Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Spiffing up Chinasaurs!

During the installation of the traveling exhibit "Chinasaurs!" it became evident that while them supplied murals were beautiful they were going to need something to punch them up a bit.  They were 10' x 30', hand-painted on canvas.  The edges were showing wear from years of being stapled to gallery walls, and no matter how much we misted and stretched the canvas they would still hang like drapery in some areas.  Not only that but the color values used in the paintings were very close to that of the gallery walls.  After a laborious installation, it looked like - well, it looked like we had stapled some stuff up in the wall.

 Since we had yet to figure out how we were to hide the bases to the specimens, we decided that we could make the walls and the floor work together.  In less than a week.

We decided to embrace contrast and use a traditional look of red-lacquer, gilding, and stone-work.  For our materials we chose blue foam for its low-cost and ease of machining. We worked with a student to make sure that we were in fact using the correct symbols for "dinosaur" that could be V-carved into the base units.  After choosing a red crushed velvet to drape the bases we were able to have a matching latex paint mixed.  We first painted the milled-out areas with black acrylic painting using a brush, then the red latex was applied to the top surface using a short-nap roller.  The bad news was that the gold paint for the gilded characters ate aggressively into the blue foam.  This was abated by using the CNC to cut a stencil for the characters.  While the interior of the characters was somewhat dissolved, the use of the stencil allowed us to maintain a sharp exterior line.

We used the way the spray paint dissolved the foam to our advantage.  To make the "stonework" appear weathered, we used a cheap black spray to in-paint the low areas in an expressionistic fashion.  This transformed each of the sharp, uniformly machined squares into  something soft and unique.  A light touch to the top surface with a roller and the look was complete.

There were several maps in the exhibit that also needed artistic treatment to make them pop off the wall.  This was achieved by V-carving some corner details in ABS.

With some work and a few hundred dollars worth of materials, we were able to transform and exhibit that was looking rather drab into something colorful and exotic.  To those who would stick there head in the door from time to time to check our progress, the transformation was nothing short of a miracle.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Yams and Shields:
"Warrior Spirits - Indigenous Arts from New Guinea"

Here are some examples of the wall treatments that we did for the "Warrior Spirits" exhibit.  Many of the artifacts for this exhibit were to be wall-mounted, but even with their large scale they were doomed to be lost on the walls of the gallery.  We opted to create these "shields" to consume some of the negative space while giving a contrasting color to  display against.

Each of the shield panels were hung with french cleats integrated in to the overall design such that each component was labeled and all components aligned with pins.  When it came time to install there was no confusion in the assembly, and all of the cleats hung at one of 3 heights.

This simplified process and sped up the installation a great deal.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fun with Dibond and Plexiglas

For our exhibit "Mediterranean Treasures" we had the challenge of displaying many small objects that required specific lighting for them to be meaningful to the visitor - coins, small sculptures and examples of cuneiform writing.

We decided that we could re-purpose our biggest cases for our smallest items.  We would do this by producing a large piece of case furniture (affectionately called a "doghouse")to raise the deck level.  Above this arrangement we would integrate an LED lighting system that was up to the task. (None of the objects in these cases are "friable," so light damage was not a concern.)

We decided to use a material called "Dibond" - a sheet of polyethylene sandwiched between 2 sheets of 0.012" powder-coated aluminum.  It is lighter and more rigid than acrylic sheet, and comparable in cost.  The most intriguing aspect of this material is how it can be easily bent by V grooving along the desired brake line.  The sheets cut easily with an 1/ 8" up-cut bit at 18K RPM.  The finished unit is held together with a few strips of 3M VHB tape.


We also used ivory colored acrylic sheet to great effect in this exhibit.  This case furniture was created using a simple egg-crate design, which is reminiscent of the region's columnar architecture.  When the exhibit is over, these disassemble to store flat.

In the case of this urn for storing cremains, we used a solvent based cement to joint the panels.  During the assebly process we placed 200 lbs. of lead bricks on the platform.  I am sure it would have taken more.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Scarfs Up!

The elusive wavy stepped scarf joint. Ever since I was at my first Makers Faire and witnessed this technique, I have been dying to give it a whirl. Until now there has not been a need.

It took us several iterations to get it right, and we learned quite a bit in the process.

To lazy to list all of that here. If you're interested, give me a shout and I'll talk you through it.

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Window Dressing.

Every Spring the museum hosts the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair (ONAYLF) as part of its ongoing commitment to the use and preservation of Native American languages. A component of this event is a poster contest that features work of students from around the country.

The yearly challenge for our department is to have all of the pieces on display and properly labeled by the events opening at 8am on Monday morning. Another difficulty for us is that the event is growing while our available space for the display dwindles due to our expansion of permanent exhibits.

Our solution was to create reusable mats for the works that can be placed in the windows of the museum's rotunda. Since the contest's format remains consistent from year to year, we were able to standardize the displays to facilitate the mounting of the works and their object labels.

The panels are made from 1/8" Sintra. White was used against the window to reflect sunlight and reduce warpage. Black on the face to create the mat spaces and to allow us to incorporate the curved design element at the top of each panel. The layers are adhered using double-sided Nitto-Denko No. 512 low VOC tape.

On the Friday prior to the fair we place the works in the mats spaces, adhere the object labels (printed ahead of time to re-positionable label stock) and place them on a panel cart. At that time we also apply 3M Command double-stick tape to the back of each panel to speed up the next phase of the process.

Come Monday morning we roll the whole lot into the Rotunda, peel off the tape backing, and place them on the sills. High-fives all around. Commence eating doughnuts.
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Games for Egg Hunt at the Sam Noble

Made these items for the "Eggstravaganza" event at the Sam Noble Museum. A Pentaceratops ring-toss and a Saurophaganax bean -bag game.

Both are cut from 1/2" MDF. The black lines are accomplished with V-carves, the grooves the filled with black latex spray paint. Then the background coat was laid down with a large short-napped roller. The body and horns of the Penta have lines both sides - learned some registration lessons there. Next time I'll use some pins.

Due to the 40 MPH winds the Penta had to be held to the ground with some auger and rope. It wiggled a bit, but was otherwise fine.
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010