Pipe thawing impetus for 'Copper Girl'

Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2004

Sometime in the middle of lying under her Highlands home and trying to unfreeze her water pipes, high school geometry teacher Mary-Lou Gervais realized she had a good idea for the fourth Wearable Art show.

"It's pretty darn cold, and you're just looking at the pipes," Gervais said. "They're all at 45- and 90-degree angles, and I was thinking about what I could make out of the connections."

The result is "Copper Girl," a 25-pound dress made out of 12 feet of straight copper, 16 feet of soft copper, an assortment of 45-degree and 90-degree connectors, and an R-11 insulation undergarment. Gervais already has soldered most of it together.

"I actually was using my geometry," Gervais said. "I took a measurement of my hips and tried to figure out what circle would go around that. I had to use an apothem (the distance from the center of a polygon to its side) to figure out the radius of an octagon."

The skirt and the top will be separate pieces. The top will include bent pipe in the form of a circle with a wave.

When finished, the dress will include valves and running water.

"I'm going to put water in the pipes, and when I'm ready to pour myself a glass of water on stage, I'll open it, just like I would at my house," Gervais said.

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