Saturday, 16 January 2016

The Birth of an Airship

I know I have been AWOL lately, but this is a large reason for me not being at my desk.  This and a 3.8m (12ft) x 1.8m (6ft) art installation for Truth Coffee.

In March of 2015 I was commissioned to do an art installation for the "best coffee shop in the world" for 2015... I kid you not... Google that statement and it will come up! 

 This is a photo heavy post...
What started out as a pile of randomness finished up as the airship seen above!!!!
To build the fuselage I began with 7 hula hoops, one bigger than all the rest for the center hoop. 
 Then I cable tied the 3m long strips of electrical conduiting to the hula hoops on pre-measured and marked points.  along the way I decided only 5 hula hoops were needed.
I then used the most complex tool of all to join the nose and tail together.... Wait for it.... Packaging tape!  
The nose cone is a vuvuzela (a relic from the 2010 soccer world cup held here in SA) and the boat propeller which I salvaged at car boot sale proved to be too heavy, so I manufactured one out of a mini hazard cone and foam core board.  When the glue dried I sprayed it copper and added texture paste so that I could pant it to look old and rusted.

While this was "aging" I covered the "highly engineered" (tongue in cheek) frame with fabric using gel medium which I painted brown when it was dry.

 I then went back to the hardware store for the I umpteenth time to get a floursescent tube light fitting, wiring and some "Mc Guyver" parts to suspend it inside the airship.  (By now the men had given up asking if they could help me while I wandered the isles of bolts, rivets and electrical parts - probably wondering what a girl with bright pink hair could be up to with her eclectic shopping sprees)

I found 24m of webbing to cover the joins in the fabric and 700 rivets were used to make it look pretty.
So that the light can be worked on in the future, I made access hatches on both ends of the airship sealed with Velcro.  You can see this below as well as a wet coat of gel medium which sealed the pores of the fabric making the ship glow instead of being able to see the light fitting through the fabric when the light was on.
I then glued some paper cogs onto her sides for added steampunk vibe and wrapped her nose and tale in fabric tape to give a bit more strength to the packaging tape.

I decided she needed some stabilizers and using the logo from the coffee shop, I devised some fins in 3 layers of foam core.  
This is the top of the fins where I marked the spot to glue the straws into which the carbon fiber rods will slide.  The underside has the design on it so you see it when you look up.
To make the gondola I made a structure out of foam core again... My favorite building material... and covered it in an engineered photo of the Truth Coffee building which I had printed locally.  As the public will be viewing this from below, I created the illusion of bricks underneath her and because the office will view her from above, I added corrugated cardboard painted silver to emulate a cast iron roof.  I then suspended this under her hull with some chain.
In the photo above, I was working out how to do the ends of the gondola.  I eventually cut the ends oval to emanate the ones on the Zeplin
I used texture paste through a stencil I made from Tim's brick die.
Above has the base coat of paint, below, I rubbed the Archival Coffee ink pad directly onto the raised areas.
Here you see her upside down on my desk as I worked...
The last things to go onto the fuselage was the nose cone and propeller which got glued on and the fins which had carbon fiber rods to slide onto which run right through the fuselage and into straws under tape...  Yet another "Mc Guyver job".  

Here she is in my car port where I built her over a period of 5 months


  1. Oh Bella, you are so creative!! What you have done here is nothing short of miraculous!! How you came up with all this is a testament to your creativity. Well done!!

  2. You are a true artist all the details and little findings that went into this make it a true master piece. ..well done

  3. I wish there were a bigger word, but W.O.W.! This is simply, gobsmackingly, awesomely amazing. What a very fortunate business to be able to have this on display!!! Brava, Brava, Brava!

  4. You are my steampunk rockstar!! This is brilliant! Love how you problem solved your way through it. Such a gorgeous creation. Truth Coffee is on my bucket list, and if/when I arrive I am looking for your awesome airship, Belinda! Major applause!

  5. Oh my goodness! You are one talented lady! This absolutely awesome! What an amazing display you are making for the coffee shop.

  6. You are amazing! And patient! What a wonderful creation! I got a real chuckle envisioning you in the hardware store. I love to visit that very aisle myself. Looking forward to seeing the airship at Truth. Bravo!

  7. Very, very nice job. Congatulations !

  8. HOLY COW...HOLY COW!!! This is HUGE! It's AMAZING!!! I'm blown away.

  9. How amazing is this! You are so creative! I bet they were blown away at Truth Coffee!

  10. WOW! I have a rug burn on my chin when my mouth hit the floor! Amazing.

  11. Wow doesn't even begin to cover it but it's the only word that comes to mind. Oh, well there's FABULOUS too. Thanks for sharing in the Tuesday's Tutorials Facebook Group!


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