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My Experience with the Mystery Build Art Contest

Updated on November 2, 2014

My Final Mystery Build Project

Friends Are Dream Allies: My Final Mystery Build Art Project
Friends Are Dream Allies: My Final Mystery Build Art Project

A Theme, a Dream, and a Box of Materials

I love a fun challenge. There's something about taking what I am given and putting it together to meet a goal. Strategy games are an example. You're given items, methods, and activities and you have to turn them into a success, whether it's in the form of a Farmville farm or a board game.

As an artist, I enjoy doing many artistic activities like drawing, painting, and crafts. When I heard about the Mystery Build Contest, I thought that would be the perfect blend of challenge and artistic activity. I was not disappointed!

The premise is simple. To enter the contest, buy the kit and create an art project based on the given theme using only the materials in our kit. Our theme was: "dreams." Participants were not allowed to use outside materials other than liquids such as glue, paint, and ink. The use of any other materials could lead to the project being disqualified. As I was working, I almost added tape without thinking. I suggest removing all other materials from the work area that might be accidentally used.

Things didn't always go how I hoped, but sometimes Plan B turns out better than the original intentions. I'm sharing my experiences with the Mystery Build Art Contest to encourage others to try it. Even if you don't want to participate in that contest, I hope you'll see how artists must test and try things and be ready to keep moving forward. Being an artist requires perseverance on many levels.

Art with a Rubber Ear?

Each year, all participants receive a box of the same materials. I was nervous about seeing what was in the box. I knew from the information on the website that not all materials received were "art supplies." I had no idea what I was in store for me.

When I got my box, I was excited to see what materials I was given. I carefully cut open the cellophane. The rules of the contest state that participants are allowed to use all the materials that make up the kit, including the box and cellophane that hold the materials. So, I cut the delicate cellophane while all the while thinking, "I hope to God that I don't have to work with cellophane!"

Inside the box was a plastic egg. The website had said that some people received prizes in the egg. I opened it and a $5 bill fell out. That was a pleasant little surprise. Not all surprises in the box were so pleasant!

Wire mesh with sharp edges, wooden dowels, string, wire, clay, a wooden mannequin, a metal rod, a piece of cloth, packing peanuts, and a natural sponge were some of the contents of the box. The strangest item was a rubber coated foam ear with a message that read: "Good luck on your project. -Vincent."

The Mystery Build Contest website provided some excellent video tips for using the items in the kit. One video demonstrated that the clay could be melted down and poured into molds. The flattening and shaping of the aluminum rod was demonstrated. Another video showed how to dismantle the wooden mannequin to use the parts. I'll just say that the videos made the processes look so much easier than they were for me!

Trying New Art Supplies

I had never used plaster or plaster gauze for art projects before this project. My son blew up a balloon for me, and I used it for a form to make my hot air balloon. Of all the new materials that I used, I liked working with the plaster gauze the most.

The plaster gauze could be compared with the plaster used to make casts. The gauze comes in a roll. I cut a strip of gauze and wet the plaster. I gently rubbed water over the gauze to evenly spread the plaster. While doing this, I noticed that if it created an interesting dimpled texture if I didn't spread the plaster very much. Originally, I planned on making the basket for the hot air balloon out of cardboard and painting it. After discovering the texture that could be achieved with the plaster gauze, I decided to cover a cardboard basket with the plaster gauze instead.

My Fundamental FAIL!

The kit contained cornstarch packing peanuts. According to a tutorial on the Mystery Build Contest's website, we could turn the packing peanuts into an effective building and sculpting tool by using small amounts of water. The video warned not to use too much water or my creation with the peanuts with shrink, crack, and become practically useless.

My plan was to use the peanuts to create a natural, earthy base for my hot air balloon. I turned the van Gogh ear upside down on the board from the kit. Then, I covered it with wire mesh, because the video tutorial showed that the peanuts could be added to the mesh to create a form. Well, I was so paranoid about adding too much water that I did not add enough water. Then, I tried to fix my fail by adding peanuts with a bit more water. The whole process failed!

I was devastated!

Plan B

I walked away from the project to try to think of a new idea for the base. I knew from my experience with art and design that being stressed while working on a project gives me tunnel vision. It's always best for me to take a break, clear my head, and approach the problem again later with fresh eyes.

How was I going to make a new ground over which my balloon would fly? Thinking about the theme, I realized that there was no need for me to try to recreate a realistic, earthy base. My nightly dreams are definitely not rooted in reality. *looks behind me for a purple elephant wearing a sombrero*

Earlier, I decided to add zentangle to the front of the hot air balloon. I never tried zentangle before, but I had seen it on the internet. With the leftover plaster gauze, I covered the failed base of my project. Instead of trying to make grass and bushes as originally planned, I covered the base with zentangling.

The zentangle process was a highlight of this creative process. At first, I was nervous about making a mistake. Those who have zentangle videos and blogs often say there is no such thing as a mistake in zentangle. Still, it's a challenge to let go of that fear of making a mistake. I started with the pattern that looks like lilypads, shown towards the top of the photo below. This pattern was forgiving and helped me ease into zentangling.

My Discovery of Wire Trees

After creating the base and putting it together with the hot air balloon, I felt the base needed something reflecting organic material. Searching through the remainder of the contents of the Mystery Build kit, I saw wire and the natural sponge. I wondered if I could make a tree from wire. I turned to my friend, Google, and discovered a wealth of examples of wire trees.

To support the theme and overall composition, I chose to do a wind-swept tree resembling a bonsai tree. After twisting the wire to the desired shape, I painted the natural sponge a very dark green and pulled pieces from it to add to the tree.

Friends Are Dream Allies

My final project is called: "Friends Are Dream Allies." Building on the Mystery Build Art Contest theme of "dreams," I chose to emphasize how friends help us achieve our dreams. In my project, one penguin is cutting away the weight on the balloon while the other penguin is anxiously looking towards their destination.

Things didn't always turn out how I wanted, but I'm happy with my final project. Another benefit of the Mystery Build contests are that I can look at others' projects. I always enjoy seeing the creative work of others.

If you would like to help me win the contest, you could take a minute to vote 5 stars for "Friends Are Dream Allies" on the Mystery Build website. Voting is open during the month of November 2014. After that, I will remove this voting link. Thank you so much for your support!

The contest was wonderful. Even if I don't win anything, I'm very happy with the experience. If you have any questions about my experience, feel free to ask in the comments section. I have no affiliation with Mystery Build, so I can't answer any questions about the company or their activities. I encourage anyone to give the art contest a try.


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    • Sheila Wilson profile image

      Sheila Wilson 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you.

    • profile image

      Ya Think 3 years ago

      I never knew what I doodle is called zentangling. Been doing it since I was around 10. Your project is awesome!