Tag Archives: Blue woman sculpture matt degenaro art prize construction build

300 Ottawa

Now you know how crazy I am. The whole sculpture can flat-pack in the back of my station wagon. Delivery Day, ArtPrize.



…could my helpful shop cat come along to supervise?


The site, 300 Ottawa. What must be the premiere Grand Rapids downtown private office building. A nice work of architecture, and the grounds courtyard plaza. The feeling is like New York or Chicago, only much much much cleaner. Your could eat off this plaza. Across the street, Alexander Calder’s La Grande Vitesse.



Getting to work, assemble the body halves, and get the head on, when it starts to pour down rain.


During the spells, attach all the brackets and and the right leg.




Also, the left leg,



right arm



left arm and breast.



A small wooden pin holds the breast securely.


And there, under the clearing sky, blue brings forth blue. For the first time see I her assembled and painted, complete.


Blue Woman together

All the limbs to go on now, and that’s all except for paint. It is so simple looked at this way.

Left leg is clamped into position using the jig. The bracket is held by hand in the right position, and an outline is penciled on the leg & body pieces. Look closely and see that the bracket is already drilled with four pilot holes, one in each quadrant. Still hold the bracket in place, I tap a nail through the pilot holes to make a small mark on the surface of the leg & body.




The bracket is placed in the drill press and a four holes 7/16” drilled  following the pilot holes, to accept the barrel of the Tee nuts, which are then hammered into it. There’s spikes too that hold them securely into the wood.  the holes in the leg piece are 3/8”, the size of the bolts, and are drilled  carefully straight with a hand held drill, centered by the nail marks which were made on the surface.



Where the straight edge of the bracket meets the curved edge of the body an accommodation must be made. On the model, that line along the junction of the leg and body is just a glob of hot-glue; Here it needs to be a cut line beveled to the same angle of the bracket for it. The excellent Bosch saber saw is good for this job.


No details shown, but thread the bolts through the pieces and into the bracket’s Tee nuts, and the leg and body are attached together. There’s some jiggling to get this done. You might think a helper would help, but it can be easier to hold things into place with your own head, shoulder and feet, while you use your hands to turn the screws in.



Cat: "Can I help?"  - Man: "You don’t have thumbs."

The attachment feels solid and secure to me. Pulling on or shaking the leg doesn’t feel like it could snap off or break away at all. Still, thinking, “A lot can happen” , I see it “couldn’t hurt” to reinforce these brackets with  more hardware, namely screws, to add extra mechanical connections to the part.



Onto the right arm. At  this point it is starting to dawn on me that I can take measurements off of the model which are actuate enough to place the position of the arm & body relative to each other without the need of the jig to suspend the pieces for judgment by my eye. This is done mostly by finding the perpendicular of the junction line of the parts, and extending that to the visual apex of the roughly circular arm or leg piece.


I’ve turned the whole thing over onto sawhorses this time, so I can work without crawling under. Mark and cut the straight edge matching the bracket angle. This one’s easy, it’s 90 degrees.


Clamp in place, tap in nail-marks through pre-drilled 1/8” pilot holes in bracket, and because I have better working position, I drill the 1/8”pilot hole further through the facing wood now.


Remove and drill the bracket. Drill the 3/8” holes into the body at pilot holes. How Tee nuts go in.




The same steps again for the arm.




And put the screws in, and assemble together.



Turned back over (legs removed).



Left arm, and last one to do. This arm is uniquely placed with the bracket on the front surface of the body. I put the head legs and arms back on so I can see. I entirely measure on the bracket this time without need for the jig; I have experience at this now.


Measure for and place the bracket on the arm. This time it’s the arm which gets the straight edge cut into it’s circular perimeter.




There she is mostly, but what still remains is to do her beautiful breast.





"Amazing, you actually did it"


The breast attaches by fitting into a slot cut in the face of the left –side body. The slot position is measured off of the model, and adjusted in length for 1 1/2’ depth of Once again, the excellent Bosch saber saw is good for this. Use a new blade, live it up. Somewhat nerve wracking; it may look like I know what I’m doing but I’m making it up as I go along.




The Blue Woman Sculpture fully assembled together for the first time:







Hurray! Let’s paint BLUE.

BW 3

The body can go together now, and the attachment of the limbs.

The body is set upon the floor, and the head-piece is clamped into position with the help of a jig to hold it in place while adjustments are made, viewpoints are checked-out, comparisons to the model are referenced, and markings are drawn.


Mounting holes to the bracket are measured, drilled, Tee nuts inserted, and the head is fastened on. Nice.






The right leg goes the same. It is clamped into place and compared to the model.


At this point I’m not certain about the best way to arrange, mark, and drill the mount bracket for the leg, and I’ll have four of these to do, so I want to get it right, have a system, and repeatable. The four holes on two pieces to be joined must line up accurately, or it’s a mess.


I drill a 1/8” pilot hole centered in each quadrant of the bracket. I then mark the placement of the bracket, and hold it with nails through the pilot holes. One at a time, I remove a nail and drill the pilot hole deeper through the leg or body part. Then I can remove the bracket and drill the four 3/8” holes for the bolts, through the body and leg following the pilot holes. I put the bracket on the drill press to drill the holes for the Tee nuts nice and perpendicular. I don’t want that angled or it will be difficult for the bolts to thread into them. That’s how I figure it, and this first one’s a test. I have better pictures of this to follow, during the mounting of the other three limbs.




This works. I can even do it mostly by myself without a helper. I feel this will come together quickly now, well, not exactly, because there’s a lot of complicated marking and drilling to do for each bracket and limb, so I’ll say instead, come together reliably.

A system, Ahh!

Blue Woman build 2

I’ve done a lot of engineering in my head since the last post. I had to understand how to assemble this, whether or not and how it would dis-assemble for transport, what sort of attachment hardware to use, and the devising of support-attachment brackets to hold the sections securely together. As usual, I depend on the advice of a few good friends. One idea offered was that the assembly method should be true to the nature of plywood construction generally, as in furniture for instance, and that the whole thing could be “flat-packed”, disassembled for transportation. Really, it could be no harder to do that than making permanent fixed connections, so I’ll try.

The two halves of the body bolt onto a supporting rail which is glued to one half.


This is the bolt pattern.






I’m using these “Tee nuts” everywhere for this project, which makes a clean installation I think. They get pounded into the wood. I used a ton of these when I built my climbing wall, and they work well. They’re strong and simple. I’m using all stainless steel hardware –live it up.


A brace to help out. It could be done a lot of ways. This is easy and it works.


The wedge shaped brackets which support the limbs to the body are designed to match the feeling of the whole sculpture, and are made from the same plywood material. This is an unglamorous part of sculpting, but this blog is meant for my own notes, and for the interest of other sculptors and makers.


Cutout 12” circles with the excellent Bosch saber saw.


Per design, mark for cutting the inner corner angle. The amount of angle has been measured from the model. There are 4 brackets for the limbs, one 90 degrees, two 65 degrees, and one 115 degrees. This is detailed work, but not too bad since the 90 is easy, there’s two 65’s and only one 115. This is the 90.


It’s hard to run a circular object through a table saw. If I was stupid, I’d run it through freehand and risk an accident. But also, the accuracy is not enough. Better to construct a jig to hold the piece in the right configuration to go through the saw straight and safe. Also, I have her watching and reminding me not to mess up.

best shop cat




Turn the piece over in the jig, and cut the second angle.



Cutting the angles for the 65s is a different orientation on the table saw because the angle of the blade won’t go over 45 degrees. Actually, this is easier than the last step.


A better way is to clamp it to a second piece. this keeps your fingers farther away from the blade, and it slides more smoothly through the saw.


I’m using the famous West System epoxy to glue these together. It will be super-strong, the joints don’t have to be perfect, and it is fast.


Also, cut out some semi circle wedges to give support to the brackets, per design.


Epoxy applied, clamping not necessary. Firm in 5 minutes and cured overnight.


There’s a fifth bracket for the attachment of the head at the angle where the two halves of the body meet. It also support the body parts. The small model doesn’t have this, so I don’t have a plan. Instead, I freehand with the saw from a cardboard template and measurements of the angles directly off the sculpture.




Blue Woman Build

I’m happy to say that Blue Woman will be made of mostly salvaged/recycled material. Passing by my favorite super-secret dumpster, I discovered six full sheets of high quality-finish plywood discarded. Enough for the entire project. This was on the afternoon after I’d committed the entry fee to participate in ArtPrize this year. Believe in Destiny?

Free stuff is still a lot of work to haul, cleanup, and make useful. That stuff is heavy, and my back is broken down.


Setup your workspace.


Using templates made from the model, blow up the design to size.


My model is one-sixth the intended size. That size is determined by the size of the largest piece that will fit out of a 4×8 plywood sheet. Trace the pieces out onto the materials and, using your nice Bosch saber saw, and a steady hand, cut them out. Let the tool do the cutting.




The trick is now to attach all these pieces together. The foam-core model was easily built using only hot-glue. This full size sculpture will need reinforcements at the corners, glue, nuts and bolts, and particular wedge-shaped brackets to get everything to hold together solidly.