As I had mentioned before I had started the Mer-Family from Sara’s Mermaid-felt-along. She had used 14 ga armature wire. I had not yet investigated armature wire when I started or I would have upped the wire strength since I had scaled up the figure. I also suspect I am working more firmly than she had intended.
I was finding the wire was unable to hold articulation at his waist. This could either be from the wool overpowering the gauge of wire used or the 14 ga wire may have broken at his waist. I am not sure that it has broken since it doesn’t feel like a bake. I have had a broken wire on another sculpture which might have been from metal fatigue but I hadn’t finished making it, so it should not have been tiered. For that one I did surgery, creating an incision and inserting a new wire. The incision was worked, with a course felting needle, diagonally across the incision to create the equivalent of scar tissue. Finally adding a surface layer to finish hiding the post-surgery look (you don’t want to leave a scar!).
This worked but I wanted to try something less intrusive. I was quite pleased with the glutes and lumbar spine /sacrum so did not want to do the incision. Instead, I decided to try arthroscopic surgery! (Without a license!!! Don’t tell!!)
I checked my options for wire. Since 14 ga aluminum was way too light, I suspected that either the 10 ga or the 9ga might work. Since I knew I wanted to position the Herring-ton rods (this is a fishy procedure) down each erector spinae, I would not likely need anything stronger than the 9ga. I checked the samples I had made during the wire study group and decided that 9ga should work.
21 Tools to sharpen the end of the 9ga aluminum wire
I cut 2 lengths that would reach from lower quads to upper back. I used the rasp and nail file to sharpen one end. I used an awl to make the insertion then worked the wire through the glutes and down the hamstrings.
22 insertion of the lower section of the first Harrington rod
I could easily feel where the end of the wire was through the wool (that Registered Massage Therapist career is still useful!!). I could rotate the wire to keep it more centrally located. As you may have noticed, the glutes are more posterior than the hamstring muscles so the wire needed to follow the couture of the body.
23 The white line indicated the approximate path of the 9ga wire.
The awl allowed me to insert the wires to either side of the spine, where the original twisted 14ga aluminum wire was located. It also allowed for an angle of descent into the glute so I could rotate the wire and get it to dive into the lower leg. I was sure I would need to cross the point of articulation (his waist), with enough length that the wires would stay well embedded and allow not only flection and extension (bending forward and backwards ) but, with this lateral placement should allow for lateral rotation! When he had a single point spine (and less wool), he could bend forward and back but his rotational movement was minimal and not pose-able.
So the steps I took for this operation were:
- Select the gauge required by reviewing my previous sampling,
- Sharpen the aluminum wire with a file then refine and smooth the point with a nail file
- Arthroscopic insertion (with an awl – I am sure it was well sterilized since it was brand new!)
- Work the wire through the glutes rotating it to descend into the lower Hamstring muscle while palpating to keep track of where it was in the leg. Then repeat to this point with the second wire leaving the upper end loose and out of the body.
24 the insertion of the awl at a shallow angle
I check that the patent could do full flection at this point to confirm the operation was proceeding well.
25-28 Mr. Mer shows off his new flexibility
There is also confirmation that some rotational movement is already possible, I suspect he will have more once the surgery is complete and the upper rods are inserted.
For the second half of the operation;
- I bent and tried to determine the best angle and location for the wires. *remembering that there is a triangular frame in his torso that is allowing some shoulder curvature (Protraction/ Retraction) and rotational posing. So I chose to position the wires more along the Erector spine (located to each side of the spine) and then redirected them into the lateral part of the lats (latissimus dorsi).
29-31 upper wire placement
I trimmed the wires to a bit closer to equal length and sharpened the superior (upper) end of the wire.
I curved the wire to insert it but could not find my big pliers to straighten it out properly once the insertion had been made. I used one of my metal chopsticks to push against the wire to straighten it and it worked.
32 the skin graft to cover the inserted wire
For the skin graft, I took a section of the dark green fibres and needle felted a section down the center of the fibres leaving wispy edges for attachment on either side of the wire. (You can see the first part of the graft in the lower spine). I added more fibre to build up the Erector spinae muscle over the wire. (You can see that in the upper section of the lumbar and lower thoracic region). The wire is very close to the surface at this point so I need to make sure the fibre above this point is well secured so there will be no exposure of the surgical rods. (That would be embarrassing!)
I used the cop stick again to flatten the second wire and finish embedding it into his upper body.
Adding more wool fibre, I continued to contour and build up the muscles until the wire was well buried on both sides of his spine.
Mr. Mer is quite pleased with his operation and wants to show you how discreet the scaring is.
33-36 Mr. Mer shows you where the wires are and how discreet the post-surgery scaring
Mr. Mer insisted I neaten up his hands before the photoshoot so while listening to an audiobook (a werewolf romance this time) I pulled out my 40ga crown needles and got to work. It took most of the 8-hour book to get the hands tightened up and reduce the fuzzy halo on them. I will want to go back later and trim them with scissors ( I have ordered a pair with curved blades that may work well with his fingers.)
37-38 working on Mr. Mer’s hands
I also worked on his head a bit more giving him a bit more cranium and a better jawline. I am still working on his face but it’s coming along. I have found him hair, but it is still with Bernadette (the truckers in Ottawa interrupted its arrival on library day.)
39-41 continuing to work on Mr. Mer’s head and face.
He has also had a bit of work done on his chest and I am back to working on his arms again.
42 a post-surgery treat
I gave him a chocolate for his post-surgery recovery but he seems to just want to hold it. Probably for the best, since I didn’t felt any internal digestive organs for him….. and he only has teeth in his lower jaw. Let’s not think about that too much….
Now on to his photoshoot!
43-52 Mr. Mer shows off his progress so far
Mr. Mer is quite pleased with his progress and is sure Mrs. Mer will be happy too. He would like a bit more work on his human muscles (I have no objection, you should see my photo reference pictures!!) I think I may make the integration from his fishy under-section to his knees a bit more elongated too. Otherwise, he is almost done.
For the rest of the Mer-Family; Shark Boy needs his hair and maybe a bit of a touch-up with the 40 or 42ga needles. I have had a trip to the local purveyor of wool (Wabi Sabi) to pick up Corriedale for the Mer-Ladies. I am considering Goldfish /Koi as inspirations so have a lot of body reshaping to consider. I have contacted Adel about long locks for their hair and she will watch for some in the right colour and length. Adele does fabulous dyeing of locks and roving (Adele Forward on Facebook) just don’t buy the one that looks like goldfish when she posts it!!. She use to go to a lot of the fibre festivals in Ontario but has been working from her home and shipping out during the pandemic.
While I am waiting for Mr. Mer’s hair to arrive, I will keep working the intersection between the fish and man and adding a few more muscular details.
If you would like to create a Mer-Person (or family) for yourself, I would suggest checking out Sara’s mermaid felt- along on YouTube to get you started! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hljS4YRmz9w) What type of fish will your Mer-Person be related to? Will you stay more traditional? Or will it be a non-fish aquatic species, maybe a Mer-turtle? Whatever you chose to inspire you have fun and keep felting!