Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mizuko's Silicone Tail Project: Part 3 Final

Hi everyone!
Although I am still iffy about posting, I figured its only fair to finish the write up of my tail making adventure.

Where I left off: my scale mold had failed miserably. So I had to re-make it; which took about a week on-and-off to remake the scales. In the end, after throwing about $250 into the last mold, I knew I couldn't afford to lose that much money again so I went for a cheaper alternative to create the mold with. I used Ultra-Cal 30, which is like a cement/plaster mix. The pros are it is cheep and captures the details well, the cons are its SUPER heavy, the ratio mix is crazy, and it wont last forever (like water on stone the details will eventually wear away after many uses). But I had no other choice, and I just wanted to have a successful mold!! lol!

My time to finish the mold was actually running short; it was after my birthday (15th December) and at the end of the week I was returning home for Christmas and New Years. But luck was on my side! After spending a few hours pouring/mixing and covering, the mold was drying and I had my fingers crossed.
What the mold looked like as I was adding layers.

The next night after work I carefully (ok, with the help of Mikey because that thing is HEAVY) pealed/lifted/shook the mold out of the mold box. And holding my breath, I started to clean the clay from the mold...
The UltraCal had caught all the details of the scales! :D Finally a usable scale mold!!

My tail making slid to a halt, again. As I had to start organizing getting everything home for Christmas/New Years so I could work on it there! This meant packing things into boxes, wrapping up molds in 15 meters of bubble wrap (yes, I counted), and getting trucking quotes.
Finally I was able to drop it off at the trucking depo, and I flew home the same day! It was great to see my family again, but I wont lie my head was all on the tail-making, lol!

The trucking company said it would be shipped the next day, so I had to wait 24 hours before popping into the trucking depo to pick everything up... the only problem was, they were CLOSED.
They had closed for a week over Christmas. And had failed to tell me.
So there, inside their depo, was my tail making stuff, but I couldn't get it for a whole week!!
Yes, I died a little of impatience and anxiety.

I spent the week in our shack at the beach with Mum and Dad, and having Christmas with the whole family was wonderful. I couldn't tell if the week went slow or fast, because I was still enjoying myself even without being able to work on my tail! It did give me time to think, however, and in that time I had a design change.

Picking up the stuff was the best! Thankfully none of the molds were broken (which was my biggest fear) and as we were still located down at the shack I took it back there to continue work!

Cleaning the mold came next; and I was honestly shocked at how much work it was. In the end it took 3 days TOTAL to clean it completely of clay. I gave myself callouses on my hand from holding toothpicks so tightly as I picked at the tiny clumps of clay. (Not even kidding- they fell off about a month ago and I was amazed that I got the feeling back in my middle finger!)
Dad helped me out a bit, but in a hour it was only possible to do a 10cm X 10cm square so he gave up. haha! Didn't blame him!

This is three days worth of cleaning... yes, there is still clay on there, but at this point I was like NOPE DONT CARE.

Now, I mentioned earlier I'd had a change of design. I still very much want to make my pink silicone tail, but looking at the flukes I had already made for it, I just wasn't happy. I knew they could be better. So I decided to try a different colour scheme, and re-do my pink tail after I'd gotten more experience with silicone.
So, I re-poured the fluke and fin molds:

Using white in the silicone. However, it was still transparent. I decided to use some material on the back of the fluke (this was a huge experiment and a big risk, I wont lie, it could've backfired pretty easily) to assist with adhering and hiding the black monofin.

Once two halves of the fluke were cast in the silicone, it was about attaching them to the monofin! I failed to take ANY photos of this process, because at the time I was home alone and believe me it really should require a second set of hands. I was too impatient and should have waited for someone to come home to help. But anyway, I somehow managed to do it (with some oopsies).

Then it was onto the scale mold!

I measured myself and poured it roughly to my measurements, however silicone is runny so it just spilled over my measurements and required a few more layers to gain the correct scale thickness. I also added more material to the drying silicone, this helps prevent any tearing through wear.

After a day, I had two halves of my scale sheets and a completed fluke!
Now came the fun part! (or not...) Seaming up the sides of the scale sheet!
The first side I had no trouble with; I was quite happy with the seams as they didn't stick up too much and blended nicely. It takes about an hour or two for the silicone to get solid enough to move onto the next side, so there was a lot of waiting involved. The other seam was a little harder because I was restricted to how I could fold the sheets, but I followed the basic line of the material inside (which was cut to my measurements) as that would mean it would fit correctly.
I tried it on after it was all dry and... nope. It was too big.
So I had to pull the second seam apart, take it in, and re-seam it.
After a few hours I tried it on again.
Still too big.
You are probably wondering why I hadn't used the body mold I had made of myself... well, it was up in Dad's shed and I didn't know where it was. lol!
I took it apart again and took it in again.
This time when I tried it on, it was tight. But I could see wrinkles around my ankles and under my knees- which meant those areas were still too big.
By this time I was just sick of re-doing it so much, but I took it apart for the third time and took it in significantly. So significantly I wondered if I'd still be able to fit in it. And after three times of taking it apart, the seams on this side were dodgy as hell. Very ugly. But there was nothing I could do about it.
I tried it on for the last time; I needed moisturizer to get it on. BUT IT FIT!
In the end it took about a day and a half to get a scale body that fit.

Now the final part of seaming needed to be done: attaching the fluke to the scale body.

This was before I had trimmed the scales down the sides and around the fluke area.
At this point I was feeling pretty happy!!

I tried it all on in our lounge room, and MAN was it heavy! But I was very happy! :D

I took a break for the afternoon and just hung out with mum and dad, I felt I deserved a break. haha!

The next day I began the longest process of all: painting the tail.
I wanted to use the air brush that I had purchased, however in my rush I had discovered I didn't have the correct cleaning agents for the nozzles. Using silicone would result in it getting clogged and being useless, so I decided I would have to paint by hand!

This is a picture after about a days work; it doesn't look like much. But silicone needs a few hours to dry, especially when using paint brushes as if you dont wait long enough you will peal off the existing layers!

My new design came from inspiration of a sun rise. White, gold, pinks and a little hint of blue. I was going to call it the Sun Rise Tail but after Mikey saw it I renamed it (more on that later).

It took 5 days to paint, including a clear topcoat (with glitter!) to protect it.
I also made a matching scale bra, and painted the extra fins between painting the tail.

This is it ALMOST finished.

My time home had come to an end, so I had to pack everything up again and get it ready for shipping!
Mum and Dad were just wonderful throughout the whole thing. They didn't mind me taking up their floor space as I painted, or complaining for a whole week when I couldn't work on the tail. I am so lucky to have amazing parents!!

Once back in the city, I attached the extra fins to the tail. 
It was done!!
When I showed it to Mikey, the first thing he said was "it reminds me of ice cream."
Henceforth it was known as the Ice Cream Tail. haha!

I took it to the pool for its first official swim the following weekend.

And I got some footage:

Unfortunately, even though its been finished for over 2 months now, I have yet to get any professional photos in it!!
But here are some from the latest Mermaid Meet:

Photo by Catherine Curl

Final Thoughts:

Making this tail was the hardest, most expensive and riskiest endeavour I had ever even dreamt of undertaking. It was many years research and dreaming, and another year of saving/crowdfunding/selling things! Although my crowdfunding never finalised, the support I got from EVERYONE was so overwhelming and humbling. People really do care about making dreams come true. I cannot thank everyone enough for their kindness and well-wishes as I went through the ups and downs of this project.
I'd like to thank these particular people, though:
Mermaid Jessica- for sending me emails daily with tips and hints on how to do things, and answering all my silly questions. Thank you for telling me not to hesitate, not to put it off, and for giving me the courage to plough forward despite my fears. You have been an incredible friend and supporter, and I know I could not have done it without you!
Mikey- for putting up with EVERYTHING. And I mean everything. The smell of fibreglass fumes, the dust from UltraCal, my mood swings when things went wrong, the mess in the lounge room/ kitchen/ spare room, my constant and unwavering obsession with trying to get it finished. Thank you for being there for me, even if it made your life a little uncomfortable. You have been amazing and I couldn't have asked for a better partner.
Mum and Dad- I couldn't thank you both enough for your support. Through it all, you were always cheering me on: wanting me to follow my dreams, no matter how obscure they seemed. You've always been there for me, through everything, and I can only hope one day I can pay you back for all the love and warmth you give me. I love you both forever and always.

Thank you everyone for following this journey from start to finish!!
It wont end here, I'm afraid. Making this tail was just the start. It will take more time and money, but I would love to create some more. I can only hope I have the opportunity to do so again, and if not, I am so very proud of whats been achieved.

Thank you all!!