Trains, Babies, and Concrete Floors

Procrastination! We know better and yet we still do it. We know nothing good will come from procrastination, yet we talk ourselves into it and tell ourselves it’s okay. Do you think Rip Van Winkle would have said, “I’ll just sleep on it” if he knew the outcome?  Of course not. Why don’t we learn?

A while back a client hired me to create a realistic prop baby for a film. It was new territory for me and a challenge. The project started with dozens of references taped on the wall behind the workbench, custom built the best armature, and spent weeks shaping and detailing this thing. Hell, I even think I started talking to it. I guess I didn’t realize how emotionally involved I had become until I… Read on.

When I finally finished it, I was mentally exhausted. It was one of the hardest sculpts I’ve ever worked on. Sculpting babies isn’t easy. It should be just the right balance of cute and alien-like, and that is a tough balancing act. I am a creature designer after all, not a baby-maker. I make creepy. I make scary. Damn baby!

I was proud though. But, after all that work, I just couldn’t face molding it. I needed a break.

I don’t suggest waiting to mold your sculptures, no matter what clay you are using, but usually things are ok to leave overnight. A few damp paper towels, cover it with a plastic bag, and the sculpture should be ok. It’s one night.

Sometimes you do need a good night’s sleep to tackle a mold. I do find myself putting things off from time to time. I know that waiting tempts fate and there are a host of issues that might ruin your day—things you might never think of. Crazy off-the-wall things that couldn’t possibly happen…but do. Like a clay baby learning to walk.

                Clip art by unknown artist

               Clip art by unknown artist

“It was procrastination that killed the baby your honor, not neglect.”

Too dark? Just wait.

The next morning, I knew I had to start molding the little fella, but again, I just couldn’t face it. I was still mentally fried. So, I found one excuse after another to avoid it.

I have to enter receipts into the records. So, I can’t do it right now.

I have to track a few shipments. So, I can’t do it right now.

I have to clean the bathroom. So, I can’t do it right now. WAIT, WHAT? You know you’re fried when cleaning a toilet is a good alternative to anything.

That afternoon, near the end of the day, I was answering emails in my office. Suddenly, I heard a crash downstairs on the shop floor. I ran to the door to see what happened. There it was. The baby I spent so much time and effort on was on the floor. It was all over the floor, in fact. Baby…went splat.

I thought it was safe. It had been sitting on the workbench for twenty-four hours and hadn’t budged. So, what happened? When did the baby learn to walk?

          Russ, when baby fall on the floor. 

         Russ, when baby fall on the floor. 

My shop is nicely hidden in an industrial park. There are railroad spurs all over the place. I have been in that shop for years and I guess I had just become accustomed to trains going by. I learned to block out the noise and the vibrations. That afternoon, the train and my artwork collided.

There was a particularly heavy train inching its way through that day and the vibrations were strong enough to slowly march the sculpture to the edge of the bench. Then, it took a header onto the concrete floor. I never even got a decent photo of it before the accident.

I took the loss of that sculpture pretty hard. Maybe it was all the work that went into it. Maybe it was because it looked like a baby and secretly my worst fear as a parent had become a sudden and impactful reality. Whatever the reason, I haven’t ever had the drive to revisit the project. I pawned the project on someone else and that was that.

The moral of this story is, you never know when your train is coming. So ask yourself, do you really want to sleep on it?   


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