TREND: Bowling ball art provides whimsical decor

2013-05-12T14:00:00Z TREND: Bowling ball art provides whimsical decorJOANNE FOX Sioux City Journal

BRONSON, Iowa | Cheryl Otto has a bumble bee and lady bug in her home with heads about 27 inches in circumference.

No, she's not getting the extra-strength bug killer out anytime soon.

Otto has taken a couple of bowling balls and turned them into the whimsical characters, with huge bug eyes that look like they stepped right out of a Looney Toons cel.

A friend showed Otto the craft on Pinterest.

"I thought it looked like fun and it was something I could do," she said. "I'm kind of an artsy-craftsy kind of person anyway."

Otto found one ball at Don's Pro Shop in Sioux City.

"You'd think finding bowling balls would be easy, but it's not," she said. "I asked first at the bowling alleys if they had any that were not usable any more and I guess they just don't get rid of them. Ever."

The other ball belonged to Otto.

"I never was a good bowler," she confessed. "This one's been sitting around for 12 years, so it's been put to good use finally."

What Otto discovered was creating the craft was as difficult as a 7-10 split.

Bowling balls weigh between 6-16 pounds. They are made of urethane and have a core weight inside.

"The balls were awkward to work with because they were heavy and they rolled," Otto explained. "I had to prop them up against something when I started the project."

The exterior of the ball can be plastic, reactive resin, urethane or a combination of these materials. Otto had to clean the balls because they absorb a good amount of the oil with which alleys are treated.

"You cannot just start painting them," she cautioned. "They need to be prepared for the paint by getting the surface clean."

The balls typically have a set of three holes drilled into them, one each for the ring and middle finger and one for the thumb. The directions Otto followed suggested filing the holes with a silicone caulking solution.

"The problem with that was the holes were almost four inches deep and that's a lot of gooey caulk," she said. "My strategy was to fill some of the holes with caulk, but use paper towel cardboard for some of the filler. Then, you have to let that sit for about 24 hours."

Once the ball was primed and ready to paint, Otto discovered another challenge.

"I used latex enamel paint and it took a long time to dry," she said. "I must have put four different coats on paint on the balls over the course of a week."

To create the very precise circles of eyes for the bee and bug, Otto put pin striping tape down to stay in the lines.

"I thought I was doing so well and then I pulled the tape off and the paint came off clear to the surface of the ball," she said. "So, I had to do that area over again. Painter's tape worked better, but was not as flexible."

Once the painting aspect was completed, Otto bent and positioned chicken wire for the antennae on the lady bug into the finger holes. For the bumble bee, she weaved the wire into a grid pattern and "sewed" it to the exterior oval shape of the wings. Otto also took a screen mesh and created a secondary set of wings for her bee. Then, she trimmed and and bent the hardware for the finished look.

"I'd say it took a week from start to finish," Otto estimated. "But I'd work on it on and off during that time."

Otto used her kitchen island for the project and now, the finished products sit on the counter, propped in place.

"If I don't have something anchoring them, they will roll away," she said, demonstrating the concept of the core weight in the ball. "I've been thinking about taking them outside. After I painted them, I did seal them, so they could be out in my garden."

Will Otto do another bowling ball project?

"I think I would," she said. "I'm thinking a dragon fly might be great fun."

Copyright 2015 Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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