Funky Junkyard Birds: Light As Air

FJB January 2016 (1)

About once a year, I create a batch of my Funky Junkyard Birds. They take a couple of months from start to finish, so I make two to three dozen when I made them and they usually last through a year of selling them.

I’ve just completed 33, the most I’ve ever done at one time.

The Back-Story

In October, 2010, I took a class from Leighanna Light called Birds Gone Wild. In the class we cut up metal tins and attached aged, metal parts. I loved my bird and wanted to make more. I wrote Leighanna and asked if she was okay if I made metal birds and sold them; Leighanna gave me her blessing and I started making batches of birds, calling them Funky Junkyard Birds. (Leighanna still teaches her Birds Gone Wild class if you’re interested in learning how to make them yourself.)

Over time, my birds morphed and got more complicated from my initial ones; they got fancier and I attached more flamboyant wings; I started dangling more metal pieces from beaks and legs. I also devised a way to cover the cold connections on the back of the birds (i.e., the brads), using pieces of decorative paper Washi tape.

The Creation Process

First, I spend several hours cutting out bird parts: wings, heads, pants, shirts. This involves flattening vintage metal tins, cutting, and sanding the razor sharp edges.

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Then the auditions begin. I pull out various found objects that might serve as a body, then try out different heads. A persona begins to take shape, pants or legs might be adding, then an array of wings are considered, balancing shape, color, and design. A personality begins to emerge.

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Once the birds are completely designed, it is time for attachments to begin. Holes are punched or drilled into all of the pieces, glued with E6000, and clamped over night. The next day the clamps are removed and all of the cold connections are made using brads, wire, or eyelets.

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Part of the auditioning of each bird is determining what the bird will hang from: a ruler, a saw blade, a piece of interesting wood. The whole process is repeated for the hanging piece: holes drilled, glued, clamped, attached. Wire is then added to the hanger, forming a nice arch for eventual hanging on the wall.

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Once all the cold connections have been made, I apply Washi tape to the back of the birds, covering the brads. A bit of matte medium is applied to hold the tape in place. At this point, the birds are almost finished. I talk to each bird individually (not literally!): What do you need? What will make you special? Keys are sometimes dangled as legs. Often a wheel is attached to give the bird a sense of motion. I go through my random, one-of-a-kind pieces of metal, looking for something unique to attach to a leg or the belly; these pieces are wired on and scream: LOOK AT ME!

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The final step in assembly is adding a piece of torn, ragged silk or sari ribbon to soften all of the hard metal edges.

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Finished? Not yet. Each bird gets a name. I Google unusual baby names to see what is trending and pick out a few dozen names. I especially like androgynous names to keep the birds gender neutral, however, sometimes I just know it is a boy or a girl, and their name reflects this.

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Assembled, named, photographed. The gang is ready to meet the world.

FJB January 2016 (20)And a few are ready for their close ups.

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FJB January 2016 (3)The Debut

A couple dozen of my new birds will be going to Compass Gallery for our February show, Light As Air. The show hangs on Thursday and I’m excited about hanging the birds from wires strung across the wall. About six of the birds will be headed to Guardino Gallery in Portland for sale in their Gift Shop gallery. Whew. Maybe by January of 2017 I’ll be ready to create a new batch.


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