If you look through previous posts you can find Steel and Roses. A short post about a design for a trellis that will stand in front of a home and allow for a climbing plant to run across the front of the house. That design included a lot of forged pieces that would add considerable cost to the project. I created a new minimalist design that would require less materials, and have more of an organic shape. Here is a process picture, click on it to see a gallery of more process pics.
Recycle, Repurpose, Reuse are words that get a lot of press these days. Many people participate in these practices today, but some people take it a step further. I have a good friend, Carol, that runs a business in which she assists people with getting organized and make decisions about how to deal with having too much stuff. Very little of that stuff makes it to the landfill. She has become an expert in parsing out usable items to get the most cash for her clients and to find people that can make the most use of those items. She recently turned me loose on a project to reuse some doors she has been collecting to design and build a small storage building.
There is more new materials than we wanted to use, but the need for storage space took residence over taking time to seek out more materials to repurpose. The platform for the structure is made from connecting pallets together and boxing them in with treated lumber. There are 2×4’s providing the surface to connect the doors together, and these panels make a very strong support for the roof. The roof is covered with corrugated sheetmetal and one sheet of clear acrylic to make the inside more visible in the daylight.
It took a bit longer to construct the building using the doors to make walls. The first thing I had to do was figure out how to arrange the doors to get the parallel walls to at least come close to being the same size. Although the effect of having walls of disparate lengths could make a more interesting building, it could also drive up the cost. If I were doing it myself I could afford to take the time to figure it out, but this was someone else’s money I would be spending. I started by carefully measuring each door, down to the 1/16th of an inch, and photographing each one. I then “built” each door in a computer program called Sketchup and pasted the picture of the door it represented on the face. I could then arrange the doors into panels and build the rest of the building around them.
So with my computer generated plans on site I built each panel on the ground and checked all my measurements. I then built the platform from the pallets I had picked up around town and laid out where the walls would be placed. Even with my computer generated plans, there were still enough variables that I could not plan too far ahead. That is one unique aspect of building with repurposed materials, and one reason it is possible to create such interesting things by doing so. I planned as I went for much of the project. It could have been less costly to Carol for me to use new materials in the floor, because I had several hours in getting the pallets fastened together, pulling up boards from one pallet and nailing it to another, but very little new lumber was used.
Please check out my gallery to see construction pics.
In the summer of 2012 I met a group of talented designers that make up the Community Design Studio of Winston-Salem (CDS). I have been lucky enough to work with some of these talented architects, graphic and industrial designers, and tech savvy professionals on occasion to help add a layer of creativity to our local area. When the leadership of CDS arranged to bring the film If You Build It to Aperture Cinema of Winston-Salem and host community conversation after each showing, I jumped at the chance to be involved. I actually had no idea how I could help out, but I knew I had to be more than a viewer of this film.
You see this film is about something very important to me – Creative Collaboration. In my life I have been exposed to quite a few collaborative ventures around the design/build premise, and I have found that it fuels my passion in life. By participating in these types of ventures I have discovered my purpose in life – to be a driving force in the success of a design/build community collaborative program. I don’t yet know how this is going to happen, but I know it will. I can feel it deep in my soul.
One of the first projects of this type that I was exposed to was a project of UNCG’s Interior Design Program as they build what is now called “My Sister Susan’s House” a respite home for young at-risk mothers in Greensboro, NC. It was here that I met Robert (pronounced Ro- bear), a French-Canadian Architecture Professor at UNCG. The company I was working for was installing the electronic security systems in the building. My crew of installers came back to the office going on and on about this unique house being built by college students. Eventually I found it necessary to stop by the site to check on the progress and I immediately realized what all of the buzz was about. The design was unlike anything I had seen in person; but what was more unique to me was the atmosphere on the job site. The positive energy of college students doing the construction was intoxicating to me. The source of their energy is more from a place of love and a need for accomplishment, as opposed to a need to make money as quickly as possible and limit liability, which is what I was accustomed to on a job site. The leader of this band of eager beavers was Robert. With his french accent, infectious smile, and long hair he almost looked like one of the students, but it was quickly obvious he was responsible for every move made by all of the students. Robert empowered them to learn by doing, but somehow managed to keep them on track and calmly answer a bazillion questions daily.
Last week when I discovered that CDS was looking for guest speakers for their film event, and that one of their intended speakers would not be able to attend I immediately offered to do whatever I could to help out. Suddenly I am the guest speaker for one of the events. So I nervously began to prepare myself for the upcoming event, but I also put in a call to Robert to see if he could possibly clear some time in in super-busy schedule to participate. As luck would have it he was available. So now I found myself privileged enough to be sharing the “stage” with my good friend, whom I respect greatly, and participating in a community conversation about something I am very passionate about.
One of the taglines of the film is Design, Build, Transform. I totally get it now. Design/Build type projects are not for everyone, but for those of us that are so inclined, it can be transformative to a degree that is difficult to explain to someone that “doesn’t get it”. For those who do “get it” it’s not simply the words used to describe the transformation, it’s the passion that shows through when we talk about it and do the work. It can be infectious and intoxicating. I will stand by my friend Robert in two days in front of an audience. I hope my passion rather than my nervousness shows through, and I hope we make some new allies in our search to do meaningful work.
July 2, 2012 was a very important day in my life. In the week prior to that day I was struggling to find balance in my life. I was working very hard at building my electronic security business, but I was not making much progress. I had recently transitioned a relationship from pseudo-romantic to indifferent. I was struggling financially even though I felt as though I was working nearly all day every day. Then I heard the blurb on the local public radio station event calendar.
Imagination Installations was hosting a design marathon at SECCA (South Eastern Center of Contemporary Art) and everyone was invited. The purpose of the event was to imagine a public art installation and design it so that it could be built and installed in Winston-Salem. I was so stoked! This is my jam. This is just what I needed – a chance to be a part of something dynamic and creative. I cleared my calendar for the day Saturday July 2, 2012 and sent the word out on facebook and via email. I remember talking to people the entire week asking them if they had heard about the event. “Can you come out”? “Do you want me to stop by and pick you up”? I wanted to share the good news with everyone.
On the day of the event I showed up early and as I dismounted my chopper the butterflies started furiously fluttering in my belly. I was greeted by the organizers of the event and it was obvious that they were professional designers. I suddenly became very self conscious and wondered if anyone would decide me not worthy of participation in a design charette. As people filed in I found that I knew only a small number of people there, which helped to maintain my nervousness.
Right on time the organizers rallied all of us in the auditorium and set out the parameters of the day. They introduced themselves and the intent of the “Imagine when… project”. They then organized us into teams and sent us to tables supplied with pens, pencils, markers, paper, and various art supplies. My team consisted of an industrial designer, a recent college grad with a BA in Fine Art, a female pastor, a financial consultant and her 12 year old daughter, and me. As the ideas started to flow I didn’t even notice how the butterflies inside of me turned to a fountain of creative ideas that flowed like a rushing river. I was so excited that I had to sit on my hands from time to time to keep from monopolizing the conversation.
My team of designers had diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, and it was quickly obvious that we had very different visions of what makes a great art installation. Differences of opinion often times leads to friction and sometimes argument, but in this structured environment with a common goal we were able to use these differences to expand our individual thinking to places we could not have gotten to otherwise. I think this is called chemistry, good chemistry. There were some moments of near frustration, but our will to create a winning design before the deadline over ruled and we moved forward.
At the end of the day all of the teams gathered to present final design concepts and explain each team’s ideas. There were few similarities between the 8 final ideas presented. They ranged from a design that included a labyrinth and a public garden, to a digital waterfall that works like a dot matrix printer to transmit messages in water that the public could create at various points around town and view online. After presentations awards were handed out in the form of tiny little trophies.
I don’t remember what the trophies were for, save for one. I did win the trophy for most ridiculous pursuit of a tiny plastic trophy, but that was part of what made that day such an important day in my life. As we were voting by applause I whooped and hollered and clapped as loud as I could to cast my votes, and some of those votes were for my team’s ideas. I noticed a kindred spirit just behind me during one of my voting rants and I turned to see a beautiful girl smiling and giggling at me. I asked her to help me out here and in a few minutes, after an extremely raucous vote by me and my new accomplice, I had my trophy – the little plastic one. What I didn’t know that day is that the girl smiling and laughing at me would become the love of my life, but that’s a story for another day.
One of the many lessons I learned that day was that collaboratively we can accomplish magical things. All of the good ideas, and even some “bad” ones helped to open up new passages of thought during our design marathon, passages that could have been left untraveled otherwise. That day I found so much more than a way to pass the day or forget about my troubles, I found the real me; and as a bonus, the greatest bonus, I found Cyndi.
I am in the architecture studio at FTCC right now listening to a more advanced class in a group discussion during their portfolio class. As a relative newbie to this program it seems as if I have a long way to go to reach the level that my predecessors have achieved in such a short time. I enjoy the time that I have to drop in on the classes that I’ll be taking in the future, it gives me a peek into what I’ll be doing next year. While I am in the moment it seems as though I am not really learning so much or making much progress, but as I look back I see that I have come a long way in a relatively short period of time. It helps to put things in perspective from time to time.
Progress on my chopper seems slow as well, and the project as a whole definitely is progressing slower than I would like, but right now I am thinking about how good it feels to savor a moment. I worked on the handlebars for my chopper again this weekend for a few hours. In looking at what I accomplished it doesn’t look as though I made much progress, but I did enjoy the process of imagining what the finished product will be as I planned each step along the way. This weekend I welded the risers on the handlebar, cut them down to finished size, drilled the holes for the attachments and wires, and threaded the wiring through the bars.
The new handlebar feels good in my hands and I like the way they look in relation to the form of the bike. I enjoy the simplicity of the design. One necessary part of that simplistic look is to hide the wiring. This simple step took about two hours as I had to carefully drill holes in the correct locations, file the burrs off of them inside and out, and thread the wires through with barely enough room in there to get them through. One thing I like to do on most creative projects is to work a while then let it sit while I lament on the next step and what the finished product will be. I’m excited that I am only a few more steps from finishing this project, but I am enjoying thinking about the next step. That mirrors my current situation at school. It’s a good place for me to be.
A good friend of mine, an extremely talented hair designer, is getting geared up to open a new shop in the local arts district. She and I are developing the decor. She is sifting through all of the great ideas she has for how the place will be outfitted, and I am giving inspiration, encouragement, and feedback. I am also building Sketch-up models of the store in order to get some spacial references and some visual representations of some of her ideas.
Late in 2012 I decided it was time for a make over for my little chopper. I wanted to add a second seat so I could take a special passenger for a ride (look in my portfolio for Marie Leveaux). As it turns out 2013 was an exceptionally busy year; I started design school as a full-time student, and I still had to work to make ends meet. Whew! With my tiny garage full of projects and remnants of projects tossed in at the end of many busy days, there was no room to take my chopper apart when the battery suddenly exploded in the spring of 2013, and no money to buy parts if I had taken it apart. So it sat there collecting dust until the holiday break of 2013. I finally made time and threw down the credit card to buy a new battery. Now that Marie is running again, and I have some time to work on her I decided to make a new set of handlebars.
The last set was a compromise as I kept screwing up on the set I was going to build when I did the first transformation, but with the new body modifications the old handlebars looked out of place. I first started to make a set of “clip-on” style bars. I started by cutting down a two sections of 2″ pipe and filing the inside out to slide snugly over the fork tubes. The next step would be to weld two separate bars, one on each fork tube to accommodate the handlebar grips. After removing the existing bars I came up with another plan. I would make a set of low-rise drag bars with a downward slant. This seemed to be he best feel to me as a rider and had what I feel like is the best overall look for Marie.
Check out these pictures of the process, and I’ll keep updating as they are finished (hopefully by the end of January 2014).