The Flexible Sculpture Vacation

For years Marji and I have discussed the large outdoor sculptures we'd like to build. We never had the time. Last year, as we were discussing vacation plans Marji suggested taking a week off, staying home, no "real" work allowed, and building a sculpture. It was one of our best vacations. We decided to turn it into an annual tradition.


We spent the past year collecting and discussing ideas. A few months ago I worked up some 3D sketches with my new favorite 3D program Strata Design 3D. We showed the drawings to our kids and others, made many changes and arrived at a "plan." I put plan in quotes because one of the best parts of this collaborative project are the changes that happen as we start actually building the piece and have to "think on our feet."

The original inspiration was a photo of a sculpture by Elias Wakan.  We liked the geometric feel of the sculpture and the way it moved in 3D space and connected back to itself.

We decided to try something like it using 3 inch plastic pipe rather than wood. This was mainly for practical reasons. The pipe is relatively cheap and easy to work but also is impervious to weather elements. We were thinking large in scale and definitely an outdoor sculpture. We also thought plastic pipe would add some flexibility so we could define long curves - more on that in a minute.

The final concept was quite different from the original inspiration as you can see in this animation.

It includes about 120 segments, each 12 inches long bolted together side to side but offset by 1 inch.

Our daughter Karen volunteered to join us on vacation and help with assembly. Work progressed nicely. I designed jigs for cutting and drilling the segments. It was important that the holes lined up precisely and for the most part they did. We assembled 6 foot segments in the shop and then moved to the yard for final assembly. Almost immediately we realized that these were far more flexible than planned. We all realized that in fact this was a wonderful feature, not a problem at all. A new sculpture concept was formed.

We joined all the segments into a 35 foot long chain and started playing as you can see in the video below

The final form for now is shown in the photo series on Flickr. In reality the beauty of this piece is in its flexibility. We can rearrange it on the hillside whenever.  I'm sure we'll see lots of variations as time goes by.