I wasn’t able to start installing my marble run properly until Tuesday 3rd when the positioning of my piece was decided for certain. This left me with only a small amount of time to correct / fix any parts that weren’t working. Everything had been tested individually, but I had never been able to test every part together – this needed to be done in the exhibition space. This was very nerve-racking, as I desperately wanted to make the run as fool-proof as I could before assessment. Between Tuesday and Friday, I had to work quickly to correct parts on the spot, using DIY materials. Luckily, I had already planned for this, and came prepared with a tool box packed full of all the tools I could think I might need, and all the DIY materials (string, cable ties, glue etc), which I wanted on the top layer of my run.
On Thursday, my marble run was fully functional – everything was in place and connected, but I still needed to make lots of adjustments. The balls were still getting stuck / falling off in places, and the hooks were sometimes still getting stuck. Thursday I had a very late night in the studio, which ended with the overheating of my power supply.
On Friday, I continued to make more adjustments up until the last second. By the deadline, my marble run was working the best it had been, and the marbles were running the full course without any problems.
I am very pleased with the final outcome. This project has been an ongoing challenge the whole year, and taken me through the wringer, but through trial and error, pushing myself and being determined to make it work, I have learned a whole bunch of new skills and knowledge. These are all skills I would not have learned had I not challenged myself and sought to explore and discover many new things this year.
Today was our last day of setting up for our exhibition.
By this point, I had put everything in its place and made sure it all worked. I had a bit of a scare the night before when the power supply overheated, but it didn’t do any damage. My plan for the last day was to run the mechanisms, and keep tweaking everything to try and make the run as fool proof as I could. Every now and again, a marble would stop somewhere on the run (in the end piece before the tube, or after the tube before the stairs, or before the chain), fall off the run (by overshooting the corners, falling off the stairs, or getting stuck in the hooks and missing the start of the run). The hooks would also move and sometimes get caught on the plaster piece below it, stopping the chain.
I tried to solve all of these problems.
When the marbles:
- Stopped in the end piece before the tube, I modelled the inside of the piece with more plasticine to make it more sloped.
- Stopped after the tube before the stairs, I reduced the weight of the ‘curtain’ until it no longer stopped them.
- Stopped before the chain, I sanded the corners so they would not get stuck.
- Overshot the corners, I put up little guards to deflect the marbles.
- Fell off the stairs, I put a ‘Severn bridge’ style threading of string down the sides.
- Got stuck in the hooks and missed the start of the run, I took away the big marbles!
- To stop the hooks from moving I added more glue, hopefully this will hold.
However, not once has a day ever gone to plan. When I came in, I saw that the plaster feet had all but one cracked -badly. I think this is just down to the nature of the materials. When the plaster is wet, the wood absorbs the water. When the plaster dries, it shrinks.
During the day I also filled in the cracks with more plaster and sanded it back down. If they continue to crack, I can do more work to them before the show.
I also finished sorting out my power supply, plastic cable mats and I tidied the wires.
Now I just hope it all goes okay on the day.
One of the last jobs, was to add on the plaster feet.
I was undecided as to whether I should make the feet in similar proportion to the other plaster blocks (which would be 10cm cubed), or whether to make them slightly bigger (12cm cubed).
I went with 12 cm cubed, because I felt 10 would look too small from standing height. Larger would appear to have more weight / give the run more stability, and would make the balance of the whole piece feel better.
Today I had the dilemma about whether or not to use the wooden stairs I made (the ones which follow on from the plastic tubing.
The marbles picked up too much speed going down the plastic tubing, and often fell off the stairs at various angles. I bought some thin wood to attach to the sides of the stairs and act as walls, but I felt these hid the stairs too much and took away from the simplistic aesthetic.
It was suggested to me that I might be able to find a way to slow the speed of the marbles when they exit the tubing, perhaps by hanging something inside the end of the tube which the marbles hit slightly and which takes away some of the momentum.
I am going to try a bit of thin fabric and see if this could work (I feel like it will). If it doesn’t however, I will just swap the stairs for a straight bit of cornering which I know for definite works. – no biggie.
Today, the first action I made involved the earth shattering drop of one of my plaster pieces. Unfortunately – not one I had a mold for.
I managed to break the piece for the end of the run – the piece that holds the plastic tubing etc.
I have tried to put it back together again – It broke off into three odd pieces. I soaked i in water for ten minutes or so, then used a two part Jesmonite mix to ‘glue’ the pieces back together. I then dug slight crevices where the joins were, filled them with fresh plaster, and sanded it back. Hopefully the cracks will not be very noticeable once it is all dry again.
I also cast another piece (which will hopefully work the same), which will need sanding down / tidying up, but then will work as a back up in case I drop the other one again!
During firing, some of the glaze fused the raku balls to each other. When I pulled these apart after the firing, the glaze left sharp edges to the balls. I do not want anyone cutting themselves on sharp glaze, so I sorted through all the marbles separating ‘good’ from ‘bad’.
I then scrubbed them all clean, so that no dirt from the firing would be left on the plaster run pieces.
Thinking ahead to my degree show, I have thought about how I would like my marble run to exist as part of the exhibition. I would like people to be able to walk all the way around it (no walls) and through it if possible. I would also like people to feel able to interact with the piece and play with it – it’s a marble run, it was meant for play! The run should not dominate the space, but have a distinct transparency so that the rest of the room and other works around it are visible. I will also need white or natural light for the minimalist architecture aesthetic. If people want to understand more about the piece, I may have a small book or piece of writing about the marble run’s metaphorical meaning.