The Coating Of Bellinghams Acid Ball

May 13, 2018  •  3 Comments

When I moved to Bellingham in the fall of 2015,  I became very intrigued by the scape of the water front. Especially the decay of a former granary building and multiple structures remaining from a closed paper mill. At the time, a major waterfront project was underway, there sure was a lot of activity and construction happening! Turns out a competition was had to turn the mill's acid ball into public art. The winners of the competition, Mutuus Studio, a design firm out of Seattle, proposed moving the ball, and coating it with reflective glass beads. The coating had never been applied in this way ever before.

I found myself one afternoon on Central Pier after they had moved the ball, wondering how I could be part of the coating project. I thought it would be a great photography narrative. As an artist I wonder about things like this rather often, but acting on them is sometimes a challenge. I did find the gumption to introduce myself to the design firm, and after a delightful phone conversation, found myself celebrating a yes and permission to photograph the project! WOW!

Having never worked on a construction site before, I had to sign forms, and procure a safety vest and hard hat. Luckily I was able to borrow those from the city. I was told that my being allowed on the site, as an everyday citizen/artist was not something that happened easily. I felt remarkably grateful. I was at the project 8 separate times over a period of two weeks. I clocked in 17 shoot hours, and about twice that in editing. The highlight of the entire gig was the evening when they tested the lighting, the ball had been fully coated, the entire team was present, once darkness fell, and once we figured out how to trigger the reflective beads, it was pretty darn magical!

Another moment for me was on day two. As the first coat of primer was going on, the sky painted itself with the most amazing collection of clouds. The clouds really added to the scape, and really made for some magnificent and unique images!

Before the acid ball could be coated, it first had to be power washed, caulked, and primed. Coating with the beads was tricky, it required two men, and timing was of the essence .  They did the project in three sections, beginning at the top of the ball, and working their way underneath. On the final beading day the painting team had to wrestle with very high winds.

My project portfolio in its entirety is here.  

Below are some of my favorite captures.






Helga Aldrich(non-registered)
WOW, what a treasure trove you created, Karen! Thank you . I followed the creation from my balcony and I can see the soft glow of the ball from my bed at night. Now you are part of the magic! ⚡☄⭐
Nancy Moore(non-registered)
Wow, Karen! What an amazing endeavor. Both the narrative and the images are fantastic, letting us get a close-up look at the whole process. Those clouds ... how serendipitous. All the angles you took on this project ... it's very all-encompassing and evocative. Thanks for your excellent work, and for sharing all this. I can't wait to see the acid ball myself in its new location and with its new coat.
Steven Ray(non-registered)
Great work Karen, I am so glad to see you put yourself out there!!!
I really like the way you treated the whole subject, from the black and whites to your Images of the ball itself!
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Photography = a never ending opportunity to capture visual celebrations. 


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