Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Junk-Key Bowling Ball

I'm a counter.  When faced with a potential enumeration of objects or process steps, I count them, automatically, without even thinking about it.  Stairs, crunches, towels to be folded, cups to be put away, pennies in my change purse, quilts in my house, sheep.  Does everyone do this, I wonder?  And so of course I count my bowling balls, but the resulting sum depends upon a number of considerations:

1) do I only count "mosaic" bowling balls, i.e. those in which I have glued mosaic tiles to the surface, or
2) do I count the more recent bowling balls in which I have attached various objects in addition to mosaic tiles, or
3) do I count those bowling balls on which I have merely spray painted a coat of lovely chrome paint, or
4) do I count all the bowling balls on display in my garden, which includes some which have nothing glued to or painted on them, but are nonetheless pretty, or, finally,
5) do I count all the bowling balls in my possession ?

And so, depending upon the answer to the above, this latest project might be number 11, or it might be number 12, or it might be number 4.  But in the junk-key category of bowling ball art, it is numero uno.

In browsing Pinterest, admittedly a dangerous and time-consuming occupation, I came upon a bowling ball , or at least a bowling-ball-like round object, with keys attached, and I was inspired..

 I've always been drawn to keys.  Remember that story I told about the bucket of keys my Dad had?  That was in Newark, so I was about 7 years old, but I remember the sound and feel of that bucket of keys like it was yesterday.  If Dad were still with us, I would ask him what ever happened to that bucket of keys, and he would remember it as well, for we are kindred junk spirits, Dad and I.

But keys are flat, and the surface of the bowling ball is not.  I guess someone more tool-savvy than myself would simply bend the keys, but that seemed beyond my skills.  I wanted a different solution.  I literally played with ideas for months.  I would go into the workshop, handle the leys, place them on tiles, sit and ponder, think about how to attach them, rummage through my boxes of junk, but continued to come up empty-handed.

I was frustrated at not making any progress on the latest bowling ball, partly because I won't allow myself to acquire additional balls while I have unfinished projects in progress.  I finally decided to just start, and hope that inspiration, or engineering,  would rescue me.  I started the ball with a crystal perfume bottle.  Ms. Artsy Craftsy threw this away on her latest cleanup trip, but I rescued it.  I knew I would never use it for it's intended purpose (perfume comes in a bottle, why would someone pour it into a different bottle?), but it was so pretty!  It even came with a tiny metal funnel for pouring the perfume into the bottle.  I sat the lovely crystal perfume bottle on top, in one of the finger holes (I fill these with thin-set mortar to ensure water doesn't leak inside).

One of the biggest challenges in working with bowling balls is how to audition items without them sliding off, crashing to the floor, and breaking.  So while trying to hold a handful of clear marbles in place, I grabbed one of those china plates with the centers cut out (long story, suffice it to say I have china plates sans centers) just to keep the marbles from rolling away, and that's when an idea started taking shape.  If I could figure out a way to hang the keys from this plate, I'd be in business

. By the way, before I progress too far, here is an accounting of the items placed so far:
  • the clear marbles were in a 5 lb coffee can at Mom & Dad's house.  No idea why they had this many marbles, but I wanted them.  I left the coffee can (which I also wanted) and put the 10+ lbs of marbles into my suitcase.
  • The pink stones were rescued from the free bins at Scrap San Francisco.  They almost always have stone and tile samples available for free there.  In fact the last time I was there, the nice man told me he puts more tile into the free area every Friday.  If only I lived closer . . .
  • The pink stained glass tiles were stash leftovers.
  • There is some sort of a stone gem which I used to cover the cut in the plate.  I remember picking it up off the street somewhere, but I'm not sure where.  Perhaps New York.
Back to the business of hanging keys from a plate. I next dug some chain out of my junk stash.  I have chains from when I used to do quilting trade shows, where I suspended dowels, with screw eyes in the ends, on chains, then hung fabric on the dowels.  I still needed to attach the chain to the plate, which would be very messy using my adhesive of choice, GE Silicone II for windows and doors, 30-minute rain ready, clear.

I went to the hardware store and stared at things, unsuccessfully, then I went to JoAnn's and stared at things, and finally came up with these jewelry bails connected to flat disks.  By adhering the flat disks to the underside of the plate, I was able to hang the chain on the bails.  Then using additional chain links, I hung the keys, and a few other objects, from the chain.

The rest of the ball features lots of junk.  Between the bottom of the plate and the ends of the keys, since this area is somewhat hidden, I used various stones from Scrap and glass gems, leftovers from previous bowling balls.  Just below the level of the keys I created a row of enamel pins.  I have lots of pins, mostly from quilting, but a few others.  I usually remove the pin-back and cut the pin with wire-cutting pliers, then mount it on junk tile or pieces of stone to raise it to the right level.  I have plenty of junk tile from Scrap as well as from the Silver Creek Country Club remodel, during which I frequently dumpster dove.

After this row of pins was in place, the rest of the ball was that wonderful process of find something that fits and glue it into place.  I love this part of the process.  It's like doing a jigsaw puzzle. 

There are more pins, key chains, random bits of tile and stone, some metal bits, some china, a few mah jong tiles, many found objects, like the plastic chips I found on the mountaintop above Rothenburg, likely used to purchase beer at the music festival, a few dog tags found on various beaches, some of the pin backs which fit nicely into little spaces, some metal scrapbooking bits.
I also hung the little shiny  metal funnel among the keys.

Sometimes its hard to use an item, like the yin-yang Mickey Mouse pin that I bought at Disney World one year, but I don't wear it, so why not enjoy it on my art?  I also like to layer items, like placing a small button or earring on a metal tag or flower.

Notice the use of the pin backs to fill in small spaces, and some shiny brass buttons I found in Mom's sewing machine drawers.

I finally found a use for that eBay pin.  I can't remember how or why I got it, some tchotchke I suppose.  The saint pin was just given to me by Louis the last time I was in NJ.

One of the more unusual items is the metal tag on the green tiles next to the pin of some cute boy (boy band member? I'm not sure).  I found this on the beach at Lake Tahoe.  It says Sierra Crematory and has a number on it.

The end result looks absolutely nothing like the inspiration, but that's bowling ball art!

The last bowling ball, the Memory Ball, was for Mom.  This one is for Dad.  They were his marbles, and keys will always make me think of my earliest recollections of our common love of junk.

A few other notes:
 I don't grout these junk creations, there is too much irregularity in the pieces and it just doesn't seem to need it.  Besides, I have found the grout to be a weak element in the outdoors.

 I no sooner placed this outside in the garden that we had our first rain of the season.  While I wish this ball would be safe in the elements, I have a feeling some of the keys will rust. so until I can find something to protect them against rust, I am keeping this on the porch out of the rain.

Although I took the cap off the perfume bottle as I was working on the rest of it, somehow I managed to break it at the inside rim.  A little silicone and it was good as new.

As with other bowling balls, especially if they have a top and bottom, I tend to use scrap china on the bottom since you don't see it anyway.

Now I am on to bowling ball number 12, or 13, or 5, depending upon how I count them.

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