Theming is a relatively new service that Michael Washer has been providing since 2005. Every summer, Wet n’ Wild Water World has employed him to solve visual problems in various spaces by providing sculptural, mechanical, painted spacial-related solutions. His flexibility and versatility in different media is constantly growing, allowing him more possibilities to beautify the world.
This first foray into theming presented enormous problems, not the least of which was that the ship had to be assembled over the pool which was filled with water at the time! The bow, bowsprit, and woven wood lattice all had to be worked on as I balanced on a makeshift raft. The hull, bow, and woven wood lattice were fashioned off-site as long, bent boxes of 2 x 12’s and skinned with bent plywood. The ship was skinned with bent plywood that I soaked in water until flexible and wrapped around the frame. The deck was made of beautiful ash planks from some pallets that I reclaimed from Wet N’ Wild’s dump. It took me a full hour to work up the courage to crawl out off the edge of the deck to affix the 5 foot bowsprit to the bow, and then, float out on the raft and affix the second 5 foot length of bowsprit onto the first, and lash them together with rope. But, I’m glad I did it, I love the result.
I’m going to build a 100 foot long battleship! At least that’s what I had in mind for this crazy project. I began by building seven 6 x 5 x 5 foot boxes that were open on the metal railing side. Then, I and a friend suspended ourselves by ropes on the railing, over the water, and we welded sheets of steel to the railings to seal up the boxes. I fabricated all the guns, radar tower, louvers, windows, gears, boxes and other things that I don’t know the names for from leftovers that I reclaimed from Wet N’ Wild’s surplus parts collection. And once painted, this project had the massive, muscular feel of a battleship with none of the danger.
RAINFOREST 3-D MURAL
Other walls on the site have small murals, but once the new bathroom was finished and they wanted me to adorn the unfinished 20 foot wall with something, I decided to do a 3-dimensional mural that sticks out a foot. The design was a rainforest idea with the everpresent hybiscus theme laced throughout. I cut out large sheets of 4 inch thick styrofoam and affixed them to the wall and to each other with adhesive. A couple of areas are lightly sculpted with a dremel and sandpaper.
The entire structure was coated with Kilz, and the cracks and connections were all caulked and sealed. Then, it only took two days to paint the whole mural. The final result beautified the entire area.
Wet N’ Wild has an enormous raised concrete stage. The problem to be solved was that the back of the stage was nothing but yellow metal railings and they needed some way to draw attention to the area, keeping it consistent with the park theme and making it moveable. The solution was 2 separate backdrops in styrofoam, mounted to plywood backing and 2 x 8 footings. The Bird of Paradise, Guitar player, Toucan and Mariachi dancer are all sculpturally carved. Left side is 12 feet long, 6 feet tall, and the right side is 15 feet long and 8 feet tall.
THE BIG TREE
This project was probably the most challenging I have ever attempted. The problem was to design some beautiful way to conceal a series of downspout water pipes elevated 5 feet off the deck of a pool. They poured out a waterfall to slow down the people flying off the end of the “Screamer”. The pipes stretch from one side of the pool to the other, so to hide it, I designed an “L”-shaped tree.
The tree, of carved styrofoam, and covered in fiberglass and epoxy resin, would have to be about 7 feet tall, but be joined at 4 foot height, and then stretch to the other side of the pool. The tree would sway back and forth across its 18 foot length, while the hollow center remained a straight box. Then, I designed a threatening 20 foot python to wrap around the tree, and a stork to be perched at the top of the upright section. The long tree length was created in 2 pieces. The python was fabricated out of increasingly larger foam pipe insulation and duct tape around a copper line core.
I could barely believe that this design worked, it seemed for most of its 3 month creation to be far beyond my abilities. But here it is!
What was needed was something large for a new kiddie ride with a Polynesian theme. I sandwiched together pieces of cut styrofoam and used a Dremmel to rough out the basic form of the head. Then I did the same for a small body and huge ponytail, and smoothed everything with sandpaper. Then both parts were coated in fiberglass and epoxy resin. The hat was formed of cardboard, and similarly coated. The body had a flange at the base that allowed it to be mounted on a small concrete base. I included a lifesize crane in styrofoam, but didn’t coat it in resin. That was a mistake, weeks later, the bird disappeared but its head was found nearby. But once painted, the 12 foot tall Tiki Queen is impressive to see.
The bathrooms were quite ugly, and needed to be redone. Since the women’s bathroom takes up half of a round man-made cave, I decided to try to make it look like a real cave, complete with rocks on the ceiling.
The workers on-site had to do an enormous amount of redesign just to get it ready to be beautified and themed. I chose to have the walls covered in slate, done before I began my work of turning the bathroom into a cave.
I found a vendor that blows foam insulation and worked with them to create the forms of the fake stones. Each form was created by spraying the foam over armatures of wire, plastic bags and sheeting, cardboard and styrofoam.
I refined the finished forms by cutting into them, sanding them, adding to them, and then painstakingly painting each one with many layers of color.
Then came the doors for the 7 stalls. I fabricated the doors from different plywoods, making them rather heavy. And then I painted them with the hybiscus theme that I have chosen for Wet N’ Wild. I added hefty hinges, and hung them, added handles, locks and catches to create a clean consistent look.
In order to have a consistent design look throughout, I created a counter to hold 3 sinks. I fabricated the sinks by laying small slate tiles and blue glass tiles into glazed flower pots. The look was completed with a 3-dimensional access door beneath that has both the look of the stall doors and the fabricated rocks.
To complete the space, I created 5 changing benches with pine slat seating and skinned in slate tiles. Each bench was custom built to fit perfectly into each space.
What an awesome adventure this project turned out to be.