Monday, 22 August 2016

Even more chestahedron

The last post about the chestahedron called "Mottled Heart" went a little bit all over the place, as I wrote it in multiple stages before the piece went to its final destination. So let's rewind and start at the beginning.

The artist Frank Chester set out on a mission to find a geometric structure with 7 equally sized faces. After many explorations he discovered the chestahedron, an object with 7 faces (four equilateral triangles, three kites) and 7 vertices. The structure does not qualify as Platonic Solid, as it has two different edge lengths and two types of faces.

As the structure bases on a tetrahedron folded open, it elegantly relates to all Platonic Solids, as well to a sphere surrounding it. According to Chester, the structure represents the geometry of our heart, please check out his talks for a more in depths explanation for this. When I followed a presentation about the genesis of this shape, my mind got blown several times, inspiring to seek some hands-on experiences with it.

In my first experiments I got the length for the top three struts wrong with only slightly satisfying results. Luckily, I found out the proper numbers, so that the latests builds give me better ideas about the qualities of this unique structure.

My 'standard' way of building tensegrities follows this simple algorithm:
1) All edges of the wireframe model become struts.
2) Each strut gets a string roughly 10% longer than the strut length.
3) The string network reflects a truncated version of the base geometry, eg the strings of my 6 strut "tetrahedron" create a truncated tetrahedron.
4) The number of struts converging in a corner determines the slicing, three edges create a triangle, four edges create a square, etc
5) Building of the tensegrity starts with a 'corner', eg connecting three struts with the strings shaping a triangle to begin building tetrahedron, cube or dodecahedron.
6) Each string connects to two more stick ends.
7) Repeat building 'corners' at the second string attachment position and continue until structure completed.

This simplified version works out fine for all Platonic Solids, it seems to fail for complex intersecting geometries like star tetrahedron. It worked well for the chestahedron, although, if you're really pedantic, the strings represent of truncated chestahedron. While geometrically interested people can perceive and identify the Platonic Solids in its representation as truncated tensegrity, the names of these geometric shapes evades a majority of people.

Our consciousness seems to resonate with geometry. The symmetry of it appeals to our perception of beauty, and it doesn't really matter whether we can put a name to a structure we experience. Architecture and engineering rely traditionally on squares, we have on overabundance of distorted cubes arounds us.

Mobile architecture utilises triangles much more, and geodesic domes offer a nice relieve of the geometrical desert which most urban landscapes offer. The chestahedron hides the numbers 1 to 7 in an elegant and surprising way. 1 object created from 2 base structures, a 4 sided tetrahedron, and 3 slices of a 5 pointed pentagram shows 7 corners and 7 faces. 6 edges shape a perfect hexagram through the centre of a sphere surrounding the chestahedron.

I played around a little bit with less symmetrical structures, but the majority of objects I build and sold showed multiple symmetries. I build some bases for spheres, there's often no clear up and down in my objects. The chestahedron breaks this mould - it commands like an obelisk to be put on its base. It invites to have something suspended from the apex.

The effect of a counterweight can be compared to someone pushing the object to the ground. As long as the counterweight doesn't move, which will happen. Without anchoring I could easily topple the structure over by moving the pendulum much out of centre, yet there was quite a lot of range of movement in a stable state possible.

With only about 80 cm height, "Mottled Heart" stands in a relatively sheltered space, surrounded by a planter box and equally high plants. 3 plastic tubes, fitting snugly over the bamboo sticks, anchor it about 10cm into the ground. Most of the time I saw it moving. I wonder how weathering will effect the stretch in the material, I anticipate a vast visual improvement. As I recycled the struts from a first experiment to paint on bamboo, the paint will wash and weather off. The strings will bleach off, the spot will get more and more sun exposure the closer summer gets.

I know how to improve the immediate visual appeal of the materials involved. While I was busking, I experimented a lot with colour, just a learn more about the fierce Australian sun than I wanted to. If something looks good outdoors over time, it works with nature and not against it. Oiling plant surfaces can provide interesting graceful ageing of material.

Instead of being the trickster, stunning by the immediate shineyness of their illusion, I let Mother nature do her part of trickery. If the "Mottled Heart" still beats a year from now, it will look quite different. Until then, I can enjoy seeing the calming movement reminding me of eternal change.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


I came across a very interesting geometric shape, an object with 7 openings (faces). It is composed out of 4 equilateral triangles and 3 kite-shaped openings. The kite is composed by cutting a similar sized in half and arranging the parts along their longest sides.

Mathematically speaking, it would be classified as diminished trapezoid, or as a heptahedron. You can find 7 a lot of times: Number of openings, number of crossings (vertexes), it's entire surface area is 7 times that of an equilateral triangle, there are 3 crossings with 4 trajectories, and 4 crossings with 3 trajectories.

I build it easily as tensegrity structure, with my simplest construction method. 3 of the 12 edges are shorter (with a factor of sqr(3)/2 ), which I guesstimated for the first build. The model tends towards a circular shape, the elegant elongation of Frank Chester's models gets a bit lost. I experiment with using different spins of the 4- and the 3-trajectory crossings, yet set on its triangular base, it tends to 'go bubbly'.

A larger model, with a better approximation of the strut length comes closer to the desired appearance of an elongated object when suspended from the top corner. Maybe there's a simple way of keeping it 'slim' by ways of an internally suspended structure.

 Chester demonstrates in his presentation how his chestahedron relates to 4 of the 5 Platonic Solids, embeds the Golden Ratio and how it fits into the Flower of Life.

PS: I found a document having the angles and strut length relationships. The shorter struts have a 0.53 factor in relation to the base length. The latest models use a 0.5 factor, which increased their optical appeal and structural stability. The slimness I missed once I found in the proper proportions.

I recycled 75cm bamboo struts for the largest version so far. Standing on its triangular base, the structure resembles an obelisk. A teardrop shaped former bed post top is suspended from the top three struts. At the moment, it's suspended using the same type of string used overall. I will replace it with fishing line, and adjust the length so that the centre of the object indicates the centre of the hidden hexagram.

PPS: While the teardrop/bell shaped centre piece isn't probably in the centre of hidden hexagram, it attached it already in a 1:1.61 relationship (height from ground:length to the top). As the object has three points of contact with about 30 degree from vertical I plan to use some hollow plastic tubes as support anchors for them in the ground. The relatively high mount point of the bell will topple the object if it is too far from the centre.

It's fun to play a bit with this piece - the pendulum creates interesting patterns of movement, even in a still state of the pendulum. The visual effect of white paint peeling off, combined with pink string, appears very harsh. In outdoor conditions, the original bamboo will reappear, the strings will bleach. It will grow over as well - the patch I want use is fertilised with three mouse corpses, mulch and saw dust, with heaps of mustard seeds.

The 4-strut tetrahedron in my front yard turned invisible. A ranking plant took it over, and attacked the two brugmansias next to it. I expected this plant to die back in winter, but I noticed only the comfrey and chamomile to die back. I want to prune the rosemary next to the patch where the 'Mottled Heart' will live.

Most of my outdoor creations didn't survive more than some months. The first 'garden model' still lives, more than I want to. Mold has taken hold of the repurposed broomsticks, so I need consider treatment for materials meant to sustain outdoor conditions. The fierce sun bleaches lots of colour, which is why I'm curious curious about the change in colour especially with the pink string.

The dodecahedron above the office block still twirls around on a string. The prevailing wind often nails it to the eastern wall, but a change in wind direction brings it back to a floaty space. The nylon string I use mostly stretches a little bit over time, yet it still looks sufficiently tense. I use the same string for 'Mottled Heart', which might need readjustment over time. My estimations for string length meant it's not too easy to take a cm out of the overall length.

I already fell in love with the interactivity of this object. Anchors will hopefully provide a minimalist way of preventing being blown away by the wind, or toppled over by over ambitious experimentalists. The wind can mainly attack from one side, so the movement shouldn't get out of control. With spring on the door step, plants will use the support to grow intro different spaces.

The last garden sculpture was destroyed during a party. The project gained some useful insights, yet even without the destructive effort it wasn't meant to last. Replacing the stinky compost place with a beating heart appeals to me.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Yet another 'brand' name

Since I attempted to market my passion for tensegrity, I had to come up with a name for it. The first one was You Can Touch This!, encouraging people to engage with their hands with my work. For more than two years I enjoyed engaging with people on the Rose Street Artists Market, gaining valuable feedback about the not so kosher aspect of 'marketing' art.

It took some iterations to end up with 'Magical Thingamabobs' for my busking attempts, and if nothing else, I appreciated the smiles of those noticing the light-hearted approach to a complex art.

Just like with my first market appearance, when I exhibited my work on a festival it was neither branded or priced, my stall became decoration and chill out space. Somehow, I like the idea that people soaked in the energy I wanted to create in this space, combing the Platonic Solids with the Vector Equilibrium.

A central tetrahedron projected into the VE, the four other solids arranged over the four entrances around it. A womblike structure (the Shelter Systems dome) containing six most basic geometries of universe, a rebirthing for those over-engaged in the mind.

I had the faint hope to sell at least one piece on the festival, but my merchant approach was not very apparent. I still might have some follow-up customers. The gipsy ways of selling at festivals are appealing, yet require a good product.

I build more than I could sell when I started at the market. I sold lots while busking on the street, being inspired to many new variations. Enough to somehow survive, pay the rent, eat, even the occasional vice and material to go on.

Mr. Mouth is my first shop exposure, and I'm surprised how well it works, especially given the lack of written information and branding.

I'm happy with the new logo, now I have to decide whether to use big words, or make a real simple description of my work. Either way, getting some editing help before the final release sounds like the right way forward.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Best thing ever

Using phone and computer to document my latest piece has been frustrating, to say the least. Working on 'Diamond DNA' got me exhilarated, and the results exceeded my expectations after the idea came to me.

Base joined tetrahedral tensigrity
The diamond structure, two tetrehedra joined at the base, shows an interesting balance along its central edges. I presented the smaller versions upright, along the axis of compressability, suspending two thirds of the material with only three points of contact to the ground.

It's the Illuminati tensegrity - 2 triangular and 3 square corners, the geometry strengthening diamond. Build properly, it will balance on the square corners around its girth, albeit very delicately. Suspended, it should show horizontal stability between the triangular corners.

I experimented with connecting the former corners (crossings) centrally instead of outlining triangle, squares and pentagons. I'm not too sure about the classification of tendons connecting in a hub without compression elements, but it adds functional and aesthetic qualities.

The central junction of three corner tendons can act as a mount point for anything suspended in the centre. I had a spiral made of six shorter sticks which needs a pull from either ends to maintain a 3d shape. I looped string around the centre of the outer sticks and attached the elastic string to the junction of the two triangular corners in the structure.

I did my best with a random spray job for the outer struts, balanced on one triangular corner it measures more than 2 metres. I have no idea about its durability - it uses elastic strings around its girth (which I might replace), and elastic to suspend the central spiral.

While I liked to call my sculptures 'kinetic', this one fits the description. The slightest amount of wind gets movement into it, either by rotating the centre or the entire structure. It's like a mothership of randomness, another turn will happen, unpredictably. Different perspectives provide different colour aspects, just like the rotation. Any capture seems unique, like an elephant felt up by the blind.

So I indulged in making a clip, which is still rendering in the background while I type. No idea whether I'll get in copyright trouble when uploading it, I haven't even bothered watching the final result besides bits of preview. If you're in a hurry, don't bother watching. It'll be about 15 minutes without anything spectacular happening,

The raw footage still captured lots of detail I was interested in than the GoPro footage I took before. I love the balance the single point of suspension provides, as well as the independent movement of the spiral in the centre, even though the twist pulls the entire structure together.

PS: This piece brought me most excitements from any of my creations. I had some pieces hanging, and enjoyed the movement. Many delicately balanced pieces were blown over, exploring the rotary power will bring another dimension into my work.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

And on and on...

It's now nine month since I last busked out my tensegrities. While I accidentally sold a few pieces this year, I'd love the business to pick up again. Still, I took part of Polymer Dreams Lab installation in Coburg, and build a bit bigger.

I still haven't organised better camera gear, the mobile phone camera has many limitations, as well as my ageing IT gear. This made me a bit lazy in maintaining this site, as it has become a bit tedious to add decent photos in an acceptable time frame.

Goodbrew Vector Equilibrium
One of the first bigger pieces is based on the 24 strut cuboctahedron aka vector equilibrium. The struts are brush painted, an area where I can still improve my skills. The structure has survived some drops of a few metres and still hangs out in a large warehouse.

Garden decoration
I came across some nice looking broom handles, with a hole on one side, which I could quickly convert into a 4-strut tetra. I used the pre-existing holes for a continuos inner tendon, and guestimated the length for the outer tendons on the first shot. Unlike larger tetras with slightly flexible struts, the result behaves very sturdy and without the tendency to collapse through its centre. It's now an eye catcher in our front yard, surrounded with two brugmansias.

Eclectic tetra
I rediscovered some dowels I prepared for my very first tensegrity builds, when I still deployed hooks to secure the strings. The dowels probably had the larger diameter I used for small-size models, while the additional 12 sticks through the centre have about the smallest diameter I used. Unless I get another dremel, I can't prepare similar small diameter struts anymore, but combination of materials with different girths in larger scale are well worth contemplating.

Another lucky find were nicely carved bamboo chopsticks. Finding the right length for this one took much longer than building the larger version garden decoration, I nevertheless like the small version a lot.

I sourced some old trampoline springs, and a friend cut some old pipes to lengths for me. I totally underestimated the strengths of the springs, and had to settle down with a slightly asymmetric version of an icosahedron shape. I haven't dared to try to collapse the structure, as I realised how easily working with heavy struts and high tension can lead to serious injury. The springs and the weight allow any impulse to reverberate through the structure for a long time, hitting struts and springs produces quite some interesting sounds. 

Steampunk tensegrity
As the metal started rusting slightly, I decided to give the dull grey with bits of rust a colourful makeover. Different perspectives show now different colours dominating, yet I'm not too sure yet how long it'll survive outdoors.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


I took up residency with my Magical Thingamabobs nearly a year ago, and many things happened in the open air shop in Melbourne's prestigious CBD since then. I encountered all four seasons now, and could observe the change in angle of the sun towards our planet.

Some people claim that my art work isn't 'emotional', which might hold true to a certain degree. Nevertheless, I experienced the gamut of fear, anger, grief, love, sadness and worry while patiently and persistently doing my work.

The 6 strut icosahedron and the 12 strut octahedron remain my most popular objects, but there's some shapes I discontinued, and a new set of objects to reassemble each time around. As my camera equipment doesn't work too well, I probably missed the opportunity to document some objects I haven't build since then.

Close encounter - 6 strut tetrahedron
I noticed that reassembling some of the objects creates some wear, and a loss of tension. The model above has reworked to have single-string connections to each corner. The 20cm Pars inspired tetrahedron has been painted a little bit to look even more distinct.
Japanese Butterfly - 12 strut tetrahedron
I love the shape of the 24 strut cuboctahedron, and build some colour variation with it. While four colours bring out the four intersection double triangles in the structure, using black as only colour works aesthetically well.

Checkerboard - 24 strut cuboctahedron

An icosahedron with suspended wireframe tetrahedron act as the current 'eye-catcher' for the front row. The transport made the doubled strings a bit weaker, the suspended centrepiece brings it back into good shape. 

Captured tetra - 6 strut icosahedron with suspended tetrahedron

The dodecahedron gets really wobbly as 30 strut structure. I found two variations for it, though. The first one consists of an 6 strut icosahedron, joined like the one above. By connecting the ends of the parallel sticks the strings outline 12 pentagonal faces. The other variation starts as 5 strut prism, with five more sticks outside the girth of it. 

10 strut dodecahedron
Painting the end of the sticks black adds another dimension to the structure, and works well for many basic shapes. The model below has already found a new home, but as I enjoy playing with this one most, it will have a rebirth soon.

12 strut octahedron with elastic and non-elastic string

The amount of 'un-playable' objects increases. The latest one of those offers plenty of potential for all sort of variation. The outer tendons shape a tetrahedron, the sticks are attached to its corner and miss each other in the central hub made of four tendons.

Black flag post 4 strut x-module based tetrahedron
I have two of 4 strut pyramids on display - the 15 cm version above, and a 30 cm one. And some more at home, one version with aluminium tube as struts. I want to explore whether I can use these tetrahedral modules to build a star tetrahedron, that might be a nice project for a rainy day.

I took some of the photos here from the blog Hello Mrs. Morris, who wrote a nice article about me and my work.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


I feel a bit tired after being out in City Square nearly every day for a week, rather in a positive way as I enjoyed the warmer weather and the interesting people which stopped by. Besides experimenting a bit with my structures, I also changed the 'shop' name from Antigravity Tensegrity several times - first to 'Magical Sticks'n'Strings', lately to 'Magical Thingamabobs.

Magical Sticks'N'Strings including Chinese translation

I tested also an alternative location in case of rain and/or too much wind, in a subway passage to Flinders Street Station. There's enough light to work, yet many really rushed people unlikely to take some time to stop by.
Melbourne's Smallest Art Gallery 
The signs consists of laminated A4 prints, easy to attach via blue tack to most surfaces. Thingamabobs seems to describe my sculptures best, and removes the stench of sciency stuff from them. When people start to handle them, the magical parts becomes much easier to understand.

Pointing towards seemingly impossible 3d objects

I want to improve the display of the sculptures. Arranging them in a not too overwhelming or chaotic way poses quite a challenge, especially when I have to consider wind, which often introduces complete chaos. Larger object like the one below wont stay 'up' in gusts, keeping me busy chasing after my sculptures.

Cup of Hope
This sculpture emerged from building larger objects mainly to attract attention, and isn't gone with the wind, but found a happy new home. Some structures lasted only for one or two days, until I decided to rebuild them in a different way.
4 colour Vector Equilibrium
Red green honey pot

The 24 strut Vector Equilibrium shape still fascinates me, and I have only realised a single four colour combination.
432 VE

One of my latest experiments were three 6-strut icosahedra with 10cm struts. Besides the added step of sawing sticks in half, the result looked quite amazing. As I tried them on a relatively windy day, the juggling suitable didn't turn out too well, the cuteness factor meant two were gone before I closed shop.
Icosa Fence
Joined with only four additional strings, the three icosahedra build a stable structure. With equal tension, four sticks build a compression rectangle, three of them with three modules connected. The idea invites itself to be extended in 2d with 5 modules, and 3d with seven.

Without people appreciating my work enough to take it home, I wouldn't have come across some of the structures build lately. I found new material, and more inspiration which shapes to materialise. I get the impression that my art is multi-dimensionally interactive - the exposure in public extended the range of shapes, and kept me busy exploring colour variations for more familiar geometries.

So I'd like to say thank you to all those who supported my work, by keeping me company, having a chat, donating or buying. Your interaction became my inspiration, so you're only playing with art but also with the artist.