A small corner near the art department at Glenelg High School is sectioned off with tape and chairs; behind the barrier, Bethany Ferrick stands over a 12-foot-by-8-foot sheet of masonite, surrounded by bags and boxes overflowing with recycled bottle caps.
"I like the way it's coming together so far," the Glenelg senior said. "I didn't think it would look this good."
Ferrick, 18, is in a rush to complete "it," a mural made completely of old bottle caps, before she graduates May 29. When it's finished, the mural will depict two gladiators (the school's mascot) standing beneath a crowd of cultural exemplars and Glenelg students, and the only part of the mural that will be painted will be the gladiators' skin and faces.
Ferrick is treating the endeavor as her final senior project for the Art AP class; she was part of Glenelg's mentorship program her senior year, studying architecture, but about halfway through the year, she realized it wasn't for her, and took up art instead, she said.
Meanwhile, Glenelg art teacher Rick Rollings was toying with the idea of creating a mural out of bottle caps, drawing inspiration from artists like Chuck Close, Mary Ellen Croteau, Lisa Cyr and Gustav Klimt.
Ferrick agreed to take on the project, but it was slow going at first.
The call for bottle caps first went out in the fall, Rollings said, and the initial response was not overwhelming. Help came from a receptionist in the front office, who put out the word to the community, Rollings said, and soon the art department was flooded with bottle caps — water bottle caps, soda bottle caps, coffee can lids, caps from shampoo and lotion bottles, caps from laundry detergent containers.
The caps are sorted by color in trash bags; there are at least a dozen in Rollings' classroom, and several more in the hallway where Ferrick works. A sign in Rollings' class pleads "Stop Bringing Caps."
"The response was overwhelming," Rollings said.
"Millions and millions of caps," Ferrick said.
"A bazillion," Rollings guessed.
Getting the bottle caps was easy, Ferrick said, compared to the "awful" next step: designing the mural.
"Figuring out the intricate way to put the caps down, how to angle them, how to nest them, how to position them, there was some trial and error," Ferrick said.
Working from a reference photo created by Catonsville graphic designer Liz Scott, Ferrick finally started getting caps onto the masonite last week, building up a base layer of black over her drawing and the under-painting. Amid the black caps, pops of color stand out in the form of blue and orange lids, nested among others, creating an optical overlapping,
The mural will be best viewed from a distance, Rollings said, when it is finally hung.
Before that happens, and after all caps are finally secured on the masonite, Ferrick will take a heat gun to the entire thing, melting down the nesting caps, making them merge together into more organic shapes.
Ferrick works on the mural before school, after school, even during school if her teachers allow her. When it's complete, the mural will be emblazoned with the phrase "What you do in life echoes into eternity," a phrase Ferrick hoped rang true for the mural, too, she said.
"It's really cool to think that this could be here for many years," she said. "We have a lot of families at Glenelg, people who have been coming here for generations. I don't know if that'll happen for me, if my kids will come here, but I think about my brother and sister (twins, age 4, who attend Glenelg United Methodist Church Nursery School), and how they'll come here.
"I can't wait for them to see it."