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HOW I COMPOSED 6 HUMBLE ELEMENTS OF NATURE TO MAKE A CONCEPTUAL JUNK SCULPTURE ABOUT HOPE

If you think you are the entire picture, you will never see the bigger picture.

-John C Maxwell

Before we get into the juicy part, here is the backstory for anyone that hasn’t yet seen the spider sculpture ‘LOOK UP…’

This humble yet meaningful spider sculpture is filled with hope. Although, this piece may seem distressing and overwhelming at first glance, in fact it portrays the complete opposite. It’s all about compassion and optimism.

The whole concept of this junk sculpture is based on the perception of seeing the bigger picture in tough times in life. When you are the kind of person who constantly protects, provides, and fixes things around you, and one day someone who means the world to you is going through a tough time… All of a sudden you find yourself feeling helpless.

You try and do the impossible to rip all their pain away, but you feel like no matter what you do there’s no progression.

It’s a very difficult experience when all you want is for them to see what you see. That things will get better in their own pace. That things will ease but not be forgotten. That things will change to help them grow. All in due time.

On one hand you feel like you’re helpless, and on the other hand your loved one is just seeing and feeling the way they’ve always seen or felt things.

It’s one of the worst feelings ever, right?

This is why I created the sculpture ‘Look Up’ to capture the unbreakable faith between two people who care for each other sincerely and to express the power of perspective. Here is a short story about a vulnerable spider who’s stuck in its own mind and a little flower who brings a glimpse of hope into its life.

Final spider sculpture design… not bad from a couple of pegs and some messy window seal 😉

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Initial doodle sketch…

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Right… now we are all on the same page, let me begin by saying…

I tried my best to capture as many stages as possible, but I was having too much fun and wiping my tears now and then when things didn’t go to plan… so apologies in advance.

The photos in my journal aren’t for photography purposes. I took them solely to show you my entire sculpturing process, from start to finish.

I found it challenging to take photos and draw beautiful sketches whilst I was working. It was ruining my damn groove lol. When it comes down to making its very frustrating to go in and out of the zone. Its like stopping a singer in the middle of a belter.

Although it was tricky, at the end I discovered ways to snap key moments of my full designing process. My husband bless him took a few photos of me after work (he was absolutely knackered), I created short videos then snapshot what I thought was informative and not feel embarrassed of sharing all my raw personal notes to you guys.

However, when I did complete my sculpture in the end, I had more time to focus on creating quality and detailed photographs of my final piece. You’ll see the difference yourselves and understand what I mean.

You see, things don’t always have to be ‘perfect’. The important thing is to understand what you want to achieve. You need to ask yourself, “What is the point of it all? What do I want people to take from this?” and “Is my heart completely in this?”

I didn’t hold back at all… It’s all there! The good, the bad, and the ugly.

For me, this journal is all about inspiring and teaching people.

Showing everyone that sculpturing junk isn’t just sticking bits and bobs together, it involves a lot of skill and time… And to help artists/designers avoid the mistakes I made and push themselves to do even better.

Despite all the odds that could have made me give up at any time such as not having a workshop, on a budget, limited space, and tools… I realised that with a little bit of creativity and a can-do attitude, you can also create beautiful things just like me. And if you don’t see yourself as a ‘creative person’ then at least you will be inspired.

Here’s me looking sooooo hot during the making of my spider sculpture. I went from collecting bits of junk to making an elegant sculpture… I tell you, It was an effortless process :b

Drum roll please… (take notes if you want)

1. CREATE A PERSONAL BRIEF

I know that the word ‘brief’ is formal, and it’s used in the art and design industry a lot and right now you’re saying to yourself… what is Weaam on about? I thought this was supposed to be light-hearted not an art and design lecture. And it is, promise! Let me explain…

No matter what we plan to make whether it’s a sculpture, a painting or even a cake for your neighbours. We always find yourselves planning and doodling on a scrap paper before making anything.

Those doodles are our initial notes. Our raw ideas. Our solid foundation.   

Everyone has different methods, but I know for a fact that too much planning can kill the magic sometimes. So, try to avoid this, because expressing real emotion comes from the heart not from a pen and paper.

I always tend to scribble what I’m going to make, what is the story behind my idea to allow me to express from the heart to connect with people, and finally what junk materials I need to collect to build my sculpture from scratch.

The whole ‘before and after pic’ that some artists create doesn’t work with me. You know what I’m on about, the fancy photos that many people do as if the process was so straightforward. Well, we all know that that’s full of BS.

I always find new fascinating junk materials every day. I can’t keep up and things always change, because junk isn’t reliable.

At some point in your making process, you will find yourself having waaaaaaaaay too much fun or crying, because something just broke. Either way, you will have your personal brief (your doodles) that you can always count on to swerve you back in the right direction.

It acts as a reminder to help you refocus and remind yourself why you are sculpturing in the first place.

Here’s my personal brief for my spider sculpture: Nothing complicated, just straight to the point…

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When you have a plan, and know your purpose of what you want to make… Take a deep breath, believe in yourself, and just get stuck in…

2. YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE YOUR INSPIRATION WILL COME FROM…

It was a beautiful sunny morning on my balcony… my cuppa in one hand and a tasty toast in the other. I was there trying to soak in the moment and then something caught my eye (as usual) …

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This little thing. To many it’s just another spider on a different day but for me, well…

I instantly got inspired by its form, its presence, and its texture. To me this spider looked like a person trying to block the world around them and looked exhausted by life. I looked even closer (not that close because I’m scared of spiders) and saw this thin cobweb tangled just like a stress of thoughts that one could have.

I remember rushing my husband to see this spider and shouting ‘voilà!’ with my jazzy hands pointing at it. His face was priceless hahahahahaha. He was like “ok, aaaand youuuu are showing me this spider beeeeecause?” So, I explained to him what I wanted to make, and he said, “And you got all this from this tiny random spider, Weaam you’re supposed to relax remember?”

The more I explained to him and showed him through sketches the more he understood what I wanted to achieve (not completely though, he still had his cute, confused face expression that he always makes just before I make a sculpture).

You see when people look at your journey from start to finish and then finally see your sculpture piece everything makes sense to them. It’s a beautiful click. But when you are the only one that can see what you want to make and try to explain your idea… everyone as polite as they can be just nod their heads and it’s as if you’re talking in a different language at that point in the process.

Don’t let this phase of the process dishearten you. Believe in yourself and remember and the end your ‘bonkers’ idea will be backed up with a fabulous piece reflecting what you were explaining all along.

And then you will get the whole “ah it makes sense now; I knew what you were saying…”. So, after my husband bless him trying to understand what was going on in my head… I was so determined to get him exited just like me. I grabbed my apron and cracked on.

Just before I show you my making process, I want to explain why I haven’t got many sketches in my notebook for this project. I don’t know why, but for this sculpture, I sketched and solved many problems by using my whiteboard. Things kept changing quickly, so it was easier for me to draw, wipe, and repeat. Here are a few saved raw sketches that I found though.

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Now where were we…

3. MELT OLD PEGS TO FORM A COBWEB

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(Let the games begin!🤨)

I had these old, chipped clothing pegs lying around in my balcony and a beautiful glass bowl that no one used for years… so in my head I thought this could be like a cocoon home with a cobweb inside it. I burned the pegs in a way that I could create different forms to capture the movement of thoughts.

After a few attempts and accidents, I achieved what I wanted and then had to think about how to bond the pegs together in a smart way. So, I experimented…

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(Is this how surgeons feel?… 🤔)

I had some window seal that my mum used weeks ago for her kitchen and started mixing it with things like acrylic paint. I didn’t want glue to show from the other side of the glass so, the idea of adding colour to the window seal gave me the opportunity to blend colours that matched the pegs…

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(Blue, purple, pink, blue, purple, pink, blue, purple, pink…😵‍💫)

The glass bowl already had engraved lines on it, and I wanted to incorporate the flow of the bowl with the cobweb design. At this stage the cobweb structure and its meaning behind the colours was there, but to merge the pegs (thoughts) together I added a wash of black acrylic paint on them.

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This technique also brought out the texture of the plastic pegs. Initially I wanted to add a massive magnify glass from a broken engineering light and create this illusion of the spider and its thoughts zoomed in. So, the viewer can see the bigger picture. Sounds interesting and exciting right? At this point the only interesting thing was my lunch. Everything was going wrong! 😟

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(Can this day get any worse!.. Mum I need some of that thick foil that you keep throwing…)

Whether I liked it or not the magnify glass was too heavy for the piece. So, I had to call it quits but I didn’t stop there… I pushed and pushed but the idea just didn’t work. I believe that things happen for a reason, because if this didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have created the flower and have a story.

The idea of having some sort of lens within the sculpture design remained, but in a more elegant and ingenious approach.

After many trails and errors, I took a step back and began designing the spider eggs…

4. TURN JEWELLERY BEADS INTO SPIDER EGGS

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I sanded every bead from an old necklace to get some texture for my egg design. I then stuck them with the leftover window seal that I made earlier, because I wanted to avoid glue finishes and stick to the same texture.

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(15, 16, 17, 18, hang on a minute where are the rest that I’ve just sanded…)

Added gold acrylic paint to begin to introduce the Japanese philosophy Kintsugi into my piece. Things were falling into place, but I didn’t feel right. My gut was telling me “Is this it?” Is this how you want the egg design to be? Something was missing and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

You see sometimes you’ll have this amazing vivid idea of what you want to make and when its right in front of you, you feel disappointed with yourself. You ask yourself… how did I get it wrong? You haven’t!

There’s a difference between having a clear thought in your mind and when your thought comes to life, because when your idea begins to unravel you go through a process more than just a thought.

You begin to have new senses such as touch, and when you start working with your hands you begin to solve things that you couldn’t feel in your mind i.e. texture.

The eggs looked like they were just stuck on without thorough attention and the gold paint was too overpowering, which wasn’t my intention. I literally ripped them off the bowl and had a tea break 😕.

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(What on earth was I thinking!)

Whilst I was drinking my tea a parcel came. I opened it and within the packaging there was this protective foam sheet. I don’t know what it was, but I think the Halloween fever got to me. I ran to the balcony and sliced the foam into thin sheets and began experimenting more…

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(Sh!t its melted a chunck…🙄)

I had to be extremely careful when burning the foam, because the slightest mistake can burn the whole foam sheet. Even adding a little bit of hot glue gun on the foam was challenging. But I got there in the end and found what was missing with the egg design.

I thought the spider sculpture itself would be the only part that held most of the detail work, but it turned out that not only did the eggs needed as much detail work but also needed to be ‘hidden’ to allow the spider to stand out.

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(Mmm what kind of sweets shall I buy for trick or treaters…😏)

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5. CREATE YOUR SPIDER WITH DIFFERENT TEXTURES FROM EVERYDAY JUNK 

I had a few bean tins that I collected over a few months and cut them up into tiny diamond shapes for the spider’s skin texture. Burning the tin was so much fun, but losing count wasn’t lol. I stuck them on a wooden bead to complete the spider’s bottom half of its body.

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(Really! Is that how you going to be? Flying around so Ahmed can find you on the living floor again…)

More detail work on the body…

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(Come on spider show yourself…)

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(My good old friend, we meet again…🥲)

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When I was happy with the spider’s body design, I moved onto the legs…

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(Noooooo! Don’t melt like that…😫)

I twisted and burnt Pepsi cans and turned them into spider legs. I wanted the legs to capture a sense of vulnerability. So, the legs appear fragile from the outside, but actually they have paper clips running through them to give them strength.

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You see, many people think that being vulnerable is the same as being weak. Its far from this. Being vulnerable is in fact being brave and human.

(Tip: when burning the legs practise your burning technique, because you will end up burning too much material by accident.)

Figuring out the form of the spider…

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(So if this goes here, and if that goes there… I think you’ve cracked it Weaam!)

I thought I solved the design of the spider, but the way I assembled the junk parts wasn’t strong enough.

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(What the #$@&%*! Why spider whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy…😳)

So, I used one of the junk beads to my advantage. I assembled the paper clips and legs without no glue. This was so fiddly though…

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(Who’s laughing now huh…)

For the head of the spider, I had one pair of fake diamond earrings and centred the head onto the body with the bead’s central hole and the earrings ear pole bit.

Having diamond shapes on the body and a diamond for a head just emphasised the significance of the spider’s worth (symbolising a special person).

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(Staaaaaaaay still, don’t you dare move… please…)

As I said before the legs weren’t stuck onto the spider’s body, however when I began tangling them with the cobweb they flicked around. So, I re-melted the pegs and attached the legs that way. This approach was better than gluing, because it literally felt like the spider is tangled within its thoughts as shown.

More gold paint was brushed on and burnt lightly…

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When I was adding the gold paint, I noticed that the blue window seal that I stuck the pegs with spread a little bit wider than I anticipated onto the glass bowl. So, my tin leaves that I had made alongside the spider’s skin diamond shapes were too slim to cover the seal.

Also, the tin did not love the glass when I tried to stick them together. It was like oil and water. I attempted everything… from sanding the tin for texture to frosting the glass. Nothing worked.

Again, I‘m glad that this failure had happened to me, because it gave me the chance to design the leaves with more intricacy. Instead of the tin I used drink cans again.

6. TURN IRON BRU CANS INTO DESIGNED LEAVES

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(I wonder if that offer is still there on the Iron Bru…)

Making the leaves from can worked out better for me, because it was of course much thinner than tin, which meant that the leaves wrapped tightly on the glass bowl. I used Araldite mixing glue, and wrapped strong tape to hold the leaves in place…

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(Please don’t peel off, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeese…🙏🏾)

For more definition I got small tweezers and started forming the details… pinching, twisting, tapping, curling, dabbing, washing, burning, until I achieved this…

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At this stage I was so happy, because I knew I was reaching the halfway point. However, I needed to find a way to transform the glass bowl into a cocoon that would pull all the elements together.

I needed to create harmony. Some sort of ‘home’ for all the elements.

To achieve this crumbly dusty gold paint effect on glass, there were numerous trails and errors made on one of my drinking cups (sorry Ahmed) until I eventually created fascinating textures. This visually pulled things together.

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(There goes another drinking cup, what excuse can I use now… it’s not like I used it in my sculpture…)

7. STEP BACK AND SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE (YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE 😜) 

I was so focused with every detail that my eyes stared to cross lol. At this point I knew that I had to take a break, so I took my cat to the vets that evening. Little did I know that I would find inspiration when putting my cat in her box.

Weirdly, it was exactly what I needed!

When I cuddled her whilst trying to lock the box, she was so agitated. She was moving as if there was an earthquake happening in there. Her paws were clinched so tightly on the inner walls of her box, that I saw her panic through her body language.

Then boom! It came to me. That’s what I needed to capture in my spider sculpture. Translate my cat’s panicky body language through junk sculpturing. But how?

My husband has so many electrical parts lying around in our flat that have been there for years. So, I found this metal circle part (till this day have no clue what it is) and it was perfect for a base idea…

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(Please stay like this until I come back from shopping… )

I closed the massive hole with an old CD and filled the gap with Araldite mixer glue. It was very messy, but I managed to angle the bowl just in time. Angling the glass bowl made the spider look like it was hanging for its life. It added the essence of panic and the illusion of instability.

I couldn’t and didn’t want to leave the bottom of the CD showing, so I matched the cobweb visual language onto the base design. This represented how thoughts can also be untangled and stabled.

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(I wonder what else I could mix in there…)

Added a few plastic diamonds from a broken brooch… I wanted the diamond theme to be shown throughout the sculpture in a subtle way.

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And then there was a lot of waiting for things to dry… waited for the window seal to dry. Waited for the gold paint to dry. And waited for the black paint wash to dry…

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(Darling is it me or does it look like cake frosting… I know I haven’t yet put the details but look hahahaha…)

The following morning whilst I was sipping on my tea thinking that today is the day that I will wrap this project up (think again Weaam lol). I tried to move the sculpture off the kitchen table top to my worktop… but I had a slight issue. The bottom only got stuck on the bloody table. I panicked! 😣

I squinted my eyes and with a few gentle wiggles and a quick prayer, the noise that I was dreading was load and clear. It was as if the whole bottom of my sculpture was going to rip off from the rest of the piece (good suction though).

You know how it is? When you’re in a panicky mode and everything is ten times worse. After all that drama nothing happened. Not even a dint! Funny enough, well I can have a giggle now at myself but at that moment I was sh!tting it as you can imagine.

To avoid my heart having another attack, I had another plastic disc lying around, so I attached that to the bottom. This little alteration actually came together well, because it created a subtle shadow that I wouldn’t have thought of… yes you know what I’m going to say next… if I didn’t stubble on this failure, I wouldn’t have thought of it! 😉

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(My little lifesaver…)

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After my ‘little’ moment, I thought to myself right this day couldn’t get any worse… let’s just say it wasn’t my day.

8. CREATE A FLOWER WITH AN OLD GLASSES LENS

Instead of the heavy magnify piece that I was initially going to incorporate in my sculpture, after a lot of thought I decided that the spider could use a partner. A flower!

I found a smaller magnify glass that I worked around and started sketching and making the flower design…

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(Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!)

You can tell from my face that things were about to go downhill 😒.

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(You’ve got this!)

I made so many petals out of bean tins… sketched, cut, burnt, and formed just to find out that they were not going to stick with hot glue gun. So, initially I thought by texturing the surfaces that I will solve my problem.

That didn’t work, so I added a middleman. I added the rest of the packaging foam and glued it with hot glue gun around the magnify glass. That was successful, the next step was to attempt to stick the tin petals onto the foam. Thought to myself, surly this will work?

It didn’t either!

I called my husband who was at work and just casually explained my situation (as if he needed to know why my flower wasn’t sticking together when he was so busy in a lab). He replied “Weaam its common sense that oily smooth surfaces will not work with hot glue gun…”

I was like of course I know this, (well, I thought wiping and scratching the surfaces will work, but at least I learnt in my own way. Some may say the hard way hahahaha) I’ve scratched the surfaces and they are no longer smooth or oily, so why aren’t they sticking?

He explained again yet my brain was still curious and asking why. “Thanks my love, what would I do without you…” Straight after the phone hung up, I was soooooo determined to get these little #$@&%*! tin petals stuck on. So, I did what I knew best. I experimented…

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I even tried sandwiching the magnify glass in between a feta cheese tin lid. Nothing was working! I went for a walk, came back, and remembered that I had a pair of broken glasses.

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(You were my favourite pair…😢)

Then it came to me… instead of the viewer seeing things bigger, why can’t it be the opposite.

Why can’t they see things smaller? The flower (person) is the supporter and as a supporting partner the flower is seeing things more positive and harmless. So, through the flower’s perspective the issues are still important but solvable. Whereas the spider is lost within it all. Same thing different perspective.

This added more emotion in the story of the spider, which I loved!

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I know what you’re thinking right now… and I’m also laughing at myself. I went from a heavy magnify glass that was nearly the size of my head to my tiny glasses lens.

I substituted the tin petals for can petals (I’m sure mum will make good use of them somehow).

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(You are my sunshine, my only sunshine you make me happy…🌞)

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They stuck on! 😃

Cut, folded, burnt, painted, and assembled…

I then curled the petals with some tweezers and filed off some paint to allow the silver shine to come through. The petals started to capture a similar finish as the rest of the sculpture.

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Still continued with the diamond theme and then finally the moment of truth… introducing the spider and the flower.

I didn’t want to just stick the flower on with a bit of hot glue gun. I wanted to push my creativity even further. So, I came up with the idea of wrapping two flower petals around a peg and wrap another two around the spider’s legs. At the end I just needed to add two tiny blobs of hot glue gun just for extra support.

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Attaching the flower onto the rest of the sculpture was very complicated and delicate. I didn’t breathe for most of this stage. Any movement out of beat cost me.

At one point one of the petals went through the wrong hole and wouldn’t come out. Kept saying to myself just breathe when I wasn’t even breathing in the first place hahahahaha!

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(Don’t breathe, ok breathe, ok don’t breathe now, don’t you dare breathe…)

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After that intense phase it was time to relax. Well, sort of…

9. DO YOUR FINAL TOUCHES AND DETAIL 

To create a smooth harmony through my piece, I added more gold paint here and there, some light watery pink and black paint washes, burnt a few areas, and checked that everything was secured in its place…

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Keep your sculpture in a safe place.

Trust me, I know this sounds like common sense, but things can hide in your sculpture without you being aware. So, before packaging make sure your attention to detail is tip top.

It’s a simple task yet many of us forget and underestimate this stage… The end of my making process, I realised that I had to do a full spring clean. Each day went by; I had to keep dusting off, and even retouching a few areas before packaging.

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(Tip- when your gut feeling is telling you to call it a day… STOP AND LISTEN TO IT! Because as creators we always love to retouch endlessly and that can ruin all your hard work.) 

10. WRAP UP… BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT!

Now you’ve seen my entire making process… I bet you’re surprised about how much work goes into junk sculpturing.

The process thrives from creativity, technicality, design, effective skills and working from the heart.

You see, anyone can create things and learn a new skill. But what makes you different is your life experiences, your perspective of the world, and your unique character. No one is you.

I have a product design first class degree and I am a self-taught artist and yet I failed numerous times. Every day I learnt something new and every day I surprised myself.

As Theodore Roosevelt said…

‘Believe you can and you’re halfway there.’

And this is true!

Making this sculpture has taught me two important values:

1. You must believe you can do it well before you start anything

2. You must believe in yourself

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If you don’t. Well, all the challenges and issues you’ll face will be twice as hard. Just like life. Sure, I didn’t have a workshop, quality materials, design resources, and the list goes forever.

But why would you let negativity stop you from doing what you love, when you can deal with it with an open mind. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it in the end.

It’s going to be your story. Your achievement.

For artist/designers you’ll look back and say to yourself… ‘Yes, I designed this. Yes me. I did it’. And for art lovers you will also learn how to keep your sculpture alive by putting your own personal touch when things begin to deteriorate.

Let me tell you this, it will feel damn good, because most would have given up and miss the magic at the first hurdle. But not you.

You will see solutions, just like what I did. I’m just saying if I can do it so can you.

Be positive, be persistent, be determined. Trust me the challenges that you’ll face in your sculpturing process will feel like a problem-solving game.

So, the next time you think ‘I haven’t got the right resources bla bla bla’

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Well now you know that you have more than enough.

Just enjoy the making experience and remember work with whatever you have! And if you need help, I’m just a call away.

If you are an artist/designer you’re probably thinking to yourself right now…

Hang on a minute, how did she end up taking quality photographs of her sculpture when she was on a budget? And for art lovers who are excited and wondering if this sculpture is for sale…

Well, all will be revealed soon in my articles…… and in the gallery there is a sculpture information page about ‘LOOK UP’ spider sculpture.

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https://weaamhassan.com/product/look-up/ 

https://weaamhassan.com/category/article/

LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK…

If you want to have a chat about my article or have been inspired to share your own story.

Please don’t be nervous and go ahead… message me anytime!