Past Work


In this project I created an "immersive" experience by sending reflections of spinning sycamore keys swirling around the ceiling, walls and floor of the (large) ceramics studio at Plymouth College of Art.

It's part of a series of projects for a College assignment that called on me to  "research, experiment and develop" ideas.  I picked a starting point of  "helicopter" sycamore keys because I liked their flight pattern and delicacy.

I tried to capture these aspects by using reflected light, which I generated by building a mobile in mirror polished stainless steel.  I positioned the mobile so that it would spin rapidly in front of an air conditioning vent, and so that the sun pouring through some large windows would catch the blades.  In that way, I was able to exploit existing sources of energy in the same way as the sycamore trees harness the wind and sun for their own procreation.

My engineering background helped in the design and fabrication of the mobile.

  Stainless steel mobile  Completed project.  Here's a video of how it sends reflections of sycamore keys swirling around the ceramics studio:

  Concrete truck disco ball  This project started after someone posted a video of a concrete truck as a giant disco ball.

I started by thinking of a tube clad in mirrors shaped like sycamore keys and rotated by a small motor, with a light shining on it.

Then thought it would be much nicer to use existing sources of energy and light - namely the air being sucked into the exhaust system and sunlight streaming through the studio windows.
  Rotor made from an old drink can I experimented by making a rotor from a drink can and miniature bearing and holding it in front of air vents.  The air movements were really strong - the rotor spun furiously and flapped about.  See this video.
  Stainless steel mobile After kicking around various designs I settled on a mobile comprising two concentric U-shaped rods.   The inner rods had 4 rotors and the outer rods 3 rotors, making a total of 14.

The rotors are about 360-mm long, laser-cut in 1.2-mm-thick mirror-polished stainless steel.  They are welded to a 20-mm-long piece of 35-mm-dia tube, with a 32-mm-dia ball bearing race inside it.

Each piece of rod is anchored in a central hub, which is 3D-printed.   The hubs accommodate another bearing race and spin around a central axis rod.
  Laser cut blade for mobile I had to get the rotor blades cut outside because the College laser cutter isn't suitable for metal. 

I ended up buying 60 blades, double the number I really needed, because the minimum order was 80.

I also got some discs made to cover the top and bottom of the hubs.
  Hub for mobile Here's the design of the upper hub.  The central hole has a step in it so that the bearing can sit inside.

These were 3D printed in the College Fab Lab using white PVA plastic.

As noted above, the top and bottom are  clad with discs of the same material used for the rotor blades.
  jig for welding rotor I made a jig to hold the parts of the rotor in place for welding.   
  Micro TIG welder I used the College's micro-TIG welding set to join together parts of the rotors.  It was remarkably easy to use and produced really neat welds.
  Welded rotors for mobile The first 3 of 14 rotors.
  Bending the rods for the mobile I made another jig to bend the rods.  I had to allow for the rods springing back, which meant that I had to halve the radius of the curves in the jig.
  Support system for mobile This is my design for the support system.  The "jib" is 40x20mm box section, 2.4-m-long, with a pulley welded on to its tip.  It's clamped to the railings at its foot.

The stays are 2-mm-dia wire cable, as  is the cable from which the mobile is hung.

  Mobile It's now installed although:

(a) It's not in its final state. I need to put stainless bearings in the hubs, fix discs to their undersides and remove the protective film on the rotors.
(b)  I need to figure out a way of making it spin and twirl.  The extraction system only works when the studio is busy, and when it doesn't work, there's  not enough air movement to make the rotors spin and swirl.
  Stainless steel mobile  The framework of the mobile now rotates satisfactorily when the air extraction system is working, now that I've moved it closer to the vent.  However, the rotors aren't spinning.

See this video:

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