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8-Bit Art: Super Mario Brothers tribute sculpture!

1:00 AM on 11.18.2007 // Virtualgirl

[Virtualgirl has done it again Dtoiders! She went through hell making this work of art. In fact, she almost super glued her finger to her tongue! Read on to see how she made this piece step-by-step and how she murdered some innocent NES controllers. Don't worry, they're in a better place now. -- CTZ]  

I love this project. Even though it in NO way filled the requirement given to me by my professor. This was a plaster unit … yeah, I know my sculpture is made out of metal … LOL!

Alright, as you can tell, this was my latest big project. My sculpture professor assigned us with the task of creating a visually interesting piece by utilizing repetition in forms created by plaster molds. I have never worked with plaster before, so it was a real learning experience! What did I learn? I HATE PLASTER! I am not going to lie, it was interesting to see how creating molds and casting from them worked, but ultimately, I picked a poor object to work with.

I pictured this project as is almost from the beginning. I knew I wanted to cast an original NES controller and use it to create a potted plant like sculpture using metal “Warp Pipes”. The NES controllers would be like flowers on the end of curvy cord stems. The idea seemed simple enough at first.

I began creating my molds at the beginning of the first four weeks of the unit. I thought my piece would be easy to mold at first because it would only require two parts, while others in my class needed three and four part molds for their objects. Immediately after my first cast in my mold I knew I had a problem. My item was so shallow I did not have enough room to grab it and pull it out of the plaster mold. This resulted in me having to break my mold in order to get one nicely cast NES controller out. This worked a second time, with an entirely new mold (which take 3 hours to make) but I knew if I needed to create a new mold each cast, I would never finish. Eventually my casts stopped forming completely, and crumbling before I even opened the mold. I was pretty frustrated at this point!

After my sixth mold, I gave up. It seems that my item was to narrow and because of that air bubbles often got caught inside when I poured in the plaster. I decided to work the broken pieces of the plaster NES controllers into my sculpture somehow, but my new goal was simply to make something I loved.

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed welding my last sculpture. My new “If I won the lottery” dream is to have a huge tool barn complete with a welding station where I can make stuff all day! I began my metal work by creating the Warp Pipes out of measured and cut metal sheets. After cutting them out, I used a machine to curve them into equal amounts, and welded the top and bottom portions together.

The Piranha Plant took a bit more time. That involved lots of little pieces cut with a band saw and sanded until they were no longer sharp on the edges. Welding on the little parts such as the teeth took the most time out of all the metal work.

The “cords” are simply made out of metal rods that I bent into a spiral and then welded to the inside of the tubes. I sometimes struggle welding rods to sheet metal because they melt at different rates, so that left a few dents on the front of the tubes. However, my welding skills have much improved since my last project. After sandblasting my project, I was done with the work in the shop.

Next came an equally hard part of my project. It was both time consuming and emotionally difficult to find and dismantle six original NES controllers. First, since no stores carry them anymore, they are lucky if they had one in stock. None of the major chains had any, and I really did not want to resort to using my personal stash. Eventually I (I = my husband) found six of them at a mom and pop collectable store where they charged me $50 for the lot.

I got them home and carefully took them apart -- saving the insides and the cord in case of some freak controller shortage in the future. Then I started spray painting my metal.

I put at least 15 coats of spray paint (another $30) on these bad boys. It took me all of one weekend counting dry time. For the most part, it just involved tape and plastic wrap to section off each part while spraying different colors. The hardest bits were spray painting the green lines on the Pipes. It is more difficult than it looks to make a straight line on a curved surface. I knew that I was going to be putting rhinestones over the dark green lines, but I wanted a solid color so that the “pixel” quality would look different on the sides.

Once the paint was dry, I started gluing on the rhinestones. This was one of the most tedious things I have ever done. There are OVER 1000 freaking gems on that thing, which sucks because they cost $5 per 100. I used larger dark green stones on the tubes to elude to the 8-bit origins of the sculpture and mini red rhinestones on the NES controller buttons and to blanket the red area on the piranha plant.

The worst part of that process was using the super glue. By the end of the weekend I could no longer feel the tips of my fingers … or my tongue. I licked the tip of my finger in order to pick up the mini gems and sometimes I would not realize I had touched a bit of superglue before I attempted to get another stone. That was not fun [Editor's note: LOL].

Attaching the NES controllers was pretty easy. I used the original cord holes on three of them and unfortunately had to drill holes in the three others to get them to mirror each other.

I bet you are wondering how the hell I included my plaster pieces ... right? Well for my critique, I spray painted the broken plaster pieces brown and put them in fake moss at the top of each tube (I took them out for the photos). My explanation involved something about the real NES controllers being “ripe fruit” and the broken plaster ones being the ones from the year before. Ultimately, I used repetition and plaster to create an interesting sculpture, but not how it was intended.

So let me know what you think. This was a pretty time and energy intensive project, but I am extremely happy with it! It is now up in my game room and it looks great!

Unfortunately, my last sculpture will not be gaming related. I am making a Christmas gift for my parents. I will still post it when I am done, but it won’t have the epic coolness that it would if it involved videogames!

I hope you all enjoy this piece as much as I do! Thanks for reading!!!

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