The Blog Lives!

Time to get everyone up-to-speed on the progress of Earthly Coat. Much water has gone under the bridge during the past couple of months and a few interesting discoveries too. Here’s a little bit of back tracking to get you to the point where the project is today…

For the past 2 months, I’ve been busily preparing for the next 6 months. This involved reorganizing my office, moving my studio space (into what was my dining room—the best light in the house), and refreshing my website ( – check it out!).

I’ve confirmed my two collaborators for the project: Clark Babler of West End Welding (to construct the armature that will be the underlying structure for the coat—Clark also was my welder/collaborator for the “1 in 10,000” project); and Colleen Werdien (The Cat That Walks On Water), a fabulously creative spirit and felting artist who is also a fiber dyer and my vendor partner at various events during the year (see my Saga Hill website for more on that).

I’ve finalized the armature design and Clark cut the metal and welded the elements. His interesting challenge was finding a local facility to bend the top and bottom circular pipes into the arc dimensions that I needed. As you can see below, that was done wonderfully.

The bottom arc is on the floor and the top arc is against the wall. This is what they looked like before a gap was cut to create a space for the front opening of the coat.

Then Clark welded the connectors to the arcs at the points I had determined. He figured out what angle would allow the pipe to “Tinker-Toy” in a connection from the top arc to the bottom. He cut the pipe to the lengths I needed, and drilled holes through the connectors and the pipes for bolts to slide through and hold the straight side pipes to the connectors on the arcs.

1 inch, steel tubing was used for the entire structure.

The arcs were cut for the coat opening and connectors were attached to hold the vertical side posts.

This photo shows the entire base with connectors and posts in place. The straight rod across the opening stabilizes the structure.

Here's Clark with the Armature.

Clark is great. He has the rare gift of being able to look at a two-dimensional drawing and turn it into a three-dimensional structure. When I saw the armature constructed for the first time, it looked like my drawing come to life! A really cool moment! Thanks Clark!!

NOTE: This brings up the subject of why the structure is held together by bolts. Because my studio space is in my home and the doors are normal house doors, I devised a portable structure to allow me to work on this in my home studio and still get it through doors. So the entire armature comes apart for travel! The coat itself will be created like an actual giant coat and attached to the armature when it gets to the Arboretum grounds. So this means, the installation is TOTALLY PORTABLE!  This not only makes my work easier but also makes the installation something that may be reconstructed elsewhere with minimal effort. Brilliant, if I do say so myself.

The image above shows version A of the armature. After getting the structure back to my studio, I realized that 4 more posts & connectors were needed to provide a more gentle arc to the underlying “cage” that will support the coat. So the armature went back to Clark for a few more posts. Again, since it is portable, no problems in transport!

Now the armature is back up in my studio (aka, dining room) and I’ve cut the hardware cloth that is serving as the underlying cage for the coat to lie against.

NOTE: When creating outdoor installations, the durability of the structure is vital. I certainly learned this first hand through the “1 in 10,000” exhibit (see background on that in my first blog entry from December, 2011). The hardware cloth is 19 gauge and pretty tough. It certainly isn’t like “cloth” in true feeling. Although, it will allow some bend to the sides of the coat as children (and some reckless adults) push on it, the hardware cloth is there to keep the overall shape intact. And, as the coat gets wet during the summer (if 2012 isn’t the drought year expected here in Minnesota), the hardware cloth will help keep the armature posts from making rib-like impressions in the coat as the heavy, wet wool sinks in from the weight.

The hardware wire cutting and attachment has been an interesting adventure. I’m generally an accident-prone person and hardware wire is sharp with blunt needle-like ends. Plus, the 19 gauge wire I’m working with requires a strong tin snip tool. The result of both of these factors has meant that I not only picked up a nasty finger blister from working with the tin snips (even while wearing gloves) but the wire has also given me several pokes that drew blood—including one on my forehead that I didn’t see until I looked in a mirror and saw blood running down my face! Let me just say, art is NOT for the weak! Some of us bleed, literally, for our creativity!

Cutting the hardware cloth in a hallway of our house—the only space that was long enough for the 7+ foot long pieces.

I created the cutting pattern out of a large sheet of thin packing foam. It held in place quite nicely for the cutting, with the addition of a well-placed shoe here and there.


About wendyj-sagahill

I am a textile artist, designer, and author.
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1 Response to The Blog Lives!

  1. Barbara Ruuska says:

    Wow! I am so impressed. I can’t wait to go to the Arb. to see this exhibit. I love the mini version you made. Does it fit Yoda? 🙂
    Congrats! This is so exciting!


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