As of Monday just gone, I have officially finished my first year at college! Yay!
(technically not my first year as I went there to do photography after school but mehhh, for the purposes of this blog post let’s pretend it didn’t happen. Oh and please also excuse the large number of tumblr reaction gifs located in this here blog, I’m a tad obsessed. :P)
This is a remarkable achievement given that this time last year I was more likely to be found moping around my room with no hope of accomplishing anything, as well as battling the vestiges of the crippling depression that had me in its vicious clutches for over five years.
Now however I feel confident in myself, have found a course that I love, have somehow managed to revoke my permanently single status and can honestly say that I’m happy for the first time in a long while.
So yeah, yay! :D
The journey to the end however, was not paved with gold. It was angsty, stressful, and tiring to the extreme, hence me not actually blogging about it until nearly a week after the fact!
Technically our last day was Friday but there was no way we were going to get everything done on time so we got Monday as well. The end of year show started the following day so we really had to knuckle down and get sorted for then. (As it happened, most of the class were still working on the set right up until the show opened at twelve!)
I was panicking more than usual because my gun prop was far from finished and I spent much of Thursday close to tears when the vacformer broke and I couldn’t do anything until it was fixed several hours later. The issue was never fully explained to me but basically there was no suction, no vacuum (which, for a machine whose sole purpose is to use a vacuum to form shapes is somewhat problematic) so all my attempts came out like this...
...when they should have been like this.
When I finally managed to get a couple of good forms (after going through varying types and thicknesses of styrene) I felt a little better but still lacked conviction that I was ever going to finish the damn thing!
I’d vacformed the power cells in clear styrene a few days before (using the only scrap of clear I could find) and they’d turned out far better than I thought they would. I made the master out of styrene and some beads I bought the same day from the art store in the hope that they’d make it look vaguely interesting. I wasn’t expecting the vacformer to pick up the subtle detail in the long beads so it came as a pleasant surprise when it did.
Now all that remained was to get the LEDs sorted and wired up, make a working trigger to act as the on/off switch, stick everything together, make the front nose cone and the sliding magazine that would slot into the sides.
In two days.
I managed to get the power cells sorted fairly easily but by this point I was totally losing my nerve over the trigger and the lights. The last time I did anything with LEDs was in second year at school...ten years ago and even then I don’t remember being particularly good with them. Now I had to work out how to get a trigger involved and I was getting myself into a right state over it. Even with the time constraints this was one aspect of my design I wasn’t willing to compromise over. It had to have lights and it needed a trigger – no matter what. Luckily for me fellow classmate Stuart ordered me up the right LEDs and coached me on what type of battery I’d need. Getting them to light up was easy peasy but the trigger mechanism still eluded me until, after running after Simon and moaning at him for a while, he made a suggestion and I rushed off to give it a go.
I couldn’t work the drill so Liam stepped in and made the actual trigger for me out of acrylic (seriously, I was flailing so much and in such a state I’d have totally lost it if he hadn’t been there to step in and save me, lol) but I did the rest. I had a vague idea on how to fit a spring into the mechanism so the trigger would go back to its starting point after being pulled but it was Simon who suggested making a hole in the foam for the bit of piping to go through which worked magnificently.
Once that was sorted, making the wires contact smoothly was a lot simpler than I’d envisaged and it didn’t take me long to come up with this simple, though crudely put together method.
And whaaaatd’ya know, it worked!
The nosecone was a simple vacform (that I nearly forgot to do!) with windows cut out and thick tracing paper stuck in. Originally I wanted a sort of mesh over it too but I really liked the effect it had with just the plain paper so I left it as it was. I also stuck in some holographic card to bounce more light around.
With the LEDs sorted out, all that remained was for me to stick the whole thing together. I ended up not making the sliding magazine after all because it would have taken far too long and my attempt to make a quick one out of body filler turned out like this –
- and hadn’t even set properly so it was decided to leave it as it was. I actually prefer it like this now anyway, it shows off the lights better for one thing!
So, I took it home and superglued it together then sanded it thoroughly before I filled the gaps with milliput and sanded it again...
I absolutely loathe milliput and if I could have taken home the car body filler to use instead I would have as it’s SO much easier to work with. As it turned out the milliput was a pain in the arse to sand and I ended up with a really rough finish in places that I’m still really annoyed about.
Before I sanded it I’d masked off the power cell parts for painting. This was where I made a tremendously huge mistake. I used blutack (it IS blutack there honestly, it was a special edition one so it was yellow, lol) on one side as I’d used it before and it peels off wonderfully with no damage to the surface...
...but then I ran out and my brain went ‘hmmm, what’s like blutack but not actually blutack...I know! SUPER SCULPEY!’
It was a decision I will NOT be making again. Yes, it masked off the paint well enough but where the blutack simply peeled away, the sculpey err...stuck.
Nothing I tried would shift it and I eventually had to resort to using BRASSO of all things to get it off. Even then it left the surface rough and with an uneven texture. Before I realised this however I’d already made a nigh fatal error. I managed to spray it several times in nice thin layers but on Sunday night I realised there were still areas where the milliput showed through the paint so against my own better judgement I did one thicker layer and left it to dry overnight.
It didn’t dry.
By the time I’d got it to college the paint had reached that horrible ‘tacky’ stage where it’s mostly dry but is still damp enough that it picks up every infinitesimal speck of dirt and dust and rubs off at every given opportunity. After having a minor breakdown when I realised what I’d done with the sculpey, I did my usual and ran after Simon for help. He told me that I couldn’t repaint it until it was completely dry so I was left to wave the heatgun at it whenever I had time from making the set. In the end I never did get it repainted but I had more than one person at the end of year show compliment me on my ‘weathering’ so that’s karma kicking me in the arse as that’s what I usually suggest to everyone else to use as an excuse if paint finishes go wrong! All things considered though I’m really happy with how it turned out and it’s great fun to play with.
Oh yeah, see that big metal tentacled creature in the background there? That’s Rodney. ;D
The set only really came together on the Friday – before then we’d had the walls up and the majority of the tiles in but it wasn’t until it came to installing ‘Rodney’ the alien that we realised just how brilliant it was going to look.
Lucie and I had made the neck ourselves but other people were responsible for the arms, grasping hands and the eye. Here he is chilling out on the tables before his big reveal.
One of his arms had already been installed the week before and is one of my favourite parts of the entire set.
He slotted into the back of the set perfectly but was a lot heavier than you’d think so it was a bit of a gamble in having his only support system being fishing line tied to the ceiling, but incredibly it not only held his weight but was virtually invisible to the average glance.
As soon as the arms went in it was just...wow.
He had finally come to life!
(These photos are uploaded purely because of Stuart and Simon’s faces. XD)
I was responsible for the weathering on the metal sections and while they look really stark here, in reality they looked much better.
Difficult to see unless you were really looking for it was a little lost tourist – an American cockroach made by Stuart with a copy of the London Underground map. XD
By Tuesday morning there was still a LOT to do before the open day kicked off at noon. The grouting between the tiles was the most arduous of all and wasn’t without its own little dramas.
In theory, painting in the grouting sounded very easy. Just take some black paint, brush it on and wipe off the excess. Heh, no.
Because different areas had been done at different times some parts had dried in while others were still wet and the dried sections were much harder to deal with. To begin with a damp paper towel and a dry one were the tools of choice...until the paper towels ran out that is. We tried raiding other departments to no avail and eventually resorted to some hastily snatched napkins from KFC and whatever we could find in the bin at one point but it wasn’t working. The paint just would not shift.
We went from paper towels to metal rulers in the hope that scraping it off would work which, to be fair, it did, but it also took off some of the styrene and wasn’t nearly as effective. Luckily for the set, Stuart went to the pound shop and came back with some washing up sponges which were absolutely PERFECT!
Thanks to those we managed to get everything done in time and the set was ready to be shown to the world! Simon got an MP3 of station related sound effects on a loop and when combined with some dramatic lighting, it was really very evocative and atmospheric.
Most people’s friends and family were set to arrive at six o’clock when the wine was served and whatnot so the majority of us had a long wait. Unfortunately, at a time when most of us just wanted to sit down somewhere comfy and sleep for a few hours and rest our weary knees, there was still work to be done – this time for the college itself. The end of year open week(?)’s theme was ‘The Taste of Success’ (corny I know) so the Modelmaking department was called upon to provide all the campuses with oversized sweeties to display. (you know, as you do.)
Luckily the majority of them had already been made up but they still needed some to be wrapped up in cellophane so guess who got roped into helping?! My knees were already knackered from scrubbing the tiles and now I had to sit on the floor and wrap sodding great pieces of polystyrene in silver paper so I was none too chuffed.
Still, they looked pretty good so I suppose it was worth the joint pain. XD
Also on display was my door from the second block and my eyewear – here modelled by my friend Sabina.
Everyone’s props on display.
Liam did one of the guns from Avatar and it looked absolutely brilliant. (not unexpectedly. :P)
Anyway, to finish off this long and rambling blog post, here’s some photos from today of me and Rodney having a faceoff.
(this one’s of Claire who came to see the show today and it’s my favourite photo of the lot, lol)
So yeah, that’s this year over – roll on the next! :D
Oh and if you were wondering, the title of this post is the mantra all the second years kept repeating to themselves in the final days when everything was going horribly wrong. XD