The Final Installation of “Earthly Coat”

Structure Install

It’s up! On Saturday, my welder collaborator (Clark Babler of West End Welding) helped me haul the metal structure to the Arboretum. I owe him a debt of gratitude, not only because he hung around to help dig a large stump into the center of the coat interior, but also because he used his welder muscle to guide the structure into place and lock it down into the ground. The stump in the center will be both a chair for visitors to sit on and a stool for visitors to stand on so they may “wear” the coat—or at least pretend to wear it! 5 dog tie-outs have been buried around the base and attached to the metal structure that, hopefully, will keep the coat from flying over the Arboretum in a strong storm. (Although, I have to admit, that would be a cool sight!)

Here’s Clark and my husband Jim putting the structure in place. It’s sad that all of Clark’s work won’t actually be seen (maybe) during the course of the exhibit. But know that under the huge wool coat there is a very secure metal construction welded by this man.

Here’s a last look at the structure before the coat covers it up.

Coat Install

Sunday was the coat install day. I’m guessing that the coat must weigh about 100 pounds. There were 5 of us involved with moving the coat to the site and, after a collaborative debate on the best tactic to employ, we managed to lift the coat onto the structure pretty uneventfully. A misty rain started just as we finished up the placement so we quickly covered the coat with tarps. Special thanks to Gerri, Colleen, Jim, and my sister for coming out on such a nasty day.

The Finishing Details… Landscaping the Coat

My sister and I came back on Monday to finish the landscaping. It was brutally hot with not a single cloud in the sky but we managed to fill in the soil around the coat ends and level out the interior without completely collapsing from dehydration. With all the drop by visitor interest, we didn’t finish the landscaping until the end of the day. Not that we were complaining about the huge interest. That was fun and encouraging. But it was getting really hot out there and we were on a deadline so I called my husband out to the site to be the public voice for our work as we finished up the landscaping detail. Of course, by then it was late afternoon and fewer people came by so we recruited Jim to help out with the shoveling (in his dress clothes! poor guy) so his contribution was still noteworthy.

The Final Sewing

On Tuesday, my sister (who I have to call an additional collaborator due to all of her help) and I sewed the coat to the structure. As a test, this time we left the caution tape around the coat as we were working and it was interesting to see that fewer people came up to see what we were doing when the tape was in place. Only the brave dared come up to the “dangerous” coat! Still, the interest was strong and we didn’t finish the sewing until late in the afternoon. Then we made a run to the hardware store to pick up some more duct tape to secure the tarps back in place for the severe weather that was to come on Wednesday and Thursday (to keep the landscaping soil/mud from floating onto the coat during the storm). The coat will ultimately have mulch around its perimeter and interior floor and that is expected to keep mud at bay during the duration of the exhibit. But the mulch hadn’t arrived yet and storms were coming.

High winds started just as we were began putting on the tarps that evening. In fact, the tarps were turning into kites as we tried to wrap and secure them. It would have been funny if we hadn’t been so darn tired after the long, hot day. And the wind continued in force through Wednesday, so much so that I made a late afternoon visit to the coat to be sure the tape was holding the tarps in place. All was well.

Wednesday night and Thursday brought on torrential rains and I feared the coat might be floating in mud even with all of our wrapping efforts. I wasn’t able to visit the coat today but the Arboretum staff opened it up for a Fox/Channel 9 TV shot (M.A. Roscoe—look for it—perhaps on the morning Buzz program?—sorry, I don’t know the broadcast date/time but it can probably also be found on their website) and they said aside from a gallon of water that had collected here and there on the tarp, all was well. Whew! This was the first day I hadn’t visited the coat in a week and it felt odd—like leaving a child to fend for herself. I hope to get the mulch around the coat tomorrow or at least in the next few days so the coat will no longer need to be covered. From that point on, we will see what will happen to a 7-foot tall, needle-felted wool coat left out in the elements!

I can’t believe it’s in place and nearly ready for the “Dirt-O-Rama” public opening on June 2nd. And you’ve all been patiently waiting to see the final result so… ta-da… here it is!…

Ha! I bet you thought you would be getting a sneak peak. Oh no! Not yet. It IS under this tarp but you must wait for the opening on June 2nd. And then, maybe then, I’ll give you a bit of a look at it on my blog.

Next week, I’ll give you a verbal peek of the visual elements on the coat so you can locate them for yourself when you come out to visit it.


About wendyj-sagahill

I am a textile artist, designer, and author.
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2 Responses to The Final Installation of “Earthly Coat”

  1. Will to Work says:

    What an amazing project, Wendy! When I read some of your early blog entries, I had no idea how much of an effort and collaboration this would become. (Bet you didn’t either.) Congratulations on it being “rooted” and surviving the weather. Really looking forward to seeing this.


  2. Barbara Ruuska says:

    This has been quite a journey.I skimmed through this blog post hoping for the final unveiling. I guess I should go to the Arb to see it live and in person. I’m more excited now than ever to see it. 🙂 Great work my dear friend!


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