rough round the edges so I started photographing them as I went along all the time in a race against the weather forecast which was worryingly climbing up the thermometer.

I was about two thirds through, frantically trying to get the remaining moulds made and out onto the roof when it happened - the thaw. I awoke in the morning to find that all there was on the roof was a pile of moulds filled with cold but not frozen water. Disaster.

Ten minutes later all the food from our freezer was in piles in the kitchen and the freezer was packed with backing trays of moulds. Its not the biggest freezer so I could only freeze two trays of two letters at a go. Which were then popped out, wrapped in tinfoil and balanced in any little corner of freezer space I could find. Night time came and I'd managed to finally get all remaing letters made but another disaster greeted me when I went back upstairs, the thaw had now also melted the remaining snow and I had no canvas onto which to perch my letters.

I had a little brain wave at this point and nipped out to the CoOp where I bought 5 large bags of sugar and poured liberal portions onto towels on the roof (see below). The sugar was so successful as a snow substitute that even I can't remember which of the letters in the final piece were shot on the real thing and which were on the sweet stuff - its prob about 1/3 are actually sugar based. This was so messy though, everything, my clothes, shoes, camera, torch and pretty much the entire flat were covered in a layer in melted sugar. The other problem with sugar is that unlike snow, it sticks to the letters and it is not where near as good for standing the letters into. Every time I got them perfectly positioned they would fall before I had time to make it to the camera. So I had to just set the camera up on a continuous ten second snap series and keep jumping out the way. It took hours but finally in the wee hours of the morning I managed to get the last one in the bag. I kept all the letters in the freezer for a few days trying to decide what to do with them all. In the end I decided that I couldn't just throw them in the sink and recorded their individual destructions as they melted away on the roof.

Moral of the story, if you are going to be making anything out of ice, do it in a country where it is guaranteed to stay cold for a while or get one of those butcher freezer that people in cop shows are always getting lock in.

I'm pretty pleased with the way they turned out and obviously delighted they made the final cut of the book.

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