Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Is this street art?

You can touch this has been rebranded for the street market. As I still want to popularise the concept of tensegrity, I started busking my work in a public place, at City Square in Melbourne's CBD. 

Besides bringing about 10 build up structures along, I have string, scissors, ruler and sticks to build more. It's still only few sculptures per day that change hands for money, yet so far I haven't had any no-sales day.

Working in public is fun, and gains quite some attraction. I had plenty of inspiring conversations, and witnessed mass outbreaks of awe when school classes passed by. From of those, I heard the most interesting question so far: Is this street art?

My answer was simple: "If you think it's art, and it's definitely on the street, so yeah, you can call it street art." It has a bit the character of an exhibition as well, a temporary of course, with new objects every day.

I made friends with a chalk artist who is quire regularly nearby, and enjoy that he shares his experience on the street. It must be about the worst time to start this experiment - short daylight hours and not really pleasant weather. Especially the wind keeps me busy, but with a limited amount of models on display I still managed to chase up anything blown away.

The 6-strut icosahedron, plain or in 3 colours, and the octahedron go best, but I sold also the 12 strut tetrahedron, and some 9 strut joined tetras.

Besides some chalking, my setup is very basic. I still would like better display options. I could probably chalk some info, but a good looking solution that portable and easy to transport could improve my sales.

Sunny days bring out interesting patterns casted by the structures, and generally bring more smiles and interactions. I'm still hoping for the rain to cease, I build a tetrahedron as donation hat, and crave to try it out.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Busking tensegrities

Since I started building tensegrity structures, I got hooked. When I succeeded for the first time, I experienced something I couldn't have imagined before. In a way, I encountered the difference of what is called 'book wisdom' and 'experienced wisdom', and it blew my mind.

Now I'm certain that the concept of tensegrity will be part of my life. It is, scientifically speaking, anyway - from the way the cells in my body maintain their shape, to the interaction of the musculo-skeletal system, it's just a fact of life.

As I enjoy the process of building physical tensegrity structures, in various sizes and shapes, using different materials and strategies, I soon ran out of space to keep or at least collect my own work. For more than two years, I managed to tackle this challenge partly by going to a market and sell some of the structures I build.

I even went to live in the bush for a while with the hope to fill space with bigger things. This only meant limiting the amount of audience - instead of familiarising a larger part of my community with this beautiful way of representing fundamental principles within the universe, I engaged in some sort of (not really satisfying) form of artistic wanking.

Being involved in the Friday Free Shop in Melbourne's City Square gave me a better opportunity to gage the attraction of my work - I donated some of my structures each week I went there, and usually all of them found some new owners. Success! Even without knowing the term tensegrity, about thirty or forty tensegrity toys ended up in unknown curious hands.

Encouraged by the ease to sell my work for free, I decided to make City Square my new market place. As often as the weather permits, I will offer a variety of tensegrity structures there, as well as building new ones while I'm there.

The short time of sunlight restricts the amount of time I can spend there, nevertheless I will do my best to be available for a chat, and a build to customers preferences at City Square in Melbourne. Pick up a sample of my work for free on Fridays, or meet me, weather permitting, trying to get some of your hard-earned money for my honest craft on any other day without rain.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


Although I didn't want to continue this blog, I picked up on an idea I rejected for some years now. It happened quite often to me that visitors to my market stall suggested making lamps out of my structures. Besides the problem of electrical safety, I didn't like the idea of the 'skin' part for a lamp.

Now I'm sitting in a friend's house, with many bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. I asked whether the house mates here want some cover for their lamps, and made a colourful icosahedron as test run. While they liked the structure, it doesn't do much as lamp shade - it just surrounds the bulb, and certainly looks best while its switched off.

The energy saving bulbs won't get too hot, so I wasn't worried about the plastic strings melting away. I remembered from the childhood a kind of craft paper which we used to make lanterns. Translucent paper, or vellum paper, is still available and should do exactly what is desired - blocking the harsh light, and giving it a warmer glow.

The icosahedron with 15cm struts looks small enough to probably fit two A4 sheets of paper in it - which would add another geometric configuration to it, yet could work. But while looking where I could get vellum paper locally, I revised my plans how to put 'shades' on, which might even save money for material (well, at least one...).

Option one would need a printer, or at least a printed template for some folding fun. The network outline of an icosahedron on A4 potentially fits nicely into the centre of a tensegrity sphere. It shouldn't really be needed to have a complete paper icosahedron inside, at least one triangle needs to be left out to allow the light bulb in.

While the basic shape of a tensegrity structure corresponds to the Platonic Solids, the crossings (corners) inflate to another opening (face), ie instead of having 20 openings and 12 crossings the tensegrity icosahedron has 32 openings (and more crossings I'm willing to count now). From a construction point of view, the 12 openings typical for a dodecahedron, the dual to the icosahedron, are more apparent than 20 openings describing the actual icosahedron.

Now I wish I still had the abundance of models and a printer around - even without suitable paper at hand, I could figure out how well folded A4 sheets, either as dodecahedron or icosahedron, would fit into my spheres with different strut lengths.... which is why I took some time to write down the ideas about finally giving a use to my structures.