Thursday, July 12, 2012

From Paper to Rubber: Stream of Conscience Goes Outdoors at Montshire Museum of Science

Typically Stream of Conscience is made out of paper, lots of it. But when David Goudy, Director of Montshire Museum of Science, asked me if an outdoor version would be possible, I said, "Sure!" without knowing how it could be done. My first idea was to re-purpose plastic detergent bottles, but the process of collecting, cleaning, and cutting was daunting. Also, the waves that could be cut from the bottles would be small and the colors are brash. Next bright idea was Marmoleum, a flooring product made out of sawdust, linseed oil, and dye. But it wouldn't hold up to the weather. I had difficulty accepting this because the product is beautiful and comes in many colors, but I couldn't get anyone to agree that it was a good idea to use. Finally, after lurking in a flooring store knowing that there had to be something that would work, the attendant brought out solid rubber floor tile samples! They turned out to be easy to cut, thanks to can-do, cabinet-maker Curtis Mead, and come in a range of beautiful colors. And, they are weather-proof. The next challenge was finding markers that would not only hold up to the elements, but also come off so the tiles can be re-used. I had only two tile samples: one navy and one gray. I wrote all over both of them with China Markers that I've had for at least 25 years and put the tiles outside. The writing held up beautifully and the marks rubbed right off.  Bingo!  Not so fast . . .When the new batch of China Markers came in they were nothing like my antique models. Not only were they not as rich and difficult to peel, but also solvent was needed to get them off the tiles. And, each color behaved a little differently. Disappointed with the quality, I sought out other brands and other marker options but found that each color behaved uniquely in all markers tested. After much trial and error, I settled on metallic Sharpies to supplement Berol China Markers (the best brand I could find, but nowhere near as good as my old ones). When I finally got all of the tiles – 22 different colors – each tile color responded uniquely to each marker type and color. Yikes. Thank you, Citra-Solve, the one consistent product in this process.