While using tweezers to build more than 500 little tobacco plants for the back field at St. Williams, I could identify with the craftspeople who painted the 100,000,000 (yes – one hundred million!) porcelain sunflower seeds for Chinese artist Ai Weiwei‘s 2010 installation at the Tate Modern in London:
I’m sure there were many days when those artists felt the project would never end – and I know I felt that way with the Busch HO scale tobacco plants I used.
But the field is done and ready for a fence.
I installed the field this weekend. I realized that since I was going to add dirt to the field to hide the plastic base, I was going to have to prevent diluted glue from pouring over the back edge of the layout (and possibly ruining the fabric backdrop: There’s a gap, about an inch wide, between layout and backdrop but I didn’t want to take any chances). Here’s how I did that:
What’s not obvious in the above picture is that I’ve airbrushed the plants with a variety of greens and a bit of tan. I used flat-drying acrylics from Vallejo, which broke up the uniformity of the plants and killed the plastic shine. Yes, I weathered my crops.
I then set aside the field and laid down a line of No More Nails adhesive near the back edge of the layout. I then put a two-inch wide angle into a length of aluminum foil and glued this to the layout surface, adding more No More Nails to seal the edge of the foil:
Then I went away and let the No More Nails cure.
The next day, I shook a Scenic Express dirt blend over the field. I used a soft paint brush to brush the tops of the plants – this was sufficient to knock off most of the dirt that landed on the leaves. I then wet down the area with water (I use an olive oil sprayer, which delivers a fine mist – no wetting agent required) and applied dilute Weld Bond adhesive with an eyedropper. The missing plants in the field really helped with this, as I had spaces to insert the eyedropper without getting glue all over the plants themselves:
I’m very happy with how this turned out.
That’s it for tobacco – for now. I have another 250-300 plants to build for the front edge of the layout, but first I have to build the fence for this field, then build five tobacco kilns.
I’m not yet done with Ai Weiwei moments, it seems!