Sideshow is a piece of assemblage art that grew from a beginning I wasn’t really crazy about, into a finished art piece I am extremely proud of.
If you’re new to assemblage art, in this post you’ll find a description of my process in creating this piece. Maybe it’ll help you create something you’ll be proud of as well.
For starters let me give credit where credit is due. If you’re familiar with this kind of art and you told me, “this looks like something Michael DeMeng created,” well. . . let’s just say I would not be offended. No question, I am inspired by Michael DeMeng. I completed one of his many on-line classes and if you like this kind of art he is a great teacher.
Find Michael’s website and on-line class offerings at:
Very briefly, this piece started out simply as the robot. . . . . .
Ingredients – From the Top Down
Spear Point: From a knight-in-kitschy-armor found at a neighborhood rummage sale.
Eyeball: From a bag of the same purchased on Amazon. Primarily because where in the hell else would you get eyeballs? The eyeball is mounted in Apoxie Sculpt clay formed around the top of the next piece.
Triangle Top: This is a piece of trim found at the local Habitat for Humanity store. It was a little too wide so I sawed off about ¾ of an inch on one side, cut a half-assed 45-degree miter, and put it together with a big glob of Liquid Nails.
Railing: The railing in front of the Ring Master is from a nasty old birdhouse I found at a rummage sale. It was full of twigs and acorns and feathers and covered in bird crap; but hey – “A mans gots to do what a mans gots to do, ya know.” I drilled holes in the top piece of the box and glued the railing into those holes with W6000 glue.
Ring Master: This is a child’s action figure also found at a rummage sale. I wanted him to look more like a Circus Ring Master than an action figure so I tweaked his coat with some Apoxie Sculpt and added an Apoxie Sculpt top hat. I sanded him, covered him with gesso, then painted the black pants, red jacket with gold piping, and white gloves. After that was dry I covered him with Michael DeMeng’s “The Uszhhh,” to make him look older.
Ring Master’s Whip: This is a piece of a shish-ka-bob skewer painted black. The “whip” is fine copper wire wrapped around the tip.
Ring Master’s Reins: Initially I wanted this to have the look of a marionette. I was going to make a crossed piece of that same skewer material and have the reins wrapped around either end. Instead, I used waxed leather thread to make it look like he was holding reins. That hand on the action figure is open on the bottom and the reins would fall out. So I cut a short piece of copper tubing and glued that inside of his hand and then ran the reins through it.
Nameplate: The nameplate with Roboman is a piece of metal from the back of the same “knight-in-kitschy-armor” as the spearhead top. It was nice and thin and easy to cut with tin snips. Plus it was already painted – which I ended up sanding off anyway. I bought a set of letter stamps at Harbor Freight to stamp the name. I wanted it to look imperfect – which it turns out – I’m good at. So there. I used the same painting technique on this nameplate as I did on the robot legs (we’ll get to that) and then brushed a couple of layers of Liquitex gloss varnish. It’s stuck onto the piece with 3M double-face tape.
Yellow Corner Lights: The little yellow light bulbs come from a surplus store in St. Paul, Minnesota called Axman. https://www.ax-man.com/ Axman is worth a visit even if you don’t do this kind of art. They have some crazy stuff there – from plastic skeletons to an iron lung. The light bulbs are glued into holes in the frame of the box. Each bulb is surrounded by the metal cap from an old metal 35mm film canister.
Box: The wood for the box, while not “old” or necessarily “found” did come from my garage. And if you saw my garage you would agree that i did, in fact, ”find it.” The corner pieces (that the yellow bulbs are glued into) are pieces of two-by-two that were cut from a homemade folding background bar. That background bar used in my – now closed – photography studio since 1990.
Arched Doorway” The arch was but from a piece of quarter-inch masonite, again, “found” in my garage. The red and yellow “bulbs” were made from Polymer clay formed in a silicone mold and then baked. You can buy lots of coll silicone molds on Amazon and Etsy.
Castle Doorway Background: Before I finally landed on the circus theme I had a vision of making this like the doorway to Frankenstein’s Castle with the monster coming through the doorway. I searched “Frankenstein’s Laboratory” and found a couple of really cool images to use for the background – but they were copyright protected. I reasoned with myself that they’d be in the background and barely visible so why not? The professional photographer in me won out and I went to Dreamstime and purchased this image. It’s not a laboratory image but I like the look. And my conscience is clear.
Black cloth curtain: It’s barely visible in the images but it runs around the inside of the opening. Found in my rag box in the garage. I purposely frayed the edge and it’s held in place with #M Double Fced tape.
Entrance FLoor: This Apoxie Sculpt clay. I used a metal ruler to make the perspective lines to look like a tile floor leading into the background. Used some clay tools to make marks and holes in the clay so the aging paint would be more effective.
Faucet Handle: A truly random addition. The center of the handle is a piece from a decorative ceiling fan chain pull that was in my box of, “I’ll use this someday” hardware.
Box edging: The front edges of the box are covered with metail strapping and then held in place with screws and washers to add texture.
The Robot: His legs are tuning forks.
Tuning Fork Legs
My son told me about a University of Minnesota thrift store where they sell used furniture, lab equipment, office machines, flooring, books, clothes, etc… from University buildings – like a College Goodwill Store.
At the time I was working on some 1950’s robot ideas – think Rosie from the old animated TV show The Jetsons or the Robot from Lost in Space. I thought these tuning forks from the U of M Thrift Store, at the low, low price of $1.50 a pair, would make perfect legs.
From what I understand tuning forks are typically made of aluminum. I tried a couple of different methods of “aging” them with no real success. I tried soaking them in vinegar, spraying them with bleach and leaving them in th sun, as well as soaking them in a container fill with crumpled aluminum foil and a solution of Oxiclean. All gave meager results at best.
I took Michael DeMeng’s on-line class, Shades of Alchemy, https://www.michaeldemeng.com/online-classes/shades-of-alchemy-online-on-demand and learned this technique for painting metal. Using Michael’s recipe for what he calls, “The Uszhhh” (because he usually uses it on all of his work) and heating up the metal with a heat gun, allowed the paint to adhere to the metal legs.
I know it’s maybe frustrating, but it wouldn’t be fair to Michael DeMeng for me to tell you the entire process. The on-line video is only $39 – I don’t make anything for referring you – and it’s well worth it if you like the painting on this piece.
The Robot Body
I was in the midst of a few other projects at the time but I wanted to get started on a robot. Tell me if you find the following familiar to your art journey:
I discovered Jonni Good at Ultimate Paper Mache on You Tube. I was intrigued and immediately went out and got a hand held mixer, bowls, a gallon of glue, a big bucket of sheetrock compound and a bunch of toilet paper so I could make my own paper mache clay.
A few batches of clay later I decided I wanted to try polymer clay so I bought a bunch – and a pasta roller to activate the clay – and tried that for awhile. And that was fun and I liked the results but I wasn’t completely enamoured.
Then I bought some DAS air dry clay and gave that a shot on a few things.
Continual reading, Instagram scrolling and YouTube watching finally lead me to Apoxie Sculpt clay – which my son had recommended to me from the get go. I really wanted to try Apoxie Sculpt for this robot but I already three different kinds of clay I hadn’t used up yet so I told myself no, I wasn’t spending anymore money on clay.
I formed the robot body out of aluminum foil wrapped around the tuning fork and covered that with some of the DAS air dry clay.
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