Sunday 27 March 2022

CGI Trash Beasts - Two Movie Shorts

Here's a lovely thing that's very much in keeping with my trash bugs and junk owls - a clever and well-made short animation called Hybrids.

The film has won multiple awards,as has this little delight - The Legend of the Crabe Phare. Enjoy!

Sunday 20 March 2022

Junk Owl

 I first made some owls from junk over a decade ago (the cassette tape is a dead giveaway isn't it?).

They were made for a display on a stall at a village fete. The component parts were old plastic plumbing supplies, foam shapes, hair clips, combs and household rubbish. And perhaps they were flitting around in my subconscious when I was rummaging in my junk boxes this morning? 

You see, I had an idea to make some owls.

During the pandemic we had to find new ways to keep in touch with friends and loved ones because physical contact was impossible and travel between locations was outlawed. Technology helped and the catchphrase of the year was undoubtedly, ‘Can you hear me?’ This was my inspiration to create a series of sculptures using old mobile phones. 

But why owls? 

It's because, there are woods behind my house and most evenings I hear them calling to each other. The ‘tewit’ is one owl saying ‘Can you hear me?’ and the ‘tewoo’ is the reply. I was struck by the fact that an owl’s life would be so much easier if they had our technological advantages. Imagine if owls could Zoom or Facetime or Skype. Or just phone each other. 

The fact that many small businesses didn’t survive lockdown also led to me coming into possession of a sack of obsolete mobile phone accessories including cases and keypads (see here). They therefore became the obvious materials to use, along with materials collected from the woods where the owls live and call to each other.

Once I had the basic owl figure assembled, out came the black primer.

I then sprayed it with an antique deep copper and made a base from MDF and a gnarly piece of wood I found on a dog walk last year. Finally, I masked off the 'ground' with tape, coated it in PVA glue and sprinkled sand and some small rocks onto it. A final bit of paint and he/she was complete.

This became the first of several owls created for the Can You Hear Me? project.

You can see more here.

Friday 18 March 2022

Squid Game

I often get asked, 'Where do you start when creating your sculptures?' That's a tricky one to answer. It's like an author being asked, 'Where do you get your ideas?' There is no single, easy answer. Inspiration can come from anywhere. 

This squid-like creature, for example, came about after rummaging in one of my junk boxes. I spotted an interestingly-shaped maple syrup bottle and the word 'squid!' popped into my head. Now, that may be because I'd watched a Stephen Fry-fronted BBC TV programme on mythical creatures (including the kraken) a few days before. But who knows? All I do know is that once the idea was in my head, it set me off looking for more squid-ish components. 

And soon, I had the basics of a structure.
As I've said in previous posts, things can change as you progress and one thing that definitely changed was the squid's 'tail'. After a clumsy accident, I'd recently knocked the propeller (an old computer fan) off the front of my mad steampunk train (see here) and realised that (a) I had a better front for the train and (b) the propeller fitted better on the squid. 

These happy accidents happen sometimes.
So, I added some greeblies, made two 'grabbers' from the nozzles of hand soap dispensers, and gave it a black primer undercoat. I then gave it a light spray of rattle can bronze to create an underlying metallic effect. But what colour to paint it?

Squid - like all cephalopods - have cells in their skin called chromatophores that allow them to change colour at will. Sometimes this is to express their mood or to flash a warning signal. Some scientists speculate that it may even be a simple form of communication. Like their cousins, the octopuses and cuttlefish, squid are pretty bright - some say smarter than a domestic pet dog.

As my squid is a machine it needed a fixed colour so I chose one that wild squid often display - a kind of pinkish/orangey/coral colour. So I started to build up the layers of paint and ink washes.

I then made a custom base from heavy foamboard and a few junk fish to swim alongside. 

And we're done!

Thursday 17 March 2022

Baby Needs Shoes (and I need space!)

Ladies and Gentlemen ... after some unavoidable delays and some completely avoidable procrastination I am finally in a position to start offering some of my junk sculptures for sale.

(Using the words 'junk sculptures' probably isn't the best sales pitch but that's what they are - what you pay for is the time, skill, paints and glue that go into them.)

So, click on this link (or the picture below) and you'll be taken to the catalogue.

All sculptures are unique editions of one. They are signed by me, come with a certificate of authenticity and they all carry the 'Pasty Mark'. 

First come, first served.

Payment may be made by Paypal or secure bank transfer. Contact me at to make arrangements.

Some have already been sold to close friends - such as this dragonfly, which was bought by photographer Mark Page.

Will you be next?

Once they're gone, they're gone! (But I am hard at work on creating some new pieces). 

Revisit the For Sale page at any time to see what's available.

Wednesday 2 March 2022

The Mobile Phone Challenge

Recently my great friend, the photographer Mark Page, set me a challenge. He helps to run a fantastic enterprise called Wycombe Food Hub. Volunteers visit all of the local supermarkets in and around High Wycombe every evening to collect residual food - by this I mean food they will no longer put on sale. This could be because of damaged packaging or because the product is nearing its sell-by date or because it's old stock and new stock is incoming. Sometimes it's due to over-ordering - just after Christmas recently, the stores handed over a staggering 320 unsold frozen turkeys to the Food Hub. 

The volunteers also visit local food outlets and restaurants, farms and farm shops. All of this residual food is then brought back to the Hub, checked, and then put out for sale at vastly reduced prices.
This is not a food bank. Food banks are for the desperately poor in society and you have to be referred via the local authority. The Food Hub is different because anyone can shop there. Its primary purpose is to prevent food waste. However, there are plenty of working people who, with the rising cost of living, are finding things tough. A visit to the Hub can save them quite a few quid as all they charge is £3 to fill a handbasket. It means that people can retain their dignity without having to ask for handouts. That said, if people have no money at all - such as the homeless - the Hub will give food for free. And none of this costs the taxpayer a single penny.

The Hub also supports local homeless charities, and any food that goes past its use-by date is donated to farms as animal feed. Incredibly, the Hub currently prevents five tons of perfectly good food going to landfill every month. Isn't that staggering?

Anyway, Mark set me a challenge. In moving the Hub into an empty shop unit, he had the task of disposing of hundreds of obsolete phone cases left by the precious occupier. None of these cases has a re-sale value - they are all for phones that no one has any more, like early model iPhones and Blackberries. So Mark bagged them up - and it was a very big mail bag - and gave them to me, saying 'Do something creative with that lot!'
He knows how much I enjoy a challenge like that! 

I was immediately struck by the fact that many of the phone cases were covered in fake rhinestones that looked like scales. The many replacement keypads also reminded me of scales. So, using a few bottle caps and the neck of a bleach spray I made a tail. A dragon maybe? A crocodile? However, I soon realised that it looked more invertebrate than reptile. It was at this point that I decided to make a scorpion. I had a rummage in my junk boxes and found some pieces left over from old printer cartridges. Adding them to some Blackberry carcases, I had the start of a pair of claws.
I then used my hot wire tool to cut and shape a block of polystyrene to act as the main body for the scorpion. I attached the tail and began cladding it in phone cases - using heat to bend them into the shapes I wanted. I added lots of keypads, plus any other small greebly junk pieces I had to hand. Usefully, most of the keypads were backed by a kind of rubber layer that made them flexible enough to wrap around curves. I then used parts of two bleach spray triggers as jaws (pardon the messy hot glue strings - they get removed later!).
Okay, so I then realised that the claws were going to be too big (one is half-finished in the photo). So, instead, I cut down the larger claw to match the smaller one. Trashbuilding means constant problem solving and occasional changes in direction. There's rarely a plan.

The arms were easy. Back during the first lockdown I made a sculpture of a robotic businessman (see here). Unfortunately it suffered a catastrophic tumble off a table at an art exhibition but I kept all of the parts for re-use. The arms were perfect for the scorpion and were, therefore, recycled from previously recycled materials. A third life for them! I added some plasticard panels and added loads of greeblies - mostly old wires, googly eyes and pieces of phone keypad and attached the claws. I now had the arms done.
Now came the issue of legs. And a nasty surprise. I know that scorpions are arachnids - like spiders and ticks - and therefore have eight legs. But, for some reason, I'd assumed that the 'arms' were two of those legs. Not so, however (I also didn't know that a scorpion's anus is at the end of its tail by the stinger - every day is a school day!). So, I had to make eight legs instead of six. Grrr. Anyway, here's the leg assembly being built using phone parts, plastic cutlery, plastic beads, some laser cut cogs left over from another project and various pieces from my junk boxes.

Then the final elements to be added were the eyes (small nylon bearings) and the sting which, as a tribute to the scorpion's phone-related origins, I made by sculpting a model of a 1980s mobile from balsa wood. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Finally, out came the rattle can and I sprayed it with a black primer. 

Then it was drybrushed to bring out the highlights and I added a little rust effect here and there.

And we're done!

However ... I've barely scratched the surface of how much junk there is in that mail sack. 

I feel a big project coming on ...