Mouth & Ear Reconstruction


Chris Low - Posted on 15 April 2011

Share this

I'm in the phase of adding the papier-mâché layers to the frame so there really isn't a whole lot to blog about--it's probably the longest and to me the most tedious/repetitious part of the process. Wet paper, stick it on, repeat. I don't want to bore you with all the minute details, so instead I'll tell you about the repairs I made to the mouth and ears.

For those who don't know the lion's mouth is mainly controlled by holding one or both hands in an "OK" sign and turning it so the palm is facing upwards. The thumb and index finger hold the head and mouth through the hole in the corner of the mouth and around the rim of the lion head. The other fingers rest under the mouth and by flexing them the mouth opens and closes in a flapping motion. Sometimes the lion will need to hold things in its mouth such as a head of lettuce, or a scroll or even a fish or crab so the pressure from the fingers can be pretty significant and one of the most common damage areas on a lion is a big hole torn in the mouth from fingers poking through. Lions from Lo An Kee resolve this by using a thin board under the mouth so all of the fingers are pushing against solid wood instead of paper. This is great for strength, but causes some problems of its own.

As you can see in the picture below the papier-mâché doesn't stick as well to wood so it had virtually all fallen off. The wires used to attach the board to the bamboo framing strips also worked loose over the years so the board was wiggling around, further damaging the paper and framing strips. Pushing on the board put more pressure on the framing strips (in terms of physics it acted as a lever) causing them to break their bindings to the front strip. As you can see in the second picture below the board actually warped and split. All of these drawbacks made me rethink how to approach repairs to this area.

I ended up deciding to just add reinforcing strips every inch on the lower half and every inch and a quarter on the top half since that section doesn't get as much abuse.

Click any picture for a larger version.

Original Mouth Condition Split Mouth Board Repaired Mouth

The ears are controlled by a string attached inside of the head that runs from a loop on the end of each ear through the loop I talked about at the end of the repair list in my previous post. Pulling the string hard can damage both the rattan loop and the ear loop. The loop on the right ear had completely broken and was cobbled back to working condition by simply cutting notches into the stem area and retied. The damage to the bamboo skin on the left ear loop was most likely caused by the tight bend the bamboo had to make to make the loop in the first place. You can also see evidence of burning made when using a candle to heat the bamboo before bending it, a necessary evil when working with tight curves in bamboo. My solution, like the replacement string loop, was to use 14 gauge steel wire.

Almost all of the internal framework of the ears is made up of a single piece of bamboo which is split into two "tails" which are bent into the proper shapes and attached to the perimeter. It's a pretty ingenious device.

Click any picture for a larger version.

Original Ears Right Ear Loop Left Ear Loop Split and Bend Split and Bend Top View Repaired Ears   Repaired Ear Loop  

Like I mentioned, papering the frame is a long process so this will probably be my last entry for a while unless something significant happens while I'm working on it.

Carry on until then. I'll be here.

Still.

Papering.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

ad finem.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.