More Mechanical Playthings

In 2014 I received a Regional Artist Project Grant from the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County to create kinetic sculptures based on what I learned from my Mechanical Playthings workshop at Penland. This past spring I made two new kinetic sculptures that are now showing at the Working Wonders show at Gallery A in Raleigh.

The first is a pumpjack, as found bobbing up and down in the fields of Texas. This mechanical object creates motion by converting rotary motion to vertical reciprocating motion and is called a "walking beam" in engineering. In my sculpture a handle turns two blue gears that connect to a red plywood beam, making it bob up and down. Hanging from the red beam is a golden yellow paper spiral that moves with the beam.

To create this sculpture I started by making a foam core mockup with gears generated from an online gear template. When this worked, I proceeded to cutting out the real parts from plywood and wood dowels using small saws. To stabilize the sculpture, I poured a Rockite base with wood connectors to screw to the tower and gear structure. For the paper spiral I assembled small sections of paper to build the spiral shape and connected it with delicate thread to the red beam.

The second new sculpture is a tipple, a structure used at a mine to dump and sort coal or rock. I referenced simple wooden tipple structures photographed by Bernd and Hilla Becher to draw my tipple on paper at full-size. I then used this drawing to build my three-dimensional tipple structure, complete with ramp track and chute. Now, I had to figure out how this thing would dump its contents. I built a foam core cart and through trial and error, created a platform with a lever to tip the cart and send the blocks down into the basin. I again made a Rockite base with a cast basin for catching the colorful blocks in the cart.

These kinetic sculptures are on display at Gallery A from July until September 30. Visitors to the gallery and office are welcome to play with them! Come by on Thursday, July 30 6:30-8:30 for the opening reception and we can play together!