Bee Arthur

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Introduction: Bee Arthur

Not terribly long ago, I made this honeycomb mask out of paper mache. At the time, I was interested in adding a bee accessory somewhere down the line. To that end, I embedded three magnets in different areas of the mask, to give me some options later on.

Well, now it's later on, so I made a bee.

Step 1: Save the Bees!

I made the honeycomb mask before Christmas. Now it was the first week of January, and it occurred to me that it wouldn't be long before the batch of paper mache clay I had whipped up for the mask was going to spoil. If I was going to make this bee, it was now or never.

Well, not really. It was now, or next time I made a batch of paper mache clay. But it would always bother me that I had let this batch go to waste.

So, first I spent some time looking at pictures of bees and thinking about how I was going to make this work. Honestly, the biggest obstacle was the wing dilemma. Bees (like many insects) have clear wings. Paper mache is pretty versatile, and forgiving, and awesome, but one thing it distinctly isn't is clear. Now, I wasn't married to the notion of photorealism or anything, but there was no way I could use paper mache to make a proper bee. At least not a whole one.

I tossed around some notions of other materials for the wings, but then I hit upon a completely different idea. I couldn't use paper mache to make a pretend actual bee, but I could use paper mache to make a pretend mechanical bee! Painted with gold leaf, and properly adorned, I could sculpt a golden robot bee and it might look amazing!

Of course, you might reasonably argue that a clockwork bee has no real business hanging around on a honeycomb because it's not a biological organism, and to you I say: how do you know that the clockwork bee isn't fueled by honey?

After taking the wind out of the sails of you imaginary naysayers with my imaginary witticisms, I got down to business. The ratio of bee to honeycomb cells in actual photographs seems to be about 1:3, so the total length of my bee should be roughly an inch and a half. With that scale in mind, I sculpted the three main parts of a bee: abdomen, thorax, and head. The abdomen has a magnet inside. Remember to check the poles! It would be a shame to sculpt a bee that was forever repelled by its own honeycomb.

I drew a paper template for the wings so I could make them match (you know, mostly). The paper mache clay can be rolled like dough, but because of the pulpy tissue fibers inside it takes a little more care when cutting out fine shapes.

Everything had to be dried and then sanded down. Be very, very careful with the wings; they may not be as delicate as the real thing, but when you roll the clay thin and cut it out like that, it is roughly the texture of a Fisherman's Friend throat lozenge, and just as easy to snap in two.

I also used a very thin piece of clay to make a tiny hexagon. More on that later.

Step 2: The Gold Bug

I knew I was going to have to start the paint job early, because the abdomen would become inaccessible once the wings were in place.

Another reason to start early was that the gold leaf paint I was using is oil based and takes longer to dry. It's also unbelievably stinky, which isn't really important to this instructable, but I'm trying to set the scene for you. I put all the pieces on my window sill, opened it onto the blisteringly cold winter morning, and got to work.

Steel wire was the only material I had on hand for making the legs, and it was thicker than I would have liked, but as a lazy man in the winter time, I just made do with what was already here.

I used a needle file to bore holes in the thorax to accommodate the legs, which I free formed using a pair of pliers. I put liquid glue into the openings to secure the limbs.

Not wanting the legs of my bee to terminate in dangerously sharp wire, I built up a blobby little "foot" out of white glue on the end of each one.

I painted the hexagon gold, and placed a tiny black dot in each corner.

Step 3: Swarming for the Finish Line!

The legs were straightforward enough. Once the feet were solid, I just painted everything black.

When it came to the head, at first, I was afraid that I was going to have to forego the notion of antennae. Because what the hell did I have that I could make antennae out of? The answer, I thought, was "nothing". But then it turned out that the answer was actually "high-strength fishing line painted black!"

I bent a small piece of filament and painted it black. While the paint was drying, I used the point of a craft knife to twist a tiny opening into the space between Arthur's little eyes. I sunk the antennae into this hole with a tiny spot of glue.

It was time to carefully assemble the rest of the pieces, all of which I attached with Krazy Glue. The wings arranged atop the thorax, slightly parted to reveal the stripe across the abdomen. The hexagon was placed above the wings, an access plate, where one might repair or lubricate the machinery that operates the wings. And finally the head. Like putting a magic hat on a snowman, Arthur comes to life!

I touched up the black border around the wings a bit, and then added a coat of glossy varnish over everything.

This same technique could be used to make paper mache insect jewelry. For example, the broach I already promised to make for my boyfriend after he saw the pictures!

Step 4: Introducing: Bee Arthur!

Bee Arthur lives on a honeycomb mask. He has his choice of three different places to hang out. So far, he is all alone on the mask, but he doesn't really mind. Bee Arthur has many important clockwork thoughts to think, and clockwork business to tend to. Don't shed a tear for Bee Arthur!

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5 Comments

Hmmm... I like the bee and it certainly gives the mask context, but there was something about the naked unexplained brilliance of the first version...

I might rob a bank or deliver a manifesto in the first one. The second one I would wear to a Halloween party.

Awesome papier mache work any way you slice it. I remain in awe of your mastery of medium.

It's worth mentioning: you could rob a bank wearing the honeycomb mask, then afterwords adorn the mask with tiny golden bees AS A DISGUISE.

I hear you! That's why I love the magnetic approach, because nothing has to be affixed in any permanent way. The bee is great, but I wouldn't want to have no other choice.

I approve this use of magnets.

I want to put magnets in everything now.